9 Steps To Writing Postcards That Get A Response

state - of - your - art - solution

by Patricia Bouk,
copywriter and consultant

As an artist, postcards offer an excellent opportunity. Postcards are convenient, easy to create, easy to use, relatively inexpensive and offer a fast way to deliver your message. There is also very little negativity associated with them which puts your message in the best possible light. Unlike some mail, a postcard is simply a fun form of communication. Who hasn't smiled when they received a postcard from a relative or friend who was on vacation? It's a friendly form of greeting that keeps you in touch and informed. They're usually positive, creative and interesting. Plus, because a postcard has such a compact message it doesn't waste anyone's time. No envelope to open and no letter to read. Delivering your message using a postcard makes it more likely that it will cut through the clutter and speak to your audience.

The first step in creating your postcard is to think about whether you want your postcard to be "passive" or "active". A passive postcard doesn't ask or expect the receiver to do anything. It's simply a greeting or a friendly hello. The postcard's job in this case is to "keep in touch" or to let the receiver know you appreciate her and haven't forgotten her. This type of postcard could be mailed several times a year. The message could be anything from announcing a new work of art to wishing the receiver a happy holiday. An active postcard however, expects action from the receiver. It not only keeps you and your art in the mind of the receiver it asks for a response. The postcard's job in this case is to get the person who reads it interested or curious about you and your art.... interested enough that she picks up the phone and calls you, emails you, attends your exhibition or visits your studio or Web site.

It's the active postcards that are the hardest to write, but the most powerful to send. For example, if you want someone to show up at your exhibition you need to send an active postcard. If you want to introduce your work to someone new, think about sending an active postcard. Active postcards get a response by appealing to the heart and mind of the receiver. In this way they are similar to the art you create. Like your art, active postcards engage your audience. With careful writing and if you follow the 9 steps below, you can create an active postcard that will get a response.

1. Know what you want. The first step in creating an active postcard is to know what action you want your reader to take once she's read your postcard. What do you want her to do? Call you? Come to your studio? Talk to you about your art? Ask for more information on your art? Go to an exhibition? Once you know what action you want write it down. This is the result you want. Keep your desired result simple and manageable.

2. Make a promise. Now take some time to think about your message. Think about the message of your postcard as a promise to your reader. Your promise should focus on your reader. You need to know your promise before you can write anything. Ask yourself, "What can I promise the reader if she takes the action I'm requesting?" "What's in it for her if she responds?" Think about your reader and the benefits of buying your art, coming to see your studio, or showing up at an exhibition. For example if you are inviting her to an exhibition of serene abstract paintings you might promise her... "An escape from everyday life and stress." Or if your work is more confrontational tell her about an opportunity to, "see your world in a whole new light." The point of the promise is to think about your reader and what's in it for her if she responds. Once you know your promise, use one or two sentences on your postcard to describe this promise.

3. Create a strong headline. The headline is the starting point of your message. Your headline could be on the front of the postcard or the back. The purpose of the headline is to catch the reader's attention and draw her into your promise. It needs to be well thought out. Don't just scribble down the title of your exhibition and call it a headline. Take some time and come up with a real tease. The headline should give the reader a taste of what you are promising her. Be creative and appeal to the reader's emotions.
For example you could use a motivational or inspirational quote that ties into your promise. Or ask an intriguing question related to your promise. In this way, you draw the reader into your message by stirring her curiosity. Another way to write a headline is to highlight your promise right up front. This is called a benefit headline. If you paint rural landscapes your benefit headline could be ... " Isn't it time to get a breath of fresh air?" In this headline you're promising the reader something refreshing, and new, which you will reveal in your message. If you use lively colours in your work you could have a headline that reads, "Now you can brighten your day... everyday." These headlines appeal to the emotions of optimism, curiosity and happiness. Give your headline some careful thought and choose your words carefully.

4. Make an offer. This may be the biggest mistake many artists and dealers make. They don't come out and actually voice an offer. They don't tell or ask the reader what they want her to do. They don't ask her to act and tell her why. "What do you want your reader to do? If you want her to show up at an exhibition tell her to "come to my exhibition". It may seem silly but you can't just plunk down all the information and expect people to take action. You have to ask, show or tell them exactly what action is required to receive the benefits you describe. So think about what action you want your reader to take when she reads your postcard. Do you want her to pick up the phone and call? Go to your event or exhibition? Visit your new Web site? Bring the card to your studio? Then tell her exactly what to do. "Escape the stress of everyday life. Bring this postcard to my new exhibition at 3203 Bee Street and I'll give you a free cup of coffee while you enjoy my artwork." This offer spells out the action clearly and completely and then tells the reader what she will get in return. It tells her exactly why she should act. Other offers might be, "If you call me I'll arrange a personal tour of my most recent work." or "Come to my exhibition and see your world in a whole new light." Your offer can include practical incentives to act, like offering "a free cup of coffee", emotional incentives like "seeing the world in a whole new light" or both.
Just remember, ask for a clear action and give a clear reason why she should act. That's your offer in a nutshell.

5. Give complete Information. Make sure the information is clear and complete. If you want your reader to show up at an opening, give the time, place, date and exact location. If you want them to call provide a phone number. Make it easy and convenient for her to respond. Don't make someone work to find the information she needs to respond.

6. Be personal. A postcard is an intimate message so use personal language. Your message should read like one person speaking to another. Don't make it formal or distant. Just write as if you were speaking to someone standing right in front of you.

7. Use short sentences and words. To deliver a clear message stay away from "art speak" language or complex terms. Mark Twain once said, "I never write "metropolis" for seven cents, because I can get the same money for "city"". Short sentences and words get the job done effectively and efficiently.

8. Keep it clean and simple. Keep your postcard design and layout uncluttered. Don't try to cram in a lot of words on your postcard. It makes it harder to read. It helps to have only one message per card. Don't use font that is smaller than 8 points. It's just plain hard to read if you use tiny font. Remember, some people don't have the same sharp vision they use to. If you are running out of space, try to say things more efficiently. Edit your message rather than try to cram it all in. Just face the fact; you only have about 55 words to say it all. So you have to be brief, specific, and clear in your message. Word choice is critical.

9. Build a mystery. This is where you can think creatively around the image you use. The standard format for a postcard is to show the complete painting or artwork on the front of the postcard and have a message on the back. The traditional role of the image helps get the attention of the reader and may also illustrate the message.

But you don't have to limit yourself to this format. You may just want to show a close up or a small portion of your painting to arouse the reader's curiosity and capture her attention. Another way to draw attention is to push the image to the side or bottom, cut it off abruptly, or limit it to black and white. Be creative, it's your work. Think about ways to draw attention, gain interest, ask questions and arouse curiosity. Another way to build interest is by using a series of postcards. Keep the design of the postcard series consistent. Then put only a portion of one piece of artwork on the front. Each postcard you mail out to the reader can contain a different portion of that same piece. Once you have mailed the complete series, the person receiving the cards can put them all together to make the complete image of your work. You can tie this idea together by splicing up your headline on the front of the postcards. In this way the headline will also only be complete when all the cards are placed together.

If you want to contact Patricia just email your questions to
Fax them to1-519-471-6361, or phone 1-519-471-6073.

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