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Actors: Do you have a Mothership?

October 11, 2010

The MothershipWelcome to the MOTHERSHIP!


This is part one of a series of posts relating to your website. Each week we’ll cover every element of your online home, from setting it up, to updates, design and SEO. (That’s Search Engine Optimization, not to be confused with Sneaky Enigmatic Ostrich.) Today we’ll look at what constitutes a ‘Mother Ship’, and some of the options available to you.  Let’s begin!


All Aboard!

Personal websites are more accessible and affordable than ever.  Most of you will already have a personal site, maybe you have even designed and built sites yourself, or know people that do. The question often asked is – with my resume, images and reel hosted on so many other sites, do I need my own, personal website too?  Let me make it easier for you – the answer is yes. As an actor, it’s imperative that you provide an online, one-stop shop featuring all the information that an agent, casting director, writer, or director could need. Not everyone will decide they need a traditional, giant, 20 page, personal website, but what everyone must absolutely have is what I refer to as ‘The Mothership’.


The Mothership is the central hub of your online presence.  It can be a traditional website, a customized blog site or even a super-duper-customized page within a social networking site.  The vehicle you choose is a personal decision that may be affected by your available resources and funds.  Do you have a friend who designs and builds websites for a living, or can you do it yourself?  Do you already have a very well-received and frequented blog page with all the bells and whistles, or a couple of thousand friends on your Facebook Page, that you had professionally designed and coded recently?  If so, you may want to stick with the winning formula, rather than risk losing some of your audience in the cross to a different platform. Whatever you decide, the subsequent posts in this blog series will cover your options in detail.


Social Network Profile as a Mothership?

This is rather a hot topic not only for actors, but other business’ too.  Can you use a page/profile within a social networking site as your Mothership? The jury is out officially, but in my humble option – I think you can, but let’s take a quick look at some of the restrictions or complications you may face should you take this route.


Your Mothership must enable you to host a specific list of content, attractively and effectively, and must look true to your brand.  For this reason alone, although I believe Facebook has a lot to offer artists in terms of networking and online marketing (I will be writing more about utilizing Facebook to it’s fullest extent, so subscribe now and you won’t miss it!), it’s customization restrictions make it a less favorable candidate for a Mothership. It’s still possible – but be prepared to pimp that page, either with your own coding skills, or by paying a pro to help you out.


Myspace allows better but sometimes clunky customization (thanks to it’s open-code), and easily enables you to host audio and visual content, but I would advise you to buy your own domain name and redirect it to your Myspace page. Also keep in mind for both platforms that you are restricted in your access to statistical data to monitor your results. Myspace is also losing users by the day, and although (at the time of writing) it is undergoing a complete facelift to challenge Facebook, I personally believe MySpace should only be considered as a Mothership for comedians (and musicians) as strong communities for both industries still exist.


Other Cons:

  1. You don’t own it!  Should Mr. Zuckerman throw a tantrum tomorrow and shut Facebook down, you can kiss your page, it’s contents and all your connections goodbye!
  2. Privacy. If a person would like to subscribe to your e-newsletter or blog feed, they can do so anonymously from your site.  To ‘add’ you or ‘like’ you on a social networking site they have to reveal their identity, off-putting for some.
  3. Cred.  A well designed personal site can offer you credentials – it adds to your status as a professional.
  4. Flexibility: Doing a complete Branding overhaul?  Just got married and are changing your stage name to your new legal name? These scenarios can prove difficult to remedy on social networking pages.  (PS: read my blogs on branding here!)



  1. Instant Audience: Everyone, their cat and their Mom have a FB profile nowadays, it’s a familiar platform and makes it easy and painless for people to stay up to date with your career.
  2. Price. It’s cheap, and if you can handle basic coding and utilize some of the many apps available on Facebook (to add things like your blog feed, video, etc), then it’s free!
  3. Maintenance: You don’t have to have your website developer update your news, photos or reel – you can do this all yourself promptly and for next to nix!
  4. Search-ability: Search engines love most social-networking sites, your page will rank high in results for those searching for you by name.


