Posts Tagged ‘Marketing the Visual Arts In the Carolinas’

Taking a Look at Marketing Techniques in the Carolinas

Thursday, January 12th, 2012


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 Once someone sees you are that far out of date – they won’t be returning to your site anytime soon.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 ( 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.