Illustration of man sitting in garbage can near a pile of garbage


Your PR is just spam.

A look at why both artists and institutions should be blending their PR models with more thoughtful and enriching content.

by J. Scott Stratton

I will say it again. Your PR statement is the bane of my inbox. I know you don’t mean it, but all that work that you’re putting into promoting your work or event is often just like white noise. Forgettable at best, annoying at worst.

If you’ve ever been on the ass-end of a PR contact list, you’ll know what I am talking about. Getting tens or hundreds of emails a week from various publicists, agencies, galleries, theatres, etc., arguably does very little for the artist that is being promoted. Their painstaking work becomes nothing more than annoying spam. And that is only newsletter PR.

When you take a closer look at how PR is managed amongst and for artists, you often see a heavy reliance on either outdated models or lack of strategy. So why is it, when there are more effective, sustainable and personalised options, which require less boosting or ad spend, do I still find myself inundated with bad PR?

Just throw money at it?

This is the model I see quite a lot with larger institutions and possibly a few of the more established artists that can afford to hire a PR firm to run their hustle and bustle. Just throw money into boosting posts and events on Facebook and Instagram just a few weeks leading up to premier or concert. Do some impersonal newsletter spam. Spray the city with posters. Pay for some Youtube prerolls. So on and so forth.

The thing is, at face value, all of these methods can be highly effective in promoting an artist or an institution, but none of them do anything to illuminate or provide more knowledge about those artists or institutions. In addition, they often do nothing to promote sustainable growth in that artist’s fandom or audience engagement.

A typical PR process might go something like this:

  • leading up to an event the PR cycle starts
  • PR material is distributed via selected channels (owned and paid)
  • Throw money at that distribution to get more awareness and engagement
  • Rinse and Repeat

If you think of this visually, you can imagine it like a series of peaks that fluctuate in size, but always dip down near to baseline.

Still life image of the bookHAUT-Artistic-Development
A typical PR campaign will lead to some significant peaks in audience attention and engagement. Still, without more in-depth or informative content to follow it, the attention will always fall back down to baseline. Artists are always better served when their own personal audience is growing.

Is the problem is the content itself?

Yes, and no. As a way of distributing content, I believe the process mention above does work fairly well for artists or artistic institutions, even if you relegated it to organic and non-paid distribution. However, I have a couple of additional caveats.

In the article PR and Content Marketing: The Inevitable Marriage, Neil Patel explains how PR should be looked at as how to get a ‘big splash.’ Which it usually is. The question you then need to ask yourself is where that “splash” is coming from. Ideally you want that ‘big splash’ to come from a deep pool of informative or storytelling content. This will ensure that the audience has something to swim around long after the ‘big splash.’

(…and yes, I realise I am mixing metaphors with “peaks” and “splashes.” But, just meet me halfway and think volcanos…cool? let’s continue…)

In my experience, a lot of the standard art and music industry PR that I have experienced does nothing to inform or show the depth of the artist’s intent. Instead, it’s more of a ‘big splash in a shallow pond,’ where the artist is shown to have no depth, and experience is peddled like snake oil.

So what if PR was constant?

What would it look like if we altered the standard PR tactics that artists and institutions use? What if instead, artistic PR was a steady stream of informative and storytelling content that served to provide deeper insights into artistic processes, methodologies, research, or inspirations. What if and audience could walk into a premier or concert with a deeper understanding of that artist’s work than what is traditionally provided in a PR statement, newsletter or event program? What would that look like?

Still life image of the bookHAUT-Artistic-Development
Understanding that I am mixing metaphors with “peaks” and “splashes,” I trust that you are smart enough to see that having a deep pool of rich, informative content, ensures that the drops after a PR campaign are still higher than before the campaign. In other words, more awareness, more engagement, or more followers than before.

For an artist, this could be producing a steady stream of video or articles describing their research and inspirations, which could be fit into the PR process to look something like this:

  • Regular intervals of informative or storytelling content during artistic development
    leading up to an event or premier the PR cycle starts
  • PR material is distributed via selected channels (owned and paid) – linking and referencing to the more informative or storytelling content (giving the audience an opportunity to dive deeper into the artist’s world)
  • If possible, throw money at it to get more awareness and engagement
  • Follow up informative or storytelling content about the event experience
  • Rinse and Repeat

For a gallery or a theatre, the process is slightly different, as it requires the institution to either actively create informative or storytelling content about the artists they are working with or providing those tools to their artists. Regardless, it could look something like this:

  • Regular intervals of informative or interview-driven content with artists during the development of the work
  • leading up to an event, premier the PR cycle starts….
  • (the remaining steps are the same as above)

My takeaway

Of course, this is a really stripped-down description of how PR and content marketing should be fused to create a better audience experience and understanding of an artist’s work. At a basic level, PR can be made exponentially better by just creating more rich content around an artist’s thoughts and development.

From there, you can add on link building, SEO optimisation, forms and audience segmentation, and a host of other tactics to make this process even more powerful. The sky’s the limit.


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