On board the Mothership:

A good way to decide if your chosen Mothership platform is appropriate is it’s ability to effectively host your must-have list of content. Don’t panic, you don’t have to include every item below straight away, but your chosen Mothership platform should be able to incorporate every item listed.


– Your Logo

– Your One-liner

– Your Bio (short on view, long to download as a PDF)

– Your Photo Gallery

– Your Resume

– Your Audio Files (if you host a podcast or are a voiceover artist)

– Your Video Content

– Your Blog (RSS enabled)

– Your Store (should you sell your product independently)

– Your direct links to other online profiles.

– Press/Media Coverage

– A Direct Contact to you, or your Manager/Agent




Hopefully by now you’ve decided if your current Mothership has what it takes, or if you need to make some adjustments or create a new one from scratch.  Next week we’ll look at the basic set-up, from naming your Mothership, to docking it (hosting) and more.



Until then – keep sharing!


“Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

(Norman MacEwan)




Image by Temari 09 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


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You’ve Got (e)Mail! (Part 2, E-Newsletter Software)

October 4, 2010

Email Newsletters  - Part 2 (choosing your software)E-NEWSLETTER SOFTWARE:

E-newsletters can be a great way to keep you audience up to date, and many casting directors and agents appreciate a monthly update in this format. Last week we looked at the basics of the do’s and don’t of e-newsletters, if you missed it, find it here.

The process of creating and managing email lists has the potential to be headache inducing, but can be handled easily and quickly via a third party company. There are many to choose from, so I’ve done some research and here are some of the most popular to get your started. Very quick and easy to set-up and use. You can customize your emails, or choose from a variety of professional looking templates.  Easy to add ‘Sign Up’ links and a variety of button designs to add to your Mothership, blog and social networking pages. Really attentive and professional customer support. For an extra $5 per month, you can create a page within the Constant Contact site to archive your last 100 emails and then add a link from your site so your audience can skim through previous newsletters. Another easy to use system, with cost plans catering to small or mass mail outs – Obama used it in his election campaign!  They provide complete email design customization, or over 300 easy to use templates.  Icontact are known for their spam vetting service – they’ll check your campaigns and advise you of any terms or content that might not pass your recipients spam filter.  They provide detailed tracking, allowing you to see who opened your emails as well as new subscribers and how many people forwarded your emails. Easily add and customize ‘subscribe’ widgets to your pages. (The widgets are the open fields that allow users to enter their email address, or other contact info, and hit send to be added to your subscribers list) This service has two immediate factors going for it: the cute chimp mascot and that they offer a very generous free service.  You can store up to 500 subscribers, send up to 3,000 emails per month and your previous emails are archived automatically – all for nix.  The other two things I like about Mailchimp are the design-creation interface and the easy ability to send notifications of your campaigns to Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.  Unlike the other sites mentioned, they don’t offer standard templates, but instead a mini WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. This means that you can easily customize your email so it’s a unique match to your brand.  They offer tracking and a great auto-responder service, that allows you to send automatic emails for birthdays, or seasonally or if you’re going to be unavailable and want to schedule a campaign to launch on a future date.

Reverbnation: Is a service specifically for musicians – although I see no reason why actors and other artists can’t use it too. They offer a huge range of great marketing tools for both performers and labels and management. Their email service is called ‘FanReach’.  There are two levels; a free, basic level for smaller mailings, and a pro account for mass campaigns.  Features include; tagging contacts into groups so you can create campaigns for specific age brackets or locations, easy integration of content like show schedules, store links, audio files, press clippings, and more. If you’re not computer savvy, they provide a simple email editor to customize colors, add photos, and add links etc. If you are a bit of an expert, then FanReach supports most HTML.

