The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion

The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion

Reader Comments (100)

  1. Hey Nathan,

    Self-promotion vs. self-adulation is like self-belief vs. arrogance.

    The former is about your positive place in the world, and the latter is simply about you.

    If you are remarkable, and you have a valuable message, then of course you should be promoting it.

    In fact, it’s a disservice to the world to hold your ideas in and not spread it. People don’t get to benefit from what you have to offer.


    Step 0: Make yourself remarkable.

    Step 1 and beyond: Follow Nathan’s steps for the art of shameless self-promotion.

    To becoming remarkable and promoting your remarkable self, thus doing a positive service to the world 🙂


    PS. Dean Karnazes is a badass. Found out about him through the Wired article.

  2. Never quite looked at it this way before but it does make sense to understand this fundamental difference between self-promotion and bragging. Of course, the words would be totally different if the mind was in “promotion” mode instead of “bragging” mode and certainly the flavor of the message. Very interesting commentary.

  3. Very true. People will listen to you if you give them ideas, inspire them, or solve a problem. They won’t listen if you thump your chest and yell, “I sing a song of myself.”

  4. Nathan! You’re writing seems to have become world-class in a very short amount of time. I came into this space just 2 months ago and it feels like you’ve found your voice, because your articles speak to me!

    I completely agree about being about an idea. This usually happens on its own when people follow their true passion AND purpose.

  5. Thanks for this man. I have to remind myself: it’s OK to be hated if people also dig you.

    It’s more important to have 10 people that will run through walls for you than 10,000 people that will add you on twitter.

  6. Nathan,

    Great article man.

    “Being findable” would also be good. Once you have your message, make sure that message is in a package that people can easily share (like a viral ebook as one idea).

    Using the social media to become “findable” is important too.

    I especially love #3 in your article, I’ve personally had some blog posts where the strength of the message could be improved.

    Great job Nathan!

  7. I don’t know if I liked this article that much. Anyways… Only thing I can tell is that the anchor text of “tight and loyal community” for Third Tribe is a little too much. You may have used “the temple of shameless self promotion” and you could’ve been right.

  8. Really good points in there and great examples of people – all of whom I have heard of and are sympathetic to – and how they have created the right kind of response in people.

    I did note, however, that not one of the people you use as examples are women (that’s an observation, not a criticism). Do you have any examples of women who self promote well?

  9. Nathan: great job clarifying the difference between self promotion and what some people call bragging.

    So often we’re uncomfortable talking about ourselves, but encouraging us to turn the focus on our ideas is a great way to help us self promote in a way that feels natural.

  10. @worldofhiglet, I’ve found that many women find self-promotion to be really tricky psychologically. But I’ll give you a few examples of women I think do a splendid job of it. Naomi Dunford, Pam Slim, Martha Stewart, Havi Brooks, Oprah Winfrey (you may have missed Nathan’s reference?), Sarah Palin (I’m not a fan, but let’s face it, she’s fantastic at this).

  11. @Guillermo, that link was my addition, so if you think it goes too far, I’m the one to blame.

  12. Thanks, Sonia – I did miss Oprah.

    I’ve been looking at some recent posts about promotion and gender differences and Nathan has identified some key points. I think you are right about the psychological angle. Although women have great ideas and believe in them completely it’s the promotion part that seems difficult (this article first made me look at things more closely).

    Your list is great, too. 3 of the women you mention I have never heard of before, but I’m looking them up now.

  13. In order to write or do anything with any kind of credibility there’s going to have to be some level of confidence conveyed in what you’re doing – otherwise no one is going to listen. You have to at least seem like you know what you’re doing. On the other hand, pretending as if you’re the only gift God has ever made is destined is an activity that is destined for failure.

  14. You see this done in many other forms of media as well. It’s easy to spot this “love them or hate them” type of persona in radio. Obviously Howard Stern, Bubba the Love Sponge, Man Cow…They all are loud, daring, strongly opinionated and excellent self promoters.

    Think of your self like this and watch your audience grow and turn in to die-hards.

