Posts Tagged ‘Tom Starland’

Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part III, with questions and answers by Tom Starland

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Twelve years ago, back in the year 2000, I came up with an interesting idea – I would interview myself so I could address some issues on my mind. No one else in the media seemed to be interested so why not do it myself. My ego isn’t that big that I wasted space in our printed papers to include such a self-serving piece, and they were too long to include anyway. So they were posted only on our website (www.carolinaarts.com) – where they are today (Archives – Special Features), and every once in a while someone comes across them and really learns something about this paper and me – if they can get through it all. In reading back over them I have to say, if anything I’m consistent. My opinions have stayed the same on most of the subjects covered, although some of the subjects have gone through major changes or disappeared all together.

The first interview dealt with a lot of the paper’s history. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in May/June 2000. You can read it at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/600tominterview.html).

The second interview dealt with a lot of frustrations about how bad things in the visual art community were – in 2006. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part II, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in March 2006. Things were bad, but who knew the bottom was going to drop out in 2008. You can read it at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/306tominterview2.html).

A lot has happened in the six years since the last interview – the economy went to hell, funding for the arts has been under attack, we stopped printing our paper and became an electronic publication, and we got a new President. And, a lot of things have stayed the same.

So in our 25th year of covering the visual arts in the Carolinas, first in Charleston, SC, then the State of South Carolina, and finally in 1997, both North and South Carolina – it’s time for the third interview to take its place in an issue of Carolina Arts.

Q: Are you a little surprised that we are doing this for a third time, considering the bridges you burned in the first two interviews?

A: The biggest surprise is that they still couldn’t find anyone better than you to do this. Or, were you referring to the fact that we have made it through 25 years of publishing an arts newspaper?

Q: I see we are going to have the same banter of the first two interviews.

A: Smart-ass questions deserve smart-ass answers. And, in response to your first one – yes, I am surprised that no one has replaced us in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas. Some have tried or think they will, but they have a rude lesson to learn. And I’m happy to let them learn it.

The main problem is that there is not enough profit in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas while we are still in business and in 25 years we’ve learned to deal with that reality. And, yes I’m surprised we made it through the last six years – which have been a nightmare of change – a changing market, a changing medium, change, change, change.

Q: I take it you don’t like change?

A: I hate all change unless it is easy and benefits me. Who likes change that is bad? We’ve had enough of that in the last six years. If someone told me I had to change the font we use in the paper – I’d hate that, just for the sake that it is a change of what I’m used to, but if they said it would double our readership and be as easy as resetting something on my computer – I still would fight it, but eventually would embrace it, but I wouldn’t like it. First because if it was that easy to double readership by changing a font – that would make me feel stupid for not doing it long ago. Second, because it didn’t take that much effort to change for the better. But, not all change is that easy.

Q: So what changes have been good?

A: Well, the big change of not printing the paper and going online with an electronic version of the paper was hard, but it turned out to be the best change we ever made – next to starting out years ago picking Apple computers to work on. Our readership has gone from a possible of 10,000 (the amount of papers we printed each month) to an average of 100,000 downloads of the paper each month.

A lot of credit for these downloads go to the people and organizations which help us distribute the paper to their e-mail list and friends and contacts. They help spread the paper beyond our reach.

Not printing the paper has saved a lot of trees, landfill space, and money. Although entering our third year online, we are still paying off our printer for previous printings of the paper before 2010. We are also saving a lot on transportation cost, but I feel a little cut off from the art community we cover by not delivering papers to it every month. And, the time spent delivering that paper was consumed in more time spent on the computer covering more areas of the Carolinas. We’re operating a lot more green then before and that’s good for the environment.

We are also able to publish the entire paper in full color vs. a color cover and the rest in black & white or in the end just black & white like we started. I never liked covering the visual arts in black & white. The paper also has active links in it so that readers looking at ads can click and go to the advertiser’s website or click a link from an article and go to a website.

Our ad rates also went down while the size of the paper stayed the same. Which was good for the art community as a whole considering the decline of the economy and arts funding in the last six years.

Q: So what changes were bad?

A: All of them. Like I said I don’t like change. The biggest complaint we have comes from people still stuck in the 20th century. They say they like to hold a paper in their hands to read it. They say they have trouble downloading the paper which takes less than a minute on most modern computers with any decent internet service – other than dial up. And, now they say there is too much to read.

Most of these complaints are really about people not being able to deal with technology. I understand, I feel their pain – I’m one of those people. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to try something new. Linda, my better half, is an adventurous explorer when it comes to the computer. She enjoys telling me of things she discovers that can really make a difference and I have to be embarrassed into trying them – which turn out to be really cool things – real time savers. I hate it when she does that, but I also love the new tricks. They’re amazing.

