Studios and workshops
If you need local council support to locate studio space and grants for refurbishment or running costs, try to get publicity in the local press to put your needs into the public eye, so that councillors and others will be supporting you before any applications go in.
• publicise the search for studio or workshop space – locally and regionally
• establish the credibility of the artists involved to potential landlords or sponsors
• publicise the studios as part of a campaign to raise funds for renovations, improvements, reduction in rent or rates, etc
• announce a group's establishment in premises to acknowledge the support of funders or sponsors
• publicise what the building has to offer to the public, to specialists, to potential users, other artists, purchasers, gallery directors, etc
, demonstrations, exhibitions
• promote future projects which need support
• publicise vacant studio space.
The most important questions to address when setting out to promote or publicise what you do are:
• who are you trying to attract?
what is the most effective way to do it?
There isn't a standard format for publicity and every situation needs individual attention.
You need to:
• Plan carefully and well in advance.
• Decide which groups you particularly want to attract – business people, schools, private collectors, tourists, etc – and direct the majority of your publicity at those ‘target groups'.
• Decide on your budget for publicity and examine each item for cost-effectiveness.
• Don't under-estimate the value of free publicity – which comes from sending press releases and good photographs to local, regional and national press and media or to the specialist visual arts, crafts and media magazines.
Although colour postcards are a relatively cheap way of publicising your work to a wide range of people, they are not generally suitable for reproduction in the art and craft press and need to be supplemented by sending transparencies or black and white photographs to key magazines.
Publicity items can be used to Promote you, your work, your services. • Brochure or leaflet – ideally with colour or good black and white examples of work, outline of experience and background, price lists or charges for commissions, workshops, etc, and details of where your work can be seen or is on sale, etc. Can be sent by post or used at fairs and exhibitions. • Covering letter – publicity material is more likely to be read if accompanied by a letter. This personalises the approach and gives a chance to say something of particular interest to the person receiving it. • For two-dimensional work, use a folder with plastic pages to present photographs, press cuttings, statements and other information for a face-to-face situation such as an interview or meeting with a client. • If showing three-dimensional items, acquire a suitable case or container to ensure professional presentation. • Press release to mark a specific occasion – the launch of a business, the making of new work or offer to run workshops.
If you want your work to get the recognition it deserves, promotion and publicity need to become as important to you as making the work itself. Promoting yourself and producing publicity needs to be done on a regular basis, rather than being left until the last minute. It is also useful to take advice from other practitioners or arts organisations. You may be able to share their mailing lists and contacts and collaborate on joint publicity.
Use proper style in your news release:
Double-space your copy for legibility.
Feature the most important news up front; put additional news in descending order of importance.
Use an average of two to three sentences per paragraph.
Include the contact person's name, telephone/fax, and E-mail (if appropriate).
Don't Single-space your copy (it's hard to read).
Use ALL CAPS only in the main headline.
Make sure your sentences do not run on and on—and avoid page-long paragraphs. (Keep it short and sweet).
Always run Spell Check on your copy, and have at least one other person review the news release for clarity, factual accuracy, grammar and correct word usage (for example, the words their, there, and they're are commonly mistaken for each other).
Read newspapers and magazines and pay particular attention to writing style. Buy an AP (Associated Press) Style Book for reference.
Your news releases should have a local angle, the more localized the better. Most news release writers don't do the additional work that localization requires, and consequently they don't get local coverage. Newspapers and many magazines focus on hometown or regional activities. If you want targeted coverage, you must make a concerted effort to get it. Quote a local spokesperson whenever possible.
These are the stages which involve publicity and promotion:
• With artist-initiated projects, telling potential hosts what you have to offer.
• Publicising a residency for fundraising purposes.
• Once it's running, using publicity to make contact with interested people – workforce, children and staff, management, local community.
• Alerting press and media – locally, regionally, nationally.
• Publicising highlights or new developments as the residency runs.
• Publicising conclusion of residency – exhibition, completed commission, advantages for participants, value to community, etc.
News releases that are newsworthy define News:
Impact: “The city's largest theater festival opens Friday.”
Oddity: “They playwright's last, least-seen work will be performed…”
Conflict: “The area's leading arts organization will protest state funding cuts.”
Known Principal: “TV star and Chicago native Dennis Franz will direct The Seagull for Waukegan Theater…”
Proximity: “Park Ridge artist Bob Page will be honored with an exclusive exhibit of his work at…”
Always get the appropriate reporter or editor's name, title, and address (check spelling). And don't forget to follow up with a phone call.
Stay focused on your key points.
Be clear and concise. Avoid jargon and unfamiliar terms. Don't stray into uncharted waters. When you've made your point, stop talking.
Creative News Angles
With the millions of pieces of information crossing the editor's desk, a creative, smart news angle can help your story rise to the top of the stack.
As we said, randomly sending out a season announcement is likely to net you nothing. The information is usually too general and not really news (if you're in business, you should be having a season). What is it about those offerings that are significant to the outside world? Remember, just because it's significant to you and possibly to others engaged in your art form, doesn't mean it's significant to the news media and customers they represent.
Find other interesting, timely, provocative or unique aspects and develop creative ways to pitch them. Start by looking at your season creatively; you may come up with three or four story angles more apt to generate news coverage. For instance, you could pitch a profile of a visiting artistic director to your city magazine, timed to appear with the new season launch. Maybe you have a celebrity actor who will be appearing in your show that could draw the TV stations to your venue. Or perhaps a show featuring a 1910 Dusenberg can be pitched to an auto writer or antiques writer.
