Six tips for doing artistic outreach

As a creative, it’s imperative that you make sure the right people know about the work you’re doing.

A big part of that aspect is outreach; by email, social networks, word of mouth, or – god forbid – phone.

I often get emails from creatives who have made something that they hope I will either write about on Creative Something or provide guidance on. Anything from apps, short films, artwork, books, and books about artwork have come through my email inbox over the last five or so years.

While I take the time to at least peek at everything that creators send me, there are ways to get me interested faster than the generic “Hi, I made this, here’s what it is, will you write about it?”

If you really want to have people like me (or anybody, really) look into your work, you’ll have to do better than simply telling them why you think it’s worth their time to look at and, with any luck, share.

Here are a few tips I’d give to any creator who wants to reach out to me, or someone like me, for guidance and/or exposure of their work:

1. Start with a question that frames the value

If you’ve written a book about how to beat writer’s block, don’t start by telling me about how you’ve written a book. Instead, frame the value your book provides with a question.

Something like: “Have you ever had writer’s block so bad you couldn’t break it, no matter how hard you tried? Let me tell you about my new book that crushes that experience every time.”

Or, better yet, frame the value for the real intended audience (hint: not me).

For example, if you’ve made an app that other creators will absolutely love: tell me why. You could try saying: “Where are creatives supposed to go online to share their work? You already know about Dribbble, Tumblr, Behance, and others, but nowhere really lets creatives of all types collaborate and communicate. I’ve made an app that does that.”

That type of messaging is so much stronger than saying: “Here’s this thing I made, it’s an app that does cool stuff.”

It also provides the story for me, so if/when I do decide to write about what you’ve created, I already have a frame for my own audience. You’ve done have the work for me.

2. Keep your message straight to the point

If your email or message contains every little tidbit about what it is you’ve made (and the reason you made it, plus all of the work that’s gone into it, plus the existing accolades it’s received, etc.) your message ends up looking like a novel that I simply don’t have time to read.

Instead, keep things brief and to the point.

Explain the value of what it is you’ve created, include a link or example, and then end the message with something like: “If you’d like to learn more about this I’d love to send you the details.”

The shorter you can make the original email, the more likely you are to get a response. From me, at least.

3. Only send one message

If you’ve emailed me and tweeted at me and posted onto my Facebook page, and you still haven’t heard from me, chances are that I’ve either found what you sent to be not that interesting (sorry, it happens) or you’ve annoyed me to the point where I just don’t care.

Don’t be a spammer. We all get enough spam as it is these days.

If you’re afraid I’ve missed your message, wait at least a few days, weeks (or even months), and then try messaging me again.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to include in your original message something about: “If you’re not interested or don’t have time to look, could you please just let me know so?” It’s that easy.

4. Show that you’ve done your research

Not the work to create what it is you’ve created, but the work required to make what it is you’ve created relevant to me and/or my audience.

If you do a little digging around the Internet you’ll learn that I was once a graphic designer, that I’ve started a handful of businesses, that I’ve written a few short books, that I enjoy rock climbing and the occasional good movie. If you really dig you can learn what type of music and artwork I enjoy, who I connect with regularly, and what I’ll be doing this weekend.

If what you’ve made is linked to any of those things, and you blatantly call that out in your message (e.g. “I noticed you watched the Breaking Bad finale! As part of my last year in art school I made a poster to celebrate that I think you might like…”).

Again: we’re all busy these days, so capture my interests by showing me that you’ve at least read one of my latest blog posts or read up on my bio.

5. Make sure what you’ve made is actually good

This tidbit can be linked to the previous one. If you monitor what I share on Twitter or pin on Pinterest for a week, you’ll get a feel for the types of articles I like to read, what books I recommend, and what type of artwork captures my interest.

“Good” is a relative term, but knowing that I might think something you’ve made is excellent only increases your chances of me at least sharing it.

So get a feel for what I (or whoever it is you’re reaching out to) might consider to be good. If you think there’s a match, go ahead and send that email.

6. Give me something in return

If you want me to blog about your work, the least you could give in return is a simple “Thank you for your time!”

Something as simple as a thank you, or a discount off your app, or a free copy of your book, greatly (and I do mean greatly) increases the odds of me looking at it and possibly blogging about it (or sharing it elsewhere online).

In a way it’s a psychological response, when you give something to someone they naturally feel obligated to do something in return for you.

So give me something if you really want me to give you something.

That’s all I’ve got. Go get ‘em.