So these folks who have a hard time adjusting to the new technologies – I know what they’re going through, but they are going to be left behind as the world changes – if they don’t change. Besides holding an iPad or any of the new tablets in your hands is a great way to read any book, magazine or newspaper.

Look, some of these folks who ask where they can get a printed copy make the mistake of saying they used to pick it up at some gallery or art space, but in the last few months it’s been hard for them to get by these places. We haven’t printed the paper in two years. These are not regular readers we need to be concerned with – apparently they didn’t read it that often to begin with.

The other change that is bad for me is the fact that doing this new paper and all the components that go with it – our three blogs, Facebook and now Twitter – has me chained to my computer. We’re providing more information than we would have ever dreamed of in a timely fashion – sometimes within minutes of receiving info from someone on the blogs and Facebook, but it all takes a lot of time to process. And, we are now covering all areas of the Carolinas that we hear from when we used to only cover areas where we got advertising support.

Now that’s a policy I’m still wrestling with. Ever since we began we have fought against being just another “you pay, you play” publication. You know what I’m talking about – a publication which only includes info about the people who buy ads. I’ve always felt that by including everyone, it makes the paper more interesting and informative. When we were printing the paper and delivering it we had to restrict our coverage to areas where we received advertising support and areas near those places. We did include everyone who sent us info on our website once we launched it in 1999.

When we went totally online and didn’t have to print the paper or deliver it, we decided to include everyone the same, but as the amount of info increases we find ourselves doing a lot of work including areas (some very large areas) with little or no support coming from those areas. When it gets to the point that we can’t handle it all at the expense of those who do support us – we may have to make some cuts of those areas. And, that day may be getting closer and closer.

You see, there are a lot of folks who think the media has to cover them as a service to their readers or at least that’s what they hope. They think that by sending the media a press release and saying, “Thanks in advance for helping us spread the word on this important event,” is all they need to do.

Q: I hear and read you asking people to send you info all the time. Is that just a ploy to get them to eventually advertise with you?

A: I know it’s the stupidest thing I do. I want to cover everything and do encourage people to send us info about their exhibits – that’s the focus of the paper – exhibitions taking place in the Carolinas – commercial and non-profit. It’s my Catch-22 (Google it folks).

I want Carolina Arts to offer the most informative and inclusive coverage of the visual arts in the Carolinas, (which we do already – but we want more) but time is limited and we are a business. We can’t do it all for free – all the time.

Q: So you do hope people who are sending you info will advertise or as you would put it – support the paper.

A: You will never get a cold call from us asking you to advertise. We have no advertising sales staff. Yes, we hope the light bulb will go off in people’s head eventually when they tell us how we are providing such a wonderful service to the community that they will one day support us with advertising. They could just send us piles of money, but I’m not holding my breath. Advertising gives you something for your money. Each month we send out an e-mail to those who have advertised with us if they want to again. Eventually people are taken off if we don’t hear from them again.

As far as the time factor goes, here’s the deal. I can process a well written press release in minutes and prepare an image sent in a few more and it’s ready to be placed in the paper. After 25 years you get a system down pat. What takes time is when people send you a mess that is incomplete and you have to go back and forth collecting the info they should have sent to begin with. Some articles take weeks to process. I don’t mind that when it comes to supporters, but it’s a pain when it’s coming from folks who are not. And they seem to always be the most drag on my time.

We expect more from people who are being paid to do this – it’s their job, but we are often disappointed, and we cut those who are beginners some slack, but eventually expect them to catch on, but you’d be amazed at how little people can remember from month to month – year after year. And then there are those special few who actually read the paper, study it and deliver their press releases exactly the way I would have processed it. Folks, their stuff goes in the paper first and is always in the best spots – if there is such a thing.

But getting people to send us info about their exhibits is the frustration that never seems to change. It’s the biggest problem in the visual art community – a lack of communicating and when they do – a lack of knowing how to do it in a professional and timely way. And that goes across the board – commercial galleries, non-profit art spaces and art museums. Some of the worst are colleges and universities – which have better resources at hand to do this job.

Q: I can tell you are tired of this subject by the look you are giving me. How did you like The Hobbit?

A: You are a hobbit.

Q: So how’s your relationship going with the SC Arts Commission?

A: You are a stupid hobbit. Ask me something that matters.

Q: So what do you think is next?

A: Well, you got me there. I have no idea what change will come next. I just know I won’t like it already and probably after years of doing it – what ever it is – won’t understand how it works. And, The Hobbit was great.

