This article is an opinion piece that seeks to breakdown some of the fundamental practical Public Relations, information and communication aspects that creatives / artists need to know to enhance their work. It is directed to the Zimbabwean creatives but may also apply elsewhere around the world.
By Plot Mhako
1. For the record the word Artist does not only mean a musician. The term loosely refers to any creative or practitioner working in the creative and cultural industries.
2. Always gather creative INTELLIGENCE: Every creative should have the hunger, thirst and zeal to know and get important information that relates to their art, the industry, policies, laws, developments, innovation. This also includes information about what other creative players are working on, producing and the dynamics in the local and global creative world. Dont wait to be spoon-fed. No one thinks of you more than you do yourself and your art so dont feel too much entitled.
With more consciousness, knowledge about yourself, your surroundings, your history and the world, your art and content will be equally rich and reach far.
4. Social media ENGAGEMENT: this is a must or you go extinct. Every artist needs to be on multiple social media platforms & constantly engage or at least be active. This is the new space for networking, collaborations, promotion, marketing and making sales. You dont have to be tech savvy but have a general interest and knowledge on how this space operates and how you can leverage for value.
CLAP-BACKS are a no. Use creative ways to disagree and engage differently with your fans and followers! Don’t go too long without engaging with your fans. Don’t get too routine and monotonous but at the same time do not over indulge.
5. Who do you FOLLOW? Who do you follow and which platforms did you like and subscribe to ? I hear some artists saying when they don’t follow a lot of people or pages then they appear more IMPORTANT and special. This is done by big artists in the developed world because they have functional PR & Marketing agencies who follow and are plugged to every key player and source of information they need.
Every artist needs to follow pages from the key stakeholders in the industry and in Zimbabwe these are your National arts Council, Ministry of arts, Main newspapers, key blogs, some personalities, music or arts critics etc. Get notifications, subscribe to the news platforms and stay informed or your management.
6. Read the NEWS: Make it a habit to read the news at least once a week. Not only viral news but anything that informs your work and empowers your mind.
7. Read BOOKS: This is very critical. As an artist always read and read. Your mind needs renewal and reading continuously empowers your mind and creative process. Read about your artistic field, innovations, politics, BUSINESS and entrepreneurship .
8. WhatsApp : This is the most widely used form of digital communication in Zimbabwe. WhatsApp groups are good for quick information dissemination and engagement but can be potentially toxic too. For musicians, send links and not music files. That way you are able to monazite and track your reach.
9. SHARING is caring: Share important information that you get unless if its of strategic and competitive advantage. A more enlightened arts community will also mean a better working environment for you.
10. Have a VOICE : Never trivialise important issues that relate to your art or the industry. Never be scared to speak out and be heard. Your voice is part of your artistic expression. If the industry benefits you all benefit.
11. Don’t follow the BAND wagon approach: Take time to understand and have an independent but well informed view before engaging on a subject or else you fall for anything, lose yourself in the crowd and embarrass yourself.
12. Engage the MEDIA: Always tell your own story, make an initiative, reach out and do not wait to be approached always no matter how big your brand is. You can easily become the hunted and the subject. A pro-active approach always wins and helps you shape your own narrative. But remember don’t be boring, come up with interesting angles and pitches for the media and not the usual story “come dropping something, I have an event, what what” be creative. Come up with cool stunts but be real to your art and reality as much as you can. Never feel too important for the media.
13. Set up Google ALERTS: Get notified each time you are mentioned or there is an article on you online. Collect all press material (Hard and soft copies), you need them for your CV and for musicians this is what adds value to your booking profile.
14. Get a PR person, agency or knowledgeable friend to help with communication.
15.Have an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) _ This is your artistic CV.
16. A WEBSITE is necessary. Its very cheap to have one and even easy to create one. If you struggle, enrol in the YOUTUBE school of knowledge and LEARN. Its free, you only need data connection.
17. MONETIZE : With or without the current lockdown, it is important for every artist to understand how digital platforms work and how you can leverage on that information, knowledge and the digital systems to generate revenue, grow markets, network and collaborate. If you ignore this area and leave everything in the hands of third parties you may lose out BIG! The money is where technology and information is.
Remember, rant less, learn more, create more, engage, innovate and keep growing!
Until next time, remember INFORMATION is key! The plot thickens.
Written by Plot Mhako, a content creator, journalist and cultural practitioner with an interest in the arts and new media.