There are many other options, so if you’re using a site/system that is treating you well – leave us a comment below and share with your fellow thespians!  Leave us a link to your latest e-newsletter, get a bit of buzz and offer an example to help others, earning some Karma points in the process!

A Necessary Note Regarding Traditional Emailing:

I have to mention this as it’s a pet-peeve of mine, and this still happens all too frequently. There will be times when you will email your contact lists from your personal email account. Do not display people’s names and emails address’ in the TO field. It’s very unprofessional and it breaches people’s privacy. PLEASE take advantage of the BCC function when doing this. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. Address’ you add to BCC field will not be seen by other recipients on the email.  You have to add at least one address in the TO: field, so add your own email, and the email will be sent back to you as well. This is a very easy oversight that can seriously upset important contacts in your list – and it’s completely avoidable 🙂

Next week I want to start tackling personal websites – do you need one, and if so, what’s the best way of getting one!

Until then – keep sharing!

“With malice toward none; with charity for all.”

(Abraham Lincoln)

Image by Ferran. via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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You’ve Got (e)Mail!

September 27, 2010

Email - the new snail mail?Email Blasts & E-Newsletters

Social Networking and Online marketing is based on word of mouth. Your job is make it ridiculously easy for your audience to find you, then to create wonderfully ‘sticky’ content for them when they do, and then make it almost impossible for them not to spread the word.  Email Newsletters (or email blasts as they are sometimes referred to) can be a great way to  keep those already within your community informed, as well as act virally and help you connect with new people. Let’s take a look at what an e-newsletter is, and what makes them successful.



Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé…In 2009, Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen.

National Canned Spam Act, MarketingSherpa

The average open (for marketing emails) rate for the year (2009) across all sectors was 11.8%.

MailerMailer (


As you can see, the stats aren’t positive for the future of email marketing campaigns, in fact for emailing in general.  As technology advances, so does the pace of our lives, and email is starting to be considered the new snail mail by some.

Don’t dismiss it altogether just yet. There will still be a decent percentage of your audience who prefers to receive a weekly/monthly email update from you, as opposed to following your blogs in a reader, or your Twitter or Facebook updates.

Email blasting is the process of sending an email newsletter or message to a mass number of people.  These emails are most commonly HTML coded so that the images, video or audio content is embedded within the email, not as attachments as these will often get caught by spam filters.

Do I need it?

E-newsletters can be a great way to keep you audience up to date, and many casting directors and agents appreciate a monthly update in this format. The system of creating and managing email lists can be handled easily and quickly via a third party company. There are many to choose from, so in next week’s blog I’ll summarize some of the most popular.

The Low Down:

Frequency: The frequency of your mailings should be dependent on the amount of news you have to announce.  No one likes to hear that same story over and over again, and frankly recycling the same content repeatedly sends the opposite message to the one you want to be sending: ‘there’s nothing going on in my career’. For most people, an action-packed newsletter once a month is perfect.

Content: Your content should be a combination of your blogs (or an edited summary of them if they’re too long), your latest success’ (castings, great reviews in the media, etc) you’re upcoming shows, and highlighting any new updates or additions to your social networking platforms. Keep your e-newsletters short but with a high density of remarkable content. Cut out all self-indulging, filler fluff as your audience wants a quick easily digestible update – not a moment-by-moment recounting of your past week.

The title of your e-newsletter should include your (stage) name (so people recognize you’re not spam), and a really irresistible call to attention (so they open it!).

Add photos (recent events, on set or theater stills, new headshots, etc), and music or video where relevant too.  Always include easily identifiable links to your website, blog and other social network profiles, use the standard icons whenever possible.

Subscribers/Contact list: Organize your contact list so you can better provide each group really wants to see.  You should have separate groups for your casting directors, directors and agents, and for your fans and fellow actors. Your general monthly updates should be written for, and be sent to everyone on your list.  Don’t forget birthdays!  Add birth-date as a field in your sign-up process, so you can send personalized congratulations.