Q: What would you like to see happen in the future?

A: I’d like to be able to tell my computer what to do. That’s probably already possible, but either too expensive or to complicated for me. But, that would be nice.

I’d like to get more coverage and advertising from areas we never hear from. I know exhibits are being offered everywhere, we just never hear about them and the people who are presenting them probably think no one wants to hear about them, but I do and I think our readers do too.

Every once in a while I get some free time to do some research on the internet and you’d be amazed at the great exhibits that are taking place around the Carolinas in places that rarely get regional coverage – much less local coverage. I feel sorry for those art spaces that are in the area of coverage of a major city – which has a bunch of non-profit institutions presenting exhibits. Try getting coverage for the little guy when space in most publications for the arts is shrinking and these big institutions are always pleading for local coverage. Oh, it happens when a big name artist is showing in a smaller space – that’s news to these papers, but what about the talented local artist? There’s no room for them in arts coverage in major publications.

Some would say that’s the natural process of survival. The cream will rise to the top, but that’s a bunch of bull droppings. I know a lot of talented artists who will never get their spot in the sunlight, and a handful of less than talented artists who always seem to get their 20 minutes of fame -over and over.

And, I could get rich if I just got a dollar for every time someone asked me “why” I was including this or that exhibit. I collect $5 in my head for every time they ask why I placed that same article next to their’s. It’s a dog eat dog world out there when it comes to media coverage. And some what it to be an exclusive club with restricted membership.

Q: Yet you say you have to beg for people to send you info.

A: There’s the rub. We’re still living in a world where print media coverage is still on top. Who know’s how long that will last – I don’t know, but that space is getting harder to come by. There are a lot of folks out there that don’t think an online publication is worth anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know coverage in our paper doesn’t compare to a local gallery space or artist getting coverage in a local publication that all their friends and neighbors will see. That’s an exciting occasion, but it also stops at the extent of that publication’s coverage – which is limited. An article in our paper has regional coverage which for an artist and gallery has the potential for growing their market. Coverage in our publication might get you a future show in another region of the Carolinas or a visit from a traveler who takes home some works off your gallery’s walls.

For folks under 30 – online media and social networking is their way of life, they don’t know much of anything else. For folks over 30 – it’s all so new and change is coming too fast for many of them. And, for most people the older they are the more they cling to the old ways. But, more and more older folks are seeing the light and are making the leap into the future and finding an amazing world out there. We’re hoping more and more of those folks who say they loved the old Carolina Arts will one day find us online and discover we are better than ever and that turning pages on a tablet is easier then re-setting the clock on their old VHS recorder.

But getting back to the subject at hand – we offer a great opportunity for any art space that presents exhibitions to get coverage in our paper. And, for the time being – it’s free. All you have to do is get the info to us by deadline. I’d tell these folks all about how they can get the info about doing that on our website at (www.carolinaarts.com) under the heading “How the Paper Works” – a phrase I’ve written and spoken a million times, but they’re probably not reading this. At least I hope they haven’t been reading our paper all this time and are still not sending us info.

Q: What else do you hope for in the future?

A: Beside computers that do the work when you tell them what to do and for people to promote their exhibits in Carolina Arts? Well, how about Star Trek style transporters, and non-fattening, vitamin enriched, ice cream? I’m ready for that kind of change – where’s that?

Oh, I got one. I wish someone, preferably Apple would come up with something that replaces Facebook. If Apple does it I hope it works better then them trying to replace Google maps.

Q: Well, I was thinking more about the visual arts.

A: Do I get three wishes – that kind of thing?

Well, I wish more people would buy art and buy it at galleries, art fairs, artist’s studio tours, and even online and say they did it because ofCarolina Arts.

I wish Americans would realize that funding for the arts is like the government funding other industries – like corporate farmers, energy companies, and the defense industry. Stop using the arts as a political whipping post. And, the arts should stop wasting some of the money they get from the public by giving the money to artists who insult the public.

And, I guess my third wish would be that I wish the SC Arts Commission and Carolina Arts were BFFs.

Q: The SC Arts Commission keep popping up. What’s that about.

A: Is about me pulling your chain and making people read on hoping I’m going to drop a bomb on them, but I’m not. Like a lot of folks my age, my Momma told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone – don’t say anything at all. I don’t really want to be BFFs with them, they have enough of them already.

Q: Any closing statement?

A: Ya know, here’s another change. So much that I’ve talked about in these three interviews has stayed the same that there’s no reason to go over them again and again. But, here’s an answer to a question a lot of folks have asked me.

