If you’re an actor and you’ve been in New York or Los Angeles for a bit, odds are you’ve either taken a class about marketing yourself as an actor or you’ve heard enough about it to feel like you have. You know, where the advice centers around coming up with a quippy signature for your daily postcard mailings and pushing your “type” in every piece of marketing and every conversation that you have.
I’m so totally sure that works for some people, and this is not meant to knock that method or those classes. (Though I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that, you know, some of those things are an overpriced bunch of bunk.) I come at this from a different perspective, because I work in marketing outside of the entertainment industry. My “day job” (I hate that term) involves managing marketing campaigns for companies that are typically in the healthcare or technology industries.
I know a lot about marketing, but ask me to promote myself and my first reaction is to freeze up and do something like stare at my computer screen for 20 minutes trying to set up an email campaign for myself… something I could do for a client with absolutely no second guessing.
There are probably lots of reasons why promoting myself is so hard, and you likely have many of the same reservations with your own self-promotion. First of all, it’s awkward to promote a product when that product is you. Actors have a reputation for being self-involved, and I know that I often overcompensate for that stereotype by going too far in the other direction. For example, I’ve been at events in LA where I’ve introduced myself as a marketing manager instead of as an actor because I’m not in the mood to see people’s eyes glaze over when they hear what I do for a living. That’s obviously not a good way to network and move my acting career forward. In the interest of getting past this self-promotion phobia, I’ve come up with a few things that make marketing yourself easier. (Now, if I can just take my own advice!)
- Write out your bio at least once a year. This might sound crazy, but I find that organizing my thoughts about my latest projects not only helps me to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride about what I’ve done, but it also helps me when I’m speaking about my work in person. I’m guilty of being asked, “what are you working on lately?” and responding with some sort of sad eye roll and canned line about “just doing the thing, you know.” Which, duh, basically tells the person you’re speaking to that you’re doing nothing. This is almost never true, I’m often quite busy with one thing or another and just don’t tell people about it. If I’ve written it down recently, I’m much more likely to have a confident and interesting response to this sort of question.
- Extend your self-promotion beyond yourself. If you self-create work, you’ll have something to promote that is about an entire group of people. Saying “I made a movie about _______” is infinitely more interesting, and truly less self-involved, than saying “I’m an actor, please cast me.” Creating your own work also helps to define your overall brand beyond just a simple character type. It positions you as an artist with your own ideas rather than just, you know, someone who loves playing the quirky best friend.
- Engagement and community are key. This is something I tell marketing clients when we begin working on their social media strategies. Building a community of people, both online and off, who you engage with on a regular basis is far more important than talking about yourself all the time in your on and offline promotion. Share other people’s projects, tell a casting director you love something they did with a project, ask questions about what other people in your community are doing and how you can help them. Is this self-promotion? In a roundabout way it is. Building strong relationships will encourage people around you to promote your work when the time comes. The best kind of “self-promotion” comes through genuine connections with others, so that you can be cheerleaders for each other (and stop having to feel awkward about promoting yourself!)