"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Marketing Storytelling Fools: 3 More Tricks We Play on Ourselves When We Don't Ask--Part 2

Note: Part 1 focused on questions to ask the sponsor. Part 2 are internal questions for the storyteller. You may ask, "Why is not Part 2 then Part 1?" I believe most storytellers either want to ignore or to forget these internal questions because they are hard to answer. Some storytellers who have told for two or more decades still struggle with the following questions.

Sometimes "niche" is as naughty a word as some of the colorful language that can be heard up and down high school hallways.

Every storyteller needs to know who they are as a teller, and once we get over the shock of hearing the word "niche", then it is time to explore what it means to us. . .before we look like fools.

1. What is my niche?
If you answered "everything", then think again. You could be one of those curious people who love any subject or story that you hear. However, a sponsor asks "What kind of stories do you tell?" and expects to hear some specifics. They want to know that they can count on you as an expert to match their intended theme.

You may have more than one niche, though in the beginning there is less stress as a performing artist and as a business owner when you have one.

Remember that each niche requires its own press kit and marketing plan. Michael Port, the author of Book Yourself Solid, has urged people to have a full schedule of appointments and presentations in one niche before you add another niche.

2. I still cannot figure out my niche. Now what?
Breathe. It is perfectly natural to be confused. We are always questioning ourselves.

Here are some hints to guide you--
  • What types of stories/programs do you already offer? What other types of stories/programs would you like to offer?
  • What audiences do I tend to attract? What audiences do I wish I could attract?
It is possible that you tell so many different kinds of stories that placing labels or categories on them are difficult.

Ideally, niches delve into your passion and energy for the subject. Sometimes niches develop because you receive the same requests from various sponsors. They usually start the conversation with, "You are the person who tells ____________ kind of stories."

3. How do I find the right words to describe my niche?
There are three areas that inspire how to say what your niche entails to others--
  • Topic
  • Audience
  • Result
You could think these areas like T.A.R. as in the niche should stick to your mind and heart as much as the sticky black goo itself.

Though you could say "I tell ghost stories" or "I tell Appalachian ballads", this is not as strong as if you said, "I tell ghost stories to adult in order to scare their socks off." Now you have topic, audience, and result. Your name would buzz around as "the storyteller" for this kind of program.

There is a warning about result-inspired niches. The teller can only do so much to inspire their audience to "scare their socks off" or whatever kind of result chosen. The audience members will take what they will when the actual telling takes place. However, if the sponsor realizes that your intention is for the majority of the audience to react or respond a certain way due to the stories you share, then the sponsor may be more likely to hire you.

The danger is when we seem to guarantee certain results and then we fall short. We must always exceed the expectations of the sponsors.

The T.A.R. way to discover your niche can also work the opposite way. What topics, audiences, or results do you not want?

I would never recommend myself as someone who "tells ghost stories to adult in order to scare their socks off". However if someone wanted a safe yet entertaining environment to address family social concerns to middle school to college students through storytelling, then I would say, "Yes, I am an expert in that area."

At times, I wish I had a list of every storyteller in the world with their corresponding niche next to their name. Then, when I get a call or email asking for stories or programs that I do not share, then I could pass along contact information.

Perhaps this is a trick we play on ourselves as a storytelling community. What if we shared our niches with each other so to create one huge database?

In the meantime, let us focus on ourselves as individuals and encourage our friends to do likewise.

In time, "niche" will not be such a naughty word after all.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Former Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Marketing Storytelling Fools: 8 Tricks We Play on Ourselves When We Don't Ask--Part 1

Whether you bring people to your events or whether you are the performing artist, there are certain questions we are afraid to ask--or forget to ask--that could have brought a more professional and exciting atmosphere to the whole event.

One thing is certain: We look like fools when we don't ask.

There are the normal questions that storytellers ask of sponsors such as the expected composition of the audience, the theme, or the number of people likely to attend. Sometimes the conversation between artist and sponsor seems like a blur and time is not given to these questions found below.

If you are not an artist or a sponsor, then apply to your field of industry.

1. How did you learn about me?
This is usually the first question I ask when receiving telephone calls or emails with requests. I appreciate the person currently on the line, but I also appreciate whoever might have referred me. This way I can give a personal call and thank the person who recommended me. Sometimes my thanks is in the form of giving a reduced rate for the next time I am booked. Do you know what happens as a result? I receive even more referrals.

