June 21, 2017

Publicity, Good & Bad

True or False: Any publicity is good exposure for your art and your creative business? On the one hand, you're getting your name out there in front of a wider audience, and the attention will likely drive traffic to your site or social media. You can't make sales without traffic, right? And yet, more so today than ever, it's easy to see how quickly negative attention can ruin a reputation, and outlets like Facebook and Twitter give the masses the chance to say whatever they want, encouraging or slanderous. Publicity by definition is free marketing, and because you aren't paying, you have less control. For that reason, I highly recommend focusing your efforts on the positive opportunities and striving to avoid the common pitfalls that will earn you negative attention.

Publicity comes in a few main forms:

  • Mentions in the Media (TV, Print, Online)
  • Blog Posts  & Social Sharing

What kind of things are people likely to mention about artists?

  • News of partnerships & collaborations
  • Announcements of new projects
  • Participation in upcoming events
  • Grants, awards & recognitions
  • Unique styles, media & technique
  • Interviews & artist profiles

To market yourself effectively, you need to be mentioning the above items yourself in social media, email blasts, your other web content and more. Don't worry, it's not boasting. It's spreading news. Of course, its even better when an outside source decides to highlight you as well. Thank goodness for the democratizing nature of online media. The better you are known and the more your work stands out, the greater likelihood that you will catch the eye of the press. If you take one step further and send out Press Releases, you are equipping your choice outlets with details that make it easy for them to mention you. As cited above, there is no guarantee with publicity because you can't buy. So what can you do to encourage positive attention?

  1. Make yourself easy to find, including information and examples of your work,
  2. Build recognition by getting your name out there alongside your work, and lastly, 
  3. Be the best version of the artist you're meant to be, because that's noteworthy!

That final point is the most important and often the most challenging. At the most basic level I am talking about being true to your talent and acting in a professional manner. Simple, right?

  • Many of will spend of our lives figuring out who we're meant to be and how we'll contribute to our communities. As an artist, you have the chance to spend time seeking what flows most naturally out of your creativity. You won't be happy if you're making something that's not your vision. Worse yet, stealing someone else's idea can you get busted quick. 
  • Once you align your passion with a possible audience, you're in the right zone. You'll have room to evolve over time, but help people get to know you through your art. The ones who connect with your work are most likely to support you.
  • The next step is putting yourself out there. Make sure you are communicating in line with your values. While it may go without saying, the most common source of negative publicity is unprofessional conduct. Knowing what you care about as a creative entrepreneur will help guide you in all of your decisions. Find a consistent voice and treat your customers in a way that builds a positive image. I don't mean professional in a stuffy sense. You can be quirky and conversational, just don't leave yourself open to attacks of character or integrity by saying something careless. As fleeting as social media may seem, once it's posted, you lose control. You are best served when people are only compelled to share the good stuff.   
  • As you grow and hire others to help your business, they too should be aware of their impact on the brand. This may sound like a burdensome task, but really all you have to do is ask your team to take your values with them wherever they are representing your and your art.
  • Last, but not least, follow the golden rule when dealing with supporters, fans and customers because this simple mantra can save you a lot of hassle. Treat people with kindness and understanding even if they are complaining or criticizing (because you will hear things you don't like; remember, art is subjective). If you don't put anything negative out there, you are less likely to stir up bad publicity. It's as simple as that. 

By now I hope you've figured out that not all publicity is the same. The very least you can do is to represent yourself and your art with poise and professionalism. As you have time, share with your audience about your activity and give them a reason to pay attention. You can even ask for shares and mentions (like photos of people who've bought your work). Send out press releases for really big news to encourage media outlets. It may take several tries, but as you fill your place in the world of art, the opportunities will find you. It's a lot like what Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” So too can publicity come to you!