BizParentz Foundation

Supporting families of children working in the entertainment industry

Post Card Marketing


Marketing for child actors can be tricky!  We know that this is a business, and all businesses need to let their potential customers know they exist.  But child actors walk a fine line between proper business behavior and just plain “too-aggressive-stagemom” stuff.  No one wants to be perceived as desperate, or as an evil stagemom.  But we all want to do everything we can to help our child succeed.  What is a good CEO to do? (Read Parents As CEO)


One answer for appropriate, kid-sized marketing?  Postcards!    


WHY POSTCARDS?

Adult actors use postcards quite often, and the practice has picked up steam now that most casting is done online (Read Online Casting).  Casting Directors and agents may be keeping less of the old headshot-and-resumes in their office.  Everybody is more efficient, and more streamlined.  


Advantages of postcards:

--they allow the actor to communicate a short message without overwhelming the recipient,

--they are inexpensive to print, and cheap to mail.  The average cost for 200 pieces is about .50 each, all inclusive. 

--they are quick to print, so you can send timely updates about what is new 

--they don’t have to be opened like an envelope.  Envelopes lessen the chance of your message being read or your photo being viewed…skip that hurdle by using a postcard!   

--they take less room and are easily stored by casting directors or reps, so they have a longer shelf life.  

--they are less invasive (and thus less stagemom-ish) than most other forms of contact with an industry pro.     

--it’s low risk.  Nobody is going to be annoyed at a postcard. It doesn’t cost them staff time to open and read.   There’s nothing inappropriate about sending one.  You aren’t invading their space, or taking time out of their busy schedule, or clogging their email box up with photos.  Worst that can happen?  They’ll toss the postcard in the round file.  

--Casting Directors like postcards!  After listening to hundreds of CD interviews, we have yet to hear of a CD who doesn’t like them. 

--postcards WORK.  Literally everyone I know got at least one bite (an audition, a call, etc) from postcard mailings.     

7 STEPS TO A GREAT POSTCARD

1) Have something to sell:
General postcards with no message don’t work.  It’s just not compelling enough.    Hollywood wants to know what is cool, new or different about you.    Did you book something? A TV guest role? A commercial, a student film, or play?  Did you get a new agent or manager?  Join SAG? Just turn legal 18?  Do you have a movie coming out, or a TV episode coming on in two weeks?   THAT’S the time to send out postcards.

If you don’t feel like you have something to “sell”, you might consider putting postcards on hold for a bit. Concentrate on doing something, rather than on marketing.  Find something to do.  Focus on submitting to projects, or enroll in a new class (at the end of which, you will postcard and invite them to a showcase, or at least say that you just finished a great improv class).

Actors often find multiple marketing opportunities using just one work project.  For instance, if you book an indie film, you might use that news at least 4 times over the course of a year or two:
  • “Just Booked Lead Role in XYZ film”
  •  “Just Wrapped XYZ film”, with a set still from the film (if you can get it)  
  • “See me this week in XYZ in the role of Rebekah at the International Film Festival. Sat. 11/8 at 2PM”  (include reviews if you have them).     
  • “Out on DVD this week:  Susie as Rebekah in XYZ” 

2)  Target Marketing

What is your purpose in sending this postcard and who are you sending it to?  If you need an agent, you might be sending to just agencies or managers.  If you are already established, you might be sending it directly to casting directors or those directors you have worked with before hoping to get a job.   If you are just trying to build a fan base, or you are inviting people to your newest play or concert, you might be mailing to a completely different group (fans included).    Think about what you want to get out of the mailing.  Only send to those who can move your career forward, and avoid spamming everyone you know.  Over-marketing looks desperate.    

       

3)  Gather Addresses   

You might want to use pre-printed mailing labels, or go the more personal route—hand address the postcards.  Either way, you need to compile a list. 

  • Create a personal list of everyone you ever worked for, agents, managers, fans, etc.  This list will grow and change.  It should be the virtual “rolodex” for your child’s business.  
  • Mailing Labels.    There are several places to get pre-made mailing labels within the industry, including Breakdown Services, NowCasting, LA Casting and Casting Workbook.    You can buy them for $15-$20 per set.  Some are available for download for free.  
    Note:  Casting Directors move around very, very frequently as they move from project to project.   Old addresses will do you no good.    Our suggestion is to go to the source –commercial labels from LA Casting and theatrical from  Casting About (more on that below), etc.  The more connected the source is to the industry, the better.  Labels are generally organized into Agencies, Theatrical Casting Directors (meaning television and film),  and Commercial Casting Directors.


