What a “Buzz Piece” is, and Why You Should Care

As a freelancer, or even as a digital artist in general, my role has many more aspects than most people realize. I have to be my own advertising and marketing team. My work on client relations, in some cases, becomes infinitely more important than my actual work. I even have to make my own coffee in the morning. Life is tough sometimes. However, thanks to a few design books and websites, I discovered a very cool way to combine the many aspects of my job while doing everything I already love. I’m referring to the creation and distribution of what is known as a “buzz piece.”

The ultimate buzz piece...har, har. I'm hilarious.

What is it?!?

While you may not have heard this term used before, if you have a web presence, there’s a good chance you have already created a buzz piece in the past. Simply put, a buzz piece is anything someone creates to raise awareness about who they are. It’s not really a direct marketing technique, because it’s not necessarily telling potential clients what services you offer. It simply gets people talking, gets them to visit your blog or website, or just places you squarely in their consciousness for a later date when they might need a service you offer.

For a good example, I’ll use one of the most prolific artists of the modern world: Banksy. For those of you who don’t know who Banksy is, he’s an anonymous street artist based in England whose work appears all around many major cities. He uses stencils quite a bit for graffiti artwork, but also paints in oils, builds with metal, and sometimes even works with live animals. Here’s an example of an artist who remains anonymous, but is also deeply influential. For him, it’s not about having a web presence. It’s about getting people talking about his work, which makes everything he does a buzz piece. So how do we use this technique to get our own names out there? I’m glad I asked.

Banksy, doing what Banksy does best.

What should I do for my buzz piece?

Put simply: You do what you love and share it with the world. Say you’re a designer and thanks to your connections in the printing world, you can get some cheap work done. A small investment to make a really unique calendar for your client base (and potential clients) can be an excellent piece! Having your name and information in front of someone year-round would make a great impact. But the calendar doesn’t actually sell your services (though the quality of the work would certainly speak for them)…it just gets your name out and puts you in the head of whoever receives it.

It doesn’t even have to be as lavish as a printed job, however. I personally am going to be starting a “Design-a-Day” album on flickr next week. I’ll have a central location where I can get some strange, minimalistic ideas of my own out to the public daily. When I make an image that people like, they’ll check out my backlog of work. The images will be easy to repost and will have my contact info on them. Essentially, I’m creating 365 potentially viral buzz pieces a year! And that’s the point. Giving away something free that people remember you for or at least link your name to.

A buzz piece from Mr. Brainwash, the poor man's Banksy.

Even you, Mr. Shakespeare.

And it doesn’t just apply for designers. Writers can use this idea, as well. What you’re reading right now is a buzz piece. has a few bloggers, myself included, who write valuable and entertaining (hopefully) blog posts in an attempt to set the web ablaze! By giving out free information, they hope that you’ll remember how much they, as a company, care about the industry. Which makes it all the easier to give them the job of converting your Photoshop files to CSS and HTML. Apply this idea to any blog post, and realize that blogs themselves are a big part of modern marketing.

Valuable lists of “5 ways to do this…” and “the top ways to do that…” are based around giving out free information in an attempt to have you remember the value of the site or company who published it. Even a lawyer could write a blog post with free, valuable legal information presented within it. That “blog bait” reinforces the value of the lawyer presenting it! Anyone can use the power of the web to get their name out there and get people reposting and commenting on their work…it just takes time and consistency to build a following.

Another piece from Mr. Brainwash. He makes it look easy...because it is!

Now get out there!

Consider coming up with a project you’ve always wanted to do or information you’ve always wanted to present and start creating! Come up with your distribution plan (sending something to past as well as possible clients, posting online, presenting publicly, etc.) and get your work out there! Much of getting work is a popularity contest (like it or not), but creating work you love to get that popularity can be the most refreshing and rewarding way to remind yourself why you do what you do. It doesn’t hurt that potential clients get to enjoy it along with you.

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