Just A Gentle Reminder…

Pretty please, with sugar on top, stop delivering your bios in pdf format. Of course, if you’re happy having every marketing, PR, and communications professional between Seattle and Savannah being okay with letting your bio “slip between the cracks” when putting together their promotional content, by all means, keep sending out your bio in pdf format.

Having said that…

If self-preservation is an instinct you possess, you better f*@!ing do it and do it quick. I’m here to help. If my help’s not appreciated, lots of luck, gentlemen.

Harvey Keitel as The Wolf; Pulp Fiction

Here’s why all of this matters.

Problem: The arts marketer is creating copy for the organization’s website, a press release, copy for the program book, and one or more email blurbs. This task requires source material they can copy/paste from into a website content management system, desktop publishing software (such as InDesign), and an email marketing client (like MailChimp). With everything else on his/her plate, the arts marketer has about 20 minutes to spend on the entire project. But when the source file is pdf, an 800 word bio that should take a minute to copy/paste into each of those systems turns into a 15 minute grind of manually correcting line and paragraph breaks, lost spaces, and a host of other formatting nonsense. That leaves five minutes for adding photos, proofing, etc. so our arts marketer is left with a Catch-22 of add as much content as possible but have it look sloppy or cut it down to a fraction of what it could be in order to shove it across the barely acceptable threshold. Guess which option is most attractive.
Solution: Provide all promotional content in doc/docx, not pdf. If you want to be super user friendly, make it available via Google Doc. Whichever method you choose, don’t load up a user friendly format with a bunch of specialty formatting a designer said was all the rage. Keep it simple; use a single font family from the websafe crowd (such as Arial or Times Roman), no embedded images, and use headers and special formatting (like blockquotes) sparingly.
Tip: If you want arts marketers to love you, create special versions of promotional material for different purposes; such as one with all of the nice looking bells and whistles in pdf and doc/docx but another with the basic formatting that makes copy/paste dreamy. Likewise, provide shorter versions alongside full length varieties to make certain your message remains true.

In the end, if you follow this tip, any good arts marketer will love working with you.

Help them help you and go look at your bio content right now. Is it in pdf format? If so, you’ve got a new project on your plate.

Send a pdf again, I dare you, I double dare you mother[bleep]er, send your bio in pdf format one more [bleep] time!

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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