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

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!

Fall Brings Changes of All Sorts

The leaves have changed and are starting to fall.  Television commercials are starting to change from schooltime ads to holiday ads (I’m not quite ready for those lovely snowflakes streaming down my screen!).  And life has changed as we decided to move and buy a new house in September!  It has been a crazy fall as we made some minor fixes to our old house, found new tenants for our old house, searched for a new house, bought a new house and are now in the process of moving in to the new house!  All in about a month’s time!  Crazy, I know.  But all for the good and towards our long-term plan of downsizing, placing more value on the things that really should matter (family, food, wine and culture!) and really putting our money in to fewer, but higher quality things.

So, thanks for your patience and look for new blog updates on a regular schedule again soon!  Topics on the burner include:  Sheldrake Point Winery’s new Seneca Lake Tasting Room; New York Wine & Culinary Center; the National Arts Marketing Project Conference; and a new series of contributor blogs to Handmade in PA.

Shopping the PA Heritage Festival

This past weekend I helped out at the PA Heritage Festival in Troy, PA.  The event, in its 6th year, features a Heritage Village with demonstrations and activities based in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s and an Artisan Marketplace featuring more than 40 juried artisan vendors.

This year’s event included many return vendors like Barb Sargent of Glass Jewelry Shack, Mike Wysocki of Sassy Albert Soaps, Marie Bauman of Shades of Country and Ed Hammond of E.M. Hammond Glass Designs.  And it saw several new vendors like Amy Jackson of Blissful Fiber, Joan Davis – jewelry artist, and Bob Moss – carver.

Bob Moss, carverBob Moss has been carving for about 10 years.  He first got interested after attending a craft show with his mother. After seeing some scroll work by an artist at the show, Bob figured he could do that work, went home, bought the needed equipment and got to work.  Scroll work eventually turned in to work with the lathe which eventually turned into work carving.  He carves in antler, golfballs and cottonwood bark.  He uses the lathe to create fantastic pieces from antler, corian and wood.Santas by Bob Moss

And he’s a fast learner, not just at his artwork.  After just a few years of selling at shows, Bob has become a master at the retail shows from watching others and observing traffic flow.  He sets his booth up with purpose, and often shares his insights with others.  Find Bob on Facebook and on Etsy.

Navigating the Social Media Jungle

The world, it is a-changing…..and at a pace I find mind-boggling! The new reliance on social media and mobile technologies is forcing a lot of folks to re-evaluate their business practices – whether they like it or not.

I recently read a blog post “Dear Restaurant Owners – Having a Website is no longer OPTIONAL!,” and while it was targeted at restaurant owners, the same should be said to any small business. The days of avoiding a website are gone and every small business needs to have their presence on the web locked in.   It is now the first place people go to look for information.   I understand that you’re probably a one-person shop, and I’m not saying you need something fancy – but just to have your basic contact information, store hours if you have a physical storefront, a few photos, bio and artist statement are critical. That’s the base.

But there are so many other platforms out there – TwitterFacebookYelpFourSqaure, Blogs (I use WordPress for the NTCA web site and for my own blog) and now Google+to name a few.   How do you know which ones to use?  Not every social media option is for everyone, but you should definitely check out what each one offers and decide which will work best for you and your business.   My recommendations for a small, artisan business (as of today, because there will be something new tomorrow) include a minimum use of:

  • Website – of course.  As a promoter of the arts and someone who works with tourism groups, I cannot stress this enough.  A web site, even a basic one, is so key especially as more and more promotion is done through mobile apps that allow shoppers to find you while on the road.
  • Facebook: It is so simple (and free) to have a Page for your business. If you’re just starting out on Facebook – make sure you create a Page for your business, not a Profile (meant for individuals). It’s actually against Facebook’s rules to use a Profile for a business or organization and you risk having the Profile shut down. You can (and should) have a personal Profile plus a Page for your business. And once you get to 25 Likes, make sure you register your “vanity” URL or username.
  • Twitter: While it can take a little bit more to get into Twitter, it is a great source for sharing information and news. A good rule of thumb for using Twitter is: 70% of your tweets should be about sharing information, 20% should be spent “chatting” with those you follow and who follow you; and 10% is about self-promotion.

There are programs out there, like HootSuite and TweetDeck, that can help you manage multiple social media sites in one simple location. But be careful how you use them – the uses and accepted practices for Facebook and Twitter are different, so a message that works on Twitter might not work on Facebook..

Here are some examples of sites and folks to check out (you do not need to be a Twitter or Facebook user to see the sites):