How to get publicity for your show – an essential guide
Getting press for your show (whether film, theatre, music or dance) is one of the most important tasks other than putting on a brilliant production in the first place. But if you can't afford to hire a publicist to move things forward with their expertise, connections and experience, how do you go about getting publicity?
Mandy News has the answers for you – read on!
We'll start off by saying nothing can match hiring a reputable publicist with experience and connections. It is always better to engage a professional to take on a task you're not experienced with, so – depending on what stage you're at with your project – seriously consider budgeting for one, raising the cash or seeing if you have a few degrees of separation from a publicist who is willing to help.
1. Create a press kit
First off, you'll want to create a press pack that sings to the journalists who receive it. If you haven't already, read our guide on how to create the perfect press kit, and come back!
2. Get organised
As with putting on your show, organisation is key. Set up a press kit assets area so that all photos, video and other promotional items are in one place. Also set up a dedicated spreadsheet for your publicity campaign so that all contact information for the publications and journalists you intend to correspond with is easy to find. It'll be a big task but will make your life easier in the long run!
3. Research and target
Researching your audience and the brands they read is critical to rolling out a successful publicity campaign. Yes, everybody and their dog would love to have the world's finest TV stations, print magazines and online publications covering their show but unless you're in – or producing – the latest Disney Marvel movie or hot Netflix show, you've got to be realistic.
Sending out thousands of emails to brands that you don't have a chance of being covered by is a waste of precious time - especially if you're busy putting a show together.
Look for publications that write about shows of a similar style and size to you and look for the journalists at those publications that cover your specific area of entertainment. There is no point in sending a musical press release to an post-modernist art critic or a film press pack to a Broadway correspondent. Also, distinguish between brands that write about international productions and those who specifically only cover their own country or region. Hone, hone, hone!
Doing this takes plenty of time, but you will exit the process with a defined target of a dozen or two brands and journalists who might feasibly write about your production.
Now enter their names, phone numbers, email addresses, publications and any important notes (perhaps you are connected to one of them loosely) into your spreadsheet.
Don't just think about entertainment publications, either. A local newspaper or TV station might be interested in your work, especially if you've lived there for a while. Is the theme of your show specific to an area of interest? If it's a show about horses, consider contacting brands that focus on that area. If it's a show about football, start looking at football – and sports – publications.
Don't forget about all the other media types too! Think about YouTube channels, social media groups, radio and podcasts – perhaps some of those would be the perfect fit for your production. Do your research and targeting on those mediums too. A massive YouTuber with millions of followers that specialises in fashion make up probably won't be a good fit for your fringe drama about depressed dishwashers!
4. Short, sweet and courteous
Now that you have a defined list of journalists and publications ready, you'll want to work on your press release email. An ideal press release email will be short with your lead poster or photo pasted into the body, key information and eye-grabbing quotes. Your official, longer press release document should be attached in PDF or Word document form.
Keep the correspondence clear, courteous and to the point, putting your best, most sellable assets as early as possible in the message. If your letter is over five sentences long, really trawl through the copy and see what words you can lose. You only want the essentials in. You press release document should cover the finer details.
5. Make it easy
This is covered in our "How to create the perfect press kit" article – see the above link – but, in short, keep all of your assets (photographs, video, posters) in one handy download link so that journalists don't have to take more than one step to find the content they need.
The time you send your press release out is crucial, both in terms of the hour of day and year. Obviously, if your show dates – or release dates – are set in stone, then work with them but, for entertainment sites, you might want to consider avoiding busy periods like awards season. Always leave Christmas off the cards (unless your show is Christmas themed) as offices begin to race through their duties and wind down for the holidays and/or focus on Christmas-themed shows.
In terms of the time of day, try to get your press releases sent out between office hours or just before. No busy professional will want to read your release after hours. If they're reading emails it will be related to work they're already doing. Also, try to avoid peak times, like 10am when they'll likely have meetings or be writing articles.
If you're launching an international publicity campaign then be mindful of the time differences!
7. Chase, within reason
Once you've sent out your press release, don't expect an instant reply (although well done if you do get one!) And don't chase that person several times the same day. If you've left sending out your press materials to the last minute and need an instant reply, that's your fault, not theirs. Chances are the journalist has one hundred and one tasks to complete and hasn't had time to open, let alone read, your email. Journalists receive scores of emails every day. Give them a reasonable length of time – perhaps a couple of days – and try again. And again a few days later. If a week or two passes and you have still had no reply, it might be time to pick up the phone and politely enquire if they've received your email and might be interested in your production.
If, after several attempts, you receive no replies and haven't got through to them on the phone, then perhaps it's time to consider that avenue closed. Also, don't be pushy if they've say no. No means no. Graciously accept it and move on.
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