Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Artists Be Smart – All Shinny New Things Are Not All Good

Monday, January 6th, 2014

If you’ve been on the internet looking at publications this holiday season you may have seen ads for a new online gallery with a slogan – Ugallery original art. original you. I’ve even see it on our Google Adsense ads on our website and blogs – of which we have no control.

After seeing it for the 50th time I clicked on the link to see what it was all about and essentially it was nothing new – an online gallery. Although it looks slicker than most and doing the most advertising than any I’ve seen it’s still like most online galleries – lots of pictures of a variety of art. The only difference is they boost of having the “top emerging artists” and the key word here is “emerging” – meaning artists who are not that popular yet. Which was true when I looked at the artist’s roster. I did not recognize any of the names I saw representing North or South Carolina. Which means they haven’t been exhibiting in galleries in the Carolinas. At least ones we’ve been covering.

Here’s their basic statement: “Here at Ugallery, we represent the top emerging artists from across North America and photographers from around the world. We’re passionate about our collection and our artists, and we are always looking for talented artists with positive attitudes to join our community. The application process is a quick one, and we’ll get back to you within one week to let you know if you’ve been accepted to the website. For more information on how we operate, be sure to read our Artist FAQ.”

Here’s a few of their FAQ’s that stood out to me:

One more thing – we charge a small non-refundable fee of $5 to apply to the website. Bummer, we know, but it helps us ensure that the artists who apply are serious and committed.

We split the sale of artwork 50/50 and we cover all of the costs of packaging and shipping the work.

We currently represent 450 artists.

UGallery has the exclusive right to the artwork displayed on the website. This prevents the risk of selling the same piece of art to two different parties. However, we encourage you to pursue physical gallery representation while exhibiting on our site. This increases the exposure of your work as well as of our gallery.

OK – if I were an artist those four answers to FAQ’s would give me second thoughts about applying to be the 451st artists in their roster. And when you take a look at some of those 450 artist’s work – you better hope you have something really different than what I saw to help you stand out. Besides I’m not sure how many people will look through that many different portfolios in this day of short attention spans. And, I bet after this media blitz their roster has doubled. They might just be making money off the $5 application fee. And, does $5 really make you serious and committed? That’s a laugh.

Ask yourself what are they doing for their 50% cut? Except tying up the rights to the works you send them. And what does that mean? Do they have the right to sell your images to be used in advertising or what? This media blitz won’t last forever and each time they run it – it will just increase their stable of artists – unless the turnover will be that great. Then you have to ask yourself why it there that much turnover?

The problem with most galleries – from an artist’s point of view is that they represent too many artists and don’t spend enough time promoting their work. Think about that 450 number now.

The one good thing I read about Ugallery is that you still hold onto your work. So you won’t get lost in some warehouse with thousands of works stacked up in it, but once you send the work off to their buyer (regardless if they pay for shipping) – will you get paid in the time frame they state? Your work is gone. And if you don’t – who do you call to find out about when you get paid and where is Ugallery anyway?

Sure this system may be good for some artists – emerging artists – but I hope “emerging” in this case doesn’t mean learning tough lessons about the art industry.

I’m just saying – be smart – ask questions – ask around.

I’ve got a question for Ugallery. How do you think that physical gallery is going to feel when they find out that you want their artists to stay with them while playing around with you at the same time? You’re not playing on an equal basis. Ugallery isn’t like a physical gallery in another city 300 miles away – paying overhead, local taxes, and greeting customers who come through the door.

A Few Observations About the 2013 ArtFields in Lake City, SC

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

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We first brought our readers news of ArtFields (www.artfieldssc.org) back in July of 2012. When I first heard of the event I started asking questions to get a grip on what this event was all about. I wanted to make sure I was clear in answering questions that I knew I would be hearing from artists as they found out about the event. Info was a little fuzzy at first and it seemed the more I asked questions the more distance the organizers put between me and themselves. I got the feeling they were not sure how things would work themselves and they were sensitive to being quizzed on their plans. That usually sends a warning flag up for me. If I can’t figure out what was going on – how could I explain it to others.

My main question was, is this just a big juried art show with an unusually big Best of Show award or was this really going to be something like Art Prize which takes place in Grand Rapids, MI? I’ve seen what goes on in Grand Rapids (population around 200,000), but I didn’t get the impression that’s what the folks at ArtFields were calling for in Lake City (populations around 7,000). And, I wasn’t sure they knew with whom they would be dealing and how those folks see things and “folks” would be artists – a different breed of folks. Artists see things differently.

