The ABC of Publicity: DIY Guides

In November 2012, a group of artists gathered at The Concourse in Sydney to hear from a panel of journalists about how to get publicity for their work.

The free masterclass, The ABC of Publicity: The Good, The Bad and The Published, was a partnership between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Arts Access Australia. It brought together a panel of experts including Wendy Frew (Acting Arts Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald), ABC TV publicist Rachel Fergus, and AAA’s own Emma Bennison.

The fascinating conversation covered everything from use of language through to the opportunities that social media can offer if used at the right time and in the right way.

The project aimed to look at the portrayal of arts and disability in the media, and to increase the number of articles being written about Australian arts and disability work.

It also aimed to address three key barriers that artists with disability face in the mainstream Australian arts scene:

  1. Arts reviewers rarely write about arts and disability work in the media. This means that the work of artists with disability and disability-led companies receive less coverage (and so smaller audiences) for their work.
  2. When arts reviewers do write about arts and disability work, they often use inappropriate language or don’t critique the work with as much honesty or rigor as they would if it had been made by artists without disability.
  3. But without fair and honest critique, arts and disability practitioners can’t develop their work. And if any work that features people with disability is patronised as being ‘brave’ or ‘inspirational’, it makes quality work indistinguishable from poorly devised work, and perpetuates the (incorrect) assumption that arts and disability only equates to community, amateur or therapeutic art.
  4. Across the board, journalists are still using outdated, medicalised language to describe disability.

Language like ‘confined to’ and ‘wheelchair bound’, or that talks about people’s success ‘in spite of’ their impairments is commonplace. This type of language is disempowering and perpetuates a way of thinking about disability as charitable or something to pity. And as 20% of Australia’s population is made up of people with disability, use of this language is potentially disenfranchising a large group of media consumers.

Key Messages

If pitching to the media:

  • Target your media release to the publication that your audience is likely to read.
  • The first sentence is the most important – it needs to be direct, punchy and capture the journalist’s attention.
  • Your pitch either needs to include something new or to be a fresh approach on an issue or work.
  • Make sure you allow enough lead time.
  • If you can produce a short, attractive video pitch, it will go a long way to ensuring a journalist will pick it up.

At the Interview:

  • If you are an artist with disability, don’t be afraid to clarify how you would like your impairment to be referred to and what language is “off-limits”. There are no guarantees, but you can’t assume that the journalist will be aware of what language to use if you don’t tell them.
  • If the conversation is going into areas you’d prefer not to discuss or that are irrelevant to the story, feel free not to answer these questions unless you are happy for the human interest element to be a driver for the story being published.
  • You can ask to see a copy before the story goes to print.

If using social media:

  • Make a social media plan three months or more in advance.
  • Think of creative ways to have a conversation with your followers and draw them in, like a competition or discussion topic.

Resources

You can download the guides and resources from the event here:

Link to: DIY Publicity Guide

Link to: DIY Social Media Plan

Link to: AAA Advice on Disability Language

Link to: Don't play us, pay us

Credits

AAA would like to thank the ABC for facilitating the workshop and the panellists for giving so generously of their time and expertise. 

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