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The Things an EdFringe PR Cannot Do and Other Observations by an Absent Critic

27 Aug
Image by Anne, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Anne, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe finished yesterday, on Bank Holiday Monday, which meant, as Edinburgh regulars like John Fleming know, that all the shops in the city were open, but all the banks were closed. Welcome to Edinburgh, we do things differently in August.

This year, I also decided to do things differently by taking a year out from the Fringe after five consecutive years of reviewing at the festival. I popped a quick “I won’t be at the Fringe, sorry” notice on my Contact Me page, and cleared my diary for the entire month of August for the first time since 2009. It felt good.

Despite the much-needed break, my absence gave me a mild case of the fear of missing out, and so, I often sauntered through Bristo Square, Fringe Central, North Bridge et al, to see what was going on. On one of these trips, I met my friend Beryl for coffee. There are two things that you need to know about my dear Beryl: Beryl is not their real name but they are A Very Good Theatre PR.

“The thing is, ” began Beryl, after inhaling her colourful cardboard cup of frothy, overpriced coffee, “that a lot of the national critics have stayed away from the Fringe this year, which some clients are finding very hard to accept.”

“I have this one client; they have a great show, they’ve had consistently good reviews, but they want the national press in, and I can’t contact journalists who aren’t at the Fringe and have no intention of coming to the Fringe.”

The lack of well-established broadsheet publications at this year’s festival has not gone unnoticed, and some of the biggest names in theatre criticism, such as Ian Shuttleworth and Mark Shenton have chosen to stay at home.

“But, they just won’t listen.” Continued Beryl. “I’ve sent them emails carefully explaining why the National press aren’t coming to review them. If they hadn’t had any reviews then I would understands, but they’ve had over 10 reviewers so far, and that’s still not good enough. In fact, they’ve started demanding that I do things that I just can’t do, it’s not my job and it’s not how PR works.”

“What kind of things?” I asked, cradling my own freakishly expensive cup of joe, “I’m impressed that you’ve managed to get 10 separate publications to review their show, that’s incredible! There are people at this festival that dream of getting just one review!”

Beryl gazed miserably into her spent cup of corporate pick-me-up and explained: “Most of our contact has been via email, but the other day the producer phoned me, he’d just finished reading The Scotsman‘s review of the show and he didn’t like that they’d given it 3 stars.”

“You need to phone The Scotsman,” he said, “and get them to change it to 4 stars.”

“That isn’t how it works!” I cried.

“I know,” sighed Beryl, “I tried to explain How It Works, but he was having none of it. He also didn’t like it when he ‘discovered’ that the reviewer was – shock horror – a freelance journalist – not a staff writer and that they were – gasp – only 24.”

“I explained that the writer, despite the mortal sin of being younger than 25, was, in fact, a well-respected critic and an award-winning reviewer who writes for several national publications, but he still wasn’t happy.”

“And they haven’t paid me.”

I slammed my coffee down. “So, in a festival of 3,193 shows, performed in 299 venues, in a year when critics seem to be abandoning the Fringe, you and you alone, have managed to convince 10 critics to review this one show, and they haven’t paid you?”

Beryl nodded. “They paid a deposit but they were meant to pay the first instalment on the 1st of August, which they haven’t. I’ve been emailing the producer about it, and he’s ignored me.”

A few days later, I sent Beryl a text message to ask if the producer had coughed up the money.

“Nope.” She replied, “But I did get a phone call saying the lighting designer hadn’t been paid and the producer had given them my number…go figure.”

Beryl, like I said earlier, is A Very Good Theatre PR. But even Very Good Theatre PRs can’t control reviewers because reviewers have free will whether we like it or not.

You can control the show, you can control advertising and you can control yourself, but you cannot control the reviews.

There will always be things that your PR cannot do, so don’t demand the impossible and pay your staff, for God’s sake, because bad press travels fast before, during and after the Fringe.

How To Get Reviewed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

5 Jun
2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe image by zoetnet, shared under a Creative Common Licence

2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe image by zoetnet, shared under a Creative Common Licence

Hold on to your hats, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is nigh! After months of anticipation, the long-awaited official launch of the Fringe takes place today in Scotland’s rather dreich capital city.

For years, the Fringe has been known as the place where some of the world’s most popular comedians, theatre companies, playwrights and directors were officially ‘discovered’, and because of this, thousands of people flock to the city every year, hoping to be the next big thing. They want to get those coveted critical bums on seats and nab a five-star review.

The Fringe, as we all know, is the world’s biggest arts and culture festival, so, how do you approach a critic and (hopefully) convince them to review your show?

A Note on Reviews

Before I discuss the finer points of Contacting a Reviewer 101, I have to explain the role of the critic, because I’ve found that some practitioners and PRs seem to be unsure about what it is that critics are supposed to do.

As we all know, critics write reviews, this is a given, but a review is like an omen; it can either be good or bad. A critic will not write a positive review just because they’ve been invited to a show; they will write a review based on their experience and it will (or should) be published in a timely fashion.

