Self-Promoting Without Feeling Tacky

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2021 | Executive Women

Self-promoting without feeling tacky can feel like walking a tightrope.  Before you start speaking, you feel like a confident business woman. But once the words start tumbling out, you find yourself struggling to overcome impostor syndrome

You want to get your message out, but there’s a voice inside your head that keeps telling you to pull the reins in before you annoy your audience.

This post will show you how to self-promote without feeling tacky by employing the following techniques: 

  • Know exactly what you’re trying to promote
  • Believe in what you’re promoting 100%
  • Know exactly who you’re talking to
  • Pick the right time to self-promote
  • Ask for what you need or want
  • Focus on adding value
  • Don’t compete
  • Promote others


Know exactly what you’re trying to promote


If you’re marketing your photography business on social media but you’re also talking about how much you enjoy doing interior decor consultations, you’ve just confused your audience. Stay on message!


Promote one product or service at a time. Remember: your audience needs to hear a message seven times before they will consider taking action. 


The same rule applies to self-promoting within the office. If you want your boss to know that you’re great at managing a team, he/she might get confused if you are working all hours of the day and night. 

Show how great you are at managing a team before you tell how great you are at managing a team. For example, deliver your team’s top-notch work product a day early (show), then tell: “I’m really proud of the team. I asked them to work together to complete the project early. They did it, and now we are ahead of schedule.”

Believe in what you’re promoting 100%


When it comes to self-promoting, you must believe in what you’re selling. The first person you must sell to is YOURSELF. 


Self-promoting can require us to step out of our comfort zone. We tend to hesitate before self-promoting because we have been socialized to believe that everything has to be perfect before we share our product or service with the world. 


Or, we think we need outside validation, such as a degree or a certification, before we promote a product that has worked well for us. Let’s be honest: overcoming impostor syndrome is an ongoing battle. 


If any of these things ring a bell for you, let me interrupt you right here: 

People will decide for themselves what they think is great.

No amount of self-doubt from you is going to change their opinion. They’ll either like what you’re selling, or not. Put your product or service out there and let the market respond. The only way to fail is to not start. 

Perfect is the enemy of good.  

If you wait until you have a PhD in candle making before you promote your candle business, you won’t have a business- you’ll have a headache. Create your product or service, then promote it. Done is better than perfect. 


If you’re promoting a product, why do you love it? How does it benefit you? What stories can you tell about it? Did it initiate a transformation of some kind in you? 


Wrap your mind around these questions long before you shout about the product from the rooftops. 


Remember: sell the PROBLEM you solve, not the product. 


Then, when people thank you for helping them solve their problem (and they will), accept their thanks. You could not have helped them if you had chosen not to self-promote. Congratulations – you did it! 

Confident business woman

Know exactly who you’re talking to 

Are the people you’re communicating with actually interested in what you’ll be promoting? How will it benefit them? 


For instance, if you are promoting recipes for making homemade baby food but the majority of your audience does not yet have children, you’ve lost them. 


Remember, most people are constantly running messages through their “What’s In It For Me?” filter. If they can’t immediately recognize how it will benefit them, they’ll leave. 


Similarly, inside the office, self-promoting to your peers (who have no say in your advancement at the company) does you no good. This is the definition of “tacky” and “annoying. 


Save your self-promotion for people who have the power and responsibility for your career trajectory. 

Pick the right time to self-promote

Self-promoting gets a bad rap because we’ve all seen people who don’t know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. Balance is key. 

If you are promoting yourself on social media, keep variety in your posts. If people think that the only content you are putting out is about you and things that benefit you, they’ll move on (and may not come back). 

However, if you are focused on serving your audience and offering them value over and over again, they will stick around. Then, when it’s time to self-promote, they will be in the front row, clapping and singing your praises. 

In the office, periodically ask for feedback when submitting a project or completing a routine task. “Did this meet your expectations?” invites your superior to recognize that you have submitted quality work. 

Saying, “I was able to complete this project a week early, so I wanted to go ahead and get it to you.”, puts your boss on notice that you manage your time well and have his/her best interests in mind as well. 

Note: self-promoting in this way becomes tacky when you invite praise with every project you submit. Consider the 80/20 rule: over-serve and over-deliver 80% of the time, then self-promote/invite praise 20% of the time.

Anne’s approach is down-to-earth and practical. We spent the majority of our time laying the groundwork for a transition plan that has effectively guided me in the first 60 days in my new position. She allowed me to bounce ideas off of her and she also helped me to hone my plan. Anne was great about sharing resources/articles/books to assist me moving forward! If you are a woman thinking about your next career move and need help honing their direction: call Anne! She is practical and smart and can help you move forward.

Lisa Keegan, JD

Vice President of Admissions, Bucknell University

Ask for what you want or need  

If you’ve gotten yourself all hyped up to promote yourself, your product, or your service, people know what to do next, right? 


People need to be told what to do. They appreciate clear directions. 

If you just finished talking about how amazing your jewelry is, that is not the end of your message. Ask for what you want to happen next: “If you are as excited about this season’s collection as I am, head over to the website at XYZ address and drop a few pieces in your cart.” 

If you are hoping to land a promotion at your workplace, be explicit: “I am really proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last 4 quarters. I’d like to ask for your support in moving into the director role.”

Lastly, be careful to distinguish between assertiveness vs. aggressiveness. Promoting your offering to the world does not make you aggressive; rather, self-promoting makes you an assertive, confident business woman

Focus on adding value

If you are self-promoting with the aim of benefiting yourself, making a commission, or earning some extra money to go shopping on vacation, guess what? You will come across as tacky. 

However, if you focus on adding value when you’re self-promoting, you will serve your audience and keep them coming back for more of your content. 

If you are self-promoting in an office, keep the focus on how what you’re doing is benefiting the company’s bottom line or mission.

Don’t compete

In self-promoting, consider how you might collaborate with others, not compete with them. 


If you are selling skincare, how might you link arms with a “competitor” to offer value to your audience? Could you interview one another, or discuss common skin-care problems and solutions – together? 


Your audience will appreciate your focus on meeting their needs and answering their questions.


In the office, focus on how you and your peers have worked together to solve an organizational challenge. This positions you as a team player capable of overcoming ego and turf wars for the benefit of the business – important qualities for upwardly mobile employees.  

Promote others


When you keep the focus on serving your audience, it is easy to see how your one product or service will not – can not – meet all of their needs. 

So, think downstream and upstream: what product or service would benefit your audience BEFORE they use your product? Or, AFTER they use your product? 

Or, since they love your product, what other complimentary products or services would they also like? 

Develop a network of peers whom you trust and share your audience with them. Chances are, they’ll offer you the same opportunity, which opens new doors for you and your business. 

In the office, you’ll develop a reputation for “I-me-itis” if all you focus on is “I” or “me”. Develop a habit of singing the praises of other individuals or departments. Show that you are a team player by highlighting all of what’s good about your organization – not just yourself. 


As a recap, when it comes to self-promoting without being tacky:  

  • Know exactly what you’re trying to promote
  • Believe in what you’re promoting 100%
  • Know exactly who you’re talking to
  • Pick the right time to self-promote
  • Ask for what you need or want
  • Focus on adding value
  • Don’t compete
  • Promote others