I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I have a soft spot for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. After all, it’s “two great tastes that taste great together.” Discovering your personal brand as an actor is a little like discovering what’s in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Your brand is a unique mixture of how others experience you (the chocolate coating on the outside) and how you define yourself (the peanut butter filling on the inside). It’s your essence distilled into a few descriptive words and manifested in the work you put out into the world. Put another way, it’s the impression you leave behind after you’ve left the room and casting directors and other decision-makers ask themselves, “Do we want to work with them?”
Discovering your brand takes a little critical reflection, so give yourself time to gather your thoughts and feedback, check your ego at the door, and follow these five steps:
Step One: How do you see yourself?
Complete these two sentences: “I am…” and “I am not…”
Finishing these sentences helps you understand your core values and attitudes. The words you choose should reflect your beliefs, outlook, and general demeanor. Try to keep it to three words. For example: I am…organized, insightful, playful. I am not…rude, gruff, unprepared.
Understanding these qualities forms the foundation for your brand. It’s your general outlook on life, and it follows you regardless of context: these qualities are true about you whether you’re on set, at your survival job, or hanging out with friends.
Step Two: How do others perceive you?
This is what is seen on the outside based on others’ experiences with you. Two simple ways to complete this task come to mind: taking an informal survey (like a quick post on Facebook or sending an e-mail to 10-20 people in your circle) and looking at past feedback from teachers, bosses, friends, and family.
The social media/e-mail method: Post a note to your social media feed or send a short email asking for feedback. Try something like: “Hi friends, quick favor? I’m trying to understand my brand and conducting a little experiment. In the comments below (or respond to this email and), share 1–3 adjectives that describe me (the good and the bad, I can take it). Thanks!”
The past feedback method: Gather up any feedback you’ve gotten from your day job, coworkers, casting directors, teachers, etc. Look for the adjectives that describe how you work, your outlook, even your shortcomings, and make a list.
Step Three: What patterns do you notice?
Look for the 1–2 words that continuously pop up in the feedback you receive.
Step Four: What’s your brand essence?
Combine your own descriptions of yourself with the descriptions from others to define your personal brand essence. Your brand essence is your very own unique peanut butter cup. Merging others’ impressions of you and your impression of yourself creates a fuller picture of your brand.
Step Five: Does this feel like me?
Now it’s time for a little self-reflection and iteration. Ask yourself it that brand essence you came up with in the previous steps sounds like you. If it does, great! You’re on the right track. But if something isn’t resonating, go back to your lists and play around with how you combine the words. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.
When you’ve completed this process and you like the traits that emerge, ask yourself how you can strengthen your brand. If you don’t like what you see, ask yourself what needs to change and what steps you can take to make those changes.
When you combine what you know about your personal brand and your type, you can send a powerful, clear message about your work to the world. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a peanut butter cup.
*This post was originally published on March 13, 2017. It has since been updated.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.