Today I’m going to piggyback on a post by Brian Solis dealing with the Five Pillars of New Media Strategy. They apply to animation too, but in a slightly different way than how Brian lays out (mostly because I’m being more specific.) To start, here’s Brian’s list:
- Listen, Search, Walk a “Daily in the Life” of your customers.
- Rethink your Vision, Mission, and Purpose.
- Define Your Brand Persona
- Develop a Social Business Strategy.
- Build and Invest in Your Community.
These are all great points, but they deal with more general and corporate businesses than animation. Let’s try and narrow them down to the same level as the small studio or independent animator. Lastly, we’ll justify why such strategies are important and necessary.
1. Know Your Audience
This is the very first point. If you are creating something, even an independent film, you need to know who you are making it for. It’s easy to argue that it may not even matter, but in fact, it does. Think about it for a second. You’re not going to create something and then lock it away somewhere, are you? No! You’re going to show it to people, maybe even sell it to them. Therefore, it’s vitally important to know who those people are.
In the case of a small studio, that person is normally the client, and you’d be very poor at your job if you didn’t read up on them! That said, studios more often than not put out independent projects, and while they have a good head start over independent animators, the odd dud does make it through.
All this isn’t to say you have to know the audience inside out, rather its to say that you should spend a proportionate amount of time doing the research. For independents, this could mean sussing out what festivals you’re going to submit to and figuring out what kind of films they generally like. For studios, this could mean setting a game plan for the short in terms of where it will eventually lead (maybe a series, maybe a calling card) and going from there.
2. Rethink Your Strategy Every Time
Lighting can sometimes strike twice, but that’s extremely rare. Was your last project successful? Are you tempted to do something similar again? Stop! Take the time to rethink things. What worked before may not work again; especially so if a significant amount of time has passed. Are you going in a different direction? Definitely take the time to figure out what has to change.
What if you’re humming along just fine on your strategy? Well, everyone else is changing up around you. You may be OK now, but eventually you will have to do a major overhaul, and that takes a lot of time (and money.)
Need proof of this? Just look at FOX. They had a bone fide smash hit with the Simpsons, but they tried for another home run using the same formula (no, not the shows themselves, but in how they approached them.) Futurama is sheer genius, but the network didn’t change their strategy for success. They focused on the wrong thing, and it ended up costing them; not once, but twice! (Family Guy in that case). If FOX had sat down and thought about how to make these new shows succeed, they may not have gone through the wringer like they did!
3. Be Aware Of How You Market Yourself
This is a critical one, especially for independents. When you make a short film, not only must you market it, you must market yourself as well. That fact can get pushed out of focus a bit during the process, but its vitally important to making your film succeed. You must know how to present yourself in order to succeed. Want commissions? Look like a keen, skilled, productive worker. Want critical acclaim? Appear more as an auteur of the technique.
These are just examples, but for the proof we need look no further than Bill Plympton; the undisputed master of independent animation. Bill knows just how to market himself to fans, and he does it expertly. He’s extremely personable and actively engages with fans all over the country and around the world! He knows the value of selling himself along with his films. That’s how he chooses to do it, how will you?
4. Develop a Social Business Strategy
This one I’ve left untouched because it applies to animation just as equally. How do you engage with fans/customers? What is your social business strategy? Do you create work and simply cast it off into the ether? Do you stonewall any contact with those on the outside? If so, that may be doing you more harm than good.
Remember, you don’t have to be a social media maven to find success. You might only want to tweet once a week. But if you can make that one instance count, then you’ve done the right thing. Plenty of animators (or at least the ones I follow) are pretty good at the social side of things. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter; all are important to maintain on a regular basis. Blogs are the single most important though. They often form the first stop of fans, the curious and potential employers alike. Failure to keep it up to date can prove costly in the end.
5. Build and Invest in Your Community
Again, this is left the same because it applies just as much to animation as any other business. Building your community is simple enough, but what does it mean to ‘invest’ in them? Why should you worry about investing if your an animator? Well, it’s quite simple. As Brian explains:
Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter. Participate in the communities that you host and also the communities that host the conversations that are important to your business. That’s the secret to earning a lasting affinity the contributes to you becoming a trusted resource.
The gist of it all? Don’t passively put stuff out there. Sure, having a blog is important, so is updating it regularly, but if people comment on posts and never receive a reply, what does that do for you? Nothing! The same goes for email, @ replies, anything that could potentially lead to interaction with people other than immediate friends and family should be treated as valuable as tonight’s winning lotto numbers and demand similar action on your part too.
I don’t write all of that to preach, I have to do it to! Which is absolutely try to do as best I can. It’s tough, it demands a lot of time and effort, but the results are worth it.
Why You Should Take Heed of These Points
All the points above are not super secret. They’re basic common knowledge, but they’re the kind of common knowledge that we tend to take for granted sometimes. Now and then it’s nice to get a wee reminder about how to keep going and to make things work as best they can for you. These points go a long way towards that. Keep them in mind and utilise them on your next animation project (long, short or otherwise). You never know what the results could be!
Would you add more? Let us know in the comments!