>Today, I attended day two of the Creative Massachusetts: The Artists Conference 2009 seminar, presented by the Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition, at the beautiful Boston Public Library. The program was most informative — expert panel discussions of various marketing and contractual issues, the nuts and bolts, behind-the-scenes stuff of the arts. Everyone was handing around business cards like their livelihoods depend on those snips of paper. As they often do.
I realized as I was handing around my business card, that I had done a strange thing. I had redesigned my card and printed a pocketful of new ones this morning over breakfast, just for this event. I realized for the first time that I do this habitually. There are a lot of my cards floating around, but few of them are exactly alike.
Other people’s cards are these gorgeous, stiff, slick things (ooh, sexy) with colors and photos. Their owners generously clue me to the excellent deals they got from this or that printer on a thousand cards for $100, and so forth. I tell myself I should get such deals, too.
Experts warn us of the dangers of not having a memorable, amusing, seductive business card. The mantra of Identity-Brand-Image is drilled into us — and for good reason. We want to be remembered fondly. Why else do we bother with cards at all?
By all tried and true wisdom, a card that keeps changing, that looks like it was printed up quick this morning, is anathema to the professional artist.
But I can’t help it.
I keep changing. The card has to change with me. What alternative do I have? Should I bind myself to the card, rather than it to me? Should it be the leader, or should I?
Further, I feel compelled to customize my card for the people receiving it and what aspect of my career I want to steer them towards. For every event, I suss who I will meet, and I make a fresh, new Jen Fries business card just for them, referencing precisely what I hope we talked about in person.
The question is: Am I doing everything horribly, horribly wrong, or am I onto something?
The messages from the experts today were mixed. On the one hand, we were urged repeatedly to maintain and guard our public images like they are pure gold. We must make sure our identities are always unmistakably clear.
On the other hand, we were advised that a directed message is better than a generic one. When we contact someone, we should address them, talk to them, not to some faceless “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” We were told that presenting ourselves in a context of specific interest to the person we are talking to is an excellent way to get the attention of curators, buyers, newspaper editors, etc.
Clearly, marketing for artists — and all small entrepreneurs, really — is a balancing act between consistency and customization. How should we achieve that?
I have decided to experiment with the new. The new technology that makes it so easy for me to whip up customized cards and other materials at a moment’s notice. The new media hungry for fresh nibbles. All the instant tools that let me put in front of people just what I want them to see and think about at any moment. And I will apply to this new stuff the very old adage:
In with The New. Come find me on Face Book.
I’m still afraid of Twitter, though.