Episode 51 - Spruiking


Jen: Hello, listeners. If you detect joy in my voice, it's because Pete Shepherd is coming to New York City.

Pete: Aaah, I can hear the crowd screaming, Jen. It's true. It's true. I am coming back to New York City. And in celebration of that, and in celebration of our one year milestone of The Long and The Short Of It, we're going to be doing another live podcast. It'll be happening on the 7th of October at 7:00 PM Eastern, and if you want to sign up, come along and join the frivolity, you can go to www.thelongandtheshortpodcast.com/live.

Jen: Thank you so much for making this year possible, listeners. We literally couldn't, and wouldn't, do it without you. If you have found value in this podcast, and there are people in your life who you think might also find value in it, we would so appreciate it if you would take a screenshot of your phone right now and text the image of today's episode to a friend, and encourage them to listen.

Pete: And finally, if you haven't already, please head to our website, thelongandtheshortpodcast.com, and sign up for our Box O' Goodies, which is a weekly email containing links to resources, questions, books, podcasts, and ideas all in relation to the week's episode. Thanks for listening.

Pete: Hey, Jen.

Jen: Hey there, Peter.

Pete: It's time. It's time.

Jen: For what? [laughter]

Pete: For an episode on something that you've been asking me to do an episode on since we very first started this podcast, almost twelve months ago.

Jen: Wow.

Pete: And that topic is spruiking.

Jen: Yes, spruiking! It's my favorite word. Lets spruik. This is The Long and The Short Of It.

Pete: So, almost twelve months ago when this podcast first came out, I sent you a message on Slack along the lines of: "I've been spruiking our podcast.". To which you replied, "What the hell are you talking about? Did you just make up a word?".

Jen: I remember it well.

Pete: And it was one of those moments where I was like, "Oh, this might be an Australian thing. Spruiking, maybe that's an Australian word.". And I proceeded to Google it and it turns out, yes, it is predominantly almost solely used in Australian culture and not necessarily anywhere else. So that felt quite funny.

Jen: Well, I immediately Googled the word as well, and was delighted by the very first definition I landed on. Which, you know, out of context as an American, I have no idea what the connotation of spruik is in Australia. But the first definition I landed on was: "to promote an idea". And, that was it. I was hooked. I'm a spruiker.

Pete: So, I love that definition. In certain contexts, spruiking might be seen as...I don't want to say, like, used-car salesmen, but...you know those people that stand out the front of a shop, and try and encourage you to come inside their shop to buy stuff? That's a spruiker. Like that, in Australia, is a spruiker. So, so in some contexts there might be people listening that are like, "Oh, Spruikers, they're so annoying. They're just trying to get me to come into their shop to buy stuff.". But I far prefer, I much prefer your definition that you stumbled across, which was "to promote an idea". So, I think we should explore what that means.

Jen: I want to share why this word was so revolutionary in my life. So, in the theater industry...actually, in any industry that has actors, when actors are seeking audition opportunities, they do what the industry calls "submitting". They submit for audition appointments, either themselves or via an agent or manager. And this word had never rubbed me the wrong way until one day, I was listening to the brilliant Dr. Michael Gervais talk about our Fight-or-Flight Response. And in that moment, he said, "Our Fight, Flight, Freeze, Submit Response". And the second he said "Submit", an explosion went off in my brain. And I was like, "Oh my gosh. Think about what submit actually means.". I don't want actors submitting- giving up all their power, giving up all their agency, kowtowing to some higher-status idol. No. I want to take back the power. So, for months I had been looking for a replacement word for "submit", and then you said "spruik" and I was like, "Boom. That is it.". We will no longer submit. We will now spruik. If you want to get seen for a part, have an idea, and then share your idea.

Pete: Yes. And hearing you say that, and having heard you say it before, I think it applies beyond just your industry, as well.

Jen: Oh, of course.

Pete: That even things like, pitching. Like, the word "pitching" I don't like. It doesn't sit well with me. It feels, it feels kind of dirty. Pitching, selling, pitching...versus promoting an idea. Because what I love about it is what you just said very casually, which is- the first step is having an idea worth promoting. You have to do some work. What is your idea? Who is your idea for? What's your idea for? You know, like, and actually do some work on coming up with an assertion, or a change, or a project that you're actually working on, that you think is then worth spruiking, worth sharing.

