Advocacy & marketing go hand-in-hand

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on HandmadeinPA.org)

On Monday, April 30th, three of us from the office headed to Harrisburg for Citizens for the Arts in PA’s first Arts & Culture Legislative Visits Day.   It seems we end up in Harrisburg at least once a year to do visits and while it is not the favorite part of my job, it is a necessity.

We had appointments with four legislators and/or their staff, and so we headed around the capitol building armed with our fact sheet from Citizens for the Arts and our own information piece.  Our first stop was Senator Scarnati’s office.  While we were not able to meet with the Senator himself, we did spend 20-25 minutes chatting with members of his staff.

Just prior to leaving the office, we asked the staff what they appreciate seeing from us and how we could be best prepared for these periodic visits.  Facts and figures summarized on one sheet was the number one answer, as expected, but the second item suggested was something creative that talks about who we are (we handed out a small, colorful booklet created by one of our staff).  Legislative staff, especially in the capitol offices, are often approached by many organizations who they just don’t work with on a daily basis and who they’re not familiar with.  And the best part of the visit – as we were leaving, a staffer (a male staffer) commented on the “artisan jewelry” I was wearing.  The necklace was made by Paul & Cathy Stalker of Tioga, PA – a town within the Senator’s district.

This scenario repeated itself throughout the day and ended up being a great advertisement for not only Paul & Cathy, but also small artisan shops in general and thePA Artisan Trails (Paul & Cathy are members of the PA Wilds Artisan Initiative).

It was also great to see tables set up by the PA Artisan Trails Initiative, the PA Guild of Craftsmen and several Guild members.  All reinforcing the information we had shared with legislative staff, particularly comments on economic development and partnerships with tourism and museum folks.

A day of advocacy also became a day of marketing.

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Don’t forget the personal touch

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

So much of what we focus on in communications and marketing these days is focused on social media – what to do, what not to do, statistics, and infographics.  But don’t forget the most powerful tools out there – face-to-face conversations and word-of-mouth.

Over the past two months, my colleague and I have been going out to visit with various community groups to test our version of what we think our community knows we do and what our community actually thinks we do.  And while most of the time what we think the public knows about us is, in fact, true, there have been a couple incidences where people did not know information that we felt was common knowledge.  Not a good thing when trying to develop support.

No matter how many press releases we put out; no matter how matter articles (with pictures) our local newspaper carried; no matter how much posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter; no matter how many e-Newsletters or e-Postcards.  The information was either not getting to them or not sinking in.  But since starting the face-to-face meetings, the interest and response has been exciting.  People have come to us, rather than us going to them.

So, no matter how much I love technology and know the power of using social media and other electronic forms of communication, I will always bow to the effectiveness of a face-to-face talk and the power of word-of-mouth.  The point to my ramblings…don’t forget to get out of your studio every once in a while.

Retreating to the PA Wilds

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

This week my work schedule includes a multi-day meeting at the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park, so as I retreat to the PA Wilds, I’m also retreating from the topic of marketing/social media to share the wonders of the Inn with you.

The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park (Howard, PA) opened its doors in September 2010.  The Inn is the first State Park-owned full-service lodging facility located in aPennsylvania State Park.  The Inn was built with nature in mind and features “green” amenities and an ecological design featuring: reduced stormwater runoff; habitat restoration; native, water-efficient landscaping; a 2,800-gallon rainwater harvesting system; and lots more Park-friendly designs.

But perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the Inn, other than the fabulous views of Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, is the use of local artists’ work throughout the interior.  From the main lobby which features a glass mosaic by Dave Haring of Cat’s Eye Stained Glass to the bird prints by Ned Smith (20th century Pennsylvania artist and naturalist) found in each room throughout the Inn, the Inn offers a true local flavor not found in most lodging facilities.  The butternut wooden fireplace mantel in the common room was handmade by Briar Hill Rustic Furniture along with oak frames by Elkwood Arts and two large wooden chainsaw-carved sculptures by Appalachian Arts.  The inclusion of these items was a big step for the State Park system – and for that they get a big two thumbs up!

Mantel by Briar Hill Rustic Furniture

Glass mosaic by Cat's Eye Stained Glass

So, on these warm March days as you start daydreaming about summer vacations, be sure to include our own Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park!

Chainsaw carving by Appalachian Arts

Timeline: It is coming

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

In the ever-changing world of Facebook, another significant change is coming very soon for business pages – Timeline.  A new page format already in use on personal profiles will soon be implemented for Facebook business pages (February 29th to be exact).  Not sure what Timeline is?  Check out my profile: Jennifer Swain Carlson

This change represents a great opportunity for businesses, but in particular, arts-based businesses.  The new format relies heavily on the visual and gives artists a great opportunity to really highlight their work.  The new format also allows users to post things along the “Timeline” of their life or work.

In my work with the Bradford County Regional Arts Council, I’m already starting to think how I can use that for the organization’s advantage.  It seems that it will fit perfectly with our upcoming 100th and 125th anniversary celebrations for our historic theatres.  Rather than posting photos of the theatres in one large album, I can place them along the Timeline to show an accurate history and progression for each building.  The possibilities for telling the story of each building, and the organization overall, are exciting.  In a sense, it becomes an online scrapbook.

For an artist, think of how you can show the progression of your work over the years.  By placing images of your work along the Timeline, your page visitors can get a sense of how your work has evolved and even events that had an impact on your work.  Still not sure?  Check out this Mashable post with projections of what the new Timeline could look like for some of the major brands.   Still not ready?  Have no fear.  It is anticipated the roll-out to the new format for Pages will be a gradual process, as it has been for Profiles.  If you haven’t yet switched to the new Timeline for your Profile, take the jump and start getting used to how it works.  And start reading up on the new format.  This post from Inkling Media has some great tips.