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I basically decided I wanted this event to happen and chalked up some of the fuzziness to a first year effort. The first year of anything goes through growing pains and I’ll just have to judge the event by the first effort. So I backed off and waited.

My first sign that something was wrong with the marketing of this event was when I got an e-mail on March 13, 2013 inviting me to the ArtFields Media Luncheon on Apr. 3, 2013, which I would have been interested in going to except for the fact that it was being held in downtown Charleston, SC, instead of Lake City, SC. I still wonder to this day – who showed up?

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Why they would want to hold the press luncheon almost 80 miles away from Lake City where the event would take place – I haven’t a clue. Were they hiding something?

And a lot good it did them as I didn’t see a lot of coverage of ArtFields in the Post & Courier. They should have invited the press to see Lake City. Charleston’s media can’t devote enough space to cover all the arts that go on in its own city much less one 80 miles away. Which is a surprise since ArtFields outsourced some of the operation of their art festival to folks in Charleston – who made sure a lot of their friends became part of the first ArtFields – almost 25% of the artists participating in the competition came from Charleston and many of the invited installation artists were from there or have roots there.

In my opinion ArtFields made a mistake connecting themselves to Charleston a little too much. They may have gotten a lot of entry fees from artists there but it didn’t do them any good recruiting artists from the rest of the Southeast.

Those folks say they did a lot of work getting the word out to visual artists in those other states, but the results just don’t show it.

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Here’s some examples that back my opinion up.

In June of 2008, the SC State Museum offered a call for entries for its 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition – 500 artists from just SC submitted 1000 works and there were no cash awards.

In 2009, the Elder Gallery in Charlotte, NC, started Carolina’s Got Art! which attracted 1,100 entries, from nearly 500 artists throughout the Carolinas with cash prizes of less than $10,000 with $2,500 going to the Best in Show work. During the third Carolina’s Got Art! (being held at the same time as ArtFields) over 1,000 artists from North and South Carolina entered over 2,800 works of art with over $15,000 in cash and prizes.

ArtFields had $100,000 in cash prizes! Why didn’t they have artists coming out of the woodwork to enter this show?

There are a lot of reasons – some not the kind you would think would stop an artist at a chance to win $50,000, but artists are funny about some things. Here’s some of what I heard. Can’t be right – not $100,000 and not in Lake City. Where is Lake City? No insurance – I’m not giving them my work. I’m not going to have someone in Lake City decide where my art will be placed. Where is the Pee Dee? I can’t figure out what they want from what I read on the website. Who is jurying the entries? Where the heck is Lake City? I could win $50,000 by entering one painting? That can’t be right.

By the time the entry deadline arrived there were 100 entries that were not completed. Something gave those artists second thoughts or confused them about the process of entering.

There also was a disadvantage to artists who lived further away from Lake City and an advantage for those who lived closer since a lot of what might determine if you won two of the prizes was based on the public’s voting for you. Some artists camped out at the event campaigning for votes. This could be a problem in getting more entries from those other Southern states.

But distance isn’t always a problem – many artists enter juried shows all over the country by mailing their entries to the presenting venue – so it’s a puzzle as to why so few artists from other states entered this show. And, from what I saw of some out of state entries, it makes me wonder if some didn’t make the cut because they were from a state on the fringe. I know some of the other 400 artists who didn’t make the cut and compared to some entries I saw – they should have, but that happens in all juried shows.

So, the marketing of this event needs to be better. Especially their use of social media. Take Facebook for an example. In 2012 when they should have been offering artists info about how to join the competition they were making posts like: “The Art of Video Games at the Boca Museum in Florida”. “Lost Renoir Painting at Potomack Company’s Sept. Auction”, “Contemporary Focus 2012 in Knoxville, TN”, and “Phyllis Diller, outlandish comedian, dies at 95″. Did they think this is how they would get the attention of artists and art lovers in other states? They wasted a lot of time not trying to inform people about what ArtFields was and the opportunities it offered. They also didn’t give people a picture of Lake City – which has a story to tell and a plan for the future.

On March 21, 2013, ArtFields posted an entry on Facebook to tell people who lived in the Columbia, SC, area how to get to Lake City, SC, (a two hour drive) and gave suggestions as to where people could eat along the way and what they might see on their travels. I would think that the people in Lake City were hoping people from Columbia would come eat and check out what Lake City has to offer. Let the SC’s tourism folks do the job of informing folks what’s available elsewhere.

