When you work in the entertainment industry—whether it is as a writer, a musician, an artist, an actor–you are your own brand. This is something that many newcomers to this industry have a hard time grappling with and with good reason: branding is usually something that is done for products and companies and services that are separate from who we are as people. Realizing that you are now the product you have to market can cause some serious cognitive dissonance.
Here are a few things that you can do when you are starting out to help you cope.
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1.) Separate Yourself From, Well, Yourself:
Many artists and other people who put themselves in the public eye cultivate a “public persona” that is sometimes quite removed from who they are as actual people. Stephen Colbert, for example, is not the ultra-conservative (albeit hilarious) blowhard you see on the Colbert Report. And—to his credit—Colbert is quite open about the fact that who he is on the show is a character that he is playing who just happens to have the same name.
It is absolutely okay for you to do this for yourself. It is a great way for you to create some distance that will allow you to approach your own marketing the way you would for any other product or brand. It can also help you protect your personal and emotional self from public opinion and scrutiny over what you do and what you create.
2.) Set Boundaries Early:
This is particularly important for people working in sectors in which fans and audiences demand a certain level of access. Many celebrities, for example, have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to touching. Wil Wheaton, for example, will hang signs up on his tables at conventions that say “Don’t Touch The Wheaton.” This is partly because he suffers from an immune system disorder that makes him particularly receptive to illnesses and partly because he simply isn’t comfortable hugging or shaking hands with strangers. Because he applies the policy to everybody, most fans are not upset when they request hugs and are denied.
Another approach to branding has to do with your products. Jonathan Coulton and many other web based musicians offer up their music through Creative Commons Share Alike licensing, which allows fans to grab clips or even entire songs of his for free when they find them online but requests that they not use the music for making money.
Other artists will happily allow fans to cover their work but set up specific copyrights through services like TuneCore sync licensing so that should someone want to use that musician’s work in a for-profit capacity, everybody’s legal bases are covered (and the artist makes money off of the sale). Like with the no touching rule, when it comes to things like sync licensing, it is important to have a universal rule that you apply. Allowing even one person to use your work for free in a for-profit situation will open a backlash floodgate that you will have a lot of trouble closing.
3.) Ask For Help:
A lot of your branding and marketing efforts are going to revolve around your asking for things. This can be as simple as asking people who follow you on Twitter to check out a new song or article. It can be as complicated as pitching something to a producer at a big name entertainment company. If you have trouble asking for things, one of the best things you can do is enlist the help of others who can act on your behalf.
That’s right: agents and managers aren’t just for stroking your ego. They are for getting your work out to as wide an audience as possible, which leaves you free to focus on your creative projects.
Another option is to seek out business coaching about what kinds of branding may work best for you.
4.) Be Accessible:
One of the reasons that artists like Amanda Palmer and writers like John Scalzi do so well is that they make themselves easily accessible to their fans. They participate in conversations on Twitter and Facebook. They answer as many emails personally as they can. They run their own social media profiles instead of staffing them out. They attend events that cater to one on one time (even if it is just a few minutes) with fans. When your fans feel like they have a personal connection with you, they will be more likely to buy and share your work with their friends.
5.) Be Active But Rest When Needed:
Yes, one of the most important parts of branding and marketing is putting yourself out there. You need to be creating and publishing and telling people about it as often as possible. But if you don’t allow yourself a break every now and again, you’ll set yourself up for an early burn out. Take regular time to yourself. It’s okay to tell your fans you’re going dark for a week for some rejuvenation time.
It’s weird to have to market yourself. Everybody gets that. Hopefully these tips will help you better deal with that process. Good luck!