How to create clear and compelling messaging about your creative work
Talk about your work in a way that's true to who you are and what you do
To talk about your work in a way people will hear, you need to establish three essential pillars, and then there’s one key perspective shift that will flip all that from what essentially comes down to journaling (and possibly navel-gazing) into effective, clear, compelling messaging that’s 100% line with what you do and who you are.
This process, starting with what really matters and what YOU bring to the work, is also what protects your creative work from being despoiled by dumbing it down and pandering to the audience.
The first pillar: What are your goals and core motivations with the work?
Why do you need to pinpoint this? Because to develop a public presence, you will produce a consistent ecosystem of messages.
You don’t literally create one message. It’s not one set of words you use over and over again. You don’t go around just sticking your logo on things. Instead you’ll have many conversations and messages that must be completely consistent and congruent.
This is how you do it: You develop an inner compass that keeps you aligned based on knowing with certainty, “This is what I care about.”
1. What drives your work, and what is the impact you want to have on your audience? We call this your “Big Why”.
What does this look like in practice? Here are a few from our Autonomous Creative community:
- A food educator who’s driven by using the joy of the convivial table to pull people together.
- A cartoonist who is driven to support organizations and causes she believes by helping them share their work in a clear and easy-to-digest way.
- A sci-fi writer who wants to create a world for her readers where human cultural prejudices are overcome and families are found.
- A silversmith who creates to help people commemorate and celebrate truly significant life events.
- A playwright who writes to help out of the mainstream teen girls feel seen and heard, and that they’re important in the world.
- A game designer who is working to represent the queer experience in the RPG world
- An art educator who wants to share her love of creativity inspired by nature, and support her students in finding their own path.
And the Why doesn’t have to be all that “big” to be meaningful!
- An artist who wants to create tranquility in people’s homes.
- A craftsperson who loves to solve design problems by bringing together form, function, and beauty.
- An illustrator and product designer who wants to bring joy, surprise, and delight into his customers’ lives.
- A portrait painter who wants to help people see how beautiful they are.
2. What are your concrete goals with the work? What do you hope will happen when you send your amazing thing out into the world?
- Do you want to make money? How much?
- Start, or join a conversation in the culture about your medium or your subject matter?
- Get great reviews?
- Reach a specific population?
The second pillar: What about your approach sets your work apart?
I’m going to say something that may feel challenging:
You are just a little weird.
That’s OK. So am I.
Honestly, it’s kind of the human condition.
(…Though artists might be a little weirder than your average weird.)
In fact, let me correct myself: Being “weird”—that is, having a unique perspective and life experience to bring to your work (and your communication about your work!)—is not only OK.
It’s a superpower.
Your own, honest-to-god-oddball truth is your first and best tool to build deep, lasting connections with your audience that are based on authentic connection, not fakery and putting on a facade.
Let’s talk about exactly how your “weird” can be a superpower. But first, I’m going to start with a big bummer.
Everything has been done already. Everything has been said. If you’re looking for some new niche that has never been touched by anybody, it doesn’t exist.
But before you throw in the towel, let’s get some perspective.
- Have you stopped reading new books, because you’ve read books before in the same genre?
- Have you stopped looking for podcasts, just because you’ve heard podcasts before that resonate with you?
Probably not. Very much the contrary, in fact.
When you love one thing of a type, you go looking for other things that are like that. When you love something by an author, you go looking for other things that that author has done.
The fact that everything has been done is not stopping us as consumers of cultural products.
You can’t let it stop you as a producer either.
Just because “everything has been done” doesn’t mean everything has been done by you.
It hasn’t been done with your particular twist, your eye, and your aesthetic. This is why it’s so important to avoid sanding off your rough edges to make things more “palatable” (and dull).
(This is what I was talking about back a couple of pages ago!)
In the end, there will likely be other people who do work in the same field that’s as objectively “good” as yours. So it becomes the specific, particular touch you have with your work—the language, the sound, your perspective, the imagery you use—that will set it apart and differentiate it. And that’s the root of effective messaging about your work.
So, I want you to embrace the thing that makes you weird.
I’m talking about that thing that made you feel rejected in the playground in elementary school.
I was that person, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were too, at some point in your life.
It was painful. And what did we learn from that? We learned to hide it.
We learned to stuff it down and act normal and pretend that we don’t care and that we aren’t weird.
If you’re lucky, you learned at some point weird is cool. A lot of people never learn that. Or they learn it, but only at an intellectual level, they don’t feel it. They don’t live it. So this is healing, and a crucial reframe, that needs to happen for you.
We’ve been so trained to tamp down our weirdness, to hide it away, to be ashamed of it.
…But your weird self is your true superpower.
The thing that’s weird about you, that you’ve been trying to hide and bury all this time is probably the most important thing for you to put in the foreground of your marketing and your communication.
Get in touch with your unique perspective and life experiences.
- Write about your history, your influences. How have they changed your work and how you engage with the world?
- What have you been hiding from the world because you’re afraid you’ll be judged? How does that quality or story affect your work? How can you share that, in a way that feels safe?
- Try writing an “origin story.” How did you become the artist you are today?
There’s one more “Pillar” to creating compelling messaging about your work, and in this step, we start to take the big leap of thinking about the audience experience.
The tool I’m going to share is surprisingly straightforward…just don’t make the mistake of underestimating its power!
- The first two pillars to establishing compelling messaging are establishing core motivations, what’s “weird” about the work and sets it apart…but they’re also both very internal, which is exactly the problem with most artists’ communication about their work in the first place.
- And the good news is, there’s a simple tool that will start to flip your perspective so that you can use all of that to create effective messages about your work. Read on!