It makes me wonder if the folks in Charleston doing the marketing were really interested in promoting Lake City.

I know this all seems like a lot of back seat driving or Monday morning quarterbacking, but these things need to be pointed out (from the outside) in order for the organizers to improve this event.

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So, what about the event?

I went twice and still didn’t get to see everything due to two basic problems. One, I know too many artists and people in the visual arts community and I like to talk and find out things and they like to talk with me; two, we were on deadline to finish our biggest issue – ever. Every hour in Lake City cost me big time. But, I really enjoyed my visits there.

Overall, I think ArtFields and the City did a great job of presenting this event for a first time effort. In the buildings they controlled the artworks were presented well and not crowded together. In the merchant venues – some art was well presented as best it could while some places were not so good. Some venues were just too far away from the bulk of the art being presented. This is something they can improve on by being a little more selective as merchants were happy with the crowds the event attracted. They can pick where they want to be now.

People were friendly, helpful, and seemed really happy to see so many people walking the streets of Lake City.

They need bigger and more signage. I would have expected a few banners running across Hwy. 52 – which sees the most traffic passing through the outskirts of Lake City. But I did see a sign on a Captian-D’s welcoming folks to ArtFields – good for them.

Lake City has something some bigger towns and cities are running out of – a lot of empty buildings which can be used for future expansion or development. Something Charleston wishes it had more of. So there is lots of room to grow.

I don’t know how many people came to Lake City for this event or how many registered and voted in the competition. You need those numbers to really show the impact of the event. Hopefully at some point we’ll be offered those hard numbers. Remember it was a first year event – what ever they were – it’s what it was.

Getting 800 entries again next year or even more than that might be harder than you think. The 400 who didn’t make the cut might not be interested in trying again and many of the 400 who did – after seeing what kind of art won the top prizes might not enter again. But I think everyone who made the cut should be happy to return if it wasn’t all about the money. And, remember $50,000 or $25,000 is a lot of money, but it’s not life changing these days – not for most people.

This was a great event and great exposure for many of the artists. Some who didn’t win or didn’t get a lot of votes might find they made even more valuable connections by participating in this event. Plus – lets hope that the 2014 ArtFields will have all new jurors. Having the same folks selecting who gets in and who wins awards would send the wrong message to artists. You want them to think they always have a chance at getting in or even winning a prize.

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Here’s some suggestions – take ‘em or leave ‘em.

Make sure the website gives as many details as possible. Give examples and show pictures from the first year of what artists could do – such as: if you want to connect 20 paintings together which are in a series – that can be your “one” entry; if you are a sculptor and want to present a number of works that are related as a series – put them together as you would on site – take one photo of it and submit it as your “one” image; give dimensions of the venues so artists can visualize how big their works can be (it’s hard to imagine that a 10″ x 12″ painting would win the $50,000 top prize – it could, but most likely won’t); the point is – more details are better than less. Artists are different than most folks – which is good, but they don’t see or read things the same way others do. I was told at one point they heard no complaints from artists – believe me I heard plenty. They’ve learned not to bite the hand that might feed them, but they do have complaints.

As I said before – bigger signs and more of them all over Lake City and the areas coming into it.

Make the venue area more compact, with less areas way out on the fringe.

Provide a shuttle service to stop at the four corners of the venue area – get help from the local school district. It was a lot of walking for some folks.

Allow visitors to register to vote in other areas around the venues. Artworks at the HUB where people registered had an advantage. Also the HUB needs restrooms.

The handout that showed people where the venues were should also have a directory to show where each artist’s work could be found. Unfortunately some folks only want to see some people’s work. It’s sad but true.

Get some rolling vendors to offer hotdogs and drinks for folks who don’t want to have a sit down meal or wait in line at a crowded restaurant.

Contact some tour bus companies in larger cities to organize trips to Lake City from larger cities. They’ll probably take on the expense of organizing the trips.

To make the event easier for artists from outside the state to compete with local artists to compete for the People’s Choice award – start an adopt an artist program. Some folks might enjoy having a talented artist from another state stay with them during the festival or for a weekend. It might make an interesting experience for the artists and the community.

And, finally, don’t outsource the operation of this event to anywhere else. Let Lake City develop this event. I’m sure that community has talented folks who can learn to promote this event as well as anyone else can. It’s a learning experience and you know your community better than anyone else.

