Publicity: How to Mount a Publicity Campaign
1) Build a Publicity or Marketing Calendar. When you are putting together a show, whether for a single night for over several weekends, set the date with enough time to get the publicity out. Plan on starting your publicity campaign at least six weeks or two months before the event. More lead time is better.
Where you will put your efforts determines how much lead time you’ll need to turn product around. Fast: tweet or email; long: mailing a printed season brochure.
The more you know about the show and the production the better. Read the script looking for quotes, listen and observe the crew and cast as they get into rehearsals, etc.
A spreadsheet or diagram saves you from having to keep it all in your head and helps to communicate or share the process and deadlines to others on your team involved with publicity.
Check out Clay Mabbit’s Sold Out Run website for free marketing calendar and many other tools to help you get a good start on your marketing plans.
Free online planning & collaboration apps include:
Airtable is an online database app that you can customize to fit your exact needs and process. The Actors Hankbook learned about Airtable when it stumbled upon Burien Actors Theatre’s Lending Library (BALL).
Asana promises to give “you everything you need to stay in sync, hit deadlines, and reach your goals.” Enough functionality to get your work done for a team up to 15 people is free. Asana’s want to free users from email by keeping due dates, assignments, and comments collected with project goal categories.
Keep & Share
K&S is an online calendar that offers a “freemium” model—the lifetime Basic Plan is free and carries advertising banners. Paid plans remove the advertising and increase the features. The Basic Plan offers lifetime use, 500 calendar events on 1 calendar, some storage for files and capacity to upload 500 files. The calendar can be customized and printed to fit your specific needs.
K&S has outstanding applications to ramp up your productivity. These include an intuitive and easy to use To-Do list with the capacity to include links, due and finish dates, and set priority levels and current status. The Discussions app works well for keeping notes and vital information organized such as contact lists.
The focus at Teamup is on calendars that support collaboration and coordination for groups. Free. No user accounts. Unlimited # of users. Creating a calendar takes only seconds. Each user is simply shared with a unique and secure URL – no downloads, no accounts, no registration. Also offers user accounts with additional features.
Free accounts allow up to eight color-coded sub-calendars. Features on each calendar event include options for a variety of ways to share the event on Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also, as each event is a unique URL you can convert it into a link for wider distribution.
According to its Google blurb, Trello “Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute.” You track work and alert team members using Trello “boards.” These boards are an online rendition of the Kanban scheduling system used in Lean manufacturing. Trello is free with upgrade options.
2) Create your copyedit stylesheets. Copyeditors make a set of pages for information they frequently need to get correct called stylesheets. This tool is another time saver later. Copyedit sheets help with both initial content drafting and proofreading.
Seed your first pages with vital information such as: correct spelling of the theater, company, address, etc. Remember to add essential information like dates & times of previews and special offers, opening night, and so on.
On another stylesheet using a table format organized alphabetically, list the correct spelling for the play, playwright, director, cast, crew members, and even characters if the spelling is tricky to make sure you get it right every time. Add other notes for style or appearance such as single space after periods or specifying a particular font.
3) Create email publicity address books. This is the most important time-saving "tip" because email is to publicity what the printing press was to literacy.
Where can you keep these lists? In your email app! For example on Yahoo grouped emails are called ‘lists,’ Gmail calls them “groups,” Thunderbird calls them “address books,” and Outlook calls them “contact lists.”
Alternatively, you can create lists on the fly in a spreadsheet with three column headings: Organization, Email, & Category. When it’s time to get the word out, sort your list by category, copy and paste the emails for the category you want into the BCC box at the top of your email and when ready hit “send.”
BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy and is a way to send email to a group of people without each person seeing the whole list. Using BCC is also an anti-spam measure.
What lists should you make? Include subscribers or members, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, friends, churches, schools, bloggers, journalists—in short, anyone you think would be interested in sharing the news about your production. Remember you volunteers have wide networks and also like to appear informed when asked a question.
Modern email marketing services apps can automate most of the tasks for distributing your messages. See the email tips page to learn more.
4) Start your Electronic Press Kit (EPK) folder. Open a folder on your computer desktop. Put everything in it, press releases, awards, company logo, photos, list of contacts, etc.. On your contacts spreadsheet you can add columns for specifics as you learn them. For example, limits to file sizes for photos and deadlines.
5) Build your plan for social media. The best way to reach your current base, recruit new fans and friends for your production, and share positive reviews and word-of-mouth reactions is via social media. Social media includes well-known platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & Linked-In, but also sites that support very engaged and interested members such as Reddit and Meet-Up.
Note: when uploading images each platform has its own limits for file sizes and image dimensions.
6) Write a good press release.
7) Write PSAs for the radio and television.
8) Pictures Get pictures together, either printed or digital, black and white with horizontal and vertical presentations. Store them in your EPK.
9) Sending your publicity. Make a decision as to where to send your publicity. There are three major choices:
a) Niche publications only, e.g. professional trade newsletters and publications, or special interest publications such as Seattle’s Child.
Example: With a niche event, you only need to hit the niche publication. For example, when I published the Seattle and Eastside Private School Guide I put one display ad in Seattle’s Child. It would have been a waste of money to do it anywhere else.
b) General media, e.g. media sources that reach a general audience: daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, neighborhood newspapers, radio & TV, local monthly magazines.
c) Combination, general plus the specific niche publications most likely to cover your event.
Email your press releases widely, but with care. Don’t send to a publication that will have no interest in your event, i.e. if you are organizing an Animal Rights Rally, don’t send a release to Fishing News.)
10) Consult the Checklist. Use the Checklist for publicity to make sure you cover all your bases.