Build Your Career by Building Your Audience

Although not specifically directed at the TV biz, this article is loaded with tips for corporate creatives in all fields:

Dammit, muncher, we're not talking about this kind of audience - are we?
Dammit, muncher, we’re not talking about this kind of audience – are we?

by Sean Blanda

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: A well-known person in your field loses their job with impressive company X. Deep, deep inside you feel a vague sense of guilty satisfaction. They weren’t that talented anyway, you tell yourself. This will clear room for more up-and-coming talent, you say.

But then weeks later when you’ve already mentally moved on, you read that well-known person has landed on their feet, yet again, with a new job at impressive company Y. No schadenfreude for you. So what is that well-known person’s secret? It’s not (always) talent. No, the thing that keeps creative people employed and in full control of their destiny, isn’t some hidden genius. It is the ability to build and serve an audience. Cynically, it’s much harder to quietly let someone go if their 4,000 Twitter followers will hear about it. But practically for those of us whose who operate behind the scenes or aren’t the “face” of our department or company, an audience is the best job insurance possible.

Consider the plight of the person hiring creative talent. Or the person hiring anyone, really. They have a marketing campaign for a client meant to build customers. Or maybe they are responsible for a team that does not have a ton of headcount to work with. While the job market is risky, those doing the hiring are risk averse—VERY risk averse.

While the job market is risky, those doing the hiring are risk averse—VERY risk averse.

The known commodity is always safer. People are more likely to hire their friends or people they’ve worked with before. This, of course, is the genesis for the well-trodden aphorism, “It’s not what you know but it’s who you know.” Well, those job candidates with an audience experience this “known commodity bonus” but at a significant multiplier. Now it’s not the just the hiring manager that knows about the creative with an audience. It’s others in the industry. Other known commodities know about this known commodity.

Consider the super-talented person with no audience. Let’s call her Sarah. Sarah is technically skilled and does great work, but her work is often behind the scenes. Sarah’s team knows about her talent and she’s always proud of the end product. To her, that’s usually enough. In a perfect world, it should be. But in a Machiavellian way, this leaves Sarah extremely vulnerable.

Let’s say Sarah’s division folds because her parent company is downsizing. Or suddenly, her expertise in interface design on Android devices isn’t in demand any more. Or worse, she gets a new manager who decides that it’s time for a change. All of these factors are out of Sarah’s control. All of these factors are decoupled from Sarah’s ability to do her job. All have negative impact on Sarah’s career. All of these situations happen every day, and will likely, at least once in our lives, happen to us….

Read it all at 99u