The critic is under no obligation to write either a good or a bad review, they are under obligation to write a truthful review that is helpful to the audience. The critic is loyal only to the reader; not to the venue, director, actor or playwright.

Therefore, if you want coverage that is uniformly positive and says exactly what you want it to say, then it’s better to buy an ad. If you want a reviewer’s professional opinion on your show, that you can then use in your publicity material, email the editor. Otherwise, contact the advertising department and pay for an advert.

Prepare Now

One of the more frustrating experiences for a Fringe critic is being contacted about a show that they would have really liked to review – after the Fringe has begun. This is because by then, their reviewing schedule has been confirmed and it’s highly unlikely that the critic will be able to fit the show into their itinerary.

You are much more likely to get a reviewer into your show if you contact them before the festival. I’ve been getting Fringe PRs since late April, but an editor friend of mine got her first one in February. So, if you’ve not started contacting the journalists you want to target yet, then do it as soon as possible, while the nation’s critics are thinking about their reviewing schedule.

Have Something to Say

When I worked in online PR, I often had to write press releases that weren’t newsworthy. I know, I hated it too. This was because we had clients that wanted a certain number of press releases written and submitted every month and so, I had to find something, if anything, to say about the client and their products that would (hopefully) appeal to journalists.

I did this by trying to find a newsworthy angle on the story or client. Sometimes it was because there was a breaking news story that had something to do with their industry, sometimes it was because something impressive had happened within the company, but whatever I chose to write about, it had to be newsworthy.

Journalists are always looking for newsworthy releases, we’re forever searching for a different angle to write about on the pressing issues of today. Not only do we need this news, we need to be the first to report it, so we want an exclusive. We want to get some exceptional information before our rivals and we have to be able to shout about it.

Everyone has a story; what makes your show, your company, your production stand out? Why should a critic review, or even preview your show before the Fringe as opposed to a rival piece in the same venue? Find your angle, find your voice, find your audience.

Press Release Etiquette

When it comes to press releases, everyone’s different. But, most critics I know agree on one thing; please don’t attach your PR as a PDF.

PDFs are great –  if you don’t want to copy and paste information from them or edit them in any way. So, if I’m trying to copy and paste your listings information to put it in my calendar or spreadsheet, the nature of a PDF means that I can’t do that.

However, attachments in general can trigger the wrath of a million fiery suns in even the most patient of critics. Some don’t download properly, they can contain viruses and some just aren’t compatible with the software on a journalist’s computer. So, instead of attaching anything, or adding a link to an external site in order to view your PR, copy and paste it into the body of your email; this saves time and effort later on.

If you are sending press releases for more than one show, then send one email per show, so that the email can be found quickly if needed. Also, it’s really helpful to put the name of the show, the venue and the dates in the subject of the email. If you do this, your PR will be a beacon of hope in a very overwhelmed journalist’s inbox. And please, don’t be the asshole that sends 22 attachments in one email.

Remember to check, double-check and triple check your listings information, such as dates, times and venue, a small hiccup here can have big consequences. You might find this Arts PR post that I wrote after the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe helpful.

Be Human

In our digital age, it’s become far too easy to forget that the critics are actually people. I know we can have this reputation of being utterly terrifying, humourless, otherworldly sods who are only happy when we’re feasting on the broken dreams of Fringe casualties, but underneath that, we are human.

One of the things about being Homo sapiens is that we respond to being spoken to like living, breathing entities. We don’t want a generic email that doesn’t start with a greeting, demands a review, or fires the same promotional message at us repeatedly. We want to be able to read about the people and the passion at the heart of the project.

You don’t have to write a critic a novel detailing why you’re inviting them to your show, but you can personalise your email. This takes time, but it makes your email stand out. And let me tell you, when all the emails you’ve received that day have been overly promotional, full of horrendous PR buzzwords and have been devoid of any human emotion, getting a brief email that simply begins with a greeting and your name makes you sit up and pay attention.

Twit to Woo?

Social media is marvellous, isn’t it? It allows you to find and contact almost anyone, which means it’s a great place to reach out to a critic or publication. However, while social networking sites like Twitter will help you find the right people to invite to your show, I could caution against using it as a pitching tool.

The reason for this is simple: anything you put on social media is in the public domain, which means that everybody can read it, unless you have a private account. However, when you’re contacting a journalist, especially if you have an exclusive about your show, the open nature of social media means that your news will no longer be an exclusive, because everyone will have read about it online first.

Too often, Twitter accounts fire out the same promotional tweet to journalists and not only does it ensure that your news gets lost in the ether, it also looks lazy, so if you can’t be bothered to reach out properly, why should the critic go to see your show?

Feel free to make first contact on social media; follow the journalist’s account, say a quick hello and ask the critic if you can send them a PR, but don’t take up too much of their time. Social media is often treated like a platform for broadcasting, but it’s really for being sociable and engaging. You can also chat to the critic, be friendly and focus on building a long-term professional relationship with them, not just a filthy and unremarkable #EdFringe quickie. The contacts you make this year will remember you next year.

During the Fringe it’s nice to have somewhere to escape, to vent, and that’s what I use my Twitter account (*cough* @trashtaylor *cough*) for. Remember that the critic will have had lots of messages from other people trying to get them to review them too, so take it easy, you are in their space, be nice, be polite and have fun. Also, don’t forget that you are representing your show on social media, so don’t say anything stupid.

 The Follow-Up

One part of the process that some people rely on too heavily is the follow-up. While it’s understandable that someone may be anxious that their PR hasn’t reached its recipients, please rest assured that it has been received and it has been read. You can always email again, but ask yourself, do you have anything else to add, such as a piece of news, or the addition of extra dates?

Sending the same PR again is unnecessary, because you’ll just be repeating yourself. Today, I got a second email about a Fringe production and then a tweet from the show’s producer within a very short length of time, both of which told me nothing new about the piece. Don’t be the annoying person who constantly emails and calls publications; it won’t make critics magically find space for your show in their already packed schedules.

Is there anything else you really want to know? Is this year your first Fringe? Why not comment below and tell me?

PR Post Mortem: Brew What Your Mama Gave Ya!

21 Mar
Image by The Smithsonian Institute, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by the Smithsonian Institution, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Nothing brings the Bad PRs out of the woodwork like a national celebration, and in the UK, the next big day of celebration is Mother’s Day, which takes place on Sunday, the 30th of March, unlike Mother’s Day in the US, which is in May.

The following PR appeared in my inbox late last week, and it was so bad that I felt I had no other option but to share it. As usual, I have stripped out any identifying information about the client, because it’s not their fault that their PR/media person has written and submitted such a poor PR. [UPDATE: After publishing this piece on Friday, a few people quite rightly argued that this PR could have been influenced by pressure from the client, which is true. I was more than a bit unfair in my original throw away comment about the PR/media person, and I perpetuated a misconception about PR companies. Sorry folks, I’ll be more open-minded next time.]

However, in some ways, I really hope somebody from this company can eventually appreciate that this PR is about as useful as a chocolate teapot to everyone involved.

Anyway, terrible, terrible puns aside, here is the worst PR I’ve received so far this year.

Are you going to give her an “old bag” on Mother’s Day? Or are you going to make her a nice cup of [REDACTED’S] tea? [What? Old bag? Her? Are you calling my mother an old bag?]

At last, an alternative to the messy tea bag ~ [REDACTED]~ [Hold up, did you use two tildes (~) there? That makes no sense, as a tilde means ‘similar to’ or approximately. You need to use a hyphen (-).] the new way to drink a richly flavoured and fragrant cup of Organic [Why the capital O?], Fair Trade [Fair trade, unless you’re talking about The Fairtrade Foundation, in which case it’s two words] tea. [Also, I’ve never had a problem with tea bags, they suit me just fine.]

You remove the [REDACTED] from its water and it does not drip ~ NO MESS. [NO NEED FOR CAPS LOCK, OR A TILDE]

It’s made from triple laminate food grade foil that goes in your recycling bin after use ~ NO WASTE. [I’ll be honest,  you’ve lost me, I don’t care.]

Unlike a tea bag it does not require squeezing nor wringing to extract the flavour ~ NO BURNT FINGERS. [Has anyone ever burnt their fingers on a teabag? You can use a spoon to remove the tea bag, you know. Have you been making tea with your hands all this time?]

Also, the [REDACTED] innovative design lets you use it to stir the tea ~ NO NEED FOR A TEASPOON. [But if you had a teaspoon in the first place, then you’d wouldn’t need REDACTED.  JUST BUY MORE TEASPOONS, PEOPLE.]

To make a cup of [REDACTED], you simply remove the [REDACTED] from its paper envelope, put it in a cup, add boiling water and gently stir the [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] for a few minutes. Let it stand for a minute to further infuse, then use the [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] to stir in your sugar and milk (if required when making english breakfast tea) [You mean English breakfast tea]. It will now be fully infused, so remove the [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] and tap it once on the edge of the cup to discharge any excess water, then pop it in your waste recycling bin.

Each [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] is packed at point of origin using premium grade, organic tea leaves, harvested, selected and processed in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) [Sri Lanka hasn’t been known as Ceylon since 1972. It’s called the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. What next, will you refer to Iran as Persia?] Fair Trade estates.

Eleven different blends are available, so there is a blend of tea to suit all tea lovers! [Praise be to tea.]

black teas: ~ english breakfast, earl grey and apple cinnamon [English breakfast tea. It has a capital E. While we’re at it, there should be a capital B at the start of this sentence.]

red teas: ~ jasmine lotus, strawberry and vanilla peach [Capital letter at the start of a sentence, please.]

green teas: ~ ginger, lemon grass and peppermint [Capital letter.]

herbal infusions: ~ fruit “goji” berry (caffeine free) and herbs n’ honey (caffeine free) [Oh, I give up.]

To obtain a 15% discount, use discount code MOTHER at [REDACTED]. [Nope]

Or click on this link: [Link removed, sucker]

[REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] can be found at several tea and coffee shops and are also being served at hotels, spas, restaurants, hair salons and beauticians. 32 piece packs of [REDACTED] and 3 sizes of Mahogany boxes (an office/ bar box, a restaurant/hotel box and a boardroom/hospitality box) full of assorted flavours, can be purchased from selected retail outlets or on-line, [Online is one word. ONE WORD.] from [REDACTED].

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please do not hesitate to contact me for more info or samples. [Nope. Oh, you’ve subscribed me to your email subscription service! I have just unsubscribed.]

Infuse your Passion! [I’ll infuse your head, mate.]

PR Numpty. [Yes, they did put a full stop after their own name, bless.]

What They Did Right:

  • Nothing, absolutely nothing

What They Did Wrong:

  • This is not a press release, as it doesn’t contain any news, the tone is highly promotional
  • If you just want to promote something, and have your words published verbatim, then don’t write a press release, BUY AN ADD.
  • Poor angle – “Mother’s Day? Oh, mums like tea, let’s push our client’s tea product. Hooray!”
  • No introduction or hello
  • Fairtrade/Fair Trade
  • English breakfast tea
  • On-line is not a word
  • SUDDENLY, TILDES, EVERYWHERE
  • Let’s be honest, this is a really boring email
  • General errors – no capital letter at the start of a sentence, etc
  • Referring to Sri Lanka as Ceylon – I think this was to use up words and try to look clever
  • Adding me to their mailing list
  • Emailing me in the first place

PR Post Mortem: A Mysterious Academy Award Prediction

28 Feb
Academy Awards Image by Doug Kline, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Doug Kline, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Rubbish PRs seem to be a bit like buses; none for ages, and then three utter beauties come along at once. Some plucky agencies must have read my last PR Post Mortem post, where I admitted to missing their terrible PRs, and suddenly, I’ve had them in abundance in the last week.

With it officially being ‘Awards Season’ I received the following PR earlier this week. As always, I’ve removed all mention of the client and the PR company, in order to protect the innocent, and my second PR Post Mortem post this year, is all about predicting the winner of the Best Picture award at the 2014 Academy Awards, which will be broadcast on the 2nd of March. But, will they be proven right?

Hello there, [My name isn’t “There”, my name is Amy]

I thought you’d be interested [Oh, did you?] in this analysis from [REDACTED] that looks at the web surfing habits of people who have the same characteristics as the mysterious Oscar [You mean the Academy Awards, surely?] voters to determine who they are most likely to vote for:

4 Non-Contenders – Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena, Nebraska

2 Near-Misses – The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club

3 Challengers – American Hustle, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave to win Best Film Oscar [It’s called the Academy Award for Best Picture]

London, 26 February 2014 – The Oscars [Ahem, The Academy Awards] are voted for by a group of around 5,800 people that the Los Angeles Times discovered are much less diverse than the average film-going public [SHOCK HORROR!] – they’re older (86% are over 50), [OLDER?!] white (94%) [Oh God, no!] and male (77%) [Not surprising].

Based on its own data, [REDACTED] knows that this select group tend to have a love of sports cars, [Oh really?] high-end clothing [Is that so?] and exotic travel destinations [Wait, how are you getting this data?]. Thus, [REDACTED] can predict which film this group are likely to vote for based on the interests – analysed through web surfing habits – of thousands of people with these same demographics and interests, aka ‘lookalikes’. [Oh, I see. Actually, I don’t see. How did you get hold of these “web surfing habits”?]

Four Non-Contenders
There are nine films up for Best Picture but, based on lookalike modelling, [Say, what?] Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena, and Nebraska, have almost no chance of winning [Harsh]. Fans of Captain Phillips, for example, have high regard for films like Warm Bodies (a romantic zombie comedy) [Yes, I know what Warm Bodies is] and The Last Stand (a Schwarzenegger action film with Johnny Knoxville) [Yes, I know that Schwarzenegger makes action movies. Have you seen Commando? Now THAT is an action movie]. The fan base of Her are far too into science fiction [There’s no such thing as being ‘far too into Science Fiction’] and technology themes than would be acceptable for the average Oscar voter – nearly 20 times more likely. [Riiiiight. So, what you’re saying is the average “Oscar Voter” is a bit stupid? Yes?]

While differing tastes among Oscar [Academy Awards, dammit] voters counts these films out, social status puts paid to the other two. Philomena fans are the least affluent of the nominees, being 2.8 times more likely to earn less than £30,000 a year. [Yes, but, how do you know this?] Nebraska is the true art house favourite, with a young urban audience that is decidedly aspirational – in fact, roughly half spend considerably more than they earn. [But how do you know?]

Two Near-Misses
Although serious contenders The Wolf of Wall Street (too selfish) [Bankers, amirite?] and Dallas Buyers Club (too unselfish) [Or compassionate?] won’t win either.