  15. Hey Nathan… Great post…

    The way I sum it up is…

    – Confidence is knowing you’re good…
    – Arrogance is telling everyone you’re good…

    No-one likes to be told anything…

  16. One of the best marketing lessons I’ve learned is when you lift up others and promote them then it will always come back to you. Now that doesn’t mean that you never mention yourself either. You must always share what is important to you and let people know you offer something of value.

  17. Nice article. Here’s my takeaway…

    Promote your mission. Period. By doing that, you will build audience, and by extension, you will promote yourself.

    Interesting though, because in this case, my mission is so personal, that I am promoting the mission only. Everything is done anonymously. No interest in credit for me, just happy readers and couples…

  18. Excellent point! So often we turn it around. We boast of our accomplishments because we want people to affirm our worth. Or we share nothing because we fear that people will view us as merely fishing for adoration and shun us because of that view.

    Both approaches focus strictly on self. They seek to control others’ opinions of us. They give nothing of value to others.

    The kind of self-promotion you describe, though, focuses on others. It shares insights and ideas for the purpose of enriching others. It risks rejection — not all people will embrace the ideas we share.

    Ultimately, though, this sharing helps others to explore new ideas, reach their own conclusions about them, and grow through the process of examining them.

    Thanks for drawing the distinction between the two.

  19. @worldofhiglet, thanks for your comment. The self-promotion thing was not easy for me to come to terms with. And I see a lot of similar resistance in many of my female students.

    The neat thing about this post for me (other than just giving me encouragement to keep being passionate about the ideas I care about) was the idea that self promotion isn’t about self at all. It’s about something bigger than that.

    If people take my free stuff and use it to get out there and make something, I’m jazzed. They may never spend a dime with me, but I love hearing about the folks who use my free e-class or a blog post and go do something with it that benefits their business.

  20. Great article… I especially like the initial point you make about tooting your own horn! 🙂 It makes perfect sense.

    I like how you stated everything simply, that you have to stand for your ideas with confidence. I definetly will be taking your advice. People should either love ya or hate ya.

  21. Hey folks, thanks for all of the positive comments.

    @Oleg – Step 0 is probably the hardest, but one of the most important.

    @Henri – Thanks man, the problem now is trying to make each one better than the last!

    @GenuineChris – So true…it’s easy to forget that though, especially when social media brings it all much closer and gives anyone a chance to take pot shots.

    @worldofhiglet – good catch, you’re right. Sonia named a few that are great, but quite honestly, there does seem to be a slight psychological difference between men and women when it comes to promotion. That’s something to study, for sure.

    @Kiesha, that’s another great point, although sometimes it’s the process of promotion that creates the credibility. For instance, I didn’t know anything about Dean Karnazes or ultrarunning until I read about him, and at that time I automatically assumed he was an expert.

    Just have to be cautious…if you can’t live up to the status you present, then you’re in trouble.

    @Sonia – your 2nd paragraph in that last comment is a perfect way to sum it up. It’s not about you, it’s about what you can inspire in others.

  22. Here’s my version:

    In snowboarding, it’s not cool to tell everybody about your new tricks. People frown, look at you funny, and go, oh, yeah, right, nice one. Then they call you a cocky a-hole behind your back.
    However, people find it very cool if you teach them how to perform the same tricks.

    Self promotion vs self adulation. maybe.

    My take anyways.

  23. Love the distinction between self-adulation as focusing on something that has already been done, and self-promotion as dealing with a greater vision. That makes it all click into place for me.

  24. I agree. I think self-promotion is important. One can achieve self-promotion by sharing ideas. I love that concept. I’ve seen how self-adulation really does hurt you. There is a local web designer who has talked about signing new clients on Twitter and all the things he’s doing. It has really struck a sore spot in many people on Twitter. If this individual had taken a different approach, the results would have been far different. If he had said signed some new clients and here are some things that helped, he would have been seen in a different light.

    People use to say ‘knowledge is power.’ I’m of the mindset that ‘the sharing of knowledge is power.’

  25. There are people around you who may hold you back. These people are usually your closest ones. Reason? They are used to how great you are. When you tell them how you’re going to face a situation and impress the other side to gain something you deserve, the first reaction is:

    “Oh, no! You shouldn’t behave like that. It’s very aggressive. Be humble!”

