So there’s this CEO that I sort of know from my work as a journalist.
I’ve interviewed this individual on numerous occasions over the years and to this very day, this person couldn’t care less about my name or purpose. That’s fine. I don’t get caught up in other people’s egos. I’ve got my own ego to keep in check.
But here’s the deal. As a journalist, whenever I’m interviewing this person for a story, I’m ultimately promoting THIS individual’s organization … by default. That’s just how it is. Wouldn’t it be in THEIR best interest to at least know my name and the names of the other journalists who are promoting – by default – THEIR organization?
Let me give you another example.
A few years ago, I covered an art opening. I took photos and outside the gallery, I saw the head of this particular institution approaching.
“Great!” I thought to myself. “It’s still very early. Maybe I can grab a quick interview.”
By the way, I interview people very quickly. Unless it’s the President of the United States, you can interview anyone in under FIVE minutes. Just get to the point.
So, I politely walked up to this person – I’ll never forget this – and said, “Hello ---! Very cool show. Would you like to do a quick interview?”
I kid you not … this person stares DAGGERS at me, LITERALLY rolls their eyes, looks at their watch, gets huffy and says, “Okay, but I don’t have much time!”
Now keep in mind that I was there to promote something happening at this individual’s institution. In fact, I’d chosen to cover the event on my very own time because I thought it deserved public attention. But that was my problem, not theirs.
After the interview, which lasted just past THREE minutes total, I thanked the person and they went on their way without so much as an acknowledgement or “Thank you for being here.”
Look, I’m a big boy. If you don’t like me or think I’m a cockroach, I can handle that, but contemporary art simply does NOT have the luxury of snubbing media. Believe me, professional sports organizations rarely snub media. They totally “get it.”
I say all of that to make the point that we’re living during a time when people THINK they’re doing the media a FAVOR by talking to the media. This could not be more inaccurate. Let’s not get it twisted. There are literally millions of stories that the media can tell on a daily basis … even on SLOW news days. Yes, “exclusives” or “scoops” are nice, but scoops are a dime a dozen.
You can think you're being cute by saying, "No Comment!" all you want, but comments like that come back and bite you in the ass ... HARD.
Artists, art galleries, art museums, art centers … if you EVER get requests to chat with the media about your shows or your work … NEVER TURN DOWN THE OPPORTUNITY. Accept it with a gracious spirit.
Many, if not most media people, LOVE sports, but they think contemporary art is “FULL OF SHIT.” They do. This is also the case with some folks even in the arts media. You are not helping your own cause by copping attitude with journalists … especially arts journalists.
Can journalists be pricks? Absolutely. I know quite a few of them. However, if journalists, especially arts journalists show up for your event, that means that someone decided that it was worthy of attention. It means that amid all of the other things going on that they could write about, they decided to cover YOU and YOUR event.
I’m not saying that you should sacrifice your integrity for media coverage as so many people on reality TV do these days. Absolutely not. I’m simply saying you should use your brain. Rise to the opportunity to market yourself. No, you cannot control the outcome of the report, but you can be an ambassador for yourself and your institution. It’s Business 101. It’s also common sense.
These days – believe it or not – the media is cash-strapped and personnel poor. Don’t ruin YOUR chance for free publicity by being rude to reporters or turning down media coverage that's hard to come by. Believe me, you don’t want to piss off journalists. If you are rude, they’ll probably go ahead and do the story … otherwise, they would’ve wasted their time. However, good public relations is like money in the bank. It’s “Good Media Karma.” It comes back in great and often surprising ways. You might even sell a few things.
If you establish a good, working relationship with the media, you can surf through really bad times and actually THRIVE during times of bad publicity. Unlike some, I do NOT believe that all publicity is good publicity, but you can indeed make bad publicity work FOR you … if you have a humble, gracious spirit and just cop to the truth. Also, having journalists as friends is a great thing. Trust me, you would not be able to afford the cost of a minute's worth of TV advertising, so why not take advantage of a minute's worth of a free story in the news?
Okay … here’s another quick tale. Many years ago, I was preparing to interview a notable musician. The guy is not really famous, but if I said his name, you would probably know it. I’m tempted to give you his initials, but I won’t. Okay … his first initial is “B,” but that’s SO broad. Don’t waste your time trying to guess, because that’s all I’m giving up. And no, it’s not Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen actually has a good relationship with the media.
Anyway, as I and my photographer walked up to the guy outside of his trailer - he was indeed expecting us - I said, “Hello, Mr. ---! We’re here. Can we chat?”
The guy – as I quickly learned – was having a bad evening and he let me have it. “NO!” he yelled. “Can’t you see we’re doing something here?”
“Oh, sorry,” I said. And with that, we left. By the way, it looked like they were just sitting around to me.
About thirty seconds later, one of this musician’s handlers caught up to us and said, “--- just said he wanted to apologize. He’s sorry for what he said!”
“Okay, thanks a lot,” I said … as I and my photographer kept walking.
As I recall, there were lots of empty seats at that show … not only that night, but I later found out the following night as well.
Karma really can be a bitch.