Fans of The Wolf of Wall Street play to a stereotype distasteful to the typical Oscar [Academy Awards] voter. They are very wealthy – 9.6 times more likely to earn more than £150,000 a year, 6.8 times more likely to be investment bankers, and 4.6 times more likely to buy an imported Italian suit [Where are you getting these facts?]. They also have a high interest in celebrities like Heidi Klum (10.7 times), Megan Fox (8.4 times), and Britney Spears (8.3 times). [LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE]

At the other extreme, Dallas Buyers Club fans are a more caring type, one not really in sync with the stereotypes of Hollywood. They are the most likely to be expecting a child (11 times), to be dog owners (8.3 times), to be vegetarian (7.3 times) and to be primary school teachers (6.5 times). [So, Hollywood is full of childless cat owners who eat meat and don’t work in education? It must be Hell on Earth!]

The Three Challengers
The three remaining challengers – American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave – enjoy broad appeal, with none of the baggage of the other films. [I don’t know, 12 Years a Slave is a pretty heavy film, man]

A simplistic demographic approach would suggest a narrow win by American Hustle over 12 Years a Slave. As viewers get older or wealthier, they increasingly prefer these films – in complete contrast to Gravity – but Caucasians are most likely to be fans of American Hustle. [Those damn Caucasians. Did you ask any other demographic, like, you know, people of colour?]

However, people living in Los Angles [Uh, you mean Los Angeles?]– and in other major US cities – are more likely to be fans of 12 Years a Slave. American Hustle fans tend to be found in the next tier [The next tier? Like a cake?] of cities such as Philadelphia, Denver and Phoenix.

So what comes out on top when considering all the demographic, social and interests: socially well-established older white men living in Los Angeles [Yay! You spelt it right!] who (broadly speaking) have a love of sports cars, high-end clothing and exotic travel destinations? [Sounds like a Republican’s wet dream, if you ask me]

Taking all the factors into account shows that 12 Years a Slave will narrowly beat American Hustle to Best Picture. [Care to stand by that prediction, Mystic Meg?]

[There was a rather bland graph here. I’m not sharing it because it’s boring]

Unsubscribe [Oh, you bloody bastards!]

What They Did Right

  • PR was timely and about a subject that’s relevant to a cultural blog
  • They revealed, that yes, Hollywood is controlled by rich white men, just as we all thought

What They Did Wrong

  • Not using my name, my name isn’t “There”.
  • They didn’t use my name, yet they seem to think I’d be interested in their PR.
  • THE EVENT IS CALLED THE ACADEMY AWARDS.
  • IT’S CALLED THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE – if you’re going to send out a PR about how good your data is, then you need to get some basic facts right.
  • Mysterious, mysterious data – what is this data? How did they get it?
  • I have no idea how they know some people’s “web surfing habits”.
  • Why should I write about data this mysterious?
  • Assuming I don’t know the plots and stars of Warm Bodies and The Last Stand.
  • Spelling error “Los Angles” – a pretty significant mistake.
  • It’s a VERY long PR.
  • It actually gets quite boring, and it could have been very interesting at some point.
  • Bland graph.
  • Signing me up to a third-party mailing list without my knowledge or permission means an instant unsubcribe request.

PR Post Mortem: Valentine’s Day Spoiler Alert Edition

13 Feb
Image by ButterflySha, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by ButterflySha, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

There are some things that I don’t miss from my years as an editor;  the responsibility, not having the time to write, and having to deal with the time wasters that would contact me for any number of pointless reasons.

However, recently I realised that I did miss something about being an editor: the many bad PRs I used to receive. I still get them from time to time, and I’ve had a few weak ones recently, but the main problem with these PRs is that they are poorly targeted; after all, why would you contact an arts journalist about a financial news story?

But finally, I have one. I finally have a PR that can be featured on the PR Post Mortem. I’ve removed as much as I can about the product, because it’s not the company’s fault that their PR company didn’t use the best approach. So without further disruption, here is the first PR Post Mortem of 2014, and it’s all about Valentine’s Day, baby.

Dear Amy, [Yo, yo!]

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, [REDACTED] has released the first ever [REDACTED] of Truman Capote’s classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s [The name of a film or a TV Show goes in italic typeface, not bold. It’s funny, because I’ve actually never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s], narrated by the inimitable Michael C. Hall, best known for his award-winning roles in hit US dramas Dexter [Italic?] and Six Feet Under [Ou est italic?]. I wondered whether you would be interested in featuring this exclusive [REDACTED] in your Valentine’s Day coverage. [What is Valentine’s Day coverage? Why would I cover Valentine’s Day?]

Hall, who has won two Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe Award for his on screen [It’s on-screen] appearances, gives an exceptional performance in this one-off special narration, far-removed [ahem, it’s far removed] from the gritty roles he is best known for. [Yes, I know who he is, thanks]

Telling the story of Capote’s most beloved heroine, Holly Golightly, Hall’s dulcet tones [Why did you make these words bold?] and honeyed vocal abilities [And this? This doesn’t even make sense] are enough to make any modern Golightly swoon. But as this unrequited love story unfolds, it is Hall’s absorbing storytelling ability [Again with the bold letters, do you think I can’t read?] and gift for expressing each characters emotional vulnerability, that are guaranteed to weaken knees across the nation. [Oh really? I’m Scottish, love, we never go weak at the knees]

Available to download from today, the [Product] is a unique Valentine’s gift idea [Please stop making some words bold, it’s really quite insulting] for a sweetheart or even a curmudgeon [CENSORED DUE TO UNFORGIVABLE SPOILER ALERT, SEE BELOW].

