Why would you ‘do’ PR?
In the words of Maria in The Sound of Music… let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!)
Professional Public Relations (or ‘PR’) are an essential part of the promotional ‘mix’ in gaining profile for your event and getting ‘bums on seats’.
Just as marketing and social media reach different target audiences, the free editorial coverage that PR or Publicity provides is essential to getting your event known in a crowded arts and media world.
Marketing is ‘above-the-line’ promotion direct to the general public and mostly costs money: advertising, posters, flyers and direct mail – both hard copy and electronic. It can be targeted, timed and placed exactly how and where you want it. But it can also be costly – especially if you want prominent placement. And it’s often hard to evaluate its success… Remember the old joke: “I know half of my advertising is effective… I just don’t know which half!” I’ll look at how to evaluate your promotions in a future blog right here.
Social media promotion (Facebook, Twitter etc) is no less important in using your team’s existing networks to spread the word. It’s relatively cost-free but only reaches – at most – a few ‘degrees of separation’. And, like marketing, it carries the whiff of self-promotion – “blowing your own trumpet” – that may not be so effective in moving those beyond your closest friends and ‘fans’ to buy tickets. It’s also notoriously overdone at times… to the point of turning off potential audience. I’ll look at the pros and cons of Facebook promotion in a future blog too… so watch this space!
On the other hand, media publicity involves essentially ‘free’ editorial – press, online and on-air articles, listings and reviews that hold much more sway than ads. It carries the weight of editorial endorsement, not just the apparent ‘self-promotion’ of marketing and social media that can more easily be dismissed. The challenge here, though, is that editors and journalists ultimately make the decisions about what is newsworthy to their readers, listeners and viewers. So, making your pitch hit the right note and stand out above the rest is crucial! And that’s where skilled PR makes all the difference.
A publicist arranges press articles and features, radio and TV interviews, key “what’s on” listings in the press and on the ‘net as well as reviews. The benefits are obvious – especially for groups whose budget will not stretch to expensive advertising!
Performers and the rest of your creative team also appreciate coverage – which rewards them for their efforts and gains them wider professional recognition. It enhances your company’s reputation and reinforces your ‘brand’. All of which is not easily done without the skills, the contacts, the dedicated time – and the regular media relationships – that a professional publicist offers.
Publicists may also have extensive audience and artist databases, subscription e-news and groups to boost your campaign with effective direct e-marketing. This kind of ‘below-the-line’ promotion is essentially cost-free and adds thousands of new contacts to your own network.
They can also advise about photography, handle your opening night invitations and attract reviewers, casting agents and VIPs to help you make a ‘splash’.
Many independent arts producers make the mistake of trying to handle the promotion of their event themselves; most invariably fall short of being able to commit the necessary attention to the task while handling their other jobs. It is an area where expertise and contacts really come into play, taking the hard work – and guess-work – of PR off your hands. That leaves you the time and space to get on with your main business… that’s show business!
In the end, audiences will judge your show’s success. But don’t leave a stone unturned to make certain you get as many of them there as you can. Whomever and however you choose to handle your publicity, don’t forget about it…
Remember, putting on a show without PR is like winking at someone cute in the dark: you know what you’re doing… but no one else does!
Break a leg!