Change is exciting. As hopeful creatures, we let our better natures cavort in the new spaces opportunity unveils.

This port city periodical is about to experience a sea change of sorts when we double our publication rate, going from bi-weekly to weekly in, oh, about three more issues. From our perspective, it’s right upon us.

That means something I’ve wanted for nearly a decade is coming: increased arts coverage in Lagniappe. Granted, it’s by frequency rather than number of pages, but it’s good nonetheless.

It means announcements can come in a more timely fashion. It means we don’t necessarily have to get out so far ahead of time of publication when putting the paper to bed.

It also means Artifice desires increased involvement from readers and other denizens of our arts realm. Information is the engine that drives this space and we all know there’s a need to disseminate it.

If you pulled some knobs and turned some dials on the Wayback Machine, you’d find a curious scenario built around this same subject a decade ago. In 2004, new Mobile Arts Council honcho Bob Burnett organized the first (and last) Arts Forum, a pow-wow of arts organizations designed to answer questions and draw the area’s cultural players closer together.

Most of the activity, including the inaugural Greater Mobile Art Awards took place on a Friday at the Riverview Hotel. Burnett not only wanted entities and individuals to know each other better, but to also get help, so he polled their greatest concerns and arranged seminars complete with panels prepared to provide answers.

The two subjects? Well, funding and p.r., of course.

Asked to sit on the public relations panel alongside then-Press-Register Arts Editor Thomas Harrison and then-Mobile Bay Monthly Editor Laura Van Landingham, I was happy to help. It was an honor, honestly.

Two memories are most vivid from that day. One was something I told a curious audience member, which alluded to print capabilities, circulation and our reputations as they stood in that day.

“If you want your story to look good, send it to Laura,” I said. “If you want everybody to see it, send it to Thomas. If you want to piss off somebody, send it to me.”
The other memory is that in the room set-up for about 30 audience members less than 10 showed. In other words, folks told Burnett getting p.r. was a big hurdle and when he offered them a way to work around it, they failed to participate.

In the years since then, I’ve heard others express amazement that I don’t just absorb information about art events from the ether, surprised when I failed to mention something they found worthy, regardless of the fact they never took the time to make sure I was aware of it.

So while our universe is immersed in the pre-Lenten cavalcade, I’ll take this moment to remind readers all of your input is valued. I’ve been trying to gather ideas for more frequent stories and columns and your actions are also key.

Just as we told that small audience in 2004, if you want coverage, it helps to let us know. Otherwise, it’s like having a yard sale and not putting up signs.

The organizations you see mentioned most – the symphony, the opera, the museums, et al – those are the ones who most thoroughly keep media informed. If you want to know how they do it, call their specialists and ask. They’ll likely tell you it’s a matter of diligence.

Supply everything you can to make a reporter’s job as easy as possible. When we’re pressed for time, it can often be a deciding factor.

If you’ve never taken a marketing or public relations class, utilize the Internet. It’s an invaluable resource for learning and avenue of distribution, most marked by its immediacy.

Begin with the basics of writing press releases, make sure all the “who, what, when, where, why, how much” is clearly there. The contact info should be abundant.
Make the event compelling, explain why it’s unique or intriguing. You’re essentially selling.

Most of all, start early and follow-up often. Deadlines can sometimes be further out from publication than realized – you’d be surprised how the average Monday holiday can change schedules – so send information well in advance. Once you get it out there, reminders never hurt and can ensure things don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Also, don’t let silence be a discouragement. A reporter might not get something into a specific issue, but there are lots of factors at play. Don’t let it dissuade you from keeping the information churning.

For whatever reason, there’s a lot of high hopes running through the community right now, as if we’re paddling and waiting for a big wave we’re sure is about to break. If we’re right, we can ride it together into a better future, but only if everyone is moving in the same direction.

(Editor’s note: Notice of cultural activities can also make it into Lagniappe’s Calendar of Events by sending a 50-70 word description of the event to [email protected])