[I decided to take out the final sentence of the above paragraph because the PR gave away the ending of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now, I know it’s a classic film, and millions of people have seen it, and millions of people have read the book, or both, but I haven’t. I’ve never seen or read Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While this PR Numpty was not to know that, I’m genuinely irritated that they’ve revealed THE ENDING TO THE FILM. Would a critic give away the ending? No, so why would a PR? I’ve removed this sentence because I won’t have the film ruined for anyone else. Thanks, PR Numpty.]

This celebrity [IT NEVER ENDS!] offering is one of many exclusives produced and published by Audible. Other famous on-screen lotharios [URGH] who have lent their voices to [REDACTED] include Elijah Wood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Depp, Damian Lewis, Colin Firth, Matt Dillon, and Samuel L. Jackson. [I really don’t care.]

[Wait, Cumberbatch, you say?]

If you would like to feature [GAH! Tell me more about Cumberbatch!] this exclusive [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] of Breakfast at Tiffany’s [Would it kill you to use italic typeface for the title of a film?] in your Valentine’s coverage [There is no such thing as Valentine’s coverage on The Taylor Trash], would like to receive a free version for review [NOPE, NOPE NOPE], or to find out more about reviewing [REDACTED’S] latest releases, please do not hesitate to get in touch. [Oh, I’m not hesitating, I won’t be in touch. Ever. YOU RUINED THE ENDING OF BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S FOR ME.]

Many thanks,

PR Numpty

What They Did Right

  • They addressed me by my first name and spelt it correctly
  • Thankfully, they didn’t try to link this story to the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote in the 2005 film, Capote. Some PRs would.
  • They mentioned Cumberbatch

What They Did Wrong

  • They pitched me an irrelevant product,
  • “Valentine’s Day Coverage”, my arse
  • Any Mention of Valentine’s Day in general
  • So many unnecessary, patronising and just plain stupid words in bold typeface
  • Not using the italic typeface for film and TV show titles
  • GIVING AWAY THE ENDING TO A FILM THAT I’VE NOT SEEN
  • Not enough Cumberbatch

PR Post Mortem Recommendations

  • Less bold
  • More italic
  • Only the worst type of person gives away the ending to a film
  • Never email me about Valentine’s Day again
  • Cumberbatch, please

PR Post Mortem: The Best of EdFringe – Part Two

22 Aug
Image by Manic Street Preacher, shared under a Creative Commons License

Image by Manic Street Preacher, shared under a Creative Commons License

As the Edinburgh Festival Fringe draws to a weary close, I’ve been busy not just reviewing, but also compiling the very best (read, worst, definitely the worst) of the EdFringe PRs that I’ve received over the last few weeks.

So, without further ado, here is PR Post Mortem: Best of EdFringe Part Two:

What’s My Name?

Hi guys! [Um, hello. That’s uh, that’s not my name.]

Just a little message letting you know our brand-new comedy, [Show Name] is currently in a run [In a run? Where’s it going? What charity is it running for?] at the Fringe until 24th August. We’d love it if you could come along and review us! [Exclamation Mark]

Seems a strange time to email, but I’ve only been switched on to your publication [And what publication is that?] and I really liked having a peruse through your site. [Say my publication’s name. Say MY name.]

Hope to see you there, if you can make it! [Why did you put an exclamation mark here?] Don’t hesitate to get in touch via phone or email.

Peas & lurve, [WHAT]

PR Numpty

Journalists Live in Scotland, Too

Hi Amy,

I just wanted to get in touch to see whether you still have reviewers at the Edinburgh Fringe this week? [Well, I live here, so yes, I do.]

I just wanted to make a couple of recommendations for review [I have a feeling these recommendations will be biased] if any of your team would be available, these are [Show Name and Show Name]

I’ve attached press releases for more info [Oh Goody] on these as well as a list of all the shows I am looking after in case the others should be of interest also.

Thanks and best wishes,

PR Numpty

Review Our Amazing Something

Hi Amy, [Hello!]

We are working on this amazing online piece which is taking place on Monday [Great, what is this piece?] throughout the day and I wondered if there is any way of putting a link to it on your site at all? [You want me to link to a project I know nothing about?] Or if one of your reviewers would be interested in spending the day with it? [Spending the day with it? What is it?]

[Website Link]

Hope all’s fine and dandy. [Well no, it’s not because this email tells me sweet Fanny Adams about your ‘amazing online piece’.]

Px [A kiss? Oh no, wait a minute, I remember this guy – it’s 22 attachments guy!]

Well, If You Say Please…

Pleasereview these shows … [Pleaseuse spaces]

Thank you! [Wait, that’s it?!]

