Welcome back to “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z. In today’s article, I’ll be focusing on the letter “C” and the importance of communication when it comes to marketing yourself and your artwork.
C – Communicating Consistently, Clearly, and Cleverly
Everything is marketing. (Yes, everything!) So let’s start with an example that hits close to home.
You want the teens in your house to clean their rooms and keep them clean? You have to ask them over and over again. Yelling at them often has the opposite effect. An incentive that sounds good to you may backfire because it’s not so appealing to a teen. And the incentives that work for one, usually don’t work for a sibling.
If you do see a tidier room—after coming up with a clever method to encourage it—you know you can’t rest on your laurels! Nanoseconds rule with teenagers, and everything new is old again.
The same kinds of rules apply for marketing. To be successful (either at managing teenagers or marketing your art) you MUST communicate clearly, consistently and cleverly.
“But wait,” you might ask. “Doesn’t my art speak for itself?”
This pervasive myth disrespects both artist and viewer. Viewers make their own interpretation of your work, yes, but many are also interested in knowing more about the person who created the art—and in this, you are the expert.
Not only that, but your brand as an artist exists somewhat separately in the minds of your audience from what they think about your art. Certainly, what they feel about your art influences how they perceive your brand, but they also remember their experience at your exhibits, the feel of your marketing and promotional messages, and what they’ve heard from others about you and your work.
You can’t create your brand entirely, but you can present a coherent professional image that will influence what sticks in people’s minds and what comes out of their mouths when they talk to other people about your work.
It won’t be easy! You’ll need your BEST communication skills. You’ll also need persistence and patience, because hearing a marketing message once is not enough for it to sink in. And if you want more than fifteen minutes if fame, you’ll have to engage all of your creative muscles to go the distance.
The following three “rules” of communication will get you a long ways towards that goal:
1. Be consistent
Consistent communication means that your marketing messages are coherent, reliable, and free of contradiction. Whether people meet you in person, read about you in print, or find your website on the internet, they should always recognize you and your art.
Consistency is visible in the structure of your communications, and can almost always be improved upon. For example:
• Create core messages or “talking points” and use “key words” about what you do, who you are and why collectors buy your art and art professionals represent it.
• Choose key topics for your promotional materials and content marketing, e.g. your media, methods, materials, teaching style.
• Make equivalent presentations, articles and posts in person, in print and online. Vary the words and style to suit the “channel” but mirror the content so that each member of your audience sees a similar message.
• Build an editorial calendar to align your writing, and choose a regular theme and timing for updates to your website, blog, and social media.
• Design a strong visual identity and use consistent names, word marks and logos for all communications.
2. Be clear
Clear communication is transparent, uncluttered and unambiguous. Make your intentions, words, and actions obvious, easy to understand and effortless to pass on to others.
Clarity is about your communication style, and may take some re-learning. For example:
• Be clear about your purpose for every communication. Do you want to inform, instruct, influence, or incite to action? Pick the best one for each situation, not all of the above.
• Write for your readers and listeners, not your English teacher. Built right in to Word software is a neat tool called the Flesch Kincaid Index that measures the active/ passive voice (you want active), readability and grade level of your writing. (You can read more about it in a post I wrote called The Editor in Your Computer.)
• Telegraph what you’re about to say, by starting with your main point. Then expand on the main point with definitions, examples, metaphors, numbers, graphics and images. At the end, summarize your message. In other words, “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; tell ’em; tell ’em what you told ’em.”
• Use images of your art, events and exhibits to illustrate what you write.
• Have a clear call to action and make it easy to follow your instructions. Include all relevant information, which means time, day, month, year; street number, unit number, city, state/province, zip/postal; e-mail, phone, website, and social media addresses.
3. Be clever
Clever communication makes messages creative, memorable and viral. Match your messaging with your unique signature style of art.
Cleverness can be found in HOW you write, and also by simply surprising or delighting your audience. For example:
• Avoid “art speak” and common art descriptions. If your artist statement sounds like every other artist statement, do something different!
• Clever doesn’t mean devious. Be open and vulnerable in ways that invites your audience to connect with you. That doesn’t mean that you have to reveal private details about your life but what you do say should be relevant and honest.
• Be clever about what, when, where and how you choose to communicate. Go for the white spaces and fill in what other artists don’t talk about.
• Make ingenious connections with people, places and activities. A ceramicist I know is collecting ash from a restaurant wood burning fire to use in his glazes and will exhibit the work in the entrance.
• Write about what you care about besides art and include ways for your audience to participate, e.g. crowdfunding for storm clean-up, charitable donations for youth art education, or marathons for health or the environment.
If you were the only artist in the world, your task would be much easier. Instead, you compete with not only thousands of other artists, but the preoccupations we all have like work, traffic, family, etc. That’s why it takes such focus and determination to communicate consistently, clearly, and cleverly.
You already know how to create art that only you can make. Now it’s time to turn your regular, ordinary marketing into something that stands out and grabs attention. You’ll enjoy it more, and so will your audience!
Follow the links below to read more articles in “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z: