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The Art of Content Marketing

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How does content marketing relate to art? Byron chats with Malcolm Dewey, fine artist and author of The Art of Content Marketing to find out. Learn why Pinterest is one of the most important parts of Malcolm's content strategy, and how having a social media presence has benefited him and his art.

Byron:           Welcome back everyone to the WriterAccess podcast. I’m here with Malcolm. Malcolm, welcome.

Malcolm:     Thanks Bryon. Glad to be here.

Byron:            My own personal interest in art, in the fine arts, has me very intrigued with your book called ‘The Art of Content Marketing: A Visual Content Marketing System for Creatives.’ Tell us a little bit about your own journey into finding and discovering content marketing, if you will.

Malcolm:      Bryon, it’s quite an unusual story, actually. , I had an art background right through school days and back in the 1980s I had a choice of studying art further, but I ended up going to law school. In other words, I guess I took the safe route back in the 1980s. I graduated law school, got into practice, but I kept painting on a regular basis. My wife encouraged me to really get back into art, which I did about five or six years ago, and decided, “Look, I’ve got to really give it a proper go.” It was really hard to break in cold like that, back into the fine art game. So, it was really through plugging away at… literally starting from zero, no listeners, no followers, no gallery support, nothing. I found that I really got into content marketing by accident. Just experimenting, and gradually results started happening. I started making sales online, but it was still haphazard, and I had to really get a plan together and do it properly and strategically. That’s really how I started studying it a bit further, and just experimenting, and it’s grown from there.

Byron:           Fantastic. What’s the state of the union in South Africa where you’re living now, with regards to content marketing? Is the industry, , taken fire? Are people just getting into it now? Do they understand the channels, and the communication and the conversation happening in this social sphere?

Malcolm:     Byron, I would say no. It’s all very much in infancy position. Content marketing is pretty much confused with social media. Authors are, really they are working with Facebook mostly, personal profiles, and Facebook, and things like that, and they’re not really applying a strategy to this. This is really one of my motivations. It’s quite a lot of frustration seeing other artists in my town, and in the country as well, just struggling to get noticed, and social media isn’t really the answer on its own.

Byron:           It’s interesting. I’m on your site right now, and I want to compliment you for the effort that you’ve put forth. Speaking of content marketing, your site features: lead generation with a free download. You have courses online, ‘Helping you establish your thought leadership position’. You have a free mini course, yet more lead generation.

Malcolm:     Yeah.

Byron:           You are selling your products, but you’re infusing informational content, you’re voicing your content. You are truly practicing what you preach in the book and I just wanted to compliment you and explain that to the audience that may be listening in. How did you discover some of the tricks of the trade that you’re actually practicing on the site? Are you a ferocious reader, and an adventurer, and explorer, and stepped out of your culture to find out what’s going on?

Malcolm:     Yeah. That’s pretty much the truth really, Byron. I read like a crazy man and I knew that I had to really do something drastic, and I guess going through a legal background, reading is the life and you’ve got to find… you keep digging until you get an answer, and it’s really, I would say, one of my… the technologies that I’ve said really helped me in this side of the world was simply things like eBooks, and podcasts like yours, and just consuming as much information as I could. And then the important thing was just putting it into action. I can’t stress that enough. You’ve got to start even if your first attempts are really poor. You’ve just got to keep going and you’ve got to do it. That’s how it works.

Byron:           What did you discover? What about artist that is different? By the way, I find it quite interesting that art is, in itself, a big part of content marketing, one could argue.

Malcolm:     Mm-hm.

Byron:           What could you… what have you discovered about the connection between art and content marketing?

Malcolm:     Byron, this is one of the cool ideas behind the book is I wanted to really say to creative people, and artists, writers even, you’ve got such an advantage being a creative person. The big mistake I’m finding with a lot of artists is that they rely on the art alone. And it’s enough to produce your paintings, galleries will come to you, people will come to you, and that doesn’t work like that anymore. So if you take that creativity and put it into your content and just show people even what you do behind the scenes, there’s a lot of interest in that. Authors especially have so much going on and it’s quite fascinating to [00:07:22 inaudible] artists just to see the process, et cetera. So, put that into your content, communicate that, be generous with your information. Don’t try and hide your art away. Don’t be self-conscious about it. Don’t worry if people are taking photos of your artwork. Just open up and share that stuff with the world. That’s… content really works so great for artists if they open those doors to it.

Byron:           How are galleries receiving you now that you have certainly a social presence, you have quality content you’re generating? Are they more receptive to you, and have potentially repping your work?

