How to Know What to Post
By Jared Fladeland
I enjoy being accessible online as a theatre artist, entrepreneur, and writer. My creative, business, and personal life at times can blur. Despite this, sometimes reality will smack me directly in the face in a “I posted something that offends important people in the community and now I have some bridges to repair!” kind of way. Sometimes I wonder, should I censor myself and post less? Should I throw caution to the wind and say, this is who I am and if people don’t like it, so be it? My experience has taught me that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but having a good long look at myself is the best way to figure it out.
You Are Your Brand, Your Brand is You
No matter if you are an artist, a business owner, or an employee, you have a brand. When you think of a brand, you might think of some well-known companies and their slogans. Nike’s “Just Do it” or Apple’s “Think Different” immediately pop into mind. Who you are, and how others perceive you makes up your brand. A definition of brand: The core values associated with a product or business.
Particularly in the case of actors, you are the brand. People see you on stage, on film, or in a commercial, and you immediately have a brand. Whether it is conscious or not, you communicate to others a set of values. Whether you look like a biker, a goofy dad, or a stern lawyer, these are all types of brands that actors might possess. Some actors have a brand of being extremely versatile, but those brands are earned over a long period of time. In most cases in the entertainment industry, you only have a few seconds to communicate your brand. The quicker a performer realizes that, the sooner he or she can embrace and parlay that brand into bookings.
How Do I Make a Brand?
Creating a brand requires two exercises: Understanding what you hope your core values are, and understanding your audience’s perception of your core values. For example, if you want to be accepted as an honest, blue collar worker, but the average person on the street looks at you and sees someone who looks dishonest, who might be a CEO, then the message you want to communicate and the message you are communicating are diametrically opposed. Getting these two things in alignment is important.
If your inner values are more important, suddenly this opens up decisions you have to make: A new haircut, a different choice in wardrobe, the way you speak to others, etc. These are all options that can help bring into alignment what you want to communicate and the message people are actually receiving from you.
Once you’ve made those decisions about your core values, you have to live up to those values. If you are communicating one message, and then providing a contradictory message in other instances, your brand will become muddy, and people won’t know if they can trust you. They might wonder what you truly stand for. Or, in the case of a casting director or agent, they may have no idea how to cast you.
Having a Brand on Social Media
So how does your brand translate to social media? Once again, are you posting status updates, pictures, or sharing posts which seem to conflict with the image you want to convey? Technology connects people more than ever. If you are posting material which you wouldn’t want a future employer to see, you may need to reconsider your relationship to social media.
Remember my question I had for myself on whether I should censor myself on social media? Once I understood the type of brand I wanted to have, it became easier to understand what I wanted to share and post or what I decided to pass on sharing. For example, I have a general rule of thumb for what I share (this isn’t always perfect, either. I’m no saint!): If it’s cute, funny, or really inspiring I post it. I found I don’t particularly like negative, political posts, so I try not to engage those types of posts or re-share it. I want my social media platforms to be a place of positivity. I also try not to post exciting news until it’s confirmed. One thing about the performative art world, projects sometimes come to fruition or fall through as quickly as they came into the world. So I’m very selective about news that I share. Also I try to watch how much complaining I do. While I am generally a positive person in my day to day activities, I’m certainly prone to difficult moods.
A friend recently shared a beautiful blog post about honesty in blogs, and it made me re-examine my own relationship to what I share or not. The truth is, I will be very forthcoming about my struggles in certain circles. But I learned at times that being selective about who I share these experiences with is important. While I will elude to certain things publicly, some parts of my past are best kept in my inner circle.
Bringing all social media activity back to the understanding of brand as inner core values with perceived core values, it makes it much simpler to determine if I should post something or not. This allows my brand to be clear and concise as possible.
How do I fix mistakes on Social Media?
As I mentioned earlier, I certainly have found myself sticking my foot in my mouth online. It happens to everyone. Removing posts is a great fix. But even when an issue arises very publicly, the best solution is always to attempt to fix the problem privately. And even if the problem started online, I have found the quickest fix is to sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss the issue in person. So many misunderstandings occur over platforms where text is the primary mode of communication. When tone, body language, and lack of real-time response exists, it is so easy for intended meanings to be misinterpreted.
I once posted a complaint (my first mistake!) I had, which a number of supporters of both me and my business took issue with. I quickly realized that my complaint was taken personally by people I wasn’t aiming the complaint at. However, after further discussion, it really made me understand the complexity of messages, perception, and emotions. In the end, my complaint was even misguided. But through sitting down over coffee with some people, we came to realize that we had the same goal in mind, and were talking around it from different perspectives. And once we had that common framework, we had a fruitful discussion on how to solve the problem we were perceiving from different angles. It allowed us to be proactive, and engaged community members, using our respective platforms (mine being theatre and performance art) to work towards the same goal (making our community amazing).
The core values of my brand were definitely a part of that story. You have to know your brand. It is essential. Once you have created the brand you want (and it is in alignment with how people perceive you), making decisions become easy through that filter.
Follow Jared Fladeland on Instagram (@jfladeland or @conduittheatre), Facebook, and Twitter (@jaredfladeland and @conduit_theatre) for more content, updates, and news!