The art and science of shameless self-promotion


Self-promotion is one of the hardest tasks of an artist, musician, writer, actor, or even a political candidate. Why, because most normal people have a tough time talking about themselves in a way that might seem self-aggrandizing, at least on the surface.

For any type of professional success, however, self-promotion is a vital tool in today’s media-centric society and there is an art and science to the process. If you don’t get your message out there, no one else will either.

The process of self-promotion requires a certain amount of advertising, public relations, and personal networking (sometimes referred to as grip and grin) in order to be successful.

For artists and business people (the “talent), self-promotion needn’t be so distasteful. Some people think it requires an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a complete lack of humility. But, in reality, what it really demands is a certain level of self-confidence.

Promoting one’s ability, product, service, whatever, means that the seller must accept the value of the offering. For example, the artist needs to understand that her work has not only artistic value but monetary as well. That value is then translated into a message for the audience, “Come buy my stuff because it’s really good.”

In the creative world, it’s not always that black and white. Artists might depend on galleries to market their wares and tell people how great they are, while publishers do the same for writers. The same goes for musicians and other performers.

Business professionals, consultants, freelancers and other independent operators function very much the same way. However it’s done, commercial promotion must happen or else the talent goes unnoticed.

When the talent hasn’t the stomach for such things, he or she may hire a publicist or agent of some kind to do the actual “selling.” This kind of hired gun operates on a level that some might find unpleasant, utilizing every possible method available to manipulate the image projected by the talent in order to sway public opinion to the decidedly positive.

One of the best fictional examples of this kind of person is the calculating publicist and political operative, Eli Gold played by Alan Cumming on the CBS TV series, “The Good Wife.” Gold is the high-strung right-hand who steers the show’s political family through the trials and tribulations of public life after scandal.

While Cumming’s character is fictional, there are real people who do this job. They have many different titles and some slither in the underbelly of politics while others merely help to get their clients’ names in the media.

Whatever their title, the goal is to manipulate public opinion in the resoundingly positive. But knowing the difference between what is real and what is public relations propaganda is totally up to the audience – the general public.

Politicians count on voter ignorance, the less factual evidence you have the better they like it. The goal of their political operatives is to influence your vote – that’s it. They say or do whatever it takes to get elected then, not surprisingly, forget most of that in favor of advancing a personal agenda.

In order to be better informed, the best recommendation to the public is found in the Latin phrase, “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.” Regardless of how well crafted the message, its effect is largely controlled by the audience.

Although those delivering the message often manipulate it in a way that generates a certain desired effect, whether you fall for it or not is totally up to you. Take the time to understand how information is presented and weigh your choices carefully.

If people fail to do their homework on a product, service, or political candidate, any negative outcome is no fault of the seller. Sadly, most Americans spend more time comparing the pros and cons between two brands of shampoo than weighing the qualifications of a political candidate.

By Gery L. Deer

Deer in Headlines

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at

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