I’d be happy to expand on any of these points if anyone is interested in listening. And, I imagine the organizers may have already thought of most of these suggestions for improvement.

I know I’m looking forward to next year already and going back to Lake City when the big show isn’t going on to see what the town is like normally.

Now here’s an unfortunate update!

The ArtField’s People’s Choice Award has been suspended.

The following statement (in part) was taken from the ArtField’s official website (www.artfieldssc.org) under News:

Award of the Popular Choice prize, which represents the most votes cast by the public, has been suspended.  According to Sue-Ann Gerald Shannon, legal counsel for Lake City Partnership Council, the competition’s sponsor, the initial awardee has been sent notification that his entry, “Warsaw Ghetto 1943,” is ineligible for the award because it did not meet the guidelines and rules of the competition.

Ms. Shannon stated: “The eligibility rules, which were clearly set out from the start, required that the submitted entry be wholly owned by the artist and does not infringe upon the rights of others.  After conducting our due diligence investigation, and consulting with art experts, we determined that the ‘Warsaw Ghetto 1943’ entry was merely a re-colorized reproduction of the iconic photograph depicting German soldiers leading away captured Jews for deportation.  Although some displeasure has been expressed for our not disqualifying this piece earlier, in fairness to all and to maintain the competition’s integrity, we first wanted to be absolutely sure we were on solid footing that the piece failed to comply with the rules.  After careful review, we have disqualified the Warsaw Ghetto piece and we will soon announce the winner of the Popular Choice award.”

Back to Me

This is an unfortunate thing, but the rules are rules. I’m glad ArtFields stands up for artists who create their own works without borrowing the talents of others. Any time this much money is involved – things like this can and will happen.

Taking a Look at Marketing Techniques in the Carolinas The Press Release

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

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This year we’re taking a detailed look at how the visual art community in the Carolinas is marketing itself. This is based on a piece I first posted atCarolina Arts Unleashed on Jan. 12, 2012. I borrowed a technique from comedian Jeff Foxworthy who tells his audience – “You might be a redneck if….”. I used the phrase, “You might be pretty bad at marketing when…”. You can see this post at this link.

There’s a lot to read and absorb here, but I think there is something here from which anyone can learn and a lot for some folks to learn. We offer it so people can do a better job, which will make our paper better to read and hopefully leads to more visitors and customers for all.

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about a press release:

“A press release, news release, media release, press statement or video release is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy. Typically, they are mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to assignment editors at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, and/or television networks.”

I’ll go along with that with a few exceptions in this case. Don’t send us a fax (we unhooked it) and we’d rather receive info by e-mail than the regular mail. We are not accepting press releases through Facebook.

Without looking further at Wikipedia, I can tell you one thing a press release is not – it’s not a paid ad or paid advertising and the word ad has nothing to do with the words press release.

Also, I’m mostly interested in improving the press releases I receive, so we’re talking about a press release about a visual art exhibit or a visual art related event taking place in the Carolinas (North or South Carolina) for our monthly newspaper Carolina Arts or one of our other blogs, Carolina Arts News or Carolina Clay Resource Directory – each has their own area of focus. But this info should be good for other media outlets, but remember – they’re all different.

Which brings up one of the basic rules about press releases – know who you are sending them to. There is no reason to send a press release to someone who is not going to be interested in using it. A good example is the numerous press releases we get about exhibits taking place in California, New York or South Dakota. Those people could have saved their efforts by just looking at our name or our paper. Have you ever seen any articles in Carolina Arts about exhibits in South Dakota?

We also receive press releases from performing arts groups on a daily basis. They just don’t get it – we’re just visual arts unless the performing arts are involved with the visual arts.

So it’s well worth spending some time figuring out who is going to be receptive to your press release. That may involve reading the publication or calling to see if they would be interested in receiving your news. And, it won’t hurt finding out how and when they would like to receive it. It may only take a few minutes to find out when the deadline is, what format they would like to receive the press release in and where you should send it. You may even find out what they are really interested in – what gets them excited and what they are not interested in receiving.

Some people who think of themselves as “publicity” people like to just collect contacts – e-mail or mailing addresses. They don’t care where they come from or where they are going. They might even brag on the number they have on file, but for all they know 50 percent of them could be worthless and never see the light of day beyond a delete button or the trash can. It’s not a contest to see how many outlets you send your release to – it’s about how many outlets use the info you send.