Make it easy for people to subscribe to your emails. The ‘subscribe to this newsletter’ link should be prominent in your site/blog design as well as the newsletter design, as emails are often forwarded to peeps not on your list.

No Spam is Good Spam: Unsolicited emailing is a no-no. The same rules of general online etiquette apply to e-newsletters; don’t thrust your email into the inboxes of those who have not asked for it.  No matter how pretty your email design, or how professional and entertaining your writing or video is, if the receiver didn’t specifically request to subscribe to it – it’s spam.

You should also include at the end of your email a very easy, preferably one-click, unsubscribe button, or better yet a ‘reply to’ email address.  Many recipients are fearful of using the standard unsubscribe function as it has sometimes been used by spammers to verify address’.

To avoid the spam police as much as possible make sure your emails adhere to the following:

  1. Don’t use excessive punctuation???!!!!!
  2. Avoid spammy words such as credit card, sex, free or guarantee
  3. Resist using all capital letters, not only is it like shouting, spam filters are alert to it ‘FREE VIAGRA – CLICK HERE!!!’
  4. Include a ‘From’ address and never send with a blank subject line.

Thanks for reading, next week I’ll give you a short-list of the most popular ENewsletter hosting sites, so you can choose the best fit for your needs and get started. In the meantime, if you’re super proud of your newsletter format and have had success with it, please feel free to post links and tell us your top tips in the comments section below.

Until then – keep sharing!

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Image by Biscarotte via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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Creating Your Daily Personal Outreach Program

September 21, 2010

How healthy is your daily social networking diet?

In last weeks post we looked at the Healthy Outreach Pyramid.  We looked at how you should divide the time you dedicate to social networking online each day, by segregating your efforts into three categories: Listen, Create and Communicate. If you missed it you can read all about it here.

To get your started below is an example of an easy 12-step (no pun intended) daily to-do list to grow and maintain a successful online presence. It will be slightly different for everyone, dependent on your goals, and which tools you have decided to use, so use this as a starting point and customize as necessary:

1. Get the scoop on recent news stories relating to your industry, read online publications, blogs and forums. [Listening]

2. Listen to what your competitors are up to – follow them, and note what they’re doing well and not so well. Learn from them, but whatever you do don’t copy them! [Listening]

3. Read other people’s blog posts within your community, and then comment on them.  Not general responses, “Yeah, I agree”.  Add valuable feedback, or an opinionated rebuttal or some passionate insight. [Listen/communicate]

4. Read something not related to your business or industry.  Stretch yourself everyday to broaden your knowledge, as one-dimensional people are boring. [Listening]

5. Post a blog. Even if it’s just a cool quote you’ve heard, a thought you woke up with, an interesting photo or a rant about something that’s pissing you off.  What you write about should always offer humor, insight or assistance, and should be worthy of a response and reflect the values of your brand. Your blog should not be all about you, but should always be passionate and authentic. (Read the chapter on blogs for more tips and advice.) [Create]

5. Share other people’s blog posts and re-tweet your favorite tweets of the day. Spread the joy! [Communicate]

6. Comment back to people who’ve commented on your blog.  Thank them, and take the time to offer a personalized response to their comments. Thank people who have retweeted your tweets or responded to your update too (More on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in the chapters to follow.) [Communicate]

7. Reach out and introduce yourself to three new people in your online community. These people could be fellow bloggers, other members of forums you participate in, someone you met at a gig or a Casting Director you auditioned for yesterday, etc. [Communicating]

9. Reconnect with people who matter to you. Shoot them an email to say hello; not to ask for anything or to try and sell them your product.  Don’t expect anything – just reach out and comment on their recent activity, offer your services to them. You should nurture your relationships with these people. [Communicate]

10. Refill your ideas factory – add a couple of ideas, images, quotes, or others’ posts that have inspired you to your ‘Inspiration Archive’. [Create]

11. Re-read your 6 and 12 month goals.  Has anything changed?  Does any part of your online plan need adjusting?

12. Start thinking about what elements of your plan you can start implementing next.  Do one small action towards that now!

