Self-Promotion: It’s All In Your Head

Guest blogger for today's post: Lee Silber

While I was attending The Art Institute for advertising and design, a life-changing opportunity presented itself—and I almost said “no”. At the time, I was the owner of a surf shop, worked part-time in the promotion department of the number one radio station in San Diego—and went to school all afternoon. So, when the Dean of my school came to me and asked, “You work in radio, right?” I nodded, and he went on to ask. “How would you like to work a few days a month for free?” My initial reaction was, “Are you kidding me?” However, before he walked away I asked, “Who would I be working for and what would I be doing?” The Dean said, “You would be working with Paramount Pictures promoting films.” I took the gig.

The internship was really an amazing opportunity. All I had to do was set up free screenings for upcoming films and coordinate promotions with area radio stations. I could go on and on about all the things I learned about promotion from Paramount Pictures, but there was a bigger lesson to be learned than the marketing specifics. Alan, my contact (and later, my mentor) at Paramount Pictures taught me something that would forever change my life—and I want to share it with you.

The minute I met Alan I knew we were going to get along great. He LOVED marketing—and not just for films, but everything. He was also able to come up with a dozen ways to promote anything, anywhere, at any time. He would come visit me at my surf shop and walk around and throw out ideas left and right. I followed him with a note pad and implemented as many of his ideas as I could—and they all worked. One day I asked him, “How do you do it?” He looked at me and said, “Do what?” I told him, “Just pull these amazing sales and marketing ideas out of thin air?” Then he told me how he did it.

Alan paid attention to everything hawked on television, radio, billboards, print ads—everything. He took mental notes when something was working—and spun it to use for his own campaigns. He'd been doing that since he was a teen and he picked up marketing ideas that worked for everything. Of course I asked him, “Well, what are they?” This was what he told me. “People buy benefits. Turn everything around to be about them. Tell them why they should buy it—what's in it for them if they do buy. Don't make them guess. Don't make them wait. Connect the dots between what you are offering and what they want and need.” He went on to say, “People are busy, lazy, and not that bright. So, keep it simple and make it easy for them to understand and act on your offer—tell them what to do, how to do it, and make it seem urgent.”

I have used Alan's principles to perfection. I also became a student of advertising and promotion. I pay close attention to commercials. I study what my competitors do to market themselves. I read everything I can about this area of business because it's that important. However, it never dawned on me that 20 years later my very own intern would say to me, “Lee, how do you do it. How are able to rattle off clever and cost-effective promotional ideas so easily?” I then told her about Paramount Pictures and Alan.

Lee Silber is the author of Self-Promotion for the Creative Person, Time Management for the Creative Person, and many other books. Read more about him at

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6 thoughts on “Self-Promotion: It’s All In Your Head”

  1. I read your (Lee’s) book on self promotion for creative people. The one thing I’m stuck on is the subject of this post. What’s the benefit of a company using my illustrations as opposed to all the other equally good (not to mention better) illustrators out there? I really can’t get past this.

  2. The sad thing is, I know all this I just can’t do it. It is perhaps related to the fact that commercials never work on me. I remain skeptical until (and unless) I see actual verifiable results. Like Laura in the post above me, what is the benefit of someone buying my art over another artist? Especially given that no matter how good my art its appeal, like all art, is subjective.

  3. Trying to sell my art to someone by convincing them “what’s in it for them” is too fake for me. I’m like Patricia, I just can’t do it. I have to be real and honest about my work.

  4. I’m new (less than a year) to all this self promoting. It has been a step learning curve. But it deffinately became easier when I decided, that instead of almost apologizing, that I should be present my work proudly. That it is great and positive to give people a chance to see my work. By changing my focal point for self promoting, it has become so much more fun. I am proud of my work and I want to share it with others 🙂
    Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies

  5. RoseMary Gara-Hill

    I loved this post! The point of making people aware of how they would benefit from owning my creations really resonated with me. Reading this was like finding a missing puzzle piece for me: I often hear from people about how viewing my art makes them feel good and I just realized that what I’ve been hearing is precisely my selling point! So the more I listen to my fans and buyers, the more I understand what I have to offer the world through my art, beyond just aesthetic enjoyment! Thank you Lee!

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