Career Advice

5 Self-Promotion Mistakes You Should Never Make

From dancers to presenters to directors, no one in dance is exempt from the task of building an audience. But keeping up with email, social media and other marketing efforts can chip away at precious time spent honing your craft. Add in the fear of coming across as vain or self-absorbed, and it can be hard to know how to begin.


Mistake: Posting Too Often

For artists used to giving 100 percent, it can take time to learn a more measured approach. "Know when to take a break and let it settle," says Maleek Washington, a performer formerly with Abraham.In.Motion and Sleep No More. "If you have a good product, you don't have to push it so much." But, he adds, there's no substitute for time spent networking offline. "If you support other artists by going to see their work, they'll support you back. Make yourself known, not just on screen, but also face-to-face."

Maleek Washington, Photo by Nomee Photography

Mistake: All Work and No Play

"People often put their work before their personalities," says Matthew Powell, creator of the instructional video Find Your Fifth. "I love to cook and go fishing. Sharing those things breaks up the 'Me! Me! Me!' aspect of what I'm doing professionally." Choreographer and marketing consultant Jamie Benson points out that the two aren't necessarily at odds: "Dancers think of branding as this ugly beast-monster, and it doesn't have to be. The more authentic you are, the more effective your outreach."



Mistake: Too Much Info

After pouring every ounce of yourself into your work, the boiled-down communication of good marketing can feel trivializing. "There is a tension between being immersed in the creative process, and then having to promote it," says Renata Sheppard, artistic director of Experimental Film Virginia. "You'll want to give so much background, and it's important to trust in peeling away and presenting what you're doing in its simplest form." Benson points out a mistake he sees all too often: taking language written for grant proposals and repurposing it for press releases, social media and marketing. "The more obtuse, vague and aspirational your copy is, the less it will matter to the people you want to reach. Engage people on an emotional level, and tell them what's in it for them."

Jamie Benson, Photo by Meghann Street

Mistake: Wasting Energy

Learn what's working. Nearly all social media platforms and communication tools offer analytics to gauge the effectiveness of your strategies. New methods aren't necessarily better than traditional ones, and even the biggest dance organizations don't have the capacity to utilize them all. "Don't think you have to have a presence on every channel," says Benson.

Mistake: Mindlessly Sharing Photos

You can never be too careful when it comes to imagery. Margaret Mullin, soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet, admits to being "pretty neurotic" about what she shares with more than 7,200 Instagram followers. She's found that Repost for Instagram is least likely to crop photos awkwardly, or plaster unsightly banners on them—modifications likely to annoy the professional photographers who originated the posts she shares. She errs on the side of asking anyone in her photos for approval, always gives credit and is mindful of how her content and timing relates to PNB's own social media.


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