Jen: When you make this mindset shift, from "submit", or "pitch", or "send a cover letter to"...

Pete: Yes.

Jen: ...to "spruik", it will completely transform the way you communicate. And I've been applying this concept of spruiking for the last twelve-ish months, ever since you first said the word. I've been using it at my Studio, and it has caught like wildfire. People are so excited about having some agency over the way they communicate. And what it has done for people has allowed them to narrow their audience a bit. So, whereas before when they were submitting for things, it was like, you know, throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something would stick. Or like, cast the widest net and hopefully you'll catch a fish. When you're spruiking, it's like- Here is the target. For this target, I have a single arrow in my quiver.

Pete: Yeah.

Jen: And this arrow is for that target. So, I am going to be intentional with what I am delivering, so that I'm hitting the right target.

Pete: Yeah, I love that. It ties into so many things that we've talked about, around getting specific on who your work is for. And, you know, something that Seth Godin talks about is having a clarity on your smallest viable audience. Which is, how many people do I really need to serve in order for me to continue doing the work that I want to do? And often, it's usually a lot less than you think. There might be five people. It might be ten people, or five casting agents, or ten casting agents, in your industry. And so, getting more clarity, and having tools in order to help you get clarity, and like, getting really specific, getting really niche...I think to your point, if you're coming up with an idea first, or thinking about spruiking and promoting an idea first, it automatically filters out a bunch of people that you don't necessarily want to share that idea with.

Jen: So, I think this points to a couple other things that we've referenced in past episodes. The concept of Starting With Why: Spruiking is part of what it means to Start With Why. Beginning with the end in mind- that is a component of spruiking. And a Giver's mindset versus a Taker's mindset. A Giver's mindset is: Having an idea and sharing it. A Taker's mindset is: You have something I want, please give it to me. So, there are so many wonderful, positive mindset shifts that fall under this umbrella of spruiking. And I'll tell you, it's been really, sort of, fun to call people out when they're using the word "spruik", but it's not really a spruik. So, they'll send me something and say, "Hey Jen, can you look at this spruik?". And I'm like, "Yes, I can look at it. But it's a submission, it's not a spruik.". And that's fine! But let's call it what it is. If you want this to become a spruik, lead with your idea. Find an idea, and lead with it. Find a way to connect with the person who is on the receiving end of this communication.

Pete: Mmm, I love that. So, that distinction of- a spruik needs to be based on an idea. Hearing you talk about that also just made me realize, something I've spoken to a few clients about recently, is, when someone goes into an interview, they get nervous because they think they're being interviewed. Which, to some degree they are. But it's also like, you're interviewing the person as well, on the other side of the table. That you have just as much power to decide: Is this someone I want to work with? Is this project something I want to take on? Is this show something I would be interested in bringing my creativity to? It's thinking about- this is a collaboration, a two-way collaboration. And so, let's figure out, (by me sharing my idea, and you bouncing around on whether that is something that appeals to you), let's figure out if it's something that we should do together. "Should we collaborate?" Rather than, "I submit myself to you, and you decide. You have all the power on whether we are a couple, whether we are a good fit, whether we are people that should be working together.". It's actually...it's very empowering.

Jen: And one of the things that it requires is vulnerability, and emotional labor. Because if you're just submitting yourself (which again, in certain circumstances is fine), the thought that someone might not get what you're offering them is less painful. You don't have to do as much work to engage in a way where the communication is super clear. But with a spruik, you are putting an idea you believe in front and center. That requires a lot of courage, a lot of vulnerability, and a lot of emotional labor- to be able to speak the language of your idea that the other person would need to hear in order to get it.

Pete: Okay, that's huge...just hearing you say that out loud. Firstly, an idea is, obviously, something that you believe in, you're passionate about, is something that you believe to be true and important. But the hard part, the emotional part, is taking your idea that you know, and believe, and it's in your head, and translating that in a way that appeals, or resonates, or is understood by the person you're promoting it to. So, it's not good enough to just say, "This is my idea. I'm passionate about it. This is it.". And then go, "I don't understand why they don't get it. Don't they, just, get it? Like, it's in my head. It's super clear in my head.". I've, to your point, I've spruiked it. But it's like, did you? Did you think about who's on the other side of the table? Did you think about what interests them? What motivates them? What drives them? And then tweak your language, tweak the approach that you take to appeal to that person? That's a, that's a whole different conversation. And it requires empathy, which is something that you and I have spoken about a lot.

