This week’s blog is written by Yanny Petters, who has just heard that two of her works (Wild Strawberry and Floral Alchemy) have been selected for the Art of the State Exhibition 2013 ‘Encounters’, the latest in a series of annual joint art exhibitions organised by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) in Northern Ireland and the OPW in the Republic of Ireland. The exhibition will tour Ireland by travelling to four destinations, two in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic. Destinations this year will be Derry, (City of Culture 2013), Lisburn, Cork and Limerick.
I was asked to write a blog on the subject of PR, and I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts on the subject to cover a time when the methods of getting our art work noticed are changing almost by the day.
Really what I can offer is just my experience from my starting out as an artist in the early 1990s when everything still went by ‘snail mail’, to the present day when facebook and twitter are the norm.
When I realised that I wanted to work as a professional artist I was working on a Community Employment (CE) scheme at Signal Arts Centre in Bray where I learnt a lot about PR in the sense that I had to deal directly with people visiting the gallery as well as doing community work.
Presentation was all-important, as it still is of course, so having a striking image was essential, but there were other elements which continue to be vital, and one of most important of these is: making connections.
Firstly, to get the press to take notice you need to think about what the various newspapers or magazines are looking for. This usually includes the mention of ‘local celebrities’, politicians and photo opportunities. A carefully drafted press release is vital and should include lots of catchy words, describing the ‘not to be missed’ event. There are good guidelines on the web for press releases. It’s also useful to be able to drop a few ‘important’ names, mention awards, celebrities, sex if possible … in other words all the things that sell papers! And remember: personal stories are popular.
The publication dates of the papers/media outlets you’re targeting need to be established as well as a contact person. Many’s the beautiful press package was sent to The Editor only to be ‘lost’ because it wasn’t sent to the right name. So, the research is important, as is following up after you’ve sent the information (by whatever media) with a phone call: this is key to getting things noticed.
All media are constantly being bombarded with information, all clamouring to get published, and my experience is that it takes time to build a relationship with a publication to get a look in.
Some will only give you editorial space if you also advertise for instance!
At all times the image supplied is vital, that it is strong in colour and structure. Local papers prefer pictures of people, so the artist hanging the exhibition would be more likely to be published than a painting. Asking them to send their photographer sometimes works. And with newer media now, perhaps we need to design ways of being visually irresistible even when seen on the little smartphone screen.
More than the published media I found that collecting names of people interested in my work over the past 18 years has been extremely important. While they support my exhibitions and buy my work they also spread the word. I have found too that by printing greetings cards and calendars and by teaching I have been able to extend the list and also keep my name out there.
I think it is still very important to keep personal contact with the publications: if you have a friend or family member who works in the Irish Times or the Irish Arts Review, don’t fall out with them, whatever you do!
Newer media such as facebook and the web have of course helped hugely. While the artist is competing all the time for attention, if you’re inventive with how you use the web, the information can circulate rapidly. I am lucky enough to have an agent who is very good at all that stuff which frees me up to paint! I also have a media-savvy husband who is in charge of my web site and facebook page (lucky me!).
I expect the way forward is mainly through the internet so the thing is to find eye-catching ways to present yourself. The average punter’s attention span is quite short, so we need to get noticed, and be seen regularly, to stay in people’s minds.
Good luck to the ISBA. This wonderful dynamic group should have the media sitting up with their ears pricked!