Interview: Ariel Hyatt Discusses New Book & Offers Crowdfunding Insight

Ariel Hyatt, founder and owner of Cyber PR in New York City, has been helping artists and entrepreneurs like herself for 20 years by offering public relations, social media and content strategy services.

On top of being a entrepreneurial force in the music scene and beyond, Ariel is also an author. She’s written four books on social media, and her newest book Crowdstart: The Ultimate Guide to a Powerful and Profitable Crowdfunding Campaign drops on October 25th (get it on Amazon!).

We’ve covered campaign tips for artists in the past on this blog, but much like social media marketing, crowdfunding is an ever-evolving process and there’s a lot of insight to be gained from a professional who’s been making it happen long before it was as common as it is nowadays. Crowdstart is a must-have for any independent artist who’s looking to build or improve their crowdfunding skills.

Ariel was kind enough to answer some questions for us, going into personal experiences, advice, and takeaways from the new book, so take notes:

In the beginning of this book, you speak to the help you received (and didn’t receive) from friends/acquaintances after a homefire. What do artists who have never reached out for help need to understand about receiving it from what they thought would be ‘unlikely’ sources?

Ariel Hyatt: Part of the magic of asking for help (which is what a crowdfunding campaign is all about) is the element of surprise. What artists need to understand about this is the people who you thought might be huge help may not come to the table at all and when you launch a crowdfunding campaign there will be quite a few donors who will come forward that you did not expect or even know existed.

That being said, there is something else you should know: even the “unlikely sources” won’t show up without a proper plan and a solid approach to your campaign. A successful crowdfunding campaign is just as much about the planning and what happens months before as it is the execution of the 30 days while your crowdfunding campaign is live.

What do you think are some of the most important factors for an artist to consider when it comes to maintaining expectations for their crowdfunding campaigns?

The media has done a great job of making crowdfunding look easy and this expectation can skew your goal because the crowdfunding campaigns you may have read about — like the Coolest Cooler or Amanda Palmer’s epic raise of 1.2M — make it seem like everyone who tries crowdfunding has massive success.

Here are two stats to know to help set realistic expectations:

  1. The average successful crowdfunding campaign raises $7,000.
  2. Approx 60% of crowdfunding campaigns don’t reach the desired financial goal.

Now that you know this you have a healthier place from which to base your expectations….

I do want to point something else out and that is: campaigns that get to 30% of their goal within the first week are more likely to succeed. This means you need to work really hard personally asking for pledges before and at the beginning of your launch.

Do you think there are critical benchmarks an independent artist should reach before considering the start of their first crowdfunding campaign?

Yes. The first benchmark you should cross is having an engaged crowd AND parsing that crowd so that you can make a healthy guesstimate of how much you can safely ask for. The sheer number of followers you have on social media is not as important as their engagement.

You must have a  newsletter list that is professionally managed (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.) and that goes out regularly and consistently with tracking enabled to monitor open rates. It’s also important to know what those open rates are. You should also be able to identify who in your crowd (friends, family, superfans) might be more than likely to contribute to your campaign before you launch so that you don’t miss very important contributors.

You write about the kind of content and content curation folks should consider when running a campaign. What do you think are some starting points for indie artists to think about?

Starting points: Research what has worked historically for others in their crowdfunding campaigns (if you read CROWDSTART you won’t have to because I already did the legwork for you,) but there is science to crowdfunding that indicate how many tiers are needed and how much each tier should be priced at. You also want to determine how long your video should be, how many days is ideal for your campaign to run and much more.

Artists might be surprised at how much content is needed to prepare for the 30 day campaign. You will need to prepare numerous emails and social posts plus blog posts and personal emails. In the book I outline exactly how many and what to do each day during a 30 day campaign.

What’s an example of a simple yet results-producing fan communication or social media tactic you’ve seen an artist perform during a crowdfunding campaign?

There are two things my clients have seen that work: Personal emails (not “blasts” through Mail Chimp, etc.) and personal Facebook messages. Direct tweets can also work, but make sure you really know the people with whom you are communicating. These are very effective in rallying support. Make sure these are personal and not “form” letters and posts.

Similarly, when it comes to social media in particular, what are some pitfalls to avoid while promoting crowdfunding campaigns across channels?

Pitfall – posting the same message over and over again. It’s important to mix up the content and make it enticing. You don’t just want to post – hey COME CONTRIBUTE! As that will get old fast. Instead, mix up your posts with questions, comments and sharing great content that is relevant to your campaign and appeals to your followers. Also remember to shine a light on key donors. This is a lovely way to show gratitude for all the energy and money coming your way.

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Explain the importance of identifying, confronting and silencing the character you refer to in your book as “Little Nasty”.

I have coached a LOT of people through crowdfunding campaigns (and I completed one myself with a large goal of 50K.) Inevitably, there will be times when you will have doubts or begin to think that your campaign is a colossal failure.

That is when the voice I refer to as little nasty will pop up. He’s the one that says: “Who do you think you are asking for money? You don’t deserve this money! Everyone is judging you!”

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Stand guard at the portal of your mind.” During your crowdfunding campaign you have to not only stand guard, but lock and bar the door against Little Nasty. That’s why I came up with not one, but seven strategies to keep you healthy and focused during your crowdfunding campaign (HINT — get a team to help you through this and get some mantras!)

When dealing with heavy loads of stress mid-campaign — be it from the project itself or the fear of missing goals — what advice can you offer an indie artist?

Don’t crowdfund on your own! You will feel very lonely if you do. If you don’t have a band to lean on, get a dear friend or family member or someone you really trust who can do some heavy lifting because you will need to heavy lift every day for all 30!

If there’s one key takeaway from your book that you hope to offer an artist contemplating their first crowdfunding campaign, what would it be?

I’m going to quote from the book here!

“Crowdfunding equals us at our highest, taking a risk, sharing ourselves, receiving, and being given the opportunity to express gratitude towards others. The ripple effect is profound, and it will resound for a long time to come.”
This is the best part of a crowdfunding campaign, even better than the money! It’s the human experience that we all go on together.