Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Self-Promotion: Just A Bit

I got a little pushback at ye olde font of wisdom and discretion: the Political Science Rumor site.  Some folks are upset and see my posts there as self-promotion.  I suggested that my participation there is not driven by the desire to promote.  Indeed, what a crappy place to do that since most folks in the profession use words like cesspool to describe it.  Given the flak I often receive there, it would be a strange place to promote.

Yet, I need to be clear, I am definitely engaged in self-promotion.  After all, I have a website, a blog, a twitter account, a page to promote the new book, a playlist to promote the new book, and even a self-styled book tour.  So, I cannot deny that I self-promote.  Is this shameful?  I prefer to think that it is shameless.  Ok, that is a bit much.  But the basic idea is that I need to promote this book, as there is only so much our publisher is likely to do.  And I am excited by the book and want people to read it, cite it, and even perhaps buy it.  Not that I have much of a profit motive.

But then, of course, you can say: "Steve, you were a shameless self-promoter long before the book came out."  And, well, sure.  I definitely have hit new highs promoting this book, but probably the real changes were the year in the Pentagon and then when I started blogging and tweeting.  Before that year in DC, I had a vague idea that what we academics do and produce should be shared outside of the university campus.  So, I definitely embraced the opportunity to do TV and radio and write op-eds especially as I saw myself in a particularly strange but opportune situation--trying to explain some of the biggest mistakes in US foreign policy while residing in another country.  I did feel a bit of an obligation to do this in part because my title, Canada Research Chair, was very much a federal govt funded spot with a somewhat explicit mission to do outreach.  Also, the grants I received in Canada made me feel as if I had an obligation to speak to bigger audiences.

And then I started to blog and then to tweet.  Before that, I didn't go up to people and say, I am great, here are my ideas, now love them and me.  That would have been strange.  The new media allow us to do pretty much that.  But why?  Is it just attention-seeking? No, it is that* and more.  I got into this business because I am curious and like to engage others as we try to figure stuff out.  Twitter and blogs allow me to do that with so many more and different people.  So, I enthusiastically share my ideas through a variety of media.  I am not always certain of the rightness of my views despite how confident I might appear to be.  But I certainly want folks to tell me that I am right or not nearly as wrong as other folks might be.
* I cannot deny that I am a Leo, that I am the youngest of four kids, that I am extrovert, that I joined a profession where I can stand in front of 600 students who almost have to pay attention to me.
I don't think self-promotion is wrong, even if I feel a bit squishy sometimes when someone calls me on it.  I guess my basic view is--if I don't believe in myself and my ideas, who will?  And if I don't promote myself, who will? I should also note that my self-promotion efforts do give me opportunities to other-promote.

This is still something I am figuring out, but I don't let my uncertainty about it from stopping me from promoting the hell out of the new book.  And it seems to be working, given the number of folks who have shown me on twitter that they got the book.

Oops, I might have been unintentionally plagiarizing Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”  Which is funny since I never was exposed to Hillel quotes in Hebrew school but osmosis-ed it somewhere along the wya.

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