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Business of Acting

Don't Career Through Your Career

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Branding is about communicating a memorable essence of your actor self. Your brand must be defined clearly and delivered strategically in order for it to help you generate the momentum to move your career forward.

Defining It

Defining your personal brand is an ongoing process. There are elements of your brand that will endure, as well as aspects of it that will evolve as you evolve as a person and as an artist. Getting help with the process of identifying and describing your unique essences is essential, because you are the only one who sees you through your eyes. Everyone else experiences you from an external point of view, so it is invaluable to know how other people perceive you.

Notice what others say or write about you, especially when the same descriptors are used by multiple sources. A casting director told actor Katie Enright that the office had nicknamed her "Jayma Fey," because she has Jayma Mays' looks crossed with Tina Fey's comedic energy. When Katie shared that story with me and the 20 or so people we were with, the entire group concurred. Realizing that the phrase resonated with people, Katie knew she had received a piece of her branding puzzle.

Do not ignore your innate essences that clash with your perception of yourself. In reality, you might be the complete opposite of a ditsy cheerleader or an elitist cad, but strong brands can be built around the contrasts between your appearance and your true nature or abilities.

Delivering It

There are countless ways you can communicate your brand, but your efforts should not be expended merely to make a random, flashy splash. The goal is to deliver an ongoing strategic campaign (which can include some flashy splashes) designed to increase and sustain awareness within the industry of what you have to offer as an actor. To be effective, your branding simply needs to be authentic, consistent, and concise.

Tempting though it might be to swipe elements of another actor's brand (phrasing, design, humor, style, dress, demeanor, etc.), chances are high that what is working for someone else will not work as well for you. A branding element that is not an authentic fit will usually seem like a gimmick. When tomboyish actor Karen Cauliff swings by to drop off a six-pack of her homebrewed beer as a thank-you gift, the whole package—her appearance, her energy, the beer, the clever bottle labels she designed—is in alignment and reinforces her branding as "the female Tom Sawyer." However, were I to ever swing by anywhere bearing beer as a gift, the gesture, incongruous with my image, would confuse people rather than engage them. I would only be delivering a gift, not my authentic brand.

The purpose of branding is not only to say "This is me," but also to say "I'm still here." Delivering your branding messages consistently is the only way to get those two statements to register with your intended audience. With high turnover among actors, the industry needs to be reminded (not bombarded, but reminded) again and again that you remain ready, willing, and able to work.

Far too often, actors think there is something wrong with their branding message or materials when the problem is that they are not delivering them consistently enough to make the desired impact. Determine what is appropriately consistent (as opposed to annoyingly constant) for your target audience.

Approaching branding as an ongoing campaign helps you avoid the common mistake of trying to communicate everything about yourself all at once. Your marketing piece—a postcard, a one-sheet, a website—can be conceptually authentic yet crammed so full of visuals and text that it overwhelms your intended audience and they ignore the whole thing. Consistency in delivering your branding messages frees you to make those messages concise. Serve people portions they can quickly and easily digest.       

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