Paul’s Actor and Arts Marketing 101

“Marketing” – it’s such a boring word which makes most people groan and turn off, isn’t it. When you hear the word ‘marketing’, most people think of a suited businessman with a briefcase and mustard splodged down his tie – they picture him sat around a table in an office surrounded by more boring, mustard and ketchup splattered folk, all staring at some squiggly lines on a whiteboard at the head of the room with some cranky man conducting with his pointer, not really knowing what he’s talking about himself. That’s probably the most excitement he gets all day. This vision is enough to make most people crawl away mumbling words like ‘tomorrow’ and ‘whatever’. But that’s not all there is to marketing – you need to grin and bare it and explore what it really means before you walk away, because your career could depend on it.

Believe it or not, marketing can be fun. But if you don’t show people that you exist how are they going to find you?? My favourite quote of recent is: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows YOU” (thank you Andrew Regan for telling me that one).

What is Networking & Social Media

When it comes to marketing, a couple of words/phrases constantly flying about are ‘Networking‘ and ‘Social Media‘. Without knowing it, you probably do both of these already. Every time you log on to Facebook or Twitter you are engaging in a social media network. Every time you talk to people at your acting class and ask questions, introduce yourself and tell people what you’re up to – that’s networking. As soon as you realise what these boring words mean, the veil is lifted and it starts to make more sense. But you probably already knew these simple facts, didn’t you. But are you aware of what else you can do to promote yourself as a performer? Do you know how best to make use of Twitter? It’s not just for stalking sexy celebrities and telling people what you’re eating. Casting Directors, Agents, Theatre Companies, Directors, Writers, Producers – all these people you want to meet; they’re all on there too. OK, well, obviously not all of them –  I admit some are still sat in caves somewhere with a candle and a chalkboard, but there’s a lot of them. But before you dive in there, you need to think about your ‘strategy’. However, Twitter and Facebook are not the end to social media – there’s also ‘LinkedIn’, ‘Google Plus’ (if you can work it out) – even ‘Instagram’ could be useful, particularly to Models wanting to post pictures. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do isn’t there… find your favourite(s) and work them well.

My main advice (if you want it): Get on Twitter. Add your stage name, with a professional Username. Add your headshot. Add a concise biography stating that you are an ACTOR (not ‘aspiring’, ‘wannabe’, ‘student’ etc – these all have negative connotations if you’re looking to engage with employers) and put your Spotlight LINK in your biography, with a personal website in the section for it. Make sure you add your Location, too (Manchester/London/LA etc). Remember, Twitter is used ‘on the go’ – on mobile phones more often than not, so you need to make this information easily accessible to people if you’re trying to engage their attention. Follow everyone you want to work with, give and share information/’retweets’ freely (people may return the favour one day) and respond to people’s tweets whenever you feel the urge to. I use ‘favourites’ like the Facebook ‘Like’ button – I favourite to let people know that I appreciate their post, even if I don’t have a response for them. They don’t always see that, nor care however. Remember, tweets are easily lost/overlooked, especially if people have many followers or aren’t too techy. You don’t have to tweet all the time, just check it every now and then when you remember. Basically, be there, have a presence. Why not? It’s free and it takes a few minutes.

Your Voice – Professional/Unprofessional Approach?

I always find that a little less talked about subject is the professional/unprofessional line. It’s an interesting one (to me anyway). In the world of business it is not good practice to bad mouth your competition or respond unprofessionally to complaints. The problem with being your own walking talking business is knowing what you can and cannot say. If you ever stop and think ‘nooo, I can’t say that’, this normally means you’ve reached your line. To be successful on social media sites like Twitter, you normally need to have a strong ‘voice’ – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be outspoken. You need consistency in your approach and to know what you’re trying to get from what you’re doing. You have celebrities who are known for being outspoken, loud, and they tweet all sorts of rubbish; in many cases this works for them and this is their ‘voice’, it’s what gets them known. I would call this the ‘unprofessional’ approach – but not at all does that mean it’s the wrong approach. Really, there is no right and wrong, it’s all opinion (this is MY opinion – ignore it if you wish, people often do). If you chose to be ‘unprofessional’ in your approach, you will have the advantage of seeming more approachable and people are more likely to engage with what you’re saying and reply to you – whether it’s a positive or negative response however is a different matter. In business, the belief is that it’s better to at least have a foothold in social media and know what’s being said about you than to not be aware at all. As an Actor/Writer/Director/etc, you may not want to read what people are writing about you, so that rule may be more applicable to Arts Companies. But if you ARE doing something wrong or someone has gotten hold of the wrong end of a sticky stick, you’re best knowing about it.

I will finish with explaining that the ‘professional’ approach would be always watching your P’s and Q’s, responding politely at all times and basically updating your status every now and then with some kind of marketing message. Just think about what you normally update your status with – would you say you are professional or unprofessional? Personally, I do try to tread the middle ground but would probably say that I am ‘unprofessional’ in my approach.

Know Your Product

Acting is a business and you need to think of it as one. You are your product and you need to know your ingredients (look into ‘Archetypes’) and what you’re trying to sell – your headshots and CV being your marketing material; they need to compliment what you’re trying to sell. If you’re trying to sell ‘cool, young chic’ and your headshots say ‘teacher’, you’re not too often likely to be called in for what you’re applying for. Your Twitter followers are your consumers and you need to make them want to buy your product. If you don’t know what/who you’re selling, get a piece of paper and write down some single words which you feel best describe you – deep down. Who are you? Keep digging until you can go no further. These words are also great for working into that dreaded “So, tell me about yourself” audition question.


Now the FUN part is the Networking – once you’ve got to the bottom of the boring stuff (what are you selling, how etc) you need to get out there and sell yourself! Get out where? To plays, showcases, classes, conventions, meet ups! Keep your ear to the ground. The majority of good roles/jobs are cast/taken before they’re even written/finalised, so if you’re waiting for your Agent to find you work you’re already missing out on a lot. NOBODY can do this for you.

Well, I think that’s enough of that from me. If you want learn more and have it all explained to you in more detail and more clearly, we have a great seminar coming up at our next Theatre Showcase on 13th April 2013 called ‘Marketing & Social Media for Actors’, which will be delivered by ‘Penguin In the Room‘. I would highly recommend anyone take this seminar, as there’s so much more to marketing than I’ve mentioned above.

Until the next blog,
Paul Kenney

P.S – If you have an opinion on this subject, feel free to post a comment below!

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