    Let me tell you something: Being humble and modesty to the extent that you bring yourself to almost nothing is a successful formula to kill your charisma.

  26. Nathan,
    this was a great article. I have met many people who love to toot their own horn and no one listens to them! People always connect to what benefits them and by keeping it on an idea that everyone can be a part of makes this successful. Thanks so much!

  27. This post resonates. There’s definitely a fine line to walk regarding self-promotion, especially w/in the social media sphere.

    But it CAN be done properly and effectively. Most people are pretty receptive to genuine passion and enthusiasm.

    Also, the concept that “your ideas need you” is important. If we ignore the frequencies we should be tuning into, potentially great ideas will either be lost in the ether or beamed to a more receptive antenna. Either scenario would be a shame.

  28. Fantastic, bang on. I particularly like the last bit where you hint at ideas being living things. This has long been a focus of my creative method, which I see as a kind of conversation with something that is trying to become and needs my help, but definitely has its own program and is going to go in different directions than I might expect. I wrote about this a long (LONG) time ago in a piece on the “aliveness of art”. It’s an ancient and fairly ugly page, but if anyone’s interested…

  29. Nathan — I agree with your steps completely. I’ve gone through my own challenges over the past year. I discovered that self- confidence is critical for being a success at anything. In our industry, it’s life or death. How many writers are out there right now that are afraid to pen to paper because of fear of failure. I’ve been there, I’ve found my way back (with the help of family, good friends and a lot of therapy)… now I’m ready. The rest of your steps are important too, but confidence is key.

  30. How timely Nathan. Just picked up a copy of Tribes -we need you to lead us by Seth Godin…prompted by an Australian Business Womens’ network initiative. I’ve always been happiest influencing from behind and now, have taken my first step out of the shaddow and into the light…hanging in the breeze. Your article has just given me a little shot of confidence to take another step forward. Thanks for your thoughts, thanks for your words, thanks for the inspiration. Viva la revolution!

  31. Good stuff Nathan. Chris Guillebeau just put up a post that sort of coincides with this post called The Small Man Builds Cages for Everyone:×5/the-small-man-builds-cages-for-everyone/

    What I got out of it was that empower people with your ideas and inspire them in their lives.

    Sort of what seems like your saying here.

    Good stuff, I will not feel guilty about promoting an idea or something that I feel will help other people, I tend to hold back a good bit.

  32. There sure is a fine line between tooting your own horn and having your own fireworks display. I think that as long as you are getting your message out there, and using truth in your intentions, then you can really spread your message and toot your own horn without coming accross that you are bragging about accomplishments.

    There are some people out there that do an amazing job at self-promotion using the humblest of techniques.

    It’s this kind of “humble-motion” that can really pull an entrepreneur out of the woodwork. No one really likes their friend that talks about how amazing they are, so they are definitely NOT going to buy stuff from people like that.

    Keep it honest, keep the conversation going, and recognize that too are human and occasionally like to sit on the couch, do nothing and eat cheetos all day.

    -Joshua Black

  33. Well, I just got a bracing bit of cold water tossed on my face. I had never thought about the difference between a has been… and a “now showing in a theater near you.”

    I admire my accomplishments. They remind me of the hard work and character building I went through to achieve them. However, I think I see where people are going to be more interested in the here and now.. who I am and where I want to go.

    Very keen insight, Nathan. It’s not that those prior accomplishments aren’t important. They just belong in an obit. I need to re-write some signature boxes to include who I am and what I do.

  34. “Make your vision clear”; I like that. Along with finding your own voice and staying with it (in blogging), these are very useful tools to file away. thanks…

  35. Excellent points. I’ve never really thought of it this way, but I definitely agree. If you believe in your message, you should not be afraid to share it!

  36. I never liked self adulation in all my work in traditional printed media and then on the Web. And there is definitely a point in standing for something and being bold about it. Many people are looking for leaders and leading is done first a foremost through ideas.

  37. One of the things I’ve always had the hardest time with is self-promotion. This post makes some very interesting points that I’m going to take away and digest to apply.