Mx [Another kiss? Why I outta…]

[The show details were below the text of the email. No, thank you.]

Not An EdFringe PR, But…

Hi – I thought your readers may be interested…please let me know! [You know nothing about my readers]

As the Carnival approaches this week on August 25, I thought you might like to use this great interactive infographic [Oh no, not another infographic] from [Promotional Business Gift Website, yes, that’s right, a PROMOTIONAL BUSINESS GIFT WEBSITE]

Since its inception in 1966, the Notting Hill Carnival, held in August annually, has grown into the largest street festival in Europe. Did you know that a record 1.5 million people attended in 2012 and it brought nearly £100 million to the London/UK economy? [No, and I don’t care]

· History of the event: Was originally a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ aimed a smoothing over race relations following the Notting Hill race riots the previous year. [A ‘Caribbean Carnival’, eh?]

· Entertainment/Celebrity Elements: High-profile artists such as Eddie Grant, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine, Jamiroquai and Burning Spear have participated [Yes, I know what the Notting Hill Carnival is, thanks]

· Top Trends in Food: Caribbean street food is one of the highlights of Notting Hill Carnival dating back to its roots. Turkish, Chinese and Indian are also popular. [Am I eating the food? Will I get to eat the food? No? Well then, I don’t care]

· View the graphic: To learn more…[Nope. Nope. Nope.]

If you plan to use the infographic we would love to know and ask that you please attribute a link to [Promotional Business Gift Website, who clearly want a link more than anything else]

Thanks,

PR Numpty

What They Did Right

  • Two of the PRs used my name
  • That seems to be it

What They Did Wrong

  • Exclamation marks – why?
  • Not knowing that me and most of my writers are based in Edinburgh
  • Not using my name
  • Not using the publication’s name
  • Unclear/undefined projects
  • Kisses – we are NOT friends
  • Lack of spaces
  • Begging me to review shows
  • 22 attachment guy getting in touch again
  • INFOGRAPHIC

PR Post Mortem: The Best of EdFringe – Part One

4 Aug
EdFringe Flyerer 2010 Image By  used under a Creative Commons Licence

EdFringe Flyerer 2010 By <p&p> Image Used Under a Creative Commons License

Since the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or as some people insist on calling it, ‘Edinburgh’, like nothing else happens in the city for the rest of the year, like it’s a more modern version of Brigadoon, without Vincent Minnelli’s somewhat skewed vision of Scotland) has come around again, it’s time to analyse the best, the worst and the unforgettable in Edinburgh fringe PRs.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the very first PR Post Mortem dedicated to the wonders of the EdFringe PR.

I would Like You to Interview My Penis

Hello [Hi!]

Talented character comedian my penis is available for interview if you are interested.  [Chronically underpaid journalist is unsure if this is a character? Or…an actual, like, wang?]

After years on the sketch circuit my penis [ACTUAL WANG ALERT! ACTUAL WANG ALERT!] is hoping to finally get his big break in my Edinburgh show Wrong Way and is looking for press opportunities. [So, this IS a pitch for an interview with a real penis]

I am e-mailing you on behalf of my penis [Oh dear] as he is very shy [Oh Gawd], so if you would like to speak with my penis [Wang!] it would have to be via e-mail. [I will not be ordered around by a penis]

Me and my penis look forward to hearing from you. [Can penises hear? What’s the plural or penis? Penai? Peen?]

HD

I Can Haz Attachments?

Hi Amy, [‘Sup?]

I hope you are well. [You’ve caught me at that awkward moment between TV series. Game of Thrones is finished, but Breaking Bad hasn’t started yet. What’s a girl to do?]

I just wanted to ensure that you had our press releases for this year’s shows. [EdFringe shows? EIF shows?]

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything further at all. [That sounds fair enough, I’ll go read your sign off]

px [A kiss? On the first email?]

[Oh, there’s a couple of attachments.]

[That’s more than a couple of attachments.]

[There’s more than 10 attachments]

[There are 22 separate attachments.]

[Why would you do that? What have I done to deserve this?]

Short and Sweet

Hello, [Howdy]

I have attached a ‘media release’, I hope you find it interesting. [Um, thank you?]

Thank you [You’re welcome, but who are you?]

Geoff W [Ah, Geoff, that’s great. What can I help…is that it?]

 

I Know You, I Know I Know You

Dear Amy, [Hello there!]

Our paths have crossed at the Fringe before [Nope] (I think we may first have been introduced by REDACTED?) [We were not introduced by REDACTED because I have never actually met REDACTED, so definitely nope]. Are you covering the festival this year? [I live here, so yes.]

I am returning this year with three really strong shows [Super]– all from acclaimed companies (two of which are returning to Edinburgh following hugely well received recent shows) and with interesting concepts. I’d love to know if you would be interested in previewing these in some way. [Ok]

[This section redacted to protect the shows, which do sound really strong, I agree.]

Do let me know if there is something we can do together, if you’d like to book in to review, or if you need any more information. [I’ve got all I need, thanks.]