2. How would you rate your sound system?
We have all performed at schools, libraries, or other venues that have had sound systems at least two decades old. . .or perhaps from the Jurassic period. Sometimes the feedback from the system screeches, as you would expect from a pterodactyl or a T-Rex. Unless you want to incorporate these sounds into the storytelling session such as, "There was a scream from upstairs", then be prepared to find another solution. The storyteller may have a higher quality sound system and can be notified by the sponsor to bring it. Otherwise, the sponsor may want to rent a better sound system for the day.

3. Who will be my emcee? What kind of information would they like from me?
Notice it is not "Will I have an emcee?" because I find it strange to introduce myself. I may be a storyteller who people expect to talk, but having an emcee gives the feeling that I was wanted or welcomed at this event. The sponsors who say "Go ahead. Start on your own" are usually the same ones who do not attend the event. This makes it difficult for the sponsors to reflect on the overall quality of the performance. By having an emcee, I assume that this emcee will stay the entire time and be the liaison between the audience and the venue.

The emcee determines the energy level of the session. For the shy emcee, I am willing to give an introduction card that can be read. There are also the emcees that enjoy creating their own introductions. The emcee needs to be happy. If the emcee is excited, then it will spread to the audience and on through to the storyteller.

4. What kind of picture--posed or action--would you like for your advertising literature?
Whatever picture(s) you send, you will want it to be at least 300 dpi quality. Anything less than that and it would have been better not to have a picture at all. A scanned picture is now a thing of the past with the presence of digital cameras. It is also easier than ever before to send pictures by email or to have downloadable pictures on your website as part of the online press kit.

5. What is the word count for the biography on your advertising literature?
Nowadays "advertising literature" could vary from fliers and posters to emails to websites and on to the programs. I understand if there is not room--or the proper permissions--to have pages and pages of information on the storyteller. However, nothing says respect as to when my name and website are on all advertising literature.

I am satisfied if I have five words: Professional Storyteller Rachel Hedman (www.rachelhedman.com). Most sponsors can allow five words. Ideally the sponsor's website would link to my website so potential audience members can learn more information, if desired.

Some sponsors have told me to send them "a paragraph". Then I scratch my head and wonder. . .Ernest Hemingway paragraph or J.R.R. Tolkien paragraph? I have seen paragraphs that are single-spaced and cover a page or more. Then there is the two-sentence paragraph. Word count is the easiest way to define what is meant.

6. May I have a place to have a booth to provide information? Do I need to bring my own table?
It is awkward if the permission is granted to have a booth, but you arrive and there was nothing to place the items on. One time I went to an outdoor amphitheater with permission to have a booth. The only tables in sight were picnic tables chained and bolted to cement slabs in the ground. There were tables. . .only not close to where a booth should be. Luckily, I happened to have a box and a solid-green blanket to act as table and tablecloth. It was not my most radiant booth, but it sufficed.

Some must-haves for a booth: email sign-up list, business cards, fliers, and attractive set-up. To be more popular, add a bowl of candy.

7. Could I sell my items at your event? May I have a volunteer to handle sales for me?
A storyteller can be so thrilled to officially be booked to perform that their line of merchandise is forgotten. Most sponsors expect artists to have materials in the form of books, CDs, DVDs, or wear-able items like T-shirts and caps.

School performances during the day probably will not have opportunities to sell items. The same can be said of most libraries. Yet, evening school performances when parents are around are appropriate places. Museums often have gift shops, so why not bring your own "gift shop" to your newly formed fans after hearing your stories? Having someone handle the sales as part of the contract is wonderful and allows the storyteller to chat with audience members afterward without feeling rushed.

8. Who else do you know would benefit from my storytelling services?
This question relates to question number one. Most people are willing to give referrals. When no one asks, then nothing happens. I could take this moment to say, "Hello, blog reader! Who else do you know who would benefit and enjoy reading this blog? Feel free to invite them to follow it."

Now. . .was that so hard? I know you can do the same.

9. Did I say there are 8 tricks we play on ourselves?
Then I better not say anymore, though there are so many tricks we play on ourselves. What other "tricks" do you know? Please share.

Remember that this is Part 1. Part 2 is around the corner.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Former Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller