The Subtle Art of Self-Promotion — Anouk Pappers

4 min readFeb 28, 2024


Photo by drobotdean on Freepik

Self-promotion may be seen as daunting and uncomfortable, yet properly done it holds the key to unlocking new opportunities and reaching career goals. You can effectively present and position yourself for success while at the same time remaining authentic. As Dorie Clark, a communications coach and professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, has mentioned, “If you can make it clear to [colleagues, managers, or collaborators] where you can contribute the most, you’re making their lives easier and helping the company overall.” Striking a balance to overcome any discomfort and eliminate the feeling of entitlement or arrogance is vital and can be done by shifting your perspective. By recognizing the value of creating and controlling your personal narrative, you are already on the right path.

Understanding the value of self-promotion is crucial, especially for those hesitant to step into the spotlight. This is not just about personal gain, but rather a strategic plan that will benefit you, your colleagues, the company/organization you’re associated with, and your extended network. By conveying your expertise through compelling narratives you can engage with individuals on a deeper level. Essentially, you need to shift your mindset from viewing talking about yourself as “humble bragging” to recognizing it as a valuable tool for helping others understand who you are.

Taking actionable steps to address challenges surrounding unease, hesitance, and unfamiliarity unlock a world of professional possibilities. To start, identify what keeps you from promoting yourself. Is it shyness? Is it difficult to pinpoint communication topics and figure out how you want to convey them? Is it challenging to clearly define how you need to present yourself? Acknowledging such barriers will allow you to determine which steps you can take to overcome any discomfort.

When I start working with a new client, the first item on our list is to ensure their next professional goal is clearly defined. This will establish how they need to position themselves to their target audiences. Based on this we identify how best to showcase their expertise and passion. The same process can help you to overcome the challenges you face in promoting yourself.

At the intersection of these elements is the foundation of your personal brand. Consistently presenting yourself using elements of your brand will help you manage how people perceive you. You also give others the tools they need when they speak about you. Moreover, by determining communication topics that not only resonate with you but also captivate your target audience, you develop a narrative that is naturally aligned with your professional identity.

Demonstrating your expertise through stories minimizes the possibility of feeling presumptuous as you are providing the proof points of your claims. Your initial efforts don’t have to be perfect — you just need to get started. Then, keep going, adjusting as your goals evolve. In due course you will find a comfort threshold for self-promotion.

Self-promotion is both an art and a science, requiring a nuanced approach that balances authenticity, humility, and strategic narrative crafting. By embracing its power, you can propel your career in a future-focused manner, while contributing significantly to the success of your organization.

A brand anthropologist who has been storytelling for brands since 2002, Anouk Pappers has interviewed over 1,000 CEOs, CMOs and business owners and published 15 books. Anouk’s primary focus is on working with women and diverse leaders to define their personal brands and pinpoint their narrative. Her company, Signitt, enables people to align their online presence with their personal brand, as well as with their organization’s values and mission. This positions them to achieve their next professional goal while at the same time enhancing their company’s image.

Connect with Anouk on LinkedIn.




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