Best wishes,
PR Person

[After I got this email, I found out that this PR person had sent the exact same email to an editor I know. However, this editor was not at the Fringe last year, and had also never met REDACTED. Sneaky.]

Perhaps the Politest PR Yet

Hi Amy, [Hi!]

Hope I’m not breaking protocol by sending this through [Protocol? What’s that?] but we would like to invite you to see and review my company’s show at this years Fringe. [That’s very polite, thank you]

Thank you in advance for your time: [Girly squeal!] please see below for our press release for our devised production [REDACTED] We are performing every day and we would be delighted if you could make it. [Since you have been so polite, I would be delighted if you would have me]

Please do get in touch with any info, image or interview requests. We love to chat, It would be great to hear from you. [Another girly squeal, you know why? Because it’s NICE TO BE NICE]

All the best,

Nice PR Person

Once, Twice, Three Times a PR

Dear Amy [Hello!]

It’s a pleasure [Give yourself over to absolute, pleasure] to send you the press release for my 2013 Edinburgh Fringe show, [REDACTED].

[Short and sweet, but that’s alright]

Best wishes

Person Doing Their Own PR

Dear Amy [Hello again]

I have pleasure [How much pleasure are you getting from this?] in sending you the press release for my Edinburgh Fringe 2013 solo show, [REDACTED].

[This was the same PR just with a different show name. I feel dirty.]

Best wishes

Person Doing Their Own PR

Dear Amy [Oh, it’s you]

I’m delighted [You’re delighted this time are you? Great!] to send you the press release about my new album launch and Edinburgh Fringe crowd funding project. [Well, at least it’s not about another show]

Best wishes

Person Doing Their Own PR

What They Did Right

  • Most PRs began with my name
  • One of the PRs was very, very polite
  • The Penis PR is just unforgettable

What They Did Wrong

  • Not giving me enough information in the email – this is the one chance you get to personalise your introduction and give the reviewer and idea of who you are, what you are offering, and why the journalist should care
  • Sending the exact same PR twice, followed by another, very similar, PR. It’s pretty lazy, and not very pleasurable either.
  • Why 22 attachments? WHY?

Post Mortem Recommendations

  • Be nice
  • Have an unusual/memorable angle to your pitch
  • Don’t be shy
  • Take the time to write a different email for each show or event
  • DON’T ADD 22 SEPARATE ATTACHMENTS TO YOUR EMAIL

PR Post Mortem: I Don’t Care About Your Discographic

30 Jun
Disco Image by PTGreg, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Disco Image by PTGreg, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

One of the main gripes I have with bad PR is that some PR companies and PR officers don’t research the publications that they contact, and so, I often get press releases that aren’t in my publication’s remit. Sadly, this is something that happens quite often, and it annoys a lot of journalists. Welcome to PR Post Mortem; a new feature on The Taylor Trash, where I unlock the archives and examine the cold, dead cadaver of bad PR pitches past.

This press release was sent to my TPR account (and remember, we only review theatre) by a PR company specialising in promoting film.

Hi Amy [Hello!]

Hope all’s well? [I can’t complain, I’ve had a long day at work, I’m watching season five of Sons of Anarchy at the moment, how are you?]

Festival season has arrived [Oh no, please don’t let this be about a music festival] – Glastonbury is upon us! – [I never go to music festivals] and disco is making a smash return this summer. [ Making a smash return? Disco never died to us fans, PR lady] Leading the way with his iconic brand of dance and funk is one man hit factory, Nile Rodgers. [Oh yes, I’ve heard of Nile Rogers, he’s one of the most talented musicians/composers/producers/Guitarists around, but why have you made his name bold?]

Before Nile is joined by the rest of his band, Chic, on the West Holts Stage at Glastonbury on Friday night, [I won’t be at Glastonbury] Warner have produced an exceptionally informative Discographic, [You mean an infographic?] covering the copious members of pop royalty Rodgers has worked with including Madonna, Davie Bowie, Michael Jackson, Will Smith and most recently Daft Punk! [Why is this in bold as well? I know who these celebrities are. Is it something to do with getting lucky? Bad joke, sorry PR lady, but I can read, you know.]

Brush up on your Chic knowledge and take a look at the graphic by following the link below: [I know a lot about this band already, because I love disco, so, no.]

The Chic Organisation: Up All Night is out to own on July 1st 2013 and can be pre-ordered here: [Not linking to this, sorry]

For any questions or if you would be interested in receiving a review disc let me know. [So, this isn’t an invitation to review? You just wanted to send me your shiny ‘discographic’? I feel dirty]

All the best,

PR Numpty

I love disco, I love Chic, I love Nile Rodgers, but I hated this approach. However, the best part of this PR was hidden in the footer, underneath the signature, where I found this little snippet of joy.

This message was sent to Amy. If you no longer wish to receive email from us, please follow the link below or copy and paste the entire link into your browser. [Link]

This PR company not only sent me a PR that was irrelevant to my publication, but they also opted my email address into