5 Strategies to Get Media Attention for Your Art
Some artists want to make art for art's sake and don’t want or even need other people to see it. Abstract artist and mystic Hilma af Klimt didn’t want people looking at her visionary paintings until 20 years after her death, for instance. But for the rest of us, we want our art to be seen! We want people to come to our performances, to our gallery shows, to listen to our podcasts, to read our poetry.
It used to be harder for artists to get your work out to the public. You needed the support of a gallery, a museum, an institution, a benefactor. While artists do still rely on these formal avenues, you can also spread the word about your art independently. On the one hand, it’s a net good for the art world to make it easier for more artists to create and share their work. But on the other hand, it can be more challenging to break through the noise.
It can be frustrating to feel like you’re making great work, but that nobody is paying attention. At Fractured Atlas, we want as many people to make art as possible. Through tools like fiscal sponsorship, we help artists raise money and bring your work to life. But we also recognize the challenges of getting attention in a crowded field.
In reality, no matter how powerful your work is, the chance of a large audience just stumbling upon it in such a competitive market is slim. You are going to have to do some active media outreach to get the word out about your art. Here are some strategies to get that media attention for your work so that you can reach a bigger audience.
1. Find the Right Contacts
First, in order to start getting solid, meaningful media coverage, you’ll need to know who you should be contacting. Take the time with this first strategic step so that you are really targeting your outreach and your efforts.
Think about different media outlets
There are news outlets, both print and digital, that may cover your specific medium or that cover the issues that your art engages with.
Be sure to consider everything from local digital news outlets to alt-weeklies to the big print newspapers in your area to social media accounts. Don’t forget to brainstorm appropriate radio shows, podcasts, and social media accounts and influencers.
The same avenues that make it easy for artists to share work, make it easy for people who cover art to find an audience.
While you want to be expansive in your brainstorming process, you don’t want to waste time on outlets that do not reach your target audience. Think about the people who consume your type of art, and what other types of media they are likely to consume. Those are the places to reach out to.
Find the individual writers and critics
Once you have a list of media outlets, think about who the specific journalists or cultural commentators are at those outlets. Is there a left-of-the-dial radio station that has a show dedicated to local goings-on? Who writes the best art reviews at a specific newspaper? Who covers the beat that your work fits under? Pay attention to the bylines.
When you pitch, go after the specific writers who you think will be most interested in your work and best equipped to cover it.
Given the current state of media employment, you’ll also need to consider cultural critics and writers who aren’t tied to an institution or a publication, but freelance for a number of places.
Once you’ve identified some targets, most of them will let you know how to contact them. A physical or digital news outlet might provide an email address for pitches or to get your event listed. Writers might have their emails listed below their articles or on their websites and social media platforms.
Whichever directions a writer or a news outlet has provided, follow them if you want to stay on their good side! Sliding into a critic’s DM’s is generally a bad idea, unless they have specifically said to contact them that way.
2. Target Your Pitch
Most writers, critics, and journalists have very crowded inboxes full of pitches. It can be challenging to gain a writer’s attention with just an email subject line, and then quickly convince them that you and your work are a good fit for their beat and their audience.
Make sure that your email subject line contains both the relevant information you need them to know (for example, the date and location of an upcoming show) and enough information to pique their interest as briefly as possible.
Once you've gotten past the initial phase and a writer is actually reading your pitch, you need to make yourself stand out. Try to avoid sending a generic pitch to a big list of contacts, all BCC’d. Spend time crafting your message to the individual person you are addressing. Do this by demonstrating that you are familiar with their work, that you understand their interests, and that your art is a fit or their beat and their audience. Show the ways in which it is similar to previous works that they've covered, for example. Make the case that if they like that X artist deals with Y issues in Z medium, they will be interested in your work as well.
