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Being Famous vs. Being Known

Branding. Fame. Reputation. How are these tied together and what's most important?

I was listening to marketing strategist and futurist Mark Schaefer talk about branding. He differentiated between being famous and being known and why being known was far more important.

It's an interesting concept and I gave it a lot of thought afterwards. Fame was of little importance (or possibility) when I worked in the corporate world, but now that I'm squarely in the entertainment world, I see that notion flipped on its head just about everywhere I look. So many fellow actors are quite busy pursuing fame. And fortune. (The two are pretty much a package ideal in the minds of most entertainers.) It's understandable, since fame can land an actor choice roles, And the industry itself regularly recognizes its top performers with nationally televised awards shows and shiny, golden trophies.

Still, and perhaps because I do originally come from the business world, I appreciate the value of being known. Known for what? Well, as being an expert in something or as an advisor to be sought out, or just as a good person with a trustworthy reputation who's worthwhile knowing.

Actors certainly aren't oblivious to the value of good reputation. Hard work, professionalism, and respect for all members of a production endear us to important decision-makers: the casting directors, directors, and producers, and even our agents and managers. A good reputation not only begets work, it also enables those who teach and coach to attract and retain serious acting students. And that brings in money (which by most accounts is a good and necessary thing 😏).

Safe to say, most people (actors, especially) wouldn't mind having both fame and a good reputation. No reason we can't, though there are key differences between them that are worth keeping in mind. To keep our heads on straight, if nothing else.

Know your values, as well as your ambitions, and order them accordingly.

Being Famous Being Known



For how you present yourself

For what you bring to the table

For major work you've done lately

For body of work built up over time

Builds quickly or even suddenly

Builds slowly over the years

Often fleeting



Focused on being of service to others

Mercurial: can flip between positive and negative

Stable: usually stays either positive or negative

A showman confidently stands in the limelight with arms wide, welcoming the crowd, as he gazes intently into the distance.
Form vs. substance

Who you seem to be vs. what you do

Which has more meaning to you?

Fame allows you and some of your bigger achievements to be known at a superficial level by many, many people. Most of whom you don't know and may never meet.

A reputation is built on your work and, like fame, can be good, bad, or even a mix of the two. It's a description of your character and deeds, rather than of your physiology, personality, or a few better-known accomplishments.

Flash in the pan vs. long-lasting

Do you prefer a dazzling spectacle like fireworks or the comfort of a roaring fire? Both are well-loved.

Fame can be exhilarating, with celebrity-status and the thrill of being at the center of attention. It can also be quite damaging, especially to those ill-equipped to handle it. It rarely lasts long. While we remember iconic stars of stage, screen, and the athletic halls of fame, there are many more has-beens capitalizing on their short-lived time in the limelight with guest appearances on game shows and TV dramas.

Reputation is the sum total of all our actions, an indirect result of anything and everything we do. It's how people think of us. A good reputation is traditionally regarded as fundamental to success, while a bad one will be extremely difficult to overcome.

"Your brand name is only as good as your reputation" - Richard Branson

Self-centered vs. focused on others

Does the success of your work reward primarily yourself or those who engage your services?

Fame is pretty-much self-serving. There may be managers, agents, friends or family members or company representatives who also benefit from your success, but by and large, you are the primary recipient of fame. Depending on your actions, fame too can quickly flip to infamy through misdeeds, or abuse of power or privilege.

A reputation is earned - for good or ill - by how you treat others through your actions and the quality and reliability of your goods and services over a longer period of time. Unlike fame, it doesn't fade, though it can be turned from good to bad (or vice versa) through proven, deliberate action.

Laura's Quick Tips

  1. As you measure success, first assess what's really important to you so that you're measuring the right thing.

  2. Know your values as well as your ambitions.

  3. Keep a long view of your life and career. It'll help you make the right decisions.


For my part, I cherish a good name and reputation far beyond the lure of fame. I've taught my children to be, first and foremost, good caring people as this is how we make the world a better place. There are enough egocentric people running around, looking to better themselves at the expense of others.

Not that fame itself is bad. But it is a double-edged sword, especially when it misleads those unready to handle it into thinking that they're more important/irreplaceable/special than they really are. Fame, too, can bring the wackos out of the woodwork who may do us (or our loved ones) real harm, not to mention continually disrupt our privacy.

We may take pride in being famous ourselves or by being associated or related to a famous person. But what's really important? I think of the warm, loving stories told about family members long passed, the good names that still bring smiles to those who knew and loved them. The lessons they taught through example that helped shape the next generation or two and showed them how to be their best selves. That's what's lasting.

I'm working to build a good, strong reputation not just as a film/TV/voice over actor, but as someone who shares what I've learned to help them in their own pursuits. That's how my YouTube series of on camera tips for non-actors came about. Curious? Check it out on my YouTube channel.

Laura Doman smiling

I'm Laura Doman, a former tech industry sales executive, hands-on mom, voice & TV/film actress, and improv performer. I create memorable characters that tell my client's stories, from the friendly CEO touting new upgrades to your sassy best gal pal dispensing some necessary, real-world advice...Let's Talk!


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