Thursday, July 4, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Promoting a Project Without Becoming Obnoxious

Dear Rachel,

How can I further my educational children’s animation program developed for TV? It's *******-****.com.

Creator of *******-***.com

Dear Creator,

The best way to “further” just about anything begins with finding goalposts. Figure out who is already doing the things that you’d like to do. Look into how they got there. Try to find a way to talk to them in person, whether that means networking with people you already know or cold calling / cold-emailing complete strangers. You are going to have to be aggressive.

There’s a balance here, though. At the same time that you want to promote yourself and your educational children’s animation program, you need to make sure that you’re respecting other people’s time when you contact them.

I’ve read this useful tip sheet about writing good emails from Quartz:, which essentially says that you need to write with answerable questions and you need to show your gratitude.

It’s amazing that you’ve created something, and that it’s something that drives you. Keep refining it, because every time you become convinced that you’re doing something just perfect you must remember this -- there is no such thing as perfection. Open your ears. Seek criticism. And by this, I don’t just mean that you should ask for criticism. You need to really freaking listen when people give you that criticism.

I’ve asked friends for criticism on my writing before. Lots of times, I want them to say, “Oh wow! Great work!” But try to find the people who will show you some flaws and give you suggestions. These people might make you angry (I know, for all my cravings for criticism, raise my haunches each time someone actually gives you some), but mull over what they say. Let it marinate and keep in mind that you’re trying to get other people to buy into your vision, so you need to expand it to include them.

Remember also that television is a strange medium. Think about the difference between what you think people should watch, and what they’re actually going to want to watch. You better believe that anyone you speak to from a network will be thinking of that.

Even as you must contend with what may feel are the soulless or jaded people at networks, or those who hold the pursestrings, please don’t forget your core. You’re trying to educate children here. This is an important and lofty goal. If you succeed, children will build their understanding of the world off the foundation you provide them, or perhaps use the building blocks you give them to construct their sense of self. Please don’t forget that as you cultivate the characters in your program. Try not to rely on stereotypes for things like gender or race. Challenge these conceptions, instead of reinforcing them.

And finally, think about appropriate places to promote yourself. The question you asked me was perfectly valid and fantastic for this column. But including your website to your program shows that you hope I’ll publish this letter so readers will click on it. Something about that gave me the willies.

Now, you’re going to rub some people the wrong way no matter what. And you can’t let that get in your way. In fact, you’ve got to soldier on in spite of that. At the same time, think about how you can be more natural when you try to promote yourself.

Also, always do favors for people and never burn bridges. You never know when these things will come in handy.

All my best,


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via  or advice @

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