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! Whether you distribute them digitally or in hard-copy, postcards are the perfect solution.
Adult actors use postcards quite often, so they are accepted and familiar in our industry. Since most casting is now done online (Read Online Casting), Casting Directors and agents are not keeping 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 .75 each, all inclusive. Sending online? Even better!
- they are quick to design, so you can send timely updates about what is new
- direct mail is 4x more likely to get read than email. Postcards are great becaue 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 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 paper postcard in the round file, delete the email, or scroll past it.
- Casting Directors like postcards!
- postcards WORK. Literally everyone we know got at least one bite (an audition, a call, etc) from postcard distribution.
7 STEPS TO A GREAT COMMUNICATION
1) Have something to sell:
General communications 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-AFTRA? 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 your communication 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).
- “New on Netflix this month: Susie as Rebekah in XYZ”
2) Target Marketing
What is your purpose in sending this communication 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 post on social media, create an online “event” or evite. 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) Choose Digital or Hard Copy
Once you know your audience, choose whether you will send your postcards via hard copy snail mail, or by digital means. While hard copy may seem a little old-school, it is does set you apart from the pack,in a world where CDs are overloaded with pings on their phone. Direct mail, or hard copy mail, is 4x more likely to get read than an email. Why? Because it is unique now! It is also easier to get hard copy addresses for people you don’t know.
Electronic communication is great for those people you already know. Social media and email is a little more intrusive but can be easily shared with others. In many cases, you might find that you need a little of both. The same postcard can be saved as a JPG and used both ways. And social media is FREE. Free is good!
4) Gather Addresses
For hard copy mailings, you might want to use pre-printed mailing labels. Email addresses can be found on IMDB if you have the Pro version. 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. Hopefully you have connected with these people in some virtual way over the years.
- Mailing Labels. There are several places to get pre-made mailing labels within the industry. We suggest using Casting About (owned by Breakdown Services) for theatrical labels, and Casting Networks for commercial labels.
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 Casting Networks and theatrical from Casting About (more on that below). 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 600 CDs in LA alone, so the trick is to narrow things down a bit and stay within a budget if you are printing hard copies. 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.
EPISODICS and FEATURES: CastingAbout is a fabulous resource for television and film casting addresses. They are owned by Breakdown Services and they now have the most comprehensive and up-to- date database available. Casting About lists CDs by project, note who is on hiatus or on hold for COVID (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!
A subscription to this service is $9.95/mo or $48.95 per year for NY or LA, a great cost savings in comparison to purchased labels.
If you are in a smaller market (Chicago, Louisiana, etc.) you will want to add your local Casting Directors by hand, since most of the label services do not sort by geographical area. If you don’t know who your local CDs 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.
TIP: For kids, send to anyone at Disney or Nickelodeon. Skip Playboy Channel and shows like The Good Place (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:
- Your name (big letters!)
- Your photo (usually a headshot).
- Nuts and bolts of the message (See me in Fresh Off the Boat, Monday, January 12 at 8PM on ABC).
- 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!
- For hard copies: a blank spot on the right half of one side for the mailing address and stamp. Don’t print on the bottom 1/4 inch of the address side of the postcard because the US Postal Service sometimes places a bar code routing sticker there. If you print something crucial there, it will get covered up!
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 on hard copy mailings : 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 and Distribution
Several places will print postcards relatively inexpensively, and most of them have templates that you can use. Be aware of the SIZE of the postcard. Standard size is about 5.5 x 4.25 and they are cheaper to mail. Big postcards are usually 8.5 x 5.5 and take a regular .42 stamp. Places to design and print: Vistaprint , Gotprint, Argentum in Los Angeles and Coleman PhotoGraphix in NYC along with other headshot printing services, and even Walgreens, Shutterfly and other photo printing services.
All of these companies have design templates to help you, but if you would rather hire a professional, those people exist. For examples, try a Google Image Search “actor postcard design”
7) Putting it all together, evaluating success
No matter your choice of distribution, it is time to finish: print, stick and stamp OR hashtag, upload and push send!
TIP: have your child help with this. They can do it, and it will give them some responsibility for their career, introducing them to the idea that this is a business.
Keep your list after 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. 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? Digital contacts can be done once a month without seeming overly aggressive, but do you really have something to say that often? For hard copy, 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!
9 CAUTION FLAGS
- Clean and simple works best. No more than 2 fonts, and a couple of clear photos. Avoid making it look like a busy scrapbook page. You only have about 20 seconds of their attention.
- 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.
- 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!
- Make sure you understand confidentiality agreements (also known as an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement) 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.
- Safety first! Be careful about giving TMI (Too Much Information). Postcards are open for everyone to see, not just the recipient. (Read Reducing Risks)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.). Someone will know if you stretch the truth, and these things are easily shared, which is part of the reason they are so effective!
A note about hashtags on uploaded digital postcards: Do not use hashtags that are super common, such as #childactor or #actorlife or #hollywood. These are overused and you won’t get any traction from them. They are also heavily used by pedophiles, so there is a significant safety risk. Instead, hashtag your child’s name, the project name, the studio, or something specific about the role.
Well researched, safe, professional postcarding, whether 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~!
Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger CD Jasmine Gutierrez Goes Through Her Postcards on Set — and Why They Work (2018 Youtube video)
What’s In An Actor’s Marketing Toolkit and Why You Need One by Heidi Dean (Backstage)
10 Most Common Postcard Mistakes
Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie: Feedback on Postcards
The Secret Language of Casting Directors and How to Keep CDs Updated on Your Career Electronically