After 35 years as a print journalist, I have been on the receiving end of countless pitches from public relations professionals across a range of sectors. But when I started running my own business in 2014, I found it hard to promote myself.
I joined a community of solo entrepreneurs and discovered many of them were just like me – creative types who had launched their own businesses after years of employment. Self-promotion was the elephant in the room. Everyone knew they had to do it, but no one found it easy.
Instead I relied on personal recommendations to build my client base. It was a good start, but it only took me so far. I tried to embrace social media to spread the word about what I offered, but still wasn’t sure how to leverage it most effectively as a business tool. I told myself I should be able to create my own PR campaign. I knew what worked and what didn’t work. But selling myself felt different.
Then I met Nicky Moran, a coach for creatives and an award-winning leadership trainer. A former PR herself, she told me that many of her clients struggled with self-marketing and often took freelance work to make ends meet, rather than promote themselves to find the work they loved.
This led us to investigate how creative entrepreneurs might be able to self-promote in a way that felt comfortable, authentic and enjoyable rather than unpleasant and pushy.
Inspired by psychometric tests we had either taken ourselves in the past or been trained to deliver, we looked at a range of successful performers, artists and other creative types. Our aim was to identify why they had been able to thrive and stand out, while others had been ignored.
We identified seven PR archetypes that describe successful creatives – maverick (Madonna, Boy George), quirk of art (Lady Gaga, Grayson Perry), enigma (Beyonce, Banksy), provocateur (Sacha Baron Cohen, Lily Allen), pioneer (Andy Warhol, Bridget Riley), charmer (Dolly Parton, George Clooney) and talented everyman (Adele, Ed Sheeran).
We compiled a free quiz to help people identify their primary and secondary archetypes and tried it out on friends and colleagues. Knowing your archetype gives you a ready-made hook for your marketing – a lens through which you can talk about yourself and your business in a way that feels authentic and compelling. Someone who is a quirk of art (a play on the phrase “work of art”) for example, may have an autobiographical element to their art or business, or may dress in a way that is an artistic expression.
Initial results have been encouraging. A budding author had a lightbulb moment when she emerged as a pioneer/quirk of art and it changed the way she viewed her book. She is now focusing her campaign to secure a book deal on her pioneering ideas about the healing power of hiking.
A coach and trainer who discusses gender issues in the workplace in a forthright way felt vindicated when she came out as a pioneer/talented everyman. She had previously underplayed how innovative her model is, but after embracing her pioneer spirit she is getting good feedback from clients about her pragmatic, yet light-hearted approach.
Knowing your archetype can also help you to identify your weaknesses and tailor your approach accordingly. A pioneer is great at coming up with disruptive concepts but not always so good at bringing them into the mainstream. If this is your leading archetype, you should learn how to communicate through stories and practical examples so your ideas become more accessible to a wider audience.
A maverick thrives on standing out from the crowd, so in theory should be a fearless self-promoter. But if they are contrary for the sake of it, people might not listen. In order to raise their profile, they need to understand their deeper purpose and be clear about what they stand for.
I’m a talented everyman/charmer. Initially I dismissed that combination as a bit boring, but I’ve since realised being able to connect with people in a down-to-earth way is a strength of mine.
The way I use this knowledge to promote myself now is really quite simple: I relate to my audience in an informal and grounded way. I’m honest, genuine and likeable. I share my lived experience. It helps me to not only be myself when self-promoting but also appreciate my approach in the training room, on video, and as a speaker and writer. I’ve come to view self-promotion not as the elephant in the room, but a welcome opportunity to be the best version of myself.