Rethinking Self-Promotion: Are You Promoting Yourself, or Your Ideas?

by Mack Collier

I’ve always said that there are two types of speakers:  Those that want the spotlight on themselves, and those that want the spotlight on their ideas.

Shockingly, I fall in the latter category.  I do a decent amount of speaking, but I *hate* the actual act of speaking.  I hate being in front of a room full of strangers and having to be the center of attention for an hour.  But I love speaking because speaking allows me to share ideas that I am passionate about.  Yet if the focus shifted and I had to talk about myself for an hour, I would probably pass out 30 seconds into it.

It seems many bloggers are the same way.  I have talked to many colleagues and it seems many of us hate to promote ourselves.  We know we need to tell you about your products or services or what we provide, but it just feels ‘icky’ to do so.

And yet, if you ask us to talk about our friends and tell you why they are awesome, we can do that all day, or at least I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this disconnect as I’ve been promoting Think Like a Rock Star.  For starters, I love promoting this book.  Which is odd, because typically I hate promoting myself or anything that I am doing.  But I love promoting this book because of what it represents:  A way for companies and brands to embrace and empower their fans.

So in my mind I’m not promoting a product or myself, I’m promoting an idea.  I’m promoting an idea that I am extremely passionate about.  Maybe that’s why so many of us hate self-promotion?  Maybe we are spending too much time focused on the ‘product’ instead of the importance of the product?  Maybe you’ve written an ebook on how to be a better blogger.  Instead of trying to promote the product itself, maybe it would be better for you to promote why being a better a blogger is so important?  What could you accomplish if you were better at blogging?  What doors would open for you?

Many of us don’t like to promote ourselves, so perhaps we need to instead shift our thinking to promote the ideas we are passionate about?  What do you think?

{ 9 comments }

iGameMom January 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Thanks for sharing. While starting the new year, this is a good topic we should all think about when planning for the year!

Penina January 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Mack, I’m so excited about this post!

When I saw the title, I thought, “Oh no. He’s going to tell me to sell ideas and not myself, and I’m going to say, ‘I do I do I do!’” I almost didn’t read it. Luckily, I also thought, “Mack’s always got value,” so I read it. :-)

I love that when you say you are rethinking something, you really are. You put a spin on this idea of “self promo” vs. “idea promo” that got me thinking in entirely different ways about the communication design services I offer, and most interestingly, the design *ideas* I’m most passionate about.

Sure, there are the staid Benefits we designers offer customers. Most people who’ve been doing business can recite those. But when you put it the way you put it in this post, I begin to think about the burning ideals and priceless experiences I carry closest to my heart.

Lots to think about. I think it will take time to see this through, but I’m really jazzed. Thanks, as always, for your insights!

Mack Collier January 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Thank you Penina ;) I really started thinking about this over the last few months as I’ve been promoting the book. I love it, as I told Kathy Sierra one time ‘I realized that the idea behind this book was too important NOT to promote!’

And that’s the key, at least for me. I’m not promoting myself, I am promoting an idea I am passionate about. Liz Strauss once told me the same thing, that there’s a big difference between promoting yourself, and sharing your passions.

I think the whole promotion challenge becomes a lot easier when we focus on the idea/value we are passion about, and promote that instead ;)

Sweetie Berry January 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I so applaud your thinking! I taught school for many years at many levels, and I can never tire as long as I am sharing ideas, engaging in creating with other involved minds how to think, how to develop stronger, further, deeper into subjects they are passionate about. Ultimately that is why my classroom became working with my strategy clients, for the ability to help someone get their ideas, their beliefs, their discoveries in the hands of the people who can then use them to go further, reach higher simply became my passion. Personally speaking for the stage sake…not exciting at all…speaking because it allows more opportunity to enlarge the presence of the information….a price I’m willing to pay every time I’m given the grace to do so.
I’m cheering you on Mack….and so proud for your efforts!

Mack Collier January 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Thank you Sweetie ;) Glad to see the idea of promoting ideas is resonating with others! I can definitely see how this would apply to teaching as you see the value in the ideas you are trying to teach your students, and you are passionate about helping them learn. Love that!

william mcgill January 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I think the point is well taken Blogging has its parallels. Pride in content should be ever present.

Christa Miller January 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Mack, I think this is the crux of my concerns in your previous post about blogging more often. You’ll note I didn’t disagree with you that blogging more could make you a better blogger — I’ve been a professional writer for too long not to believe that writing more improves one’s writing. But when I mentioned the “noise” in the space, and that just because you’re writing it doesn’t mean it’s worth sharing publicly, this is what I was talking about. I think most of the noise comes from self-promoters, the people who are just looking to cash in; they all sound alike because they’re afraid of standing out TOO much, because ultimately they don’t have original ideas and they’re afraid it will show. Whereas if you’re promoting ideas, the passion you have for them differentiates them — and you. That’s what people notice, and respond to!

Mack Collier January 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

The self-promoters are easy enough to spot, and easy enough to ignore if that’s not what you want to read (and most people do NOT want to read someone who only self-promotes).

So while I get what you are saying, I don’t think it’s a big deal, because if all someone does is self-promote, then they probably won’t get much if any of a reaction, and eventually they will lose interest and stop blogging.

Or they won’t. Either way we’ll never know because we are IGNORING their noise. That’s the great thing about the ‘noise’, if it doesn’t interest you, then all you have to do is ignore it and it’s like it never existed.

That’s why I want people to blog more often. It will make the good ones better that much quicker, and it will burn out the self-promoters that much quicker as well. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Terri L Maurer January 13, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Excellent, Mack! I share your discomfort with being in the limelight when speaking, but feel I have good ideas and information to share, as you do. Love your idea of mentally directing myself to think of it as a focus on the promotion of ideas, not on ‘self’ promotion. We all know a number of people who fall into that category of ‘shameless self promoters’ and also know the negativity that surrounds them. But, we have to admit we’re probably just a little jealous of their ability to do self promotion…maybe they could tune it down a bit, but they are getting results.

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