6 Essentials for Successfully Working with the Media
Last week I spoke to a fantastic group of artists at a Leeway Foundation workshop focused on marketing for individual artists. Attendees ranged from artists just starting to develop their careers to mid- and late-career artists with published books, years of travel, and numerous performances under their belts.
The panel of speakers was equally diverse and offered a wealth of valuable information about how to market oneself as an artist.
My topic of choice addressed how to approach the media and create successful working relationships with members of the press. With so much to discuss, I started to think about what tips I could share in a limited period of time, and I came up with a list of some essential elements for working with the media.
While these points were geared toward independent artists, most of these tips are universal when creating a press campaign. What other tips would you add?
1. Be a Storyteller
Think about what defines who you are, what you do, and why you’re doing it. Identify what makes you and your work unique and embrace that. Being able to define that first for yourself and then translating it into a concise message for the press and the public means that you’ll be making a strong statement about your work from the get-go, and that you’ll have an important tool as you create a promotional campaign.
One way to approach this is to consider what you would talk about in an interview with the press. Start to tell that story in your bio, press pitches and press materials. Not sure where to start? Have a friend or colleague “interview” you, and you might discover some interesting talking points you hadn’t thought of before.
2. Be a Good Writer
This is not something that comes easily for all artists, but there are a few basic guidelines you should follow. Open with compelling information that will catch the readers’ attention, BUT don’t overhype your work or use clichéd language. Adjust your marketing language (copy you might use on a postcard, website or in an email) to be appropriate for a press release, and don’t use “you” or “I.”
Include press release basics: who, what, when, where, how to buy tickets, etc. Make sure your contact info is included and easy to find on all materials.
How you frame your message in your press materials can influence how the press talks about you, so make sure what you’ve written is a strong representation of you and your work or event. For more on PR writing, you can read my blog post, 7 Ways to Improve Your PR Writing, or read some of the press releases, available on our clients’ pages.
3. Be Informed
As with any marketing you do, it’s crucial to know your audience. Read newspapers, magazines, blogs, listen to the radio, and watch what local TV is covering. Think about how your story might fall into a timely topic - something being covered on a local or national level.
You want journalists to take the time to get to know you, so you need to do the same. Get to know their coverage before sending out a pitch. Once you’ve done that, send a personalized pitch along with your press release and tell them why you think they’ll be interested in your work.
Another way to connect with the press is to seek out journalists through social media outlets, especially Twitter. Follow them, keep an eye on what they’re tweeting about, then interact.
4. Be Visual
A strong visual identity is absolutely essential to all of your promotional efforts. Invest in a photo shoot if at all possible – it’s worth the money as you’ll be able to use those images for multiple purposes, and you’re likely to get more page space when you offer compelling visuals to run with a story. Images for the press should be at least 4x6 inches and 300dpi.
5. Be A Valuable Resource
If journalists know you’re easy to work with and you have the information they need when they need it, they’re more likely to work with you on a regular basis. Respond to press inquiries quickly and be available for interviews.
Organize a file of all your materials for press – bio, press releases, calendar listings, high-res images, press kits – and have that ready to send to anyone who requests it. Even better, have this information available online as an electronic press kit.
6. Be Authentic
It can sometimes be overwhelming for artists to think about marketing and PR while they’re also dedicating so much time to creating new work. It’s important to think about your brand as an artist, but make sure it’s still authentic and true to who you are and what your work is about.
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