A Project Promotion Pep-Talk!

Written by Margot Atwell

There are many ways for creators to spread the word about their projects and encourage friends, fans, and supportive strangers to support them. Here are some helpful tips and stories from people who have have run successful projects on Kickstarter.

Begin Before You Launch

Lay the groundwork for a successful campaign. In general, creators who spend at least a couple months preparing their campaigns are much more likely to succeed.

“Your fundraising campaign begins long before you even join Kickstarter… The most important part of having a successful campaign is having a dedicated audience who are vested in your art. You should be building relationships with your fans long before you make the ‘ask.’ ”
Simon Tam, New Tour Bus for The Slants

Identify Your Audience

Think about who will want to back your project (this post can help you organize that information!). What about it will appeal to them? How can you connect with them? Think about why your project will matter to different groups and how you can present your story in a way that will make them excited enough to back and share it.

“We put together a list of around 150 blogs to reach out to within the first 48 hours of our project. We created segments for blogs, from: fashion blogs, bike blogs, tech blogs, gear blogs, outdoor blogs, etc. This way we could test a few different segments, and, see what segment our project most resonated with! We ended up having the most success with tech blogs (such as Engadget, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, etc.) We didn’t have any contacts when we started, so, it was a lot of cold emails and following up!”
— Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply: The Future of Dress Shirts, ATLAS: Performance Professional
The MoS Team ships out some rewards

Start by reaching out to your base audience — the people you can rely on to provide you with the first chunk of funding. These are friends, family, and core fans of your work. Email, phone calls, and other direct, personal methods of contacting them will be the most effective ways to get their attention. Then think about how you can move beyond your base to broader audiences.

“I’m a big proponent of little mouths as opposed to big mouths. More people are inclined to listen to their friends than someone who’s very influential. …I share my artwork, thoughts, cool things in my work and life. When I say I’m running a Kickstarter, they want to support me.”
— Jake Parker, The Antler Boy and Other Stories, DRAWINGS
The Robot and the Sparrow, The Antler Boy and Other Stories

Prepare Communications

Take the time to prepare as many emails, mailing lists, and updates as possible before launching your project on Kickstarter. Once the project is launched, there will be a lot to do, so the more preparation you can do before launching, the easier it will be to run your project.

“Our goal was to do 90% of the work in advance. For example, crafting emails 2–3 days early so we just needed to click ‘send’ when we launched.”
Mike Del Ponte, Soma
You’ll save a lot of time later if you get a few emailing lists together before you start. What friends can you send it to? Which blogs would be most interested? What about print? Most especially consider who among your contacts could further disseminate your project — someone who writes ‘I have backed this cool project — you should, too!’ can be a *huge* help.”
Kirsten Hively, Project Neon: A Digital Guidebook to New York’s Neon Signs
Prints, posters, and membership cards from Project Neon

Approach Media and Bloggers

Don’t just pick the biggest outlets — pick ones that are specifically focused on subjects that relate to your project. The earlier you contact them, the better. If you aren’t getting the results you want at first, try different techniques and approaches.

“My strategy for promoting projects is simple: I find a number of key, influential sites with topics that overlap with what I’m looking to promote. I then write emails specific to those blogs, magazines and newspapers, highlighting the aspects of the project I think they’d be most interested in. Oftentimes, I’m writing to blogs that I’ve been reading for years, so for me, referencing older posts of theirs and personalizing these emails is trivial, and fun.
Whatever you do, don’t send scattershot emails to media outlets. Be thoughtful. The goal is to appeal to editors and public voices of communities that may have an interest in your work, not spam every big-name blog. A single post from the right blog is 1000% more useful than ten posts from high-traffic but off-topic blogs. You want engaged users, not just eyeballs!”
Craig Mod, Art Space Tokyo: iPad Edition + Hardcover Reprint
Art Space Tokyo

If your project hasn’t been picked up in the news before, you might need to do more work to get media coverage than someone who’s more experienced. Make sure you frame your message in a way that’s going to be interesting to the readers of a blog or website so the writers will be excited to tell your story.

“I started with smaller blogs and moved on to larger ones as the campaign progressed. I found these blogs by searching for similar projects and seeing who wrote about them.”
— Brian Foo, Cities of You: Volume 1, Continuous City
System #2: Vinnsa, Cities of You: Volume 1
“…You need to provide something that is intriguing for the blog’s viewers. Don’t just ask for coverage. Sure, your project is cool, but maybe you can provide something of value without your project needing to be funded yet? Is there a good piece of art you can provide? Or an interesting experience?”
— Aaron Rasmussen, Mr.Ghost: iPhone EMF Detector
“Once you connect with a blogger that is interested in covering your project, your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to write a story that is valuable to their readers and to you. The benefit of starting with a shortlist of just 10 bloggers is that you can really get to know their blog and writing style. Armed with this information, you can tailor your pitch to their needs. …The good thing about Kickstarter is that most of the information and assets bloggers need for a story can be found right on your Kickstarter page, including high resolution photos and the embed code for your video. We built a press page and wrote a press release. In retrospect, they may not have been worth it given the amount of time we spent on them. All you need is a DropBox folder with hi-res photos and 5–7 bullet points about your project that you can paste in an email. The key is to make sure you package everything in a way that’s convenient for bloggers.”
Mike Del Ponte, Soma

Margot Atwell is a Publishing Outreach Lead at Kickstarter. She used Kickstarter to fund her book, Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby, which she published through Gutpunch Press. You can follow her on Twitter @MargotAtwell.

Want to continue this conversation? Read part two of this post and learn how other creators shared their projects once they went live.

Or, talk to other creators on Campus, Kickstarter’s Q&A space:

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