15 April 2012

how to create media packs {for artists}

I’ve been incredibly lucky with the media coverage I have received from my last three solo exhibitions with having articles in the local newspapers, a profile in Art Almanac, being on the cover of Trouble, getting a double page spread in Frankie, and being featured in the Talking Points section of Harper’s Bazaar Australia (you can see these on my press page here). 

It still feels surreal that I have achieved all those things with the media packs I have put together (I’m still convinced it was just my copy of the magazines).  A few people have asked what I put in my media packs so I thought I’d write a post on it!  I’ve gotten hints from various people over the years so here is what I’ve learnt and what my media packs contain...

The good thing about media lists is that it doesn’t cost you anything to research who the arts writers are for the publications.  There are a few not so good things unfortunately; a lot of publications don’t publish their contact details on the web to avoid spam so you will need to borrow or buy some magazines and newspapers, media lists take a nice chunk of your time to put together, plus the media industry seems to have a high turnover so you’ll have to start pretty much from scratch each time you’re exhibiting – unless you’re exhibiting very regularly.  Turns out that subheading was a bit misleading… Sorry.

I have an excel spreadsheet for my media list where I record the following;
  • ·      Publication name
  • ·      Contact name
  • ·      Address
  • ·      Phone number
  • ·      Email
  • ·      Website
  • ·      Submission deadline – published bi-monthly etc
  • ·      Submission requirements if applicable
I also keep track of;
  • ·      Date media pack sent
  • ·      How I sent it – snail mail or email
  • ·      Date followed up with phone call or email
  • ·      Response – positive or negative
  • ·      Date thank you card sent
    • o   If I’ve been published I send a thank you card.  It’s another small thing you can do to be remembered, it’s another opportunity to share your work by using cards with your image printed on it, plus it’s the polite thing to do.

When creating your media list make sure you…

The secret to create effective media packs is DOING YOUR RESEARCH.  I can’t stress this enough.  Don’t bother using the old ‘spray and pray’ method where you send packs to everyone and just hope that somebody might notice your submission.  Research publications to find the ones that relate to your work whether it’s the theme, what materials you use, where the work was created etc.   (ps. this applies to exhibition proposals and competitions too!  Don’t spray and pray.  Do your research to make sure your work fits in with the theme/other artists/judges.  In saying that, don’t alter your artistic vision to work in with what you THINK people are looking for.  Be honest.  Be yourself.)

For me, The Family Mould invited the audience to reflect on their family albums and some were interested in the fact I was an artist and a new mother.  Dance, Sucker. was photographed over three years at the Substation, I exhibited the work at the Substation plus the ideas behind the series began as a tongue-in-cheek look at the art world.  a shoebox full of dresses was an accidental series where I just wanted to document the history of these dolls dresses that had been passed down the generations and it really took on a life of it’s own, I think people found the imagery accessible and could easily reflect on their own childhood memories.  So you see it could be the history, the humour or the location of the work.  If there’s an element to your body of work that the audience can easily access and relate to then I think that’s a great advantage.  You need something different about your media release that’s going to get their attention.  Which takes me onto the next point….

I’d hate to think how much mail lands on the desks of arts writers so it’s extremely important to STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD.  Whether it’s because there’s an interesting element to the work (like we just talked about) or you do something extra for the presentation of the media pack.  The a shoebox full of dresses works are delicate so I tied the media packs in white bows plus the exhibition opening doubled as a book launch.  To get people in the mood for reading the Dance, Sucker. media packs I put  step-by-step instructions on the front cover to listen to Rage Against The Machine’s Renegade of Funk, read the pack, look at the images, call me for a chat, come to the show.  They’re just simple little things that can help you stand out, you are creative so be creative!

To put it bluntly, media packs need to do the work for the media.  If you’ve got images ready to go, text that can be easily grabbed or edited from the media release, and a great one liner summarizing the project then it gives you a better chance of being published.  My media packs contain the following:

