Entry by: Catherine Judge
When I moved back to San Francisco from New York exactly one year ago in August 2009, I found myself thinking about public relations. I have always wanted to learn more about the trade and often read the Papa Lo Down blog for advice. I realized it was a natural transition from being an organizer; because, just like organizing, public relations deals with messaging, campaigning, coalition building and event planning.
So I emailed Paloma Belara and hoped with my transferable skills and under her savvy direction and tutelage, I would develop professionally in the public relations world.
Sure enough, my speculations were correct and I soon found myself in the middle of deadlines, action plans, timelines, and always keeping an eye open for relevant news.
My experiences have inspired me to write this entry and to share my advice with independent artists.
BUILDING YOUR NETWORK
I often hear about the anxiety people get from the dreaded but necessary “networking opportunities”. My approach is casual but still professional. You can meet a future business partner potentially anywhere, and great partnerships start with a simple conversation. Be open to meeting new people and getting to know them and their passions. Just because someone is a bank teller doesn’t mean they can’t make a dope addition to your artistic network.
So the first steps are to breathe and release that intimidation, be open, and don’t have assumptions that can close doors for you. You never know who or what someone knows. Assumptions will only close doors for you.
Get to the point! Be concise and keep in mind what you think might be interesting to others. Be proud of what you do but don’t ever lie. Yes, sometimes your “slight exaggerations” can count as a lie.
Once you make that new connection, don’t forget to follow up as quickly as possible so you’re still fresh in their mind. There are a ton of reasons why someone might not be able to reach out to you, so make sure that you don’t lose that connection!
If you don’t have time to send them a thought provoking eloquently worded email right away—don’t worry! You can always drop them a line to show you want to cultivate a working relationship with them and work on that email later.
Some people are more responsive on twitter than by email. See this article to see just how much artists can get from utilizing these sites: http://artbistro.monster.com/benefits/articles/10695-4-things-artists-can-get-out-of-being-on-twitter.
Some artists are notorious for courting friendships to exploit what they want and leaving once they get it. This is not the way to network and maintain relations. It will only make people resentful, and they will tell their circle about what you’ve done. Sometimes we don’t notice we do this.
So when you ask people for a favor, really think about when you’ve helped them, too. Always take into consideration people’s time, labor and effort. Even if they make a five-minute phone call to ask one of their friends to help you, they are still banking on their clout, reputation and trust that have taken them a long time to create.
Keeping it Alive
I have had artists complain to me that they have reached a plateau and feel stagnant with their art. Your network can help you with that! Collaborating with other artists you admire and exposing yourself to different genres of art is a great way to force you to get out of your comfort zone and create something new.
Further, always think outside the box and of ways to have members of your network participate in your next project. Those are lessons Papa Lo Down has taught me. Say you’re planning a community event and that you want your art to be featured. You know it will need a lot more than just your art to draw a crowd. Then you remember your relative owns a catering company, your friend is a dj, your coworker’s children are in a dance group, and your former classmate is an avid blogger who can help promote your event. Not only does this help your event and career, but it provides chances for your folks to shine too—reciprocal relationships! So don’t forget to think about your resources, figure out if the collaboration(s) blend with your theme, and make it work!
Lastly, ensuring you have a successful online presence is another way for people to stay in touch with what you’re doing even if you haven’t physically seen or talked with them recently. See this article on ideas to improve your online art presence:
Stay tuned for periodic blog posts on tools and advice as I share from my experiences.
ps. follow me on twitter! @mzjudge
(Photo taken by Reynaldo Cayetano Jr.)