Malcolm:     Yeah, that’s a good question Bryon. One of the worries is that if you do your own thing, galleries are going to be afraid of you, and they don’t want to touch an artist who’s promoting themselves and that’s a fear amongst a lot of fine artists. What I found is that art galleries in my area or school, they’re very few of them and they are struggling in this economy. Art is still pretty much a luxury for a lot of people. However, galleries have taken interest simply because I do have a following and I can help promote the work. A gallery is not going to go out of its way to promote you amongst all the other artists. They do rely on you to have a following to market your work. The other thing is that you’ve got to be able to have a relationship with the gallery and still have some control on your business. You can’t simply hand it over to a gallery. To get to the crux of your question, what I found is that I’ve been getting invitations to do exhibitions and that happens every now and then, and I enjoyed it because it’s a once-off type thing. Personally, I don’t want to give myself over completely to galleries, because I really enjoy interacting with collectors, and that’s one of the things I’ve been quite jealous about keeping is that communication with. So yeah,  there’s a bit of everything going on, but the most important thing is that I keep my independence as well. 

Byron:           Sounds wonderfully foggy, which creates lots of opportunity to navigate to creative new places once the fog lifts. What about galleries? Are galleries beginning to market themselves creatively and use content marketing as a gateway to promote artists?

Malcolm:     Looking in my local situation, there are a small number of galleries that are using content. Having said that, Byron, it’s still relatively small. By that, I mean once again, they’ve got a social media presence, but what I find being neglected particularly is lead generation and building this…just this week I received unsolicited email from a gallery, just promoting the gallery, and I didn’t sign up for it. So, if things like that are still going on, which is bad practice and galleries can definitely start using content more creatively than they are at the moment. I think in the US, it’s a lot more advanced, but from bricks and mortar to content marketing, it’s sometimes a big leap for galleries to make, but they really need to do that.

 Byron:          What are some do's and don’ts for artists as they’re getting started with content marketing? Do you have any things you recommend people do that you talk about in the book?

Malcolm:     Yeah. I think the most important thing is start treating your art as a business, and have a real plan in place. So , you’ve got to make sure your business basics are there, that you’re not throwing money down the drain. You’ve got to keep an eye on the return on your investment. A practical thing is start lead generation as soon as possible. Start building up an email list. Use whatever social media your audience is on. Probably Facebook’s at the top of the bunch at the moment, but have a website presence. Have a blog, and start giving stuff away to build up leads and your email list, because that is going to be your biggest fan base. The people that actually convert and become collectors are going to be on your email list most of the time.

Byron:           Mm-hm. You didn’t talk about Pinterest. In the fashion industry, I know Pinterest is extremely popular. Can you tell us a little bit about why Pinterest isn’t maybe taken off there, or if it is, why you’re not mentioning it or using it?

Malcolm:     Now, I’ve got a chapter there on Pinterest in the book, in ‘Content Creation.’ Pinterest is actually an important part of the strategy, the visual content strategy. Yeah, I guess in South Africa Facebook is Mount Everest, and everything else is still in the foot hills. Pinterest is growing in popularity and it’s an important source of traffic for me. Pinterest and… probably is second to Facebook for my particular audience, but it’s so important and it’s actually one of the media platforms that I enjoy the most.

Byron:           Yes, I mean the challenge with an individual artist in your community is trying to understand you, right; trying to see how you think and how you approach the world, and I would think that Pinterest would really be exciting for you. What are you doing? What are you looking at? What do you see in the world that is interesting, that you could take a photo of and share it? How could we get to know your lens of life as an artist. Can you imagine if you had that sort of a diary approach to Vincent Van Gogh?

Malcolm:     Yeah.

Byron:           If he were posting on Facebook and you could see where he’s going, and what he was thinking, and the… I mean, that would just be unbelievable. It would be an archive that we would all cherish, right? Yeah, whereas Facebook is more about the collaboration, I think.  More about what you share that your fiends are sharing. What you share becomes part of your identity, but you’re limited in what you share by either what you research on your own, or what other people are throwing at you. Whereas Pinterest is more of the creative expression, one could suggest. Although you could use Facebook, I suppose, as your creative lens, by posting images and thoughts and sharing those more like a journal. What’s your take on that, and do you think that’s relevant and important for this discussion today, and your book?

