I’ve met a lot of magicians and other entertainers throughout the years and one thing that’s always stuck out about most of them is their lack of business savvy. Let’s face it—we’re entertainers! We want to entertain, so why bother learning the business side of things?
The answer in fact is quite simple: if you want to entertain professionally, you need a paying audience. Unfortunately, audiences don’t come knocking at your door asking for a show. You have to go out and find your audience. You need to run the business of show business. That’s where I come in.
But before I start dishing out advice, allow me to tell you a bit about me so you can judge for yourself if my posts (it’s going to be a series) are worth the read. My name is Elliott Smith, co-author of Highway to Success: The Entertainer’s Roadmap to Business. The book is about business for the entertainer. My background includes years of training in sales and marketing, restaurant management, and office administration, and I have over 40 years of experience in performing magic. My co-author, Ian Quick, has a background in law and was a former corporate lawyer until he turned full-time magician.
Hopefully, most of you are a little intrigued by my topic, so let’s delve right in to our first subject—developing your hook.
Finding Your Own Unique Angle
Any serious business owner knows how important it is to follow a daily regimen of building up a client base and marketing yourself properly. But what if you can get local, state or even nationwide media to do your marketing for you? They will if you give them a proper hook.
Your hook is that story that makes you stand out from the others. It doesn’t have to be outrageous or grandiose; it just has to be interesting.
So what’s your hook? You may already have one you’re exploiting or you may not have a clue. Let’s see if I can inspire you a bit.
My hook is that I was bitten by the magic bug when I was six years old. I sat in my small bedroom with my first magic set, dreaming of becoming a professional magician someday. The spark was ignited, the dream began, and the goal was set.
I have been able to exploit my story about following my passion and dream for decades. I simply talk about how I have become a success at doing something I love.
Sounds too simple, right? Think about it for a moment. Over 80% of people hate their jobs. Of the other 20%, only a handful of people absolutely love what they do. The rest are rather indifferent. Now add the fact that my job is rather exotic compared to the occupation of most of the workforce and I’ve got myself a hook.
You’re probably thinking, “Why would the media want to tell this story? There’s more important stuff going on in the world.” Believe it or not, the media is constantly searching for new and interesting positive stories. Of course, topics like war or natural disasters will take precedence over you, but nonetheless, the media will be interested in hearing your story.
You see, news people like to bring in positive stories when they can. They call them human interest stories. They bring a nice change of pace from all of the troubles in the Middle East, the rising gas prices and other social woes. Human interest pieces may not be front-page news material, but they’re still newsworthy.
Now let’s talk about what human interest story you can bring to the table.
If you’re a bubble artist, do you make incredibly large bubbles? If you do, get pictures of them. They are sure to look stunning and they might get the interest of your local newspaper. You can even get a shot of yourself encasing a child in a bubble tube.
Are you a ventriloquist? Does your puppet have an unusual story? Maybe where and how you got it makes for an interesting tale. Share it with the world.
The same goes for clowns. Did your big shoes once belong to someone famous? Are you now literally walking in someone else’s shoes?
And if you’re a face painter, maybe you have a unique design (not hard to create one) that you can claim to be the world’s first.
There are so many ways to creatively—and truthfully—spin the facts in your favour. Take a moment and think about what unique angle you can use to gain some media exposure.
Getting the Media to Pay Attention
Now that you probably have an idea what story you can use to gain a bit of fame, let’s tackle how you can actually get media coverage.
First, you have to start aiming for a reasonable level of coverage. In other words, don’t expect CNN to talk about you yet.
Start locally with print media. Call your local newspaper and find out who the editor is. If there is someone who covers special interest stories, talk to them instead. Send your media contact a press release that briefly describes your hook. If you don’t hear from your contact within three days, call them and follow up on the matter. Tell them your hook again and see if you can arrange for an interview. You will find that they’re usually very responsive and will schedule an interview within a few weeks (usually within a few days). Repeat the process with another print media.
Plan your next step from there. Remember that every interview you do is a stepping stone to your next media event. With enough print reviews, you get credibility to talk about what you talk about and attract radio and television coverage. With enough local coverage, you can aim for shows with a broader viewer base. This translates into public recognition, which leads to bigger and better bookings.
You can either follow this process from time to time to keep you in the public eye when things slow down, or you can apply it in force and try to build a huge name for yourself. Last year for example, I was the first Canadian magician (there was only one other magician) to headline at the prestigious Friars Club in New York City in their 111-year history. If you have never heard of the Friars Club, please Google it to see how this was a huge boost for my career. The media attention I received was huge. The result was national and even international exposure on radio, television and newspaper, which in turn resulted in negotiations for a casino stage show and the possibility of a television special. Not bad!
If you’re still not sure what kind of hook to use, here’s one that never fails: the charity event. Approach a local charity and offer to put on a fundraising show for them. You take your fee and the rest is all profit for them. The charity will usually take care of ticket sales and marketing and the media will give you tons of coverage (it’s for charity, after all). All you have to do is put on a great show and take a bow. The charity gets loads of money, the media gets a great story, and you get lots of exposure and a paying gig—plus you wind up being recognized as a great humanitarian. Everybody wins!
Just remember to try to keep your face in the news as much as possible. A little public recognition goes a long way to making your sales that much easier.
For more information and ideas relating to this topic, please check out Chapters 13, 15 and 22 of our book, Highway to Success.
And remember, don’t ever let anyone steal your dream!
All set up and ready to start your show but your client is not? Stay tuned next month to learn more about how to handle delays.