4)  Narrow the list

There are about 500 CDs in LA alone, so the trick is to narrow things down a bit and stay within a budget for printing. Here are some tips:


AGENTS:   There are only about 50 agents each in NY and LA that handle children, but pre-made labels usually have hundreds.  Get a Ross Reports (monthly), or a monthly publication called “The Agencies” at Samuel French Bookstore.  Use those to make a target list as described in How To Get An Agent/Manager.


EPISODICS and FEATURES: Casting About (www.castingabout.com)  is a fabulous resource for television and film casting addresses.  In late 2008, they formed a collaboration with Breakdown Services, and together they have the most comprehensive and up to date database available.  Casting About lists CDs by project, note who is on hiatus (no need to send to them), and who the assistants are (sometimes you might know an assistant so it might be better to address the postcard to them).   


You can print labels of JUST the addresses you want onto Avery labels, so you don’t have so many wasted labels.  Pretty nifty! 


Subscriptions to this service are $9.95 per month, or $39.95 per year, a great cost savings in comparison to purchased labels.  


Alternatively, you could purchase pre-printed labels and then use Backstage or some other publication with production charts (so you can tell which CDs are currently casting features), pulling off just the labels you need.  


If you are in a smaller market (Chicago, Louisiana, etc.) you will want to add your local Casting Directors by hand, since they won’t show up on most of the ready-made label services or publications.  If you don’t know who they are, check the local film commission—casting directors are often listed there since they are hoping to attract local production work.  


COMMERCIALS:  It’s easiest to buy or find pre-printed labels for commercial casting directors. They don't move around quite as much, and there are about 65 of them in LA. If you are auditioning regularly, you might save yourself the postage and just drop these off.  Most commercial CDs have bins in their casting offices for actor submissions. 

TIP:  For kids, send to anyone at Disney or Nickelodeon.  Skip Playboy Channel and shows like Reno 911 (that rarely hire kids).   Then think about your child’s “type” and make sure to mail CDs that typically work on those types of projects.       


5)  Designing the Postcard

Be fun, be simple, be original.  But make sure you create a compelling message.  All postcards should have:

  1. Your name (big letters!)
  2. Your photo (usually a headshot). 
  3. Nuts and bolts of the message (See me in Desperate Housewives, Monday, January 12 at 8PM on ABC). 
  4. Your contact info—be safe!  Only give agent and manager info, or cell phone numbers and email addresses (no home phone numbers, etc).   They have to be able to find you in the business world, not your private world!  
  5. A blank spot on the right half of one side for the mailing address and stamp. 

A common format is something like this:  

Catch Mary Sunshine as Jane Doe
in the Lifetime movie of the week
"Who Am I?"
November 29th at 9 pm
Blah Blah Management 
(323) 555-5555
wwwmarysunshinecom


A note about return addresses:  Either don’t use anything (do you want them to return them to you?), or use a P.O. Box.   Never use personal addresses.  You don’t know where these things might end up!  


Customizing:  consider adding set photos (with permission from production), themeing the postcard colors to go with the show you are promoting or the character you will play, add a professional website link, union status, link to a demo reel, IMDb link, highlights of your resume, reviews from the trades, and personal handwritten notes.    


6)  Printing

Several places will print postcards relatively inexpensively.  Be aware of the SIZE of the postcard. Standard size is about 5.5 x 4.25 and they are cheaper to mail – currently a .27 stamp. Big postcards are usually 8.5 x 5.5 and  take a regular .42 stamp.   Try:

  • Vistaprint (and other similar online companies).  They have templates and you can use their software to build the postcard by plugging in your headshots, logos and wording.  You can buy in quantities of 100-1500.  BizParentz has a button that will give you a hefty discount on postcards (up to 60%) in our Showbiz Shop.   The cost is around $30 for 250 postcards or about .12 each.   When you order through this link, Vistaprints also gives a small donation to BizParentz.  Good all around. (Visit the Showbiz Shop)
  • Walgreens/Walmart/Sam’s Club.  You can design your postcard with a standard program like Photoshop, and transmit the digital image on their website.  You are basically asking them to print it as if it was a photo.  They are done in an hour or so, and you can order as many as you want and then get more if needed.  That way you aren’t stuck with 100s’ of outdated ones.  Ask for photos though, not postcards (they charge more for postcards).   Cost: about .20 each.
  • Headshot printers.  Reproduction houses who normally do headshot litho printing offer postcards as well. They will also design postcards for you, if you aren’t the creative type.  Look for a deal; you can almost always get headshots, postcards and business cards as a package discount if you keep the format similar. These types of cards are nice to have around, but aren’t specific to a project.  One great use for these is to print your headshot on half of the postcard, leaving the other half blank.  Then you can write a thank note, or place a large label that tells about your latest project.   Great for flexibility and personal messages such as thank you notes to CDs.
  • Private designers.  There are small businesses (often other actors) who will design your postcard for a fee.  If creativity isn’t your thing, this is the option for you.  Google “actor postcard design” for some ideas.  Most of those sites also have samples to view. Who knows?  Maybe you will get inspired to… 
  • DIY (Do It Yourself).  Create your own designs on the computer and print them out at home.  Avery makes postcards designed for this and their website has templates (Avery #3380).  This will cost in ink though, so this works best for small batches.    

7)  Putting it all together, evaluating success

Print, stick and stamp!  Add a personal note! 


TIP:  put highlighter “dots” on the labels you intend to use as you sort.  Then have your child peel and stick labels and stamps.  They’ll think it is fun, and it is a good lesson in marketing!  


Once you do the first big mailing, the rest are easier because you can use the master list you just developed.  You won’t have to do all that research again. 

Tracking your contacts allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of this business expenditure. Breakdown Services offers a CD Directory. It's about $14.95 and you can use it all year. They send address updates for free. You can use that to make notes about who you sent to and what your results were (just jot down the date next to their name--the book is designed for this).   For example, if your child mentions that they saw their postcard in the CDs office when they audition, you know it worked!


Keep in mind:  postcards may not produce instant results.  The people you are sending to may not have the perfect job available right now…but they might in 3 months!  Your hope is that they keep the postcard and remember then.   

How often should you postcard?  We would advise not postcarding more than once every 8 weeks. You don’t want to spam people. Think quality, not quantity. Postcard when you have something to say!  

CAUTION FLAGS

  1. Clean and simple seems to work best.  No more than 2 fonts, and a couple of clear photos.  Avoid making it look like a busy scrapbook page.
  2. Should you run the design by your agent or manager?  Your call.  Some reps like to control the image sent out by their clients, but most will tell you that marketing isn’t in their job description.
  3. Make sure you have approval to use the copyrighted images you are using.  Beware of using posters, studio logos, photos with celebrities, etc.  Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but ask first!
  4. Make sure you understand confidentiality agreements and other contract provisions.  Often, talent must agree to keep quiet about upcoming projects, their plotlines, images, etc.  Make sure you have the right to advertise the project and make any statements about it.
  5. Safety first! Be careful about giving TMI (Too Much Information).  Postcards are open for everyone to see, not just the recipient. (Read Reducing Risks (PDF))
  6. Watch the wording.  Avoid saying “Justin did a great job in To Kill A Mockingbird” or “See Samantha in her fantastic portrayal of...”  It’s a little stagemomish.  Leave the commentary to the professionals.  If you can find a great review of your performance in the trades, awesome!  Include that.
  7. Choose projects to postcard carefully. Like a resume, this is marketing...not a list of everything you are doing. Steer clear of postcarding that you just won a competition, pageant or took a casting director workshop. You will make more enemies than friends that way. If you postcard about a student film, be accurate but you don't have to highlight that it is a student film.  If you postcard about a booking, you may want to wait until filming has started—lots of people get replaced through no fault of their own.  Make sure that project is really in-hand before you tell the world.
  8. Never lie. Never claim a role that isn’t your own.  Do not exaggerate a "featured extra" into a GUEST STAR (a guest star is a contractual title...you would know if you have guest star status. If you don't have a contract, don't claim it.). Postcards get shared all over the place; .someone will know if you stretch the truth. 

WRAP UP

Well researched, safe, professional postcarding is a great way to increase your child’s opportunities.  It is an easy, inexpensive, low-risk way to be proactive.  Don’t forget to save one or two for a scrapbook—and good luck~!


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

Casting Director Mark Sikes Analyzes the Postcards He Recieves:
http://more.showfax.com/columns/corner/archives/2007_06_11.html#000724

Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie on the Delicate Art of Self-Promotion (4/6/09)
http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001010.html

Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie on Cross-Pollination (Great Postcards) (6/28/10)
http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001204.html
 

Special thanks to Shawn Reagan (http://bizkidstg.com), Barb Halverson and all the posters on Professional Actors Resource Forum (http://forums.delphiforums.com/proactors/start) for their contributions to this article!