Transitioning from Art PR to B2B Design PR: What I’ve learned
By Roisin O’Sullivan, Account Executive, Red Setter
A few months back I made the decision to transition from Art PR to PR for design agencies. At the time, the full nature of this shift hadn’t quite hit me. All I knew was that it was a new opportunity for me to grow in my PR skills whilst retaining that key element that has driven both my education and professional life - my love of art and visual culture.
I was drawn to Art PR because of my background in History of Art and Contemporary Art Curating but also because I revel getting to know people, hearing about what makes them tick and building relationships which is key to all communications roles. Art PR provided me with an opportunity to perfectly balance my skills and interests.
I eventually ventured out of this niche corner of PR because, quite simply, it was a time for a change. Art PR for artists and galleries is fairly limited in scope and there is a surprisingly small pond of people in the know. I felt that there was more I needed to learn, so when I was offered the job at Red Setter to expand into B2B for design agencies, it was an obvious yes.
Unwittingly, as we all discover when ‘learning on the job’, it tends to be more complicated and nuanced than we initially realise. This is definitely the case when transitioning from one type of PR to another, despite the fact that on the surface (to my group of friends always asking me what it is I ACTUALLY do), it seems the same.
The first and obvious transition was working with specifically as a B2B PR agency - my previous experience being predominately consumer and culture focused. With B2B, the scope is broader and working with a range of different clients who are designers in different sectors, there is a lot to learn. My understanding of industries like fintech, pharma and wine for example, is much broader than it originally was! But more than this, pitching has become whole different ball game.
As an Art PR it was all about getting press for artists or gallerists hosting exhibitions or acquiring new work. This largely meant all our outreach was consumer and culture focused to push people through the doors to buy art. One major plus was working with the art itself – if the art was visually striking and original, with a lovely and topic story behind it, it was an easy win. Going to the picture sections of the nationals like The Guardian and FT was a great way of getting the work in front of a huge audience and a client’s name in the limelight whilst feeding that cultural conversation in the media that’s always buzzing.
Working in B2B for design agencies is more nuanced and requires heavy strategic thinking. Going to sector specific media means being immersed in that media and pinpointing what is relevant to the client in question, to help demonstrate their impact in that sector/industry. Going to creative media for the visuals is only one part – although a very important part. Business media is also key for clients to show how their work tangibly impacts business growth. Positioning them as thought leaders and help get them ahead of competition in this, takes a lot of thought.
What I’m taking with me
This is not to say that my experience in Art PR is irrelevant or that it doesn’t overlap with what I do now. Regardless of whether it’s Art PR or B2B PR, there must be an interesting story with work that can speak for itself. But one thing that will continue to stick with me from my old Art PR days is the importance of leading with the visuals. Too often we see what we want to see in work – whether it’s art or design, but with real analysis, there is always something to draw out that will help with the pitching process.
Tapping into the wider cultural conversation is also another key takeaway. Art naturally lends itself to culture but I’m sure it is something to harness more in B2B where it is relevant to do so. Being on top of those hot cultural trends and demonstrating a client’s cultural role by telling a story that is socially oriented and engaged is a key way to make some noise for them.
Coming from Art PR and to B2B design feels like a natural progression and I love the range of clients and sectors I get to work with now. Coming into this role I feel like I have a lot to take with me and my understanding and experience of art is a great thing to feed into the design world – it’s all about how to best take those skills and make them work differently – something I’m still trying to perfect.