You are currently viewing Talking Shop with Ellie Hayworth: Exploring the Fundamentals of Art PR

Talking Shop with Ellie Hayworth: Exploring the Fundamentals of Art PR

Your one-stop-shop for insights into the world of art PR + communications.

 

Interpersonal communication is something I’ve been deeply passionate about throughout my life and is perhaps one of the most fundamental reasons that I pursued contemporary art as a profession.  For me, art and its key players exercise an intrinsic impulse to connect, explore, and create.  This is achieved through various vehicles — in the form of language, art, conceptualism, philosophy, and aesthetics — none of which exist in a vacuum and all of which ultimately reflect an inherent curiosity and desire to engage with the world around us.  I’ve been fortunate to have had the experience of working with some of the art world’s foremost galleries, artists, museums, non-profits, art fairs, and project spaces to understand their projects, their art, and their goals, and to communicate their initiatives to the constituencies who matter to them most.  For me, connecting dots in the name of art — whether it be through earned media, exhibitions, experiential events, or through programs such as panels and forums — is an invaluable social and civic need and one that emanates from a desire to connect.

 

I recently undertook my most exciting endeavor yet: launching Hayworth, an independent PR + communications consultancy firm committed to promoting intrepid ideas in the arts. The experience catalyzed a period of strategic introspection — a turning of the tables — wherein I’ve assumed the role of both consultant and client, engaged in the process of applying my professional counsel to my own communications and development strategy.  This highly personal experience has yielded several insights I feel to be important as a kick-off to this exciting series.

 

In my experience, a strong PR + communications strategy — within the arts and beyond — follows three principles:

 

Artwork // Sterling Ruby

 

1. Hone your mission.

This is the crux of a successful communications campaign and overall business plan, regardless of your role as artist, gallery, museum, non-profit, institution, vendor, or advisor.  Your mission articulates the guiding principles underpinning your projects, and provides a crucial, distinguishing “so what” for you in an otherwise noisy market landscape.  I am an ardent believer that all art world professionals and thought-leaders benefit from the critical analysis and close listening afforded to the exercise of developing a mission statement. I encourage my clients to consider: What is it that you do fundamentally? What is it that you hope to achieve? What is most important to you? What audience or community are you hoping to serve? How do you define success? How might this be communicated in the form of a succinct, pithy mission statement?  Thus, the identification of an authentic mission statement provides a springboard for the development of key messages that can be applied both internally to align company culture and drive growth and externally to build and nurture your constituencies. The statement itself should be cohesive, malleable, progressive, authentic, and succinct.

 

Further — from a strictly PR perspective — your mission statement will inspire you to speak thoughtfully and strategically to the press and the public alike regarding the projects you undertake and the motivations behind your initiatives.  This concerted, mission-driven approach ultimately influences audiences to support you in the pursuit of your goals.

 

Photo // Frieze New York 2018. Mark Blower

 

2.Visualize your brand.

The contemporary art world is rightfully averse to the ascription of commercial terminology and it may, therefore, prove counterintuitive to encourage you to consider yourself from a branding perspective.  To describe galleries, artists, museums, and exhibition platforms as brands fundamentally undermines the very ethos of the art community and the social, philosophical, and intellectual rigor that sustains it.  Yet the term brand, for the purpose of this article, proves practical in its denotation.  No matter your role within the ecosystem of the contemporary art world, success is contingent on your ability to distinguish yourself and cultivate a unique point of view that responds to the current socio-political fabric.

 

The identification of a dedicated mission, the implementation of a visual identity, the projection of a consistent digital voice, and the assumption of a unique ethos within the community all enhance credibility and encourage like-minded audience engagement.  It is therefore important to analyze each of your communication strategies with cohesion and branding in mind — the exercise will both distinguish your institution at present and yield programmatic and developmental opportunities in the future.  I also encourage my clients to revisit the theme of authenticity from a branding perspective, as communicating an authentic voice remains fundamental to cultivating a like-minded constituency energized by the opportunity to rally behind your projects.  

3. Play the long game.

This concluding tenet is perhaps the most important and has been adapted from advice imparted by some of the world’s most successful movers and shakers — we’re talking titans like Warren Buffett.  It applies universally across the spectrum of art world professions. In my experience, it is all too often that institutions, artists, non-profits, art fairs, and professionals implement a short-term strategy — driving audiences to a forthcoming event, planning for an imminent announcement, strategizing for their next project, looking to the completion of their next artwork, etc. — and fail to step back to assess the long-term goals.

 

While these activities may accrue to immediate success and are certainly important for progress — and for some, like artists, may be the very essence of success in terms of completing a series and mounting their next exhibition — they often result in the implementation of a rather short-sighted approach. I encourage my clients to define success, map long-term goals, and truly think big. I motivate them to look beyond their next exhibition or participation in the next art fair to analyze how each activity accrues to sustainability and longevity and whether these activities bring them closer to achieving their mission and therefore securing long-term success. Similarly, a communications strategy should reflect these goals, by articulating critical milestones for development, providing key messaging that reinforces the mission, and demonstrating growth and progression over time.

 

Want to learn more? Reach out to me on Instagram or go to hayworth.co to connect and stay tuned for more Talking Shop!