Brag about it

Once upon a time, I was the publicity director at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. I was in charge of all marketing and public relations for this major national summer theatre festival. And believe it or not, merely having Sigourney Weaver or Stockard Channing in a production wasn’t always enough to sell tickets. The Internet was far from mainstream in those days – there wasn’t even a World Wide Web yet (just newsgroups, gopher and what not) – so we were doing all marketing and PR by newspaper (remember those?), radio, TV, posters and postal mailings (oh, those bulk mailings…. I don’t miss those).

A tradition that started many years before I had this role was the brag board: one very large bulletin board in the hall way that lead to the costume department and backstage. I (and every publicity director before me) used it to post any newspaper articles about or mentioning the festival, as well as newspaper advertisements for the festival.

It’s one thing to get print outs of articles, neatly presented in a folder. But that board was a very powerful visual for the work I was doing (supported by some wonderful interns). Too often, people just see a full house and think it somehow happened magically. The brag board was my way to say, “Hey, this is what it takes to get those seats filled.”

That brag board not only reminded my co-workers and supervisors about what I was doing, it also reminded the actors, directors and other artists the importance of doing the press interviews I was asking/would be asking them to do. Some actors get annoyed by being asked to do interviews (Ms. Weaver never was, in case you were wondering). This was my way of reminding the artists just how vital it was for the festival that they say yes to publicity activities.

That brag board was internal marketing. And it’s why I had a great summer as publicity director – because everyone knew what I did, and they valued it.

For a few years after that, I forgot that important lesson about internal marketing: I assumed the head of the organization, the heads of other departments, the receptionist, and others knew what I was doing because it was so clearly presented online. It’s all there, on the Internet – everyone sees that, right? It took a woman I admired tremendously, who always made me feel valued at her organization, to take me aside one day and remind me of the importance of internally marketing yourself. It’s of vital importance that you communicate to everyone at your organization about your role, what you do, and what the results of your work are – otherwise, you will find your budget being reduced, your department staff getting cut – and maybe even see your job get eliminated.

Having your work so prominent online, or among your professional associations, is NOT enough to ensure your role is valued at the organization that employs you.

Create a brag board. Put up copies of newspaper articles, blog posts, emails, a compilation of tweet mentions – anything that shows your organization is getting noticed or lauded. Print out and post photos on it that your volunteers are taking while volunteering and posting online. Put the board in a break room or hallway – a high traffic area where employees, consultants, volunteers and visitors will see it – or, if that doesn’t get approved, in your office. Keep it neat, well-organized, and frequently updated!

Keep forwarding links and emails to all staff – hey, look at this! – but don’t ever let that be a substitute for a big visual representation of the work you are doing.

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