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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

This month: Tooting your own horn effectively (Part 2)

Last month, I talked about the basics of what we’re calling “branding”—or what I like to call “How you put yourself out there to the world in a consistent and compelling fashion.” Said basics include such frequently overlooked items such as your headshot, your outgoing voicemail messages, your “verbal business card” and your bio (or, as I’ve strongly suggested, your wardrobe of bios: one for every occasion!)

This month, I intended to launch into the many places you could start proliferating on the web, but as I thought about it, I realized that again, we should start with the basics. So in this column, I’m going to run down what I feel are the most important places to be on the web, and how your stuff should look there.

ABSOLUTE MUST: Your acting website(s)

Personally, I believe anyone doing any kind of business should have their own, personal website; as people learn to go more and more to the web (and the oracle of Google) to research, you need to be where those people are, and controlling, to the extent that you can, the results they find.

As recently as five years ago, it was kind of a headache putting up a site, and even more of a pain getting other media up there, especially video. Today, it is so freakin’ simple, there is no excuse not to. It should include, at minimum:

Your headshot(s) — enough, but not too many. Having your entire shoot up there does not impress people with your range; it dilutes your focus, and your brand. Plus, you run the risk of looking like a crazed egomaniac, and they are not in big demand. Similarly, limit yourself to current headshots only. Having the Galleries of Years Past sends out mixed messages. And makes you look like a crazed egomaniac. Stay on point. Stay focused. Be ruthless with yourself.

Your résumé — preferably HTML and downloadable PDF. Everything on here should be true, verifiable as such and again, as relevant to where you are now and where you want to be as possible. Avoid cute or crazy fonts. Your typeface is a graphic representation of you; first and foremost, that means it should be legible AND easy on the eyes. While you’re at it, pick a typeface and stick to it. I’ve used Garamond and Century Schoolbook since before I was an actor. Subtle, but it reinforces your branding. Avoid Comic Sans, Papyrus, and anything that looks like it was used in Ye Olde England. Trust me: they scream “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Your reel — if you have one. If not, we’ll get to that later. (Oh, and I am a fan of using Flash to stream reels, as opposed to the old “Quick Time for Mac/WMP for Windows” deal. Most people have the Flash plug-in, it loads quickly and there’s less visual clutter.) Again, keep it clean, clear and to the point. This is not about how crazy you can get with montages or how stupendous your musical taste is. If you’re lucky, they’ll watch more than 10 seconds. Yes, you heard correctly. Get the good stuff up fast, and keep the overall reel shorter rather than longer.

Your contact information — That’s your voicemail and P.O. Box if you’re self-represented, your agent/manager/publicist/etc. if you have them. Never, ever use your home telephone or address. Don’t cheap out on this. There are nut jobs out there (I know; I’ve talked to them.)

Judiciously chosen linkage — A lot of actors will provide links to services useful for other actors. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s a little off-point. Remember, first and foremost, this is for your audience, and your audience is not other actors; it’s producers, potential business partners and fans. So by all means, if you’re an accomplished whatever—singer, dancer, artist, etc—feel free to provide links to an external site (or MySpace page—more on that next month). And if you have an arcane interest or two—oenophilia, say, or sword-swallowing—a few such links can pique interest and add to your charm. But remember, that’s the goal: to add to your charm and appeal, not make you seem like an unstable whack-job.

Finally, this website should be up at your own URL — That means, if possible. You can get your own shared hosting space or even use a free service with your own URL (although you will have to pay a nominal fee in most cases to do that). Trust me; it’s worth it. You want to own your own name on the internet, now and forever. If no decent version of it is available, you can add “actor” or the like to the end of it. But your name is best.

Things your site should not include:

  • a splash page (unnecessary, annoying and very 1999)
  • Flash animation or programming (ditto, other than for your reel)
  • animated GIFs (shudder)
  • a trigger that makes your site hijack my screen (that’s an instant & forever ban for me, by the way)
  • anything that prevents people from getting to your info quickly and easily. I’d include the aforementioned splash page AGAIN (they’re that annoying), slow-loading pages, and music that plays automatically—really, no one cares and many will be annoyed. If you insist, make the “MUTE” button prominent.

PRETTY-MUCH-ABSOLUTE MUST: Your “agent” websites

By this, I mean any site that:

  • Your agent might use to submit you
  • A producer might use to find you

The former includes sites like SAG’s iActor, this one, and (ahem) competing services. If you can afford to get on them all and spare the time to maintain them so they’re always up to date, great. If not, choose your weapon or two and let the rest go. At the absolute minimum, make sure you are on whatever site your representation requires.

I would also include on this list. No, it’s not strictly necessary, but having a complete photo, plus a reasonably correct bio, credit list and updated contact information can’t hurt.

And remember: make sure your photos & résumé are up-to-date and consistent across everything. In branding, consistency is king!


REMINDER!!! Is your bio in good shape? If you’re willing to share yours with fellow actor-readers everywhere, send me yours for review. I’ll do an analysis and rewrite in a future column, so everyone can benefit from the lesson.

NEXT MONTH: Really! I swear! How to promote yourself online with (mostly) free tools!

Questions? Compliments? Suggestions? Complaints? You know what to do!  

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BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a  book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.