Pro Tip: You can save your message from becoming one of the ones that are quickly deleted by double-checking that person's name and pronouns. If you are writing to a critic named Julia, you don't want to start your message with, "Hey Julie!" Or even worse, "Hey guys!" Getting these details right is a quick way to show that you’ve done your homework and that you are thoughtfully engaging with specific writers or members of the media who you think are the best fit for your art.
3. Make It Easy for the Media to Cover Your Work
As their own audience gets spread across an ever-growing landscape of competition, media outlets and writers are increasingly strapped for time and resources. Writers need to produce more content on less money than generations past. The extent to which this is a bad and dangerous system that fails writers, readers, the arts, and anyone looking for quality information is a whole book on its own.
This means that a writer might not have a very luxurious amount of time to research and write their stories. By making it easy for them to find information about you, you make their jobs a little simpler and might make it more enticing for them to cover you.
We've already touched on one of the key ways to do this. By customizing your contact message to them with a detailed description of why your work fits their audience, you are already giving them an angle to use in their story. Whether or not they do is another story, but it can be a helpful start.
Provide links to your website or your social media platforms where they can find more information about you. This will help a writer contextualize your new work in relation to your previous work, to have a better sense of your vision and your aesthetic. Make it easy for them to find your bio and, if applicable, a headshot.
By making some simple information about your work easily available, you can help media cut down on the time they need to spend hunting down and confirming basic details.
4. Support Your Local Art Scene
Go to gallery shows, plays, performances, and everything else! Supporting your local art scene is a great way to show the kind of support for other artists that you want to find for yourself. It helps you keep your finger on the pulse of who is making what kind of work; it can keep you inspired and energized. Supporting your local scene also allows you to connect with other people in the art world.
Connecting with fellow artists can help you find a community to talk through the best way to get the word out about your art. They have been there before, and are likely dealing with the same challenges and opportunities that you are. While sometimes artists can be competing for the same limited resources, building collegial relationships ultimately helps everyone involved.
You also want to be in other artists’ mental Rolodexes for when they are getting media coverage. Artists and creatives are often asked in interviews whose work they’re excited about, who is inspiring them, or which upcoming events they will be attending. By meeting fellow artists, you stand a better chance that they might think of you when answering these questions.
Some of the people who you run into at art events will likely also be journalists and critics whose job it is to cover these events. While it’s not wise to pitch them then and there while they are either busy working on something else or just trying to enjoy themselves, it is wise to introduce yourself and start to build that relationship. That way, when you do have something you’d like them to cover, you are already more than just a name and an email address.
Community is powerful. You should take every opportunity to cultivate it so that you will be able to take full advantage of everything it has to offer.
5. Use Social Media to Connect
So many of us are using social media to get a sense of what’s new, interesting, cool, and provocative. Social media can tell us who is connected to who, and what events are coming up. In addition to all of your efforts to get covered by traditional media outlets, you should be using social media to promote your own events, and others’ to boost your presence.
On your own social media profiles, make sure that your bio includes a link to your website, your next event, or wherever else online you’d like people to find you. This means that for people who find you on social media will be able to easily follow where you want them to go with ease.
When you attend events, try to share them to your social media channels. Tag the artists, the venue, and attendees as it makes sense. This is both something you can do to help support your local scene, and also something you can do to boost your overall presence as someone who is plugged in and a member of your local creative community. Hopefully, you might get some re-posts.
If you have a robust social media presence, sharing your own work and others’ you’ll stand a better chance of a critic or journalist having already heard or seen your name floating around.
Finding the Time to Promote and Make Your Art
As an artist, you want to focus on your art. The time you are spending on promotion, pitching, and networking is time away from your studio and your collaborators. But, it’s a crucial part of life as an artist. You do need to reach out to the media in order to secure coverage for your work, but doing it in a targeted way will save you time and create a more positive impression with the people you are pitching.
The Fractured Atlas team is full of working artists who are dealing with these same issues of limited time and energy. We have curators, theater people, and ceramicists (that’s me!). So we understand how hard it can be to get attention for our work. And beyond that, how challenging it can be to find time to make art in the first place!
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.