The power of publicity. A force of success which we believe definitely does not skip the realm of the arts. Public Relations (PR) for the arts is nothing new. A little less than 100 years ago in New York, Eleneor Lambert, a legendary art- and fashion publicist, represented successful artists such as Jackson Pollock, Jacob Epstein and Isamu Noguchi. Artists like Andy Warhol were a natural expert in how to leverage publicity and marketing in order to elevate his brand and generate revenue growth. He might have been a painter at heart, but Warhol knew intuitively how to translate his creative vision to captivate the media’s attention.
Owned, paid and earned
But first, what is PR exactly? Let us explain. PR refers to the ‘earned’ media part within the ‘owned’, ‘paid’ and ‘earned’ triad. All three elements are necessary for a successful marketing campaign. Simply stated, think of owned media as your own channels, such as your website and socials, and paid media as advertising space you actually buy, such as posters or ads in print and online media. A humorous example of paid media in the arts are the billboards bought as advertising space in 1989 by Jeff Koons. In fact, this billboard completely surpassed its function. As it was such an unconventional thing to do for an artist, it actually created a buzz and resulted in lots of publicity. Of course now we are aware that Koons meant it as a publicity stunt, which brings us to the last part of our marketing mix: earned media.
PR: authentic visibility
Earned media – PR – is perhaps the most difficult and desirable part of the triad. We are essentially talking about free exposure from members of the press in the form of print, online, social, radio and/or TV. Think of interviews dedicated to artists, reviews discussing exhibitions, and even influencer Instagram stories exploring galleries and museums. In our current online reality, earned media relies heavily on online word of mouth, which may take the form of ‘viral’ tendencies, mentions, shares, reposts, reviews and recommendations. The power of free publicity resides in that the coverage is often editorial, authentic, and therefore seen as trustworthy and considered an endorsement. So, if you do not feel like investing in expensive and inauthentic advertising space, but you do not have Koons’s creativity to come up with cutting-edge publicity stunts, you would be wise to hire a PR agency.
PR can be an amazing tool for artists and other cultural industry agents to create a buzz around their work. This work might relate to an exhibition, event, release or collaboration, but it may also relate to general profile building for an artist. To have a buzz surrounding one’s work rarely ‘just’ happens. A good PR agent will know when to say what, and most importantly, to whom. PR agencies keep a database of art writers, journalists, publishers, bloggers, opinion influencers, and more. Relationships are developed to maintain strong ties with those individuals through regular communication and networking.
Art PR can help:
- Identify and understand your key audiences
- Formulate a storytelling strategy
- Translate your creative vision to the press
- Create visibility
- Develop relationships with buyers, collectors, curators
- Build your brand