Hard copies of;
  • ·      Cover letter
    • o   Keep it BRIEF and to the point
    • o   Address it to a person
    • o   Introduce yourself if you haven’t met before or remind them you’re a friend of Miss RaRa
    • o   Advise what the pack contains
    • o   Explain what the work is about
    • o   Include your contact details
    • o   If you’re exhibiting in the same city as them perhaps invite them to a preview of the work so you can speak in person
    • o   Confirm there’s a SSAE enclosed if there’s anything they want to return to you
  • ·      Media release
    • o   Include the exhibition title, dates, what the work is about, what medium is used, gallery details, and your details for media enquiries.  
  • ·      Title list
    • o   For each example of your work list the title, edition number if applicable, medium, year created, size in centimetres
  • ·      One page artist CV
  • ·      Exhibition invite
  • ·      Business card
  • ·      Postcard
    • o   Why not submit your work to Avant Card Supports Artists and you may get your work printed and distributed around Australia for FREE.  Plus they send you some copies of your own for FREE.  I’ve been super duper lucky to have my work printed three times over the past six years.  Have I mentioned how great Avant Card is for doing this for FREE??
NB: Exhibition invites, business cards and postcards are all great opportunities to show off your work

Sent with a disc containing;
  • ·      media release, title list and CV saved in Word and PDF formats
  • ·      examples of your work saved in LoRes and HiRes folders
    • o   LoRes = 600 pixels wide @ 72 dpi
    • o   HiRes = 6” wide @ 300 dpi saved as CMYK ready for print
    • o   Save your files as name_title.jpg eg. NelsonIlona_MrsCollier.jpg
    • o   If it applies, make sure you have works that are landscape and portrait so whatever the layout you will have an image that can be used
Presented in a cardboard.. presentation folder
  • ·      Stationary costs add up so include a stamped self-addressed envelope then if the media returns anything you can reuse the folders, CD covers etc
  • ·      CD/DVDs can be recycled (they need to be dropped in specialist bins) but make sure you scratch/break/shred them as some artists have had their work stolen

Don’t forget to label EVERYTHING
We have to make it easy for the media to access our information, they’re busy with deadlines and haven’t got time to work out who those blank discs belong to.  Make sure everything in your pack has your contact details on it so if they need to ask you anything it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy.
  • ·      Make sure your name, email, website and phone number is listed on the cover letter, media release, title list and CV
  • ·      Save your files with your name first then the image title/name of document
  • ·      Write your name, email and phone number on the disc

Keeping with the theme of making it easy for the media, create an online media pack as well with all of the above information.  Include the web link on the media release as it’s used for hard copy media packs and emails.  You can view my Dance, Sucker. media page here (click to enlarge);

Ps. Another good idea is to have a small bio pic for the media to download and use.

This is a very rough timeline of when to send all your packs, it really depends on when the deadlines are for the publications you want to be featured in.  I don’t post hard copies to everyone on my list as it’s way too expensive, I just pick out a few that relate to my current body of work and send emails to the rest.

At least 6 months prior to exhibition
  • ·      Have exhibition works completed
  • ·      Update media list with current details
  • ·      Write media release
  • ·      Resize images of your work to LoRes and HiRes specifications
  • ·      Write title list
  • ·      Create online media page

6 months
  • ·      Post and email media packs to glossy magazines

3 months
  • ·      Post and email media packs to magazines with shorter turn around times

1 month
  • ·      Post media packs to newspapers
  • ·      Post exhibition invites to your mailing list

2 weeks
  • ·      Email media packs to newspapers 

The media doesn’t want emails with large attachments as it’ll clog up their inbox plus it’d probably go to the spam folder anyway.  Sending emails doesn’t cost anything but it does take a looooooong time.  If anyone knows how to bulk send with images let me know!  I did try using mailchimp for emailing media releases once but it is not effective, most work addresses reject mailchimp’s formatted emails because of the images being embedded in the message.  Anyhoo here’s what I include in my emails;
  • ·      I send my emails to a person
  • ·      Address is to them personally
  • ·      The body of the email says something like; 
    • I hope this finds you well…. Please find the following media release regarding my exhibition….  You can view images and download the media release at illyphotography.com/media…. Please don’t hesitate to contact me on # with any queries… Warm regards…
  • ·      Paste the media release below your message
  • ·      Attach two LoRes images – one landscape, one portrait

  • ·      Be super organised
  • ·      Do the work for them
  • ·      Make your info and images easy to access
  • ·      Be creative
  • ·      Be polite
  • ·      Be yourself
Being published isn’t the way to international fame and sell out shows I’m afraid (well, not that I’ve found).  It’s easy to get distracted by trying to get media attention, win that art prize, get a meeting with that art gallery...  I try to focus on doing the best work I can, to keep moving forward and working towards the goals I have set for myself.  You can’t force things to happen but you can create opportunities, who knows what all the little stepping stones you’re working on will lead to??  Exciting times I’m sure.

Remember, this is just an explanation of how I’ve learnt to put my media packs together.  If you have any tips or have found things that work for you I’d love to hear them!  So good luck!  And make sure you let me know how you go x

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