And no matter what kind of list you have you should try to update it at least once a year. There has been a lot of turnover in the media in the last few years.

If you’re going to lose sleep at night worrying about whether your press release was received by the right person or at all, you can always ask for confirmation. If you sent it in the form of a letter – you can give your phone number or an e-mail address as a way for the receiver to get back in touch with you. If you sent it by e-mail – make sure you have a return e-mail address – one you read on a regular basis. Don’t worry if it’s a long distance call – the media should have that covered in one way or another.

If you don’t hear back about a confirmation request – give them a call to see if they got it after a few days. It doesn’t hurt and you’ll know if they got it or not – and make more personal contacts.

The Format

Speaking for Carolina Arts – don’t send your press release as a PDF or Tiff, which means you are just sending a picture of a press release that has to be further processed in order to use it. Just send it in plain text in the body of an e-mail so it can be easily copied and pasted into the files to be used. Why e-mail instead of a letter? What media outlet wants to spend time scanning or re-typing your letter?

Keep it simple. There is no need to send text in colors, fancy fonts, or in an eye-catching layout – we just want to copy and paste. Do not use all caps to make words or names seem more important. You don’t need to put words or sections in bold.

If you are sending photos do not imbed them in PDFs or in Tiffs of your press release. Send them as attachments and make sure you identify them. I hate nothing more than spending time requesting info about images sent in a return e-mail or phone call.

The W’s

You know about the who, what, where, when and why. At least I hope you do. They’re important in any good press release, but in some that I receive one or two is sometimes left out or overlooked. I’d add two more that are important, but not always possible – well written.

Including all the W’s are important but the why and well written may make the difference between having your press release just included or highlighted.

Your press release is competing with many more press release and space is always limited in some form or another. In our case, during any given month several hundred exhibits are being presented. That also means the public will have hundreds of exhibits to choose from – if they think going to an exhibit is worth their limited time. If you’re presenting your exhibit in a small community far from other urban centers you may have a captive audience, but who doesn’t need more visitors. And, I would think the number of visitors to an exhibit may have some relationship to the number of buyers or donors you will also attract.

To come up with your why, you might ask yourself a series of questions that the public might be asking themselves in deciding if they should go to your exhibit – if they see notice of it in the media.

What’s so special about this exhibit? Is it the annual exhibit by an artist who is a regular member of a gallery? Is it just the latest exhibit of new works by an artist’s owned gallery? Is it an exhibit of an artist who has not exhibited in ten years and shows a major new shift in direction by the artist? Is it an exhibit by a nationally known artist who has never been shown in your city? Or, is it an exhibit by a new group of emerging artists, which sometimes means ground floor prices? These are just a few examples of question people may ask themselves before deciding to go to an exhibit.

Remember, you or your group decided to give an artist or a group of artists an exhibition over many other artists – you must have had a reason. If your reason was that it was just their turn – coming up with the why may be very difficult.  But someone made the decision – they must have had a reason for their selection. Unfortunately, I read a lot of press release which offer no reason for why I should go see this exhibit.

Now just including the who, what, where, when and why, may not be enough to get your press release published or read by the public. Putting all those elements into a well written press release may also give you an advantage to reaching the top of the heap.

My expectations for receiving well written press releases has been lowered over the past 25 years, mostly because many of the folks sending these press releases: were just assigned the task, only send out a few in a year’s time, let the artist write the bulk of it, are unpaid and untrained, think “art speak” is the way to communicate to the public, perform the task at the last minute, don’t use spell-check, don’t let another person edit what they have written, don’t read back over what they have written, or any number of reasons.

We even deal with a few venues that think if they have to explain to you who the artist is, beyond providing their name – they’re not really interested in seeing you in their gallery. They may be some of the lucky few who deal with artists that are that important and have no problem selling the work they put on exhibition. If you’re one of those lucky people you wouldn’t have ever started reading this posting.

My question to those few would be – so, you’re not interested in educating or developing new customers? You’ve got them all in the palm of your hand?

To me, every press release is an opportunity to educate and inform the possible readers about your venue, the artist, the medium they work in, the works being presented in the exhibit, and why the reader should come see your exhibit over all others. Some people take advantage of that opportunity – many don’t.

One of the trends I’ve noticed over the last five to ten years is people using a charity as their why, by announcing that 5%, or 10% of proceeds from sales from an exhibit will go to a local charity. I really don’t care for this technique – mostly because of the lack of follow-up. We never seem to hear after the exhibit is over how much money was raised for the charity. I’m all for making donations to charities, but this seems to be a why open to all kinds of problems. And, now we have some galleries who don’t present exhibits without a charity announced as their partner – whether the charity knows it or not.

The use of the visual arts in raising money for charities is a subject too large to cover in this posting. There are good examples and just as many bad ones.

Let’s go over the other W’s in the who, what, where, when and why.

The who should include: who is sending the press release, who wrote it and can answer any questions about it, who is presenting the exhibit or event (gallery, organization, institution), and who the artist is or who the artists are. Make sure all names used are spelled the same each time they are used. Make sure you have a phone number (including area code), e-mail address, and a website address included.

Even if you have sent me a press release every month for the last 12 years, you shouldn’t make short cuts assuming I will always be here. Dark forces are amassing powers to take over any day – I might not always be here. And, if you’re sending your release out in bulk – other folks who were receiving your pr last month or even last week might not hold that job today. So, my point is don’t take things for granted that the people you are sending info to know certain details.

When it comes to the what – like an exhibit. An exhibit has a beginning and ending date and perhaps a reception date. If you just send a reception date, I don’t feel it’s an exhibit at all – it’s just a party for a few hours. I can’t use that in a monthly paper. If the event is a lecture – I want to know when it begins and when it is expected to end. I’m sure readers want to know how much time they will spent if they decide to attend the lecture. Just saying it starts at 7pm isn’t enough – especially if it will end at 7:30 or go on until 11pm.

It is also important for some folks to know if the artist will be at the reception or not.

The where should include the full address of the venue including any helpful locating factors. If your gallery or art center is across from the post office – that’s an important fact. It should be pointed out if you’re located on a second floor or where you are located if your venue is in a larger building shared by other businesses or offices. Also, for some folks it would be good to know if the venue is handicap accessible. And, don’t forget to say which state you are located – both NC and SC has their share of Beauforts, Greenvilles, Columbias, and Mt. Pleasants. Our readers come from all over the county and around the world. They shouldn’t have to do any detective work to find you.

The when, again, include dates and times your exhibit is open to the public. And, you better include the hours that you are there. It doesn’t take someone more than one time to show up during published hours and find the door locked to decide not to return. If you have an emergency – post it at the door and don’t expect people to forgive multiple emergencies. So, be very careful with the dates and times you provide in a press release. I don’t like people who state that their exhibit will be up until the middle of the next month – is that always the 15th? If I’m coming from the next city over 100 miles away I want to be sure before I leave the house and are you available to take my call to ask 24/7?

The why revisited. Here’s some whys that I don’t think hold water anymore if they ever did.

Artists who say they create because they have to. What artists don’t?

Artists who are recording the world often unseen or unnoticed in our fast paced life. Maybe there’s a reason we don’t notice certain things anymore.

Venues who guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you come see the exhibit. With that kind of challenge made I’m almost always disappointed.

Press releases that include how many pets live with the artist, their species and cute names. Do we really need to know that artists are people too? That they have spouses, children and pets – oh my!

I want to know why I should go see this exhibit. I’m sure readers do too. And, I want all the information I need to do that successfully. Is that too much to ask?

If someone was showing an exhibit of early watercolor landscapes painted by Jasper Johns when he was 19, never seen in public before – would you go? Would you go see it because it was works by Johns? Would you go because you wanted to see what kind of watercolor landscapes he would paint at age 19? Would you go to confirm to yourself that all artist may start out in a place far from where they end up? Or would the phrase – never seen in public before – be the determining factor for you.

One last point about press releases is when to send them. And first on my list is don’t send them to me until you have finished and checked everything in them at least twice and then let someone else read it.

I don’t have a lot of time to waste and I doubt other media outlets do either so I start processing a press release as soon as I get it so it can be ready to be put in the paper when I start to do the layout. Nothing gets my attention more than having to revise a piece I’ve already processed because someone discovered they got a name wrong, a date wrong, a time wrong or just left something out. By the third correction, you’re pr is slipping down the line to last place. And if you need to send a correction, don’t just make the correction and send your press release over again forcing me to re-process the whole thing again instead of making a simple correction.

As far as the Carolina Arts goes I hate to say it is ever too early to send a press release – unless changes and updates will have to be made. Get it to us by deadline, but there is no reason to wait for the exact day of the deadline if you can send it early. Sending it early gets you ahead of all those who take till the last minute to send theirs.