  38. I read this powerful post right after watching a video presentation by Adrian Ho (linked from Remarkablogger’s post today). There is synergy between the two as you remind us to be confident and get our ideas out there, and he reminds us that our strength lies in empowering others. When we change behaviors (by empowering new behavior through our ideas), we change minds and create loyalty and following. It’s up to us to figure out what our best message is and how to deliver it.

  39. One of the best posts I’ve read here – the links to other meaningful articles was especially appreciated and provided detail and inspiration.


  40. All self-promotion is shameless by definition. We don’t announce things we’re ashamed of, not for marketing purposes anyway.

    But congruency between attitude and message makes a difference, that’s for sure. If you have something great to say, say it greatly!

  41. “There is nothing more powerful than idea whose time has come” Victor Hugo

    The question is if we came up with this idea would we be bold enough to “self-promoted”

    Love the Ali example and of course…

    “If you implement this plan successfully, you’ll probably take some flak. People might label you over-confident or cocky. That’s good. Define yourself in such a way that people either love you or hate you.”

  42. Great article!

    Self promotion is just a thing of the past! But you need to be able to use this to your advantage and bragging is not bad if you have the clout to back it up and copyblogger is a great source of information to all! I think we all appreciate the information you share.

    Thank you,

    Jesse Guthrie

  43. Self promotion is a realy cool thing to do and to let other know your rightful place in the world and believe in your ideas.

    But like you said, you must be confident to start with as that is how you can inspire others to believe in you.

    It’s kind of like the law of attraction and if you believe in something, someone will believe in you eventually. It just has to come.

  44. i think all people around the world must see this post. This post is really inspiring. It is because you can see the different of self-promotion and self-adulation. The greatest thing of this post is how to make the self-promotion and the example of its idea is including in it.

  45. The great thing about this post is that we’ve all been there, facing this uncomfortable moment . Walking that line between promoting a great idea(s) and promoting one’s self is a fuzzy one. What’s even more confusing is that some of the big names are all about self-promotion, and in the wrong way. You’ll never see Brian here at CB talking about Brian, he’s all about the content and he’s all about the reader, that’s why this site wears a crown. There’s another very big name (a couple actually, but I’m thinking of one in particular, who shall remain nameless here) who does the opposite — every email he sends out, every post he writes, every ebook he publishes, is all about “how I did this and that” and how many subscribers he landed in a short amount of time. It’s gotten so bad that he’s now giving advice in areas in which he isn’t an expert, and has announced he’s no longer accepting emails (a “talk to the hand” strategy that, he’ll learn, won’t work).

    So we have models out there on both sides. Brian and Darren and Kevin (at Bloggingtips) get my vote as role models and heroes. But when I get those “be like me” emails, I just delete ’em.

  46. I agree with Kari (comment #17). Feeling confident enough to promote others says a lot about you and your character. I often do this with my peers, many of whom are competitors. The key is to be honest. Don’t do it to suck-up.
    I also have to agree with the fact that women do have a harder time with self-promotion. I’m in my 40’s, and I feel that my generation has been socialized to think that it’s ‘unbecoming’ (to coin a VERY sexist phrase!).

  47. @Nathan: Awesome as always. Like Sonia, I had a hard time coming to terms with this, but it’s getting easier for me. Like anything, it just takes practice. And tone is especially important.

    @David: I loved the snow board analogy. Perfect.

  48. Spreading a good ideas sometimes very difficult, requires a lot of networking. While they are active in the network only to find something better, for example, a blogger who find a good source of SEO.

  49. Good food for thought here.

    I am trying to devote time to self-promoting via guest posts in the next month or so. Easier said than done, with an infant and a two year old in the house (along with a full time job).

    Since my site is non-niche (intended to be more of a general magazine along the lines of some you find on newstands than a “blog”, per se) being concise might be tricky.

    Hmm. I’ll have to kick around the idea of trying something fun. I make my eBooks of original fiction available to regular visitors (via a magically appearing menu item), but maybe I could do more.

  50. I like your post. It helps to understand how to write posts that people can relate to. Confidence is certainly a quality that needs to be expressed.

