In the UK we are brought up with an ingrained sense of modesty. At school and at home we are told not to boast; those who ‘blow their own trumpets’ are considered rather gauche, and the emphasis is to underplay our successes, relying instead on others to spread the word.
While this provides marketers, agents and PR with a living, in today’s competitive climate self-promotion is paramount; regardless of where you sit in the creative food chain. It took me a very long time to realise that as an agent, as well as promoting the work of some very creative clients , I too must promote myself.
As my agency grew, it morphed to suit the changing shape of the creative industries. When the demand for photography in the music industry declined we shifted our focus to the advertising sector. When those budgets shrank and commissions for press and billboards fell away, we began to explore other channels such as installations for corporate companies.
So over ten years the focus of my agency shifted drastically and the only real constant has been me. While I had been beavering away keeping the press informed and updating clients, I had unwittingly created a ‘Brand Me’.
Colleagues, clients and collaborators were just as interested in the diversity of our approach as they were in the end products themselves. I started receiving calls from old contacts asking for my opinion on how they might refocus or reappraise their service or product to adapt to a fast-changing market. Brand Me had become a secondary income offering solid opportunities to collaborate with associate businesses, flex our collective creative muscle and diversify in a direction driven by our own needs and not by the ebb and flow of the market.
Regardless of whether you’re an agent, creative studio or artist the opportunity to self-promote, while simultaneously serving clients, has now never been easier. Just look at social media and the public’s appetite for content. What you do has become only half the story; who you are and why you do it your way is now just as likely to win you a new account as any end product.
Many creative businesses have mastered the art of promoting what they do for their clients; securing features in trade magazines, scooping D&AD awards or even hosting exhibitions of their best work, but many fail to promote themselves. As businesses must now wrestle with overseas competitors to win clients and commissions, there has never been a more crucial time to promote yourself and what you do.
Ironically, Brand Me has now become the chief focus of my business; offering up my knowledge and experiences to aspiring and established photographers, sitting on judging panels, writing articles or advising clients on creative approach.
While my representation of others has provided me with the experiences necessary to create a Brand Me, recognising that what I do is simply the product of who I am has been the key to securing client loyalty, maintaining passion in my own projects and mustering the courage to diversify into pastures new.
So think about who you are, what you’re doing and why that is – then make sure people know it.
Vaarta is an art consultancy curating exhibitions for special events and brand placement. Rebecca Valentine has judged the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.
Illustrated by Emma Russell
- One Thing I Know