When it comes to the blogs like Carolina Arts News – sending a press release early can be a problem as we’ll only post it once and people tend to forget things that are posted months in advance. The exception to that rule is (Call for Entry) notices. For artists, these kinds of notices can never be too early.

Don’t send your same press release to the same media outlets once a week until the day of your event. We only need it once. If you’re worried about whether we received it, follow-up on it – don’t just keep sending it.

And, when it comes to organizations or groups – make sure only one person is sending press releases. I have received them from several different people – about the same exhibit – but you wouldn’t know it by reading them. This just causes more follow-up and delays in processing.

Over the years I have warned artists who are having exhibits at commercial galleries or non-profit institutions to not take it for granted that press releases about their exhibits will be sent out or received on time – even when people say they will take care of it.

There is nothing I hate more than getting that call after an issue has been published from an artist asking me if I received a press release about their exhibit and why I didn’t publish it. And, I have to explain – we didn’t get it or it would have been there. I warn them to call or e-mail well before our deadline to make sure everything is in place for them to get the publicity they are counting on.

I don’t like taking a press release from an artist directly – I feel the venue has that right and responsibility. There are some who don’t want to be included in our paper for one reason or another. (Another blog too big to get into here.) But, I would think it is your right as an artist to request a venue to send press releases where you would like.

And finally, one solid truth about Carolina Arts. If you’re one of our supporters, which would include advertisers or people who work hard at helping spread the paper around – you do get treated better than others. You may even get a call from us asking – don’t you have an exhibit coming up? We haven’t received a press release yet. I’ve even been known to help those folks out with their press releases to make sure they have all the right info in it. In a few rare cases I have even written press releases for supporters when they were short on time to make sure something got in on time. And, don’t tell anyone this, but there have been times when supporters lost track of time and sent us a press release after the deadline and it may have made it near the top of the list to go in the paper or on a blog.

Why such special treatment? If you haven’t figured it out yet – they make the paper and all we do possible. There is no money to be made by just having people send you press releases and publishing them. We’re not Facebook, WordPress, Twitter or Blogspot – who can sell your efforts to advertisers to make millions – we need direct advertisers to make it all work.

I hope reading this helps some folks. I know it made me feel better just writing it and getting it out there – in cyber space.

Taking a Look at Marketing Techniques in the Carolinas

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

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This year we’re going to take a look at how the visual art community in the Carolinas is marketing itself. We’ll start with this posting which expresses some of the problems I have to deal with on a daily basis in collecting info about the visual art community. After this we’ll go into many of these points in more detail.

I’m going to borrow a technique from comedian Jeff Foxworthy in pointing out some problems about marketing in the visual art community in the Carolinas.

This posting is not meant to embarrass anyone, but to be instructive in a humorous way. Luckily for me and others in the media these examples represent the minority not the majority, but, can often be a daily occurrence. Some of this is directed at organizations and some is for individuals.

So here we go…

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you don’t have a website, blog or Facebook page. An e-mail address that you don’t check very often isn’t going to cut it either. When you send an e-mail out, be available to respond to someone’s question about what you sent. Don’t hit send and then disappear for a week. And, don’t change your e-mail address every other year. You have to have venues where you can communicate with the public and other members of the visual art community.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when your website lists a year’s worth of exhibits for the year 2008 and it’s 2012. If you can’t keep current info on your website why have one? Once someone sees you are that far out of date – they won’t be returning to your site anytime soon. How could they trust any info they find there?

You might be pretty bad at marketing when your website list a year’s worth of exhibits – without any year given and they are from 2010. Without a year’s date no one will really know for sure when these events will take place or if they already have taken place. The year is as important as the day and month when it comes to dates.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when your website only lists the exhibit you are currently showing. If you don’t know what your next exhibit is – just a few weeks away, how can someone plan to come see your exhibits. Some people make it a big deal to tell you about past exhibits – two or three year’s worth, but don’t bother to put anything about future exhibits even the next month’s exhibit. Some people like to make plans ahead of time – not at the last minute.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when your website only lists the reception date and its hours for the exhibit you are currently showing or in the future. This says that if you can’t come to our party – we don’t want you to bother us during the run of the exhibit. Don’t worry, most people will not travel anywhere these days without knowing that what they want to see will be there – open for viewing when they arrive.

