Tell A Good Story: Sascha Freudenheim & Alina Sumajin on Public Relations
Ever wonder how artists get written about in the press? Often artists with representation—a gallery, or an agent—will leave public relations work in someone else’s hands. But artists in every stage of their careers can learn a thing or two about good PR strategies and take their press outreach into their own hands. Next week, our Professional Development Program is producing a brand new workshop in our New York City offices on public relations specifically for artists. We’re bringing in Sascha Freudenheim and Alina Sumajin from PAVE Communications and Consulting to lead PR For Working Artists: Strategies for Success on May 2nd. We spoke to Sascha and Alina about the difference between marketing and PR and how to get your press release to stand out from the inbox slush pile.
Ana Cecilia Alvarez: As a writer, I know that writers get overwhelmed with press releases, which often sit in their inboxes, unread. What strategies have you learned to craft releases that stand out amongst the crowd?
Sascha Freudenheim & Alina Sumajin: There are two elements to this: getting a press release read…and writing a readable press release. Sometimes the best press releases are the ones that are most direct and that have a lighter touch on messaging. It is easy to fall into the trap of over-selling a project, exhibition, or a work of art, but most people who need to read a press release don’t want to have to work to decode your meaning. Getting to the heart of the story is essential. This may mean inverting the seemingly natural flow of narrative. Don’t start at the beginning and end with the news. Always start with why someone should engage, and back up into the fuller detail.
Ana Cecilia: Good PR entails good storytelling. How can artists approach writing about their work with an eye towards putting it into a narrative?
Sascha & Alina: Often the best approach is to focus on process, rather than theory. Process is yours: you make your art your way, and so your process is something you can (hopefully!) talk or write about in a way that is accessible and draws people into your work. Except in some limited circumstances, theoretical discussions–how your work connects to a particular philosophical strain of art history, or social practice art, etc.–don’t really help with building an engaging narrative, at least in a press release. You should approach your press release with the understanding that the person reading may have a limited framework for understanding your work, so write as though you’re describing the project to a friend who works in different field.
Ana Cecilia: For those of us who don’t know: what is the difference between marketing and public relations?
Sascha & Alina: You’re asking the right question! And different people use these terms differently. For us the clearest distinction is in the outcomes. Marketing results in paid, designed content, like an advertisement or a banner. Public relations results in editorial content, like a news story or an art critic’s review. In the former you get to shape the content in full and you control its placement. In the latter, you are getting a third party perspective, and, hopefully, endorsement, and it will be placed where an editor or writer thinks is best.
Ana Cecilia: What do you hope artists will learn in your workshop?
Sascha & Alina: We hope that artists will come away feeling better educated and empowered on two fronts. The first is being more confident in promoting their own work through public relations, which can be especially important for artists who do not have galleries or major dealers or collectors supporting them. The second is that we hope artists will feel knowledgeable about the process in a way that helps them work more effectively with their collaborators—galleries, museums, community art shows—to promote their work or projects.
Want to learn more about how to work with the media to promote your work? Don’t miss our New York City workshop on PR For Working Artists, this Monday, May 2nd, from 6:15-9:15 P.M.