These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 . An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.
Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon
Julia Lenton is a freelance arts, theatre and music publicist and administrator. Julia has run successful arts, theatre and music publicity campaigns for clients such as Carriageworks, Performance Space, PACT centre for emerging artists, Siren Theatre Company, Emma Davis, super FLORENCE jam, Oxford St Design Store and Alaska Projects. Julia also recently worked as Marketing Co ordinator at Queen Street Studios.
As a publicist is it important for you to have strong networks? Perhaps yours need to be stronger than anyone else’s. I’m curious about whether you started as a publicist that honed in on the arts or whether you knew a lot of people in the arts and then became a publicist.
I worked in arts production throughout university, I was studying media and communications, as part of the degree I had to do an internship- that’s how I actually went into this. I thought about what I wanted to do for my internship and my best friend had done her internship at Sydney Festival- she got lots of free tickets to things and went to lots of parties. It seemed like both a lot of hard work and a lot of fun, so I applied for that internship, and I got it.
Prior to the internship I didn’t know much about publicity. We got taught PR, but I knew I didn’t want to do corporate PR, I didn’t want to do PR for grapes (I mean that’s fine- grapes need PR) but I didn’t want to do that.
I had loved Sydney Festival and I got asked to do some publicity after my internship. Soon after I called up Helene Fox, who had been Senior Publicist at Sydney Festival, but by then Helene had moved onto the Opera House, and I said to her ‘I think I’m becoming a publicist, can we have a drink and chat about that?’. When I met Helene she brought with her lots of emails from people that had wanted to hire her recently but she didn’t have time to do all of their work. So she suggested that she mentor me and we work together on the work. I was still at university at the time and felt way in over my head for a long time.
How important do you think it is for an artist to have a public profile? To make yourself known?
I think it’s incredibly important. As a publicist it is much easier for me to work with someone that already puts themselves out there. I met an artist recently that said ‘I don’t want to be on facebook and I don’t want a twitter account, I don’t want to have any of that’. I respect that but they then can’t expect to have as much of a public profile and they may miss out on opportunities. Some artists are reluctant to do interviews, to engage with media or to have photos taken of themselves and I understand that it might feel like it doesn’t align with what they’re doing in their arts practice, but if they want people to come along and they want people to see the work then they have to give a little.
This week I had an example actually. Getting good artist images that I can give to the press sometimes feels like pulling teeth. I said to the artist that I needed a range of images, I need landscape and portrait and I need high res and he said that I want you to only use this image this way, but those limitations mean that the listing probably won’t run. I have to be a little bit hard-line.
What are the keys to good networking?
I think it’s about having genuine conversations with people. You’re in the wrong industry if you don’t actually want to chat to people about their art or what they’re doing. You might meet someone that you might not immediately want to work with but you take their business card and then maybe one day something will come up that they will be interested in, and when it does you’ll invite them along. You have to also respect people. Just because you may not want to work with them doesn’t mean you should look over their shoulder and go ‘alright, I’ll go and talk to someone else because there is nothing in this for me’. Who knows where they might one day be and what relationships might exist with them in the future. As a publicist I can’t ignore a blogger because one day they might be the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. Just be nice.