If I won the lottery tomorrow and they gave me $300 million in take home cash, the first thing I would do is call my cousin Joyce, who I promised would be my first call, and no I would not go back to printing Carolina Arts. I would definitely spend some money making it a better online publication, but I would not go back to print – ever. This is the future.

And don’t call me again for one of these interviews until another six years passes. I want to be surprised as to where we are then.

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.

Carolina Arts Unleashed Makes It Through Its Second Year

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Well, like the guys on the Nation Public Radio show Car Talk say, you’ve just wasted two years of your life reading Carolina Arts Unleashed – that’s if you’ve been following us since the beginning. If you’re a new reader – get ready to waste some of your life – I’ve got lots to say. I almost posted 300 entries in two years.

510.2years

This fact is no surprise to those who have known me throughout my visit to South Carolina. And, after 36 years, there are some who wish I would go back to Michigan – something I hope to do this year. It will be nice to visit a state that may be hurting more than South Carolina for once.

Well, what has gone on during the last year as far as Carolina Arts Unleashed goes? I have posted more entries this year including many press releases which missed our deadlines or which were so timely they needed instant exposure. I’m planning on starting a separate blog just for those instances – so that Carolina Arts Unleashed can get back to just commentary, exhibit reviews, and previews of upcoming events taking place in the Carolina visual art community – by me.

I tried leaving the “Comments On” switch for one of my entries about donating art to charity auctions – which drew a few comments from people who actually read my comments, but like I expected – most comments offered were disguised links to sites selling all kinds of things – many were flattering to me or the site in hopes I would leave them up. But, it turned out to just be more work for me in administering the blog. I don’t have time for that.

Like I’ve said from the start and in between – if you would like to make a comment about something I’ve said – send it in an e-mail to (info@carolinaarts.com) and I’ll post it on the blog – if you’re not a potty mouth and the comments pertain to what I’m talking about. I’ll even go so far as to say that if someone wanted to have access to our readers on a subject which pertains to the visual art community in the Carolinas – about a subject I haven’t hit on – be my guest. All reasonable requests will be considered – unless you’re just wanting to call me a loud-mouthed idiot. Remember – it’s my blog. If you’re just wanting to plug something or sell something – send in a press release like everyone else.

I’ve tried this year to use more logos and photos to break up all the words, so I hope my entries are more inviting and less daunting as people look at the length of some of the entries. But some things take a lot of words to get through. But, I’m not going to do that this time.

So, thanks to all you readers out there, I hope I post something you feel is worth reading in the future so that you really don’t feel like you’re wasting your life away at Carolina Arts Unleashed. And, don’t forget about Carolina Arts Online – our expanded web version of Carolina Arts – our printed paper.

Carolina Arts Unleashed – One Year of Blogging

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

My oh my, has it been a year already? And, what a year it was. By early fall of 2008 the economy had gone South (Why does going South mean a bad thing?) – I came South 35 years ago and I think that was a good thing. In November, the first black man was elected President of United States. Both events seemed unbelievable at the beginning of this blog’s life – May 22, 2008. Here we are today – the Carolina art community is about ready to cry “UNCLE” yet there might be light at the end of the tunnel – I hope so. The world of newspapers is at a critical breaking point and arts coverage is taking it on the chin. What’s a newspaper editor to do – especially an arts newspaper editor?

“Start a blog old man!” I would have said “young” man, but that is gone, along with the West – it’s always on fire. (Referring to the “Go West Young Man – phrase.) And, with this anniversary blog, I will have offered 100 blog entries – some short ones, a lot of long ones, and the ones most read. That’s over eight years worth of editorial commentary in the newspaper. I’m sure there are a lot of folks who wish I had never learned about the blog, but I’m glad I did.

So right off I want to share the blame with those who deserve it – those people who helped make it possible. None of the names have been changed – these people are not innocent. First off, is Linda, my better half, who is my editor, safety net, web master and debate partner. She wins a few of those debates – lucky for some you know whos. Plus, she gave me this blog for my birthday last year. Then comes Will Ravenel and his daughter Zelda Ravenel, our God-daughter who help with computer tech problems. Teri Tynes, a master blogger in New York City who helped explain what it was all about. And, let’s not forget the folks at WordPress who make it all possible – and free too. At least it’s been free so far. Still can’t figure that one out yet.

