Standing Out in the World's Toughest Crowd
Not too long ago, I was looking for a job. The central emphasis of all my work-seeking efforts was on standing out. This much I knew: Now more than ever, you've got to positively differentiate yourself from the competition. You've got to market yourself. Visiting LA recently, I started thinking about this again. The cruel paradox of LA is that it's simultaneously the place where being noticed matters most and the hardest place in the world to be noticed. In this impossibly-crowded market, nearly everyone you meet is trying to "make it" in some form or fashion. Whether they know it or not, they're trying to market themselves to influencers. This is especially true of aspiring actors. As evidenced by whichever bad movie you saw recently, being a bad actor does not--sadly-- preclude one from getting serious screen time.
Enter an actor friend of mine, Logan Fahey.
I've known Logan since the second grade, and I'm not the only one that thinks he's great. Daryl Miller of the LA Times called a recent performance of his "letter perfect" (and it was). It absolutely kills me that Logan isn't using new media to capitalize on his recent successes, and I told him as much. He, if anyone, should be a standout. Within five minutes of meeting the other night, we had mapped out his next steps in order to make it so. I'm confident the plan will work, even in a place like LA where everybody is trying to get in front of anybody who's somebody (say that five times fast).
Most of what we discussed applies to new media, personal branding and conversation marketing quite generally. To illustrate their applications, I'll include some specifics regarding how Logan might take these steps, but just add a little imagination to construct your own game plan. It's never too late to start marketing yourself.
- Claim a central online outpost; a place that aggregates all the new media presences you'd like to put in front of influencers. Once you've put up some decent content, slap this URL on everything you send or give out. In Logan's case, he should print www.LoganFahey.com right on his headshots.
- Flaunt it tastefully. As Brian Clark writes, brilliantly, "What other people say about you is more important than what you say about yourself." Collect and publish your praise. Don't be shy about it. Smart people make choices that are informed by testimonials above all else. These are the people you want to get in front of, so give them what they want--or someone else will.
- Play to your strengths. Put up a blog and write about what you know. Come across as both informed and interesting! Most settle for one or the other. Go for both. Comment on the posts of those who influence you, but also start conversations with other beginning bloggers, as they are more likely to reciprocate, link to you, etc. Logan is easily the funniest guy I've ever known. I see him posting biting observations on the travails of the aspiring actor and the excesses and of LA culture. If his observations are as sharp and witty as I expect they will be, he'll be able to create a substantial following.
- Pages, not profiles. Logan the friend has a Facebook profile. Logan the actor should have a Facebook page. Pages offer far more functionality, customization and marketing flexibility. They allow you to construct and maintain a rich new media presence on one of the globe's top websites--free. Using touches of FBML and following basic web design principles, pages can be a one-stop showcase of a brand's value. Logan's page will use video, photos, press clippings and carefully-written verbiage to create a mixed media demonstration of his talent and commitment to excellent presentation.
There's more that Logan can do, but the above will keep him busy for a while. Rather than spreading ourselves too thin, it's much more effective to carefully select a few new media tools, create deep content experiences and update them often. Every time someone comes across one of your online outposts, make sure they're encountering the person you want them to see, and not a bit of you here and a bit of you there, scattered across a trail of half-finished profiles.
As much as I'm excited to show a dear friend the new media ropes, doing so has forced me to consider my own reflection. Staring back at me, I see an incomplete picture of myself. I have a lot left to do and even more to learn. Yet, I like what I see. With a little work, it's only going to get better.