Promoting Our Work: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The shift from creation to promotion can be tricky, especially if you do not have a team to support this effort. Recently, I had this experience with my own projects, but not for the reasons you might expect.

I have a degree in marketing, and fifteen years of experience reaching out to a broad range of people in order to get my work made. I have years of helping marketing other people’s work from enterprise software in Silicon Valley to transportation policies in Mexico City

Yet, when it comes to promoting my work and getting it seen, suddenly, my creativity went out the door. In this article I’m going to share with you how I got my creativity back and started on the path of promoting my work, and how you can get here, too.

Communicating is a creative process.

As creative people, we are intimately involved in the creative process, in all of its highs and lows, its tricks and treats.

One of the tricky parts of creativity is the incubation period. That period of staring at a blank page, sitting in front of an empty canvas, standing alone on the dance floor, staring at a bin full of video clips.

We are at the edge of the unknown. Sometimes an idea appears and we grab it and jump. Other times we stand there, looking over the cliff, unsure of our footing.

I was recently visiting friends in the south of France who took me to a river with smallish, about 10 foot cliffs. I’m not someone who normally swims but since I was there, I decided I’d jump. It felt like a challenge and a bit brave.

Standing over the river, looking down, I suddenly felt fear. It welled up in the pit of my stomach. I knew I’d be fine and the worst of the jump was experiencing this fear and yet I hesitated. I let the kids waiting behind me go first as I built up my courage.

When I finally jumped, that fear rose up from the pit of my stomach and extended up to the top of my throat. It was a full body experience.

In the water, though, it was gone.

For some of us, promoting our work feels like jumping off a cliff. If you are not one of those people that is fantastic. I feel the world needs more of everyone’s creativity!

But if you sometimes feel like me when I was looking over the cliff, I offer a new way to approach publicity.

Treat publicity like a conversation and an experiment 

Publicity may not be what you think it is. These days, it is not about creating the perfect words that will capture everyone’s attention.

Instead, it is about creating an invitation that speaks to a targeted few.

These days my invitations have been going out to press, museums, and other artists. I’m choosing to communicate by email or in person. These types of interactions allow for a literal conversation. They also allow for you to ask for the promotion, resources, action that you need and to find out if your work is something the other person needs. And you don’t need a Facebook or Instagram account to make it happen!

Coming up with the invitation, or your email ask, is where your creative practice comes in. 

This is a place many people get stuck. It is that blank page moment. But getting over the blank page can be easier than you think.

I realize everyone’s practice is different but I’ve broken it down into phases that I find useful for strategizing and executing publicity.

  1. Idea generation

  2. Testing by doing

  3. Evaluate and repeat

Change the stories you tell yourself

Instead of telling yourself:
publicity is hard. I’m not good at writing promotional material. I’d rather clean the dishes then craft that email,

Tell yourself:
this is a creative project and I’m going to experiment with what works.

Success is an alchemy of effort, time, execution and a bit of luck. There are ways to increase your luck.

And I find it easier to work when I have a process and parameters.

With this framework, you can shift from overwhelm and confusion, to creativity. You might even come to enjoy the process.

  1. Decide who you want to contact

  2. Create your intention

  3. Define the one word that is uniquely you

  4. Map out your message

  5. Take action

  6. Evaluate and repeat

This is not a paint-by-numbers outline but rather a framework that will help you test out your conversation ideas. 

5 Day Challenge: Get Your Work Seen

If you have a communication you’ve been putting off, whether it be to a museum, publication, funder, or collaborator I invite you to join the free 5 Day Challenge, Get Your Work Seen.

It starts July 29 but if you are reading this after the start feel free to join. I’ll be sharing a summary of steps at the end.

During the challenge I’ll be live in the FB group answering your questions and sharing tips and encouragement.

People are craving good stories, let’s make something great!