Is it a publicity opportunity ... or is it a scam?

Is it a publicity opportunity ... or is it a scam?

If you are an artist on Instagram, you will have been approached by scammers and hucksters pretending to be journalists. As a real journalist with more than 30 years of working at some of Australia’s most respected news publications, I have some tips that could save you time, angst and money …


  1. It is not journalism if they ask you to pay for the story. It is advertising. It is also unethical if they do not label the content as paid-for. You have to ask yourself what you would get for your ad.
  2. If you are still interested, analyse the value of the offer. If you hope to include the story in your portfolio for galleries and competitions, understand that the arts industry will know you have paid for the story. You may look naive to them (at best).
  3. If it is a printed magazine, who reads it? Is it sold or given away? You should know the profile of the people who buy your work, would they read that publication? I suspect that most of the “art magazines” that are full of paid-for material are only bought by artists who use them to establish credibility with potential collectors. Ask your network if anyone has accepted an offer and see if they achieved a result you would like to emulate.
  4. If you plan to use it for self-promotion to customers or at your exhibitions, compare the cost with the benefits of producing your own brochure. Some websites will print your booklets and provide free templates to make it easy.
  5. If it is a social media/online offering, check the size and make-up of the audience. There are tools you can find online that will analyse social media accounts for the proportion of fake followers (Google “fake followers tool”). Check out the website (don’t use a link they send, type it into your search bar). Google the social media account name + the word “scam” to see if anyone is reporting bad experiences. If you see any other artists using the service, particularly if they live locally to you, contact them and ask if they would recommend taking up the offer. You can also check out the person contacting you on LinkedIn.
  6. If the person contacting you insists it is genuine journalism, first check out that they are who they say they are. Reply to them via the company they work for or ask for an email and check that the format corresponds to others on the website (i.e., not a or weird address). Freelancers may not have a company email, but they should all have a website with their email on it and will be on LinkedIn and can be contacted there.
  7. If you have been contacted by a real journalist from a genuine publication, congratulations! You have hit the jackpot! The media industry has been devastated by the shift of advertising to online, and there is little money to pay for arts journalism in newspapers, magazines or reputable online outlets. Make sure you have some good quality high-resolution photos to send them of you with your work and your work itself. Have a one-page bio to send them with the details they must get right. It’s unfortunate, but harried reporters can easily slip up on name spellings, age, and descriptions about how you go about your work. They are often generalists unused to writing specifically about art, or may have six or seven pieces to file that day. Make it easy for them!


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