  51. So we don’t like Mike Tyson because he “never communicated a greater vision that made us cheer”?

    Oh, I thought it was because he’s a convicted rapist.

  52. Great post! Recently I had to sit through a presentation that should have been brilliant. The subject was of interest to me and the speaker was an expert and capable of amusing an audience. In the end it was horrible. The speaker addressed the subject purely through her own achievements in that sphere and essentially adored herself for half an hour. She killed the subject by being arrogant when confidence was required. I’ll maybe send her your post.

  53. Nathan,
    I especially like your idea of making it cool to be a fan. How do you suggest startup companies to do that?
    I sat through one too. It was funny to watch because the guy was so full of himself he sounded like a cartoon character. I almost bursted out laughing. In fact, it’s already been almost 2 weeks and its still funny!

  54. Nathan, I agree that building buzz around yourself is crucial and that good buzz doesn’t come from bragging. Bragging will only attract negative energy, whereas buzz grows organically and starts when we reach out to people and allow our capabilities and ideas to germinate in their mind. Oprah is a perfect example of this! I love how you say, “Build up others until they have the power to build you up.” I think this is they key to positive long-term self-promotion.

  55. Shameless self-promotion isn’t as shameless as you think! It works. By the way, I like the idea about carving your name into the moon.

  56. This is great advice, especially since many people have the ideas, but lack the confidence and don’t want to face the haters that will come out of the woodwork.

  57. Excellent article, with ideas that really work. I would add this suggestion: As you promote your ideas, be sure to endorse other people who illustrate the success of your ideas. Amazingly, as you highlight them as “exhibit A’s” you will gain an even greater following. How ironic, that tooting other people’s horns will attract clients for you as the source of those terrific ideas.

  58. I say if you want to self promote one of the best ways is to produce for someone else. What I mean is if you are lets say a a craftsman as I was for years. You pick a challenge and take on the challenge and deliver. Even if it is helping to promote someone’s project. Others will promote you.At least this is how I built my success. When end receipts are satisfied they are your best voice.

  59. Thanks Nathan. Great post. I think that’s it’s definitely true that you need to master the skill of delineating where discussion of ideas that you have genuine enthusiasm for ends and self-promotion begins. I like what you said about having confidence in your ideas and giving people something to cheer for. This week, I am going to aspire to find some ways to do this effectively. Thanks for passing along this thoughtful and inspiring piece.

  60. Excellent Post, very helpful. It did throw-up a few more questions, such as, what happens when ones own ideas cause conflict with those ideas of another? And what if those people with opposing ideas are required in your network? Are we to forget our ideas for the sake of the network? or crush those opposing ideas and whoever represents them, and simply disregard the networks stability in the process? As the network gets larger and becomes interconnected with other networks, also with varying and opposing ideas, can a network survive in tact or would this require everyone’s ideas to be restricted to subjects that are safe and/or tucked away in ones own mind? What happens if the zeitgeist turns-out to be different for different groups with opposing interests, what happens when we are one big whole network? I presume that everyone that replied to this post has the greatest of intentions and Excellent, positive ideas (you all seem very positive), but even the greatest of ideas can be in conflict with each other.
    I may have overdone it here with the questions, I can only presume that I am looking for another way out, from having to self promote. Anyway, it’s food for thought. I’ll finish by saying thank you to everyone involved in the post, I read all the comments and they too were most enthralling. Thanks! (was that too much. . .hehe).

  61. I believe strongly that marketing lies simply in presenting your ideas to *the king* whoever the king may be. In all our social circles we have someone whose ideas and perspectives are taken note of more than others.. for example if a take away staff gave you a tip on the stock market you wouldnt have belief or interest in it, whereas a high flying business man mentioned it then you would take it seriously and actively investigate… as it might make you happy as you imagine he is!!
    Find the audience through presenting yourself to those in social control.. don’t go directly to the market but use the middle man with a reputation. Credibility sells things.. people can even not enjoy something but think well Tom Cruise seems to enjoy it so what am i doing wrong?… lets take smoking.

    Self promotion should be a word of mouth idea that comes from the top, or who is in the know.…sidbanes

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