• Black and white photographs – are invaluable to send to the art press and local newspapers. If you take your own, combine it with taking colour slides by borrowing another camera! • Colour prints – can be presented in folders and colour photo-copied for display purposes. Colour photocopiers can also be used to make images from slides and copies can be added to your folder. Laminated colour prints or photo-copies are a relatively inexpensive way of putting information on a gallery wall.
Because people who are interested invariably follow up by telephone, all publicity items should include:• telephone number• contact name. • any restrictions on contact. Anticipate the following:• If the press arranges to call, is there something or someone to photograph, and someone who can talk about the work or project? • If you are only available at specific times or days do you need to get an answering machine? • If you have been writing to sponsors and some are interested to discuss a project further, do you feel happy about having a meeting with people who may know little about art and who will expect you to ‘sell' them the idea?
Smart Publicity Strategy
Arts groups waste lots of time, money and trees sending out a general press kit announcing their new seasons; then they wonder why nobody in the news media did anything with it. The reason? There was no Publicity strategy. A Publicity Strategy simply means looking at your offerings and choosing to focus your time and energy on publicizing the most newsworthy programs or elements, then matching them to the different news media available to you. Take a comprehensive look at the types of "free" media available in your community. Get to know what each one needs, what their deadlines are and who the decision maker is. Put together a targeted plan to help you present the right information to the right news media at the right time.
Nearly 70 percent of daily newspapers use materials generated by news releases. An estimated 2.4 million news releases are sent out every week. The majority of these are never used because:
They are poorly written.
They have no local relevance.
They are sent to the wrong media outlet or contact person.
They don't include any news
*announce an upcoming event.
*are short (one page), snappy and to the point.
*Are designed to arouse interest.
*Should be mailed to TV news planners/news directors, radio news directors, city desks, pertinent beat reporters and editors two to three days prior to your event and should be followed up with a phone call one day before your event.
The goal of a Publicity program is the same as the rest of your communications strategy:
to reach specific audiences with messages about your organization's artistic product, while increasing awareness of your organization. What makes the Publicity program distinct from the rest of the Communications Strategy is that unlike a paid ad placement, you can't control where, when, how or even if your story will appear – the media's reporters, reviewers, editors and producers make those decisions. The content of those stories, the spin they take on your message, is also in their hands. Therefore, as intermediaries and interpreters for your message, you must attempt to understand the media's mindset as well as you understand your end customer's.
Slides – are essential for applications to arts boards, agencies, to put into specialist indexes and to send to glossy magazines. They need to be good-quality and to do your work justice. Although if you have enough experience you can achieve professional results taking your own slides, you may prefer to use a photographer experienced in documenting visual and media work who has been recommended by others. When sending slides, put them into plastic slide pages in a ring folder.
Take control of the interview.
Know the nature of the interview (will it be print or broadcast? Live or taped?) Anticipate the angle of the interview and the questions that the reporter is likely to ask. Know the interviewer. Prior to the interview, find out the reporter's name and affiliation. Set appropriate limits on the interview—there may be things you legitimately cannot speak about at the time of the interview.
This list of stages in a commission which require publicity includes some points which only apply to large-scale projects.
• Promoting yourself and your work to potential commissioners and clients.
• Publicising the project to raise funds.
• Publicising the project during consultation processes. For a public art commission, this includes through local authority planning and committee processes.
• Publicising major stages of completion and subsidiary events or related work.
• Publicising unveiling of a major piece or first showing of a film or video.
• Promoting the completed commission to specialist press or media for reviews and articles to help your career.
Provide written support (research, reports, surveys and other documents that can help your position). Use notes to guide your comments—put your three main points on paper and keep them in front of you during the interview. Be quotable—say more than yes or no, but limit comment to within a 7-10 second timeframe (the length of an average soundbite).
How you present a story is as important as the creativity of the angle. People who make their living writing and editing appreciate concise, clear and grammatically correct material, and reject sloppy, unclear, verbose presentations. Always spell check your work, and have someone else proofread your material to make sure it's clear and making the point you want it to make. Invest in an Associated Press Stylebook.
If you read newspapers and watch TV, you already know how to structure your release. The lead or first line should summarize the story. The first paragraph should include the most important information, especially dates, times and places for performances. All information after that should appear in descending order of importance. This structure is often referred to as the inverted pyramid. General organizational information should be included at the end. The whole thing should be 1-1/2 to 2 pages, and double-spaced. Long lists should be relegated to an attachment or fact sheet in the press kit.
What about press kits? They're very valuable conveyors of background information. Keep them simple and save your slick graphics and fancy letterhead for other audiences. Send press kits out with each pitch letter or story idea. If you can't afford to do that, send the kit to news media after you've talked with editors and surmised their interest in delving deeper into your story.
Fearless, Persistent Pitching
To start and maintain a relationship, you need to communicate. While your initial contact with the news media will probably be through mail, fax or e-mail, eventually you must talk with someone to get feedback about your story. Always follow up by phone, several times if necessary, to talk about your story. If they're on deadline, make an appointment to call back another time, and keep it.
If they're not interested, try to find out why – what are they interested in? Is there any aspect of the story that might strike their fancy? Or ask them who else at their organization might find it more "up their alley." This kind of field research can help you improve your pitch or find someone who is more interested in your story. Or it can help you be more on Target next time out. Continue this "shopping" process until you're reasonably certain you've exhausted the possibilities.