The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Marketing vs. Publicity February 19, 2010

I am a freelance theatre publicist, and I often get asked “what’s the difference between marketing and publicity?”  so I thought I’d write a post on it.

Marketing has a much larger reach. Marketing includes anything to do with your brand.

I can hear you now: “I’m an artist. I paint. I don’t have a brand.”

But I would argue that you do. You may not hire a big-ass ad agency to create an overall branding “look” for you, but if you have an online presence (or “footprint”), which can include website, blog, and participation in social media, then you have a brand. If you have a logo, or even a signature, that is part of your branding. The key is to keep things similar across the board: choose similar colour schemes, fonts, and wording when you explain what it is you do, and who you are. That’s branding.

Marketing includes anything that your potential client may come in contact with. It could be a business card, a poster or postcard, or again, your website, blog, or social media presence. Each one of these things is called a touchpoint, and it takes, on average, 6-8 contacts with your touchpoints before most people will even notice you. Purchasing advertising is also a part of marketing: whether you are buying Google PPC ads, banner ads on blogs, or newspaper, TV or radio ads.

As a general rule, Marketing will cost you money. Publicity will not (except for the publicists’ fee if you hire one). Publicity is when you get people in the media (traditional or new) to do a story about you on their blog, or in the newspaper, radio, or on TV. It’s a symbiotic relationship: the press needs to create stories. You need someone to create a story on you. The key to publicity is coming up with a compelling angle, and a great pitch that will convince the media they should do a story on you. And, I have to say, it also helps to have a relationship with the media. Yes, I carefully craft media releases and pitches for each show I do publicity for, but part of the reason I get media coverage is because I have long-standing and trusted relationships with the media.

There’s another big difference between marketing and publicity. With marketing, you really get to control your message, or brand. Because you are paying for that newspaper ad, you can have it say whatever you like, make whatever claims you like, and no one will stop you. Publicity doesn’t work like that. Sure, as a publicist, I try to steer the story into the positive, and if its a preview piece, that is generally the case. But with reviews, I have no control over what the reviewer writes. I get the reviewer to come to the show, then I cross my fingers that they’ll like it.

Having said that, there is a certain cachet just to being reviewed–even if it ends up being a bad review.

Do you have a marketing plan for your art business? Check out this article on Small Business BC.

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3 Responses to “Marketing vs. Publicity”

  1. nancykenny Says:

    I love this post! I remember when I used to stress about doing the marketing for my theatre company and someone pointed out that I was actually doing multiple jobs – marketing, publicity, development, and community outreach. Right now I work in an organization that has different people for all those things, whereas I was one person doing everything.

    Very eye opening.

  2. Dave Charest Says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    Great post. The big take away here for me is that at the end of the day it’s all about trusted relationships.

    Whether you call it marketing, advertising, publicity, branding, whatever. Each originates from a place where someone has to put their trust in YOU.

    Everyday actions become these touchpoints you mention. With every interaction people are getting a gut feeling about you. And these feelings people have about you or the work you do are your brand.

    It all builds on each other from my view.

    Hope that made sense. I’m sleepy.

    Thanks, Rebecca.

  3. Oh, Dave, you hit the nail on the head. I used to work at this self-employment program for artists at The Alliance for Arts and Culture. The guy that taught marketing before I took over always said “Marketing is creating relationships based on trust,” and I have carried that with me ever since.

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