Act Smart!: Translating standard marketing-speak into actor-language

There aren’t a whole lot of people out there writing about marketing yourself as an actor. But with a little brain juice, you can use the nifty info out there for civilians to help promote your career as an artist.

Smart marketing advice for actors from actual civilians

No, the stuff is not always going to be spoon-fed to you. You may have to stretch yourself, read more slowly, or with a dictionary, in some cases, to catch everything. In the same way that the best books to learn about acting may actually be about kayaking, you might find some of the best ideas for distilling your brand (or “type”) as an actor, or for networking effectively, or for promoting yourself in a way that gains you fans, not foes, by stepping outside of your usual sphere.

Here are my favorite people writing about marketing, period. I think you can learn scads from each of them about marketing yourself as an actor:

Chris Brogan is one of those amazingly smart people who is also super-generous and helpful with dispensing useful information: in his case, stuff about how to use social media well and wisely. For example, not too long ago, he posted an excellent piece with a suggested list of 19 “chores” you could do every day to maintain your profile on the web. At least 14 of these would work perfectly well for actors with no changes whatsoever (the first 14, if you’re wondering); the six tips he provides for Facebook users really go for all users, period. He’s also got a great post on how he uses Facebook from which you can extract terrific ideas for sorting your contacts into groups and an outstanding how-to on how to manage Twitter. (With close to 94K followers, dude has a clue, trust me.)

Chris Guillebeau (what is it with the Chris thing?) is leading the kind of life you probably dream of if you’re just getting started in this profession. No, he’s not an actor; in fact, by his own admission, he could stand to get a lot better with his online videos, or even talking to people in public. But Chris is 100% self-supporting via the work he loves to do (writing, basically) and spends a good chunk of his time doing it while simultaneously pursuing a personal dream: to visit every country in the world by the time he’s 35 (he’s 31 as of this writing). He’s got a few products that might be worth investing in, but he’s also got a PDF you can download for free that tells you exactly how he successfully went from zero to supporting himself (with legions of fans) in less than a year (279 days, to be precise). His blog is full of interesting information on what it takes to be a non-conformist in this world, and why it’s worth it.

Seth Godin might be more of a challenge for you to extract acting-marketing lessons from, but it’s no reason you shouldn’t try. First, he’s an outstanding communicator: read his stuff for a while and you’ll start to learn the importance of conveying a simple, clear, focused message. For Seth, it’s about communicating marketing ideas and pushing people to change; for you, it’s about communicating your value and uniqueness (and also, pushing yourself to change). In other words, he’s worth reading even if you don’t get one lesson about marketing yourself as an actor. But three great posts turned up on his main page, about how to get an idea to spread, the value of being honest and specific with your message, and the bandwidth/sync connection, have outstanding information you can start putting to use immediately that I can guarantee you won’t find in a Marketing for Actors book at Sam French (until I write mine, of course!)

Valeria Maltoni, one of my new-favorite marketing writers, is another one you’re going to have to put on your big-girl pants to read. There’s a wealth of good information for creative types embedded in there, though, if you open your mind. This recent post on “The Gymnastics of Business,” for example, talks about the value of having other people promoting you (rather than having to promote yourself) and the importance of understanding the buying cycle. No, you’re not selling something to a customer in a traditional sales pipeline. But if you think about it, when you meet a producer who may not need you on a film but happens to mention a role she’s having trouble casting that you know the perfect person for, guess what? You get a magic check mark next to your name in the good column. Accumulate enough of those with right action and they add up to a much stronger network and career longevity.

Finally, Derek Sivers, the founder of CDBaby and a musician himself, shares scads of great information about how to promote yourself in a cool, non-sucky way, plus information on attending conferences, maximizing efficiency and accomplishing goals (and he oughta know, right?).

Remember, as you’re reading these people online, it’s cool to interact, as well. Leave a comment on a post you’ve found helpful, and introduce yourself. Performers are scarce as hen’s teeth in the social media world, and you might wind up with some additional fans, provided you’re cool about how you introduce and conduct yourself.

Let me know how you enjoy these resources, and please email me if you have others you’ve found helpful.

Next month: Non-acting-related books every actor should read.