Sunday, August 23, 2009

Professional Brand: Why People in the Performing Arts Need It

Even though I am not a professional, I have a curiosity and interest in what the professionals who are in my area of interest need to do to be successful and get work I'm not exactly sure why I follow the specifications of that business. Maybe I have the secret fantasy of being a professional. Mostly I think it is because at one time I had wanted to be a professional actress and I often analyze what about it made me quit way back then, what caused me to drop and not proceed.

But also because there are parallels between the avocational and professional world. They are not as far apart as it would seem, even though the amateur singer is operating in a different sphere of players than the professional, some of the strategies are the same. For example, both the professional and the amateur may need to AUDITION. Both need to know the people in the field who are providing opportunities to sing. Both have to make their own opportunities to sing if they can't plug into an existing structure. Yes, even in the amateur world, things like image and networking, presentation, polish, sense of style, personality, etc.. can all make a difference in whether one gets the chance to participate in their craft in front of an audience.

Well, anyway, because of this interest, I have been reading and exploring a very interesting web site on Personal Branding that has some information that, although intended for writers, seems universal enough to apply to a performing artist as well Because I didn't feel I had the competence to address how a professional might apply this information, I sent the link to someone who is highly competent to do it, my singing teacher, Susan Eichhorn Young, who writes a blog that is loaded with information for professionals, and she has written a little about the ideas of branding and how to think about this from a professional standpoint.

Reading what Susan has written, and also digging into the archives of that branding web site myself, has caused me to reflect on my own experience more.

One of the issues that led to my deciding I couldn't hack getting into the theatre business was that although I loved the craft of theatre, I did not understand nor like how or why I should promote myself to others. On the "Know Your Brand" web site, Jenn Stark, the author of the site, explains about how we construct a "shadow brand." This Shadow Brand, Ms. Stark explains, "based on the Jungian concept of “shadow” to describe the hidden side of the human psyche, is essentially a brand we construct, sometimes without even realizing it, to keep us from achieving our dreams." I guess my "shadow brand," was much more highly developed and had a much stronger influence than the other aspects of my "brand, which I had no clue about nor how to cultivate. In my case, my shadow brand was the one determining the outcome of my attempt to become a professional actress, and led to my eventual abandonment of that path.

Another part of what I didn't understand was how to discover and define more clearly exactly who or what I was as a performer. I would stand at an audition and stare at the rows and rows of talented attractive people sitting along the wall in folding chairs waiting to be heard and seen, and I couldn't see what was special or different about me. Everyone seemed like a good pick. Why should I be picked above any of them? I don't think the performing world really needs me. They have plenty here to choose from who will do just fine!

Well, later on I began to think about cookies. Yes, cookies! There are so many delicious cookies on the supermarket shelf, lined up in rows kind of like the professional actors I saw lined up in rows on the folding chairs. Why is someone going to pick one cookie over another? If you're going to try a new cookie, what would make your hand go to one package of cookies over another?

Branding is all about knowing what kind of cookie you are (chewy or crunchy), who will like you, what kind of party you'll be served at, etc...

I began to think about it in this manner way too late, I'm afraid, to have put it to any use for me, but thinking about it this way makes it WAY less personal and scary, and I wish I had known that it was about this in many ways before I had quit while I was younger.

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