I think I’ll delve into the do’s and don’ts of email marketing next as I’m getting questions from folks about this.  If you have comments, questions, suggestions – don’t be shy!  Add them as comments below.

Remember – Keep sharing!

The smallest good deed is worth a thousand grand intentions.”


Image by doglington via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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How do you eat an elephant? (Time Management)

September 15, 2010

Social Networking Time Management How do you eat an elephant? One rubbery, grey bite at a time, and that’s how you should tackle your social networking and marketing outreach efforts. With so many platforms to monitor and so many sites to update, it can be seriously overwhelming and stressful.  But don’t panic – I know it seems like a lot of work, but rest assured that success is possible without dedicating your every waking hour to this. In fact, you’ll be more productive if you apply short, sharp bursts of attention.

The key is consistency and a little planning.  The consistently of your online presence is more important than how many overall hours you allocate. You just need to manage a small bite each day. You may have 3 hours a day to dedicate to your online marketing, or only 3 hours a week, but either way, the following will help you organize whatever time you have available to get the best results.

Use the information in this post to help you create a daily routine, and then be sure to stick with it – social networking can be an amazingly powerful tool, or can suck up all your available time and attention units!  As Chris Brogan said recently in a blog: Do the work, then put on your blinkers!

The Healthy Outreach Diet Pyramid

The diagram below is based on the standard diet pyramid which is a tool that graphically communicates what foods you should eat more or less of for optimal health. Items in the lower, larger third of the pyramid you should consume most of, items in the tiny tip, you should consume least of. We’re going to use a similar principle to devise our New Media Diet.  Everyone will have a different allowance of time each day to dedicate to this, so use the pyramid and percentages to work out how much time you can devote to each component.

Listening: 20%

Creating: 30%

Communicating: 50%

Social Media Pyramid - Daily Diet

If you need more information about what each of these activities involves as well as a list of great tools to start you off – check out my previous posts on the subject here:

Divide & Conquer (Your Social Networking Plan of Action)


Creating & Communicating

Next time I’ll give you an example of a well-rounded Daily Social Networking Diet – a recipe for success!

Until then – Keep sharing!

“I know somebody from university who’s called Phil Collins and I think there’s something terribly unfortunate about sharing a name with somebody who either is famous or becomes famous.”

David Walliams

Image by Ben Harris-Roxas via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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Creating a Social Networking Plan: Creating & Communicating Tools

September 11, 2010

Create and CommunicateChoosing Your Tools:

Carrying on from my article about dividing your social networking efforts into three catagories (Listening, Creating or Communicating) today we’ll look at tools to help you Create and Communicate.  (If you missed ‘Listening’ you can read it here)

Creating (and sharing)Tools:

Inspiration archive sites: I like to keep an ideas factory – a database of all the ideas that come to me. I make note of interesting things I’ve heard or read that I want to discuss in a blog, or photos I’ve taken or found online, anything at all that inspires me.  When I need to create “remarkable” content, I have a large resource of options to get me started.  Some people like to keep this collection as a physical journal; others prefer to keep a digital file.  I am an avid fan of ‘Evernote’.  It helped me collate my ideas and write this book.  It’s a free online service where you can dump and organize all your ideas, save web snippets, use you mobile device or webcam to store images and dictate audio. Its uses’ are endless.  For more info visit:

Blog editors: WordPress, Blogger, Twitter and Tumblr (micro-blogging) etc.

Video Sharing sites: Use the inbuilt camera on your computer, your phone or a stand-alone video camera and distribute via video platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo or

Photo Sharing sites: Use your smart phone or digital camera to take snaps and share via sites like Flikr and photobucket, as well as your blog and social networking pages or photo sharing.