Malcolm:     Yeah. Byron, the crux of any content strategy is to figure out exactly where your audience is. While I enjoy Pinterest tremendously, and it’s in fact where I spend most of my time on social media because Pinterest is something you can mold and create and have a direction in your Pinterest presence as it were. Whereas Facebook, you are part of someone’s timeline and you’re gone in seconds. So, having said that, because a lot of my audience is on Facebook, I’ve got to try and break through there as well, and I find that things that work really well in Facebook right now is video. People will ask, and people will stop, and they’ll let that video load up and they’ll watch it. But you can’t keep making videos all the time. It is time-consuming and you’ve got to create your art as well. So, the nice thing with Pinterest is you can shape it to, as you say, giving insights and show a progression in your process, in the kind of art you’re creating and your outlook on life. Also, what you find interesting, because people want to know what’s going on in the mind of an artist, what art do they like. So you can give an insight into your personality as well and Pinterest definitely is going to be growing. It’s growing. It’s very well in the US and I find that I’m finding a lot more local people are using Pinterest. So, yeah, I’ve got a lot of faith in that platform.

 Byron:          Mm-hm. What’s working for you with your own audience? What are you learning about your audience that is most engaging to them with your blog post for example, and your giveaways and your recourse? What’s working for an artist these days in your part of the world?

Malcolm:     Yeah. I think that the thing that stands out for me the most is how many people actually appreciate somebody taking art seriously. We live in a very cynical time and there’s so much political things going on and everybody is being hit by bad news. So, I’m coming in with a positive message and I’m putting art front and center, and that is quite unusual and  people are really appreciating that. They’re appreciating the positive message, and a lot of people who have given up art are getting back to it and they’re sharing their stories with me, telling me how happy they are to be painting again, getting free art lessons from me, and things like that is very encouraging. And then they’re telling their friends about it, and there’s little groups of artists working together, sending me photos of their progress and I’m giving them feedback. It’s an enriching experience and I find that it gives me a lot of motivation to put it back into my own art.

Byron:           Ah, yes. That’s quite fascinating that you should say that. That was going to be my final question to you is how is all of this communication and collaboration and success with content marketing affecting your actual work? Do you think about your audience, for example, when you’re actually painting, and if certain people are responding to different color pallets, or if you’re seeing more success with certain scenes or pallets? Are you wanting to do more of that? Are you more motivated to please your audience?

Malcolm:     Yeah, Byron. That’s sort of a double-edged sword situation because on the one hand, it does give me a lot of motivation and we all like to get positive feedback. On the other end, I’ve got to sometimes remind myself that I’ve got to create my own art and what moves me. Sometimes I’ve produced work that is not that popular and I’ve got to realize that it doesn’t mean the art is bad. It means I’m trying something new and I’ve got to push myself to trying new things. So you can’t be bound by everyone else’s opinion. As an artist, you have to try and do new things, but definitely getting people just responding and  I can definitely see what people like, what they don’t like, and that can give me some direction. But I really don’t want to be in a situation where I’m following in paint by numbers to please everybody, that’s not the creative process really. It’s more of producing a factory-type art. So, I don’t want to do that either. You’ve got to balance at art, and you’ve got to take what you can, but also do your own thing.

Byron:           How much time each week are you spending on content marketing?

Malcolm:     I spend probably quite a bit of time Byron. I can say that I like to start my day off with the content marketing side of it, and the business side. Then devote, that’s probably about three hours in the morning, I start early. But by let’s say about 10 a.m., 11 a.m., I’m doing art. And I also in the evening I’ll check emails and the administrative side of things. But I kind of wait for the sun to get up nice and high and get my energy up. Then I just turn on the music, and I start painting.

Byron:           Wonderful. Sign me up for that life will you?

Malcolm:     Yeah. You’re right.

 Byron:          It’s been a pleasure talking with you Malcolm. I have two final questions. Who would you like to get a hold of you, and how can they get a hold of you.

Malcolm:     Byron, yeah, anyone that’s interesting in learning a bit more about building the art business. It’s something that I really would like to put a bit of work into, and they can get me on my email, or…it’s on my website. I’m on all the other channels, Facebook, they can just message me: MalcolmDeweyFineArts. They can find that quite easily. So yeah, anyone who’s interesting in that line, and of course, any artist who wants to talk about art, I’m always available.

Byron:           Well thank you for being here today. Greatly appreciate it.

Malcolm:     Byron, it’s been a pleasure and thanks very much for having me.

Byron:           Indeed. Thank you for helping artists as well make themselves more visible and enjoy the process in doing so. Thanks again for being with us everyone, and until next week, I hope you enjoy this podcast, but I hope your life’s a little smarter, better, faster, and wiser, and thanks to Malcolm. Thanks everyone.