You might be pretty bad at marketing if you have to pay someone to make changes or additions to your website. Instead of learning a few key strokes you’d rather pay someone who is laughing at you all the way to the bank. The fancier a website is the more complicated it will be and the more money it will cost you – month after month, year after year. A good website gives information – not a show. If websites are too complicated – use a blog format instead – they’re mostly free and simple to operate. I’m not trying to take money away from website designers, but part of their fee should include showing you how to make updates. And it should be simple.

You might be pretty bad at marketing if you send out a press release just days before an event begins. You’re really bad when you send it out after the event has begun.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you send your press release in all caps – hoping the person you sent it to will retype it for use. Or you decided to use several different styles of type and every other paragraph is in a different color – just so it would be noticed. Don’t worry – you got their attention. You’ll most likely go in their special file.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you send your press release as a picture or PDF that can’t be copied easily. Did you just want them to see it or did you want them to be able to re-use it? And no media outlet is going to use that special invitation you created or poster – that would be giving you a free display ad.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you don’t have any photos of the work you’re about to show when the media request photos. If your artists can’t provide media ready images – you need to find more organized artists to offer exhibit opportunities. And how about sending one with the press release and letting them know they can request more.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when all you can send the media is the dates, title, and a short description of the exhibit. You have no press release to offer, and you wonder why no one comes to see your exhibits. And, don’t send one publication an article written in another publication as a press release. It happens more than you would think.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when your organization changes the person in charge of doing marketing every year. It usually takes six months for someone to catch on to what it takes and how to do it right – meaning they only have six months to do what they learned before they have to learn how to be the organization’s treasurer – for a year. If you get someone who is good at PR – keep them any way you can.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you are still sending your press releases by snail mail in 2012. And, with non-profit postage the mail person doesn’t even have to deliver them. First class postage is the only way to learn that the people you are sending mail to are still there at that address. Using first class postage is the only way to clean up your mailing list.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when your mailing list has more people on it that have died, moved away, or didn’t even want to get mail from you – than people who would actually come to your exhibits if they only knew about them. Again, use First Class stamps and take people off your list when that mail is returned.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you say you don’t have time for marketing exhibits you are presenting. There’s no reason to have exhibits if you’re not going to market them – especially with the free opportunities you have available to you, as well as the paid opportunities.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you don’t understand what marketing is. You’re the person who calls the local newspaper and tells them you want to change your ad – when what they give you is a free exhibit listing. The word “ad” means paid advertising.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you contact the media and ask them – “if I bother to write a press release will they use it?” I’m sure the media is just hoping you’ll go that extra mile – make the effort – so they’ll have something to do to fill the time they have to spend at work.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you spell the name of your featured artist three different ways in one press release. For individual artists, make sure you have the correct names of the institutions you say you have had exhibits with when you give the presenter your resume. I often wonder if people are not just making things up when they get those names wrong.

You might be pretty bad at marketing when you send an e-mail to the media and don’t put your name in the e-mail. Identify who you’re with or give a clue to the person you sent it to as to who they would get back with if they had a question. Give your name on all e-mails and for whom you are sending it. It’s also a good idea to make sure you include a telephone number – sometimes people may be working on deadlines and decide to call for clarification of some of your information.

I could go on, if I devoted more time to this or just waited for tomorrow’s mail and e-mail to arrive, but I think you get the point or at least I hope you do. But there is one more:

You might be pretty bad at marketing if you’ve gotten angry reading this instead of learning from it. You might not be the person who should be doing marketing. Remember, the media doesn’t have to include what you’ve sent them – they’re getting press releases from a lot of sources other than you. And they have limited space these days.

So where do you fit in?

Look, I’m not saying we’re perfect at marketing ourselves – we’re not. I’m just trying to help people get better at what they send out as PR.

I myself often send reply e-mails looking for further info that was in the e-mail I received, but just missed it as I scanned through it. We’re getting a lot of them all the time so there is not a lot of time to read through each one as we receive them. I’d spend all day reading e-mails and getting nothing else done. I’ve also helped a few folks correct some big mistakes they have made in their PR. After 25 years I’ve read a lot of press releases – the good the bad and the ugly.

I’m always happy and ready to talk to anyone who wants to know what info we need, how we would like to get it and when we would like to receive it. That time spent will just make my life better down the road. I’m all for making my life better, but these suggestions will make everyone’s life better – the media, the sender, and the reader.

We have a whole section on our website (www.carolinaarts.com) called “How the Paper Works” that explains how to get yourself included inCarolina Arts. We even give an example of how to write a press release.