Jen: Another layer I'd like to add to this is, there are some people out there who are very good at communicating their ideas. And sometimes, your spruik is doubling down on the idea that this other person has presented. As an example, let's say someone has just announced that they're doing a production of King Lear, and it's going to be an all-female cast, all-female creative team. So, that is an idea. That is an idea that is being promoted. There is a spruik happening on someone else's end. So if you, as the actor, are looking for an opportunity to audition for that production, instead of saying, "Hi, I'd like to audition for the role of King Lear", a spruik would be something like, "I see what you're doing. I see the idea you're going after. This is why I believe in this, and why I would love to come in and read for you.". So, the idea you're promoting doesn't even have to be your own.

Pete: Yeah. So, when Twitter was popular, there was this idea of re-tweeting. And so, it sounds like what you've just described, Jen, is re-spruiking.

Jen: The spruiking volley! [laughter] One other way that this has proved very useful as a mindset shift, in my own life, is- when I am sharing our podcast episodes, or my blog posts on social media, I try to share it in the form of a spruik. And it usually sounds something like, "If you've ever felt 'X', then this is for you.". Or, "If you've ever wondered 'this', I hope this podcast episode will provide you the insight you're looking for.". So, when I think about posting with a spruik mindset, as opposed to a, "please listen to my podcast", "please read my blog", "visit my new website"...instead of "If you've ever wondered 'X', I made something for you.".

Pete: Wow, that is brilliant. It's so generous, too. Which is kind of the point of why you make things like a podcast, or a blog. Is like, instead of going: "Here, I made this, go and read it", it's like: "If you think about this, then I made this for you". That is generous. That's Jen Waldman wisdom. I also think it helps, because I know that people really struggle with this, the idea of- "I don't know how to sell a product. I don't know how to sell a service. I don't know how to sell myself, if I am the product or service.". And so, it's a reframe of- well, is it about selling yourself, your product, or your service? Or, is it about generously spruiking? About generously promoting your idea, and seeing if there is a fit, seeing if there is a collaboration worth happening there. So, I like that as a reframe for even the word "selling", as well, as- I'm generously spruiking. I'm generously promoting my idea.

Jen: You know, I do a lot of work with people who are in the Development offices at various non-profit organizations, to help them figure out how to speak to potential donors. And I've never used the word "spruik" there, I always use some different language, but essentially, it's the same idea. That if you're, for example, looking to raise money for a cause you believe in- instead of saying to someone, "Can I have your money?", you say, "Here's the idea. Do you believe in this idea, too? Here are some of the ways in which you can prove your belief. One of them involves making a donation.".

Pete: I love that. So are there any other ways we should think about using the word "spruik"? Any other nifty reframes to put in place?

Jen: Well, I think once you've landed on an idea, and you really believe in it, it's worth testing against some of your other materials that you don't realize might even be spruiking on your behalf. Like, you know, it would be awkward, for example, for someone like you, Pete, who is very clear on your idea...on the idea you're promoting- which is, "You have the power to change your corner of the world". That's your idea. And it would be weird if I went to your website, and I didn't find that there. That the content there didn't support the spruik. And sometimes, because of sunk costs, (and if you have missed that episode, go back and listen to it)...because of sunk costs, sometimes people are not willing to do the work to update all of the things that they're putting out in the world, to reflect their spruik.

Pete: I like it. So, looking at the various platforms, and channels, and ways that you promote your messages. And then, thinking about them in terms of a spruik. Hmm.

Jen: What would it look like if you went to your LinkedIn profile? And spruiked on your LinkedIn profile?

Pete: Spruiking on LinkedIn. I just also, I just love that my casual, quick-fire message twelve months ago has traveled so far. And for the 65% of listeners out there who are in the United States, hopefully now you have a new word to take forward. Spruiking. And for the rest of you...you probably don't have that word either, actually, because only about 25% of you are from Australia. So please, also take that forward. And know that it comes from a place of generosity. Know that it comes from a place of sharing an idea, or promoting an idea, that you believe is worth spreading, and worth promoting.

Jen: So today, well, most of us have learned a new word. To Spruik. Our chosen definition that we will adhere to is "to promote an idea". And we believe that you, listeners, have an idea in there that is worth getting connected with, so that you can promote it and change your corner of the world.

Pete: And that is The Long and The Short Of It.