Organizing Your Facebook Life

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

Feel like you’re spending your life tracking down fellow artists or favorite sites onFacebook?  Create Lists – a practice I already use in Twitter (where it’s called “Searches”) to get a quick overview of the chatter on specific topics or by specific groups. The idea, and knowledge, to do this on Facebook came to me today in a Social Media Examiner post shared by fellow communications pro, Carol FingarSocial Media Examiner is a great site to follow for social media tidbits.

Creating Lists on Facebook is a good way to group Pages or Friends so you can take a quick look at their status updates without scrolling through your main news feed. It also helps ensure that you will see the post, since your main news feed uses Facebook’s mysterious algorithm to populate your news feed.

If you’re like me and have clients or customers related to a specific region or topic, you can sort those folks out as well. To keep my sources for generating stories related to the PA Wilds together, I created a list to include the following folks:

• Olga Gallery, Café & Bistro
• Yorkholo Brewing Company
• Revitalize Mansfield
• Curt Weinhold Photography
• Pennsylvania Wilds Artisan Trails
• Flemish House Art Gallery
• ECCOTA

And if you have Friends and Pages that you want on one list – you can do that too! Just create the list from Friends and then add Pages, or vice versa. There is also an option in the top right of the list page to add individual Friends or Pages, rather than choosing from a list. Also in the top right corner of the List page, you can manage your list by adding/removing friends/pages, deleting the list, renaming the list, and even choosing which types of status updates are shown on the list.

And don’t worry, you’ll still have your normal news feed!

Developing a Content Calendar

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

It’s a new year and time to start thinking about where you want to go with your business over the next twelve months.  One tool to help pull things in to focus is a Content Calendar (Let’s refresh with the Wikipedia definition of Content Marketing: “all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases.”)

Content calendars help you navigate the year ahead with not only marketing, but also general scheduling.  There are lots of ways to develop your Content Calendar – the key is to use something that is easily edited.  I use Excel.

To get started, pull out a 2012 calendar and start entering your shows and exhibits and any ideas of content related to those events that you could share. And leave space so that its easy to add more ideas – this is not a one-and-done exercise.   For example, if you’re attending the Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair in Philadelphia in May, what are topics you could use?  The show is around Mother’s Day – what products do you have that would be great for Mom?  Share your favorite gift received, if you’re a mom, or the gift your mom loved most.  The show is in Philly – what are some hot spots that you would recommend?  Favorite gallery, restaurant or theater?  What else is happening in the Philly area that weekend that you love or would recommend?  Remember, this isn’t so much about promoting you/your work but rather sharing information.  But do remember to invite people to stop by your booth during the show (and give them the Booth # when you know it).

Next figure out where and how you can use that information.  I set up my calendar with events/topics down the left column, methods across the top.  For each event/topic, I have a column for: Print Ads, Press Releases, TV Ads, Email Blasts, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Then enter the date you need to complete the task or want the information shared and the angle that you’re going to use.  And don’t feel that you have to use each method for every event/topic.

Developing a Content Calendar is also helpful in making sure you don’t overbook yourself or book things too closely together. Adding holidays to the calendar will help you see dates that could affect your normal tasks, like sending out a press release in time to meet print deadlines.

There are lots of resources out there.  This post, “How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing” by Michele Linn, was helpful to me.

Are You Content Marketing?

Do you tweet?  Do you Facebook?  What’s your online marketing strategy?  Do you use content marketing?  Is your head swimming just from trying to figure them all out??  Let me see if I can help with one that’s all a-buzz on the internet – content marketing.

Content Marketing, according to Wikipedia, is “all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases.”  Uh-huh, so how does that differ from just marketing?

Content marketing is about sharing your story, not telling everyone how wonderful you are or your work is or where to buy your work.   Content marketing helps build customer loyalty and brand recognition.  Its really not usually about you at all, but rather about your industry, community or even just general information.

Here are some content marketing snippets and examples from some of my favorite folks:

– From Stephanie Distler’s Blog“I am participating in Small Business Saturday TOMORROW! :)”  The post goes on to talk about Small Business Saturday with a short closing with Steph’s hours.  It was all about Small Business Saturday, but I know now (even if I didn’t already know her) that Steph is someone who cares about and supports Small Businesses – whether it be hers or others.

– From the Facebook page of the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance “The Yorkholo Brewing Co. (19 N. Main St) in Mansfield will be holding its first annual Beer dinner, 7 courses of all local produce and meats paired with their artisan beer and ales… The food served here by the Head Chef Mitch Gruber is extraordinary, he has great vision and skill & you won’t be disappointed. (The Chef and Owners have embraced the idea of BFBL to the degree of using all local ingredients in their dinner and lunch daily menu.)”  Nothing to do with the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance, other than a short reference to the BFBL program which they administer in the Northern Tier.  Fully supportive of another local business, building a sense of community and sharing.

– From the web site of Milk Way Farms: A photo’s worth a thousand words!  Sharing photos (with captions) of not just products, but also the animals and people on the farm gives a glimpse into the personality of the family and of farm life.

– From a tweet by the Everhart Museum in Scranton (always fun and slightly off-the-wall, but always relevant):  Need more Xmas gifts? Those cheeky monkeys @MuseumofLondon have a plague rat handpuppet for salehttp://bit.ly/rXcWRy #fleasgiveratsabadname  Passing along and sharing industry news (museums in this case) is a great way to build not just your organization’s buzz but also interest in the industry in general.

Still not sure?  Just do a search for “content marketing” and start browsing through the pages of definitions, templates and examples!