Then there are the bloggers who have provided inspiration and a daily fix of reading someone else’s ramblings, but it all goes back farther than last year. A few years ago I participated on a sort of blog/community forum called Arts Ramble of the Triangle created by Andrea Gomez in Raleigh, NC. It’s no longer in action, but that’s where the seed was planted. Will Ravenel also created a few blogs that showed me the possibilities of communicating in this mode. But, over the last year, inspiration has come on a regular basis from Teri Tynes, Meredith Haywood, Christopher RicoSusan Lenz, Samantha Henneke, Michael Klein, and Doug McAbee – check out these blogs. (Click on their names.)

I’ve also received a lot of inspiration from the ongoing battle to save the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC – which still needs financial help. And, there is always the battle to make sense of the South Carolina Arts Commission – who are they and what do they do? The real life questions. Like the fact that the Arts Commission has a board meeting scheduled for June 3, 2009. Hopefully this will be the last meeting for Linda Stern (the chair of the Commission). Will this meeting take place in Charleston, SC, this year – like years past – or will it be in Columbia, SC? Are the years of the “special” meetings in Charleston during the Spoleto Festival over? Who knows? They usually don’t post an official notice of the meetings until a few days before it takes place, but the public is always welcome – only if they know about it ahead of time. I know where to look.

I’ve learned a lot along the way about blogging over this year. I also learned that it helps when you start a blog if you have already been doing commentary for 21 years and you have a built-in audience that you can call on for readers. It also helps to have the blog attached to a website,Carolina Arts Online, which is a mega site of archived content built up over ten years. It also helps to have a monthly printed paper that has been covering the visual arts in parts of the Carolinas over the past 21 years. So, we got a lot of help in making this blog what it has become.

Now, we still have a lot to learn yet. Hopefully as this next year develops we will be adding more things which make Carolina Arts Unleashed a better place to visit. No use talking about them at this point – this old dog doesn’t learn new tricks easily.

One thing that readers seem to want is for me to turn the comments switch to on, but as I said at the beginning of doing this blog – I don’t have time to monitor comments and keep the crazies at bay. People can still e-mail (info@carolinaarts.com) me comments about anything I say – some do, and their comments are taken into account. We’ll even post them if they are good enough to add into the mix, but I started this blog for me – to give me more opportunities for commentary about what’s going on in the Carolina visual art community and a few other things. And, after some people’s worry – I only made one entry about the SC Aquarium. Imagine that.

I may try a test run with the comments switch turned on, but it will be for a limited time – so those who want to offer their 2 cents – be alert. I’m always willing to try something once.

So there you go – Happy Anniversary to Carolina Arts Unleashed! Who knows, by next year we may master the art of FaceBook, Twitter, and whatever else they come up with – so stay tuned.

First Blog

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I am constantly amazed at technology – especially the Internet. We started posting parts of our paper (Carolina Arts) and extra articles which we didn’t have room for on a companion website in June 1999. Not long after we were posting pictures of each page of our paper – every month so everyone who visits our site could see the printed version of the paper. Now I’m writing my first blog. Not that blogs are a new thing, but I’m usually far behind the curve when it comes to taking advantage of new technology. It’s not easy for this old dog to learn new tricks. I thank my lucky stars that my better half (wife Linda) is able to pick up new technology fairly fast and then bring it down to my level – which takes months if not years in some cases.

Linda and I purchased our first computer in 1983 – an Apple IIe. It cost us a fortune back then, but it was well worth the cost and time spent learning how to take advantage of all the things it could do. Within years we had paid, what was at the time equal to a house payment to get an external hard drive with 30mbs of memory and another house payment for a 1/4mb of ram memory. Today, I can buy a laptop computer for the same price of those two items with 40 gigs of memory and 1 gig of ram – with CD/DVD players and burners, internal cameras, wireless internet connections and a host of other features – not even dreamed of back in 1983. Now, many versions of Apple computers later, we’re still trying to learn about all the things computers and the Internet can do to help us spread the word about the visual art community in North and South Carolina.

Although expressing my opinions about issues taking place in that art community is not a new thing – being able to do so without waiting for the latest issue of the paper to reach readers is – for me. It will now be possible to make comments on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis. That just blows my mind and concerns others who know me, but don’t worry, I’m pretty careful to make sure my opinions are based on solid ground. And, I have learned that those who talk when they are angry or emotional about issues – make mistakes and often end up saying things they didn’t mean to. Also, you are writing to a worldwide audience – you just can’t talk like your sitting in a local bar or in some friend’s living room. You have to bring your readers along with you on an issue – they need to know what you know and they need to know where that opinion is coming from, and that’s the beauty of a blog on the Internet – space is not a limitation – except for readers with a short attention span.

So, I hope you’ll join me on this journey and keep up with my postings. And, e-mail me your comments at (info@carolinaarts.com) – just make sure you put the word “blog” in the subject line.