Live Broadcast Sites: Don’t forget live video sites if you want to broadcast a webinar, check out Ustream and Blog TV.

Communicating Tools:

Social Networking sites are hives of online communication, they include sites such as Friendster, Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation (for musicians) and LinkedIn. is site that allows you to create niche social networking sites of your own (or join others already set-up).  The ‘experts’ predict social networking usage to shift from general sites (like Facebook) towards smaller, topic-specific sites within the next two years.

Blog communities: You can also engage in conversations and communicate via blog sites such as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr.

Book marking sites: such as Reddit, Stumbleupon and Digg give you an opportunity to reach out to people, and share your thoughts, observations and opinions with others too.

Content management sites: like YouTube and Flikr have strong online communities which are great opportunities for communication.

Please add your favorite Social Networking tools via the comments below – this is far from a complete list, but instead more a tasting menu!

In my next article I cover how to eat an elephant – breaking down your daily social networking efforts into small manageable (if not grey and chewy) bites!

Until then – Keep sharing!

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

Kahlil Gibran quotes (Lebanese born American philosophical Essayist, Novelist and Poet. 1883-1931)

Image by Ben Heine via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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Creating a Social Networking Plan: Listening Tools

September 6, 2010

The Importance of ListeningChoosing Your Tools:

In Friday’s post I covered how we can break down our social media efforts into three activities: Listening, Creating or Communicating. Today I wanted to take a look at some of the most popular online sites, platforms and services, helping you creating a toolbox of resources to accomplish each activity. Let’s take a look at Listening Tools:

Listening Tools:

Listening Stations: Listening stations are a centralized online site or program that help you collate all the streams of information you need to ‘listen’ to in one spot. There are sometimes also referred to as Readers. Instead of surfing the net, and trying to sort through the mass of irrelevant information, you choose what you want to read, subscribe and it’s delivered to your station or feeder.

If you have a Google mail account (gmail account), you can use the Google Reader Service.  It’s easy to use, you can add a new subscription directly within Google Reader using the search option, and it also provides you with suggestions for new subscriptions based on your existing ones.  When you are logged into your account, look for the link ‘Reader’ in the upper left hand side of the page.

Some of the other most popular listening station sites include: Radian6, Techrigy, BuzzGain and Crimson Hexagon.

Once you have chosen your Station/Reeder, you need to populate it (add to it) with the information you specifically need.  This is achieved via RSS.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  Most blogs encourage you to subscribe to their news feed by displaying a RSS button; alternatively the RSS symbol is featured on the right side of your web-browser address bar.  Click either button to subscribe. When you subscribe to a blog you are presented with options as to how you would like this information delivered to you.  You can choose to have updates appear in a designated inbox, or to your listening station account/Reeder. As well as private blogs from professionals and colleagues within your industry, subscribe to newsletters and to professional industry publications (such as Variety, Backstage, etc).

GoogleAlerts is another listening tool. You can set alerts that will notify you when a search term you specify appears in news stories, blogs, or comprehensively across the net.  You can dictate how you receive the alerts (via email or a reader), and how often you receive them (as it happens, daily, etc).

Use this tool to track mentions of you (known as ‘Ego Surfing’!), your audience and your industry and to notify you when a new site adds a link to your blog/site. (Also referred to as an ‘in-bound link’.) Here are some nifty terms to add to your Google Alerts list:

Use this to track when a new website links to your blog: [type: blog, Frequency: as it happens]

Use this to track when a new website links to your site: [type: web, Frequency: as it happens]

Use this to track news publications in US that are quoting me:

“John Smith” OR “Smith John” location:US [type:news]

And if you want to know more about listening, I can’t recommend enough this article by Social Media Guru Chris Brogan’s Grow Bigger Ears.

Tomorrow we’ll look at tools to help Create and Communicate.

Until then – Keep sharing!

“Those who have much are often greedy, those who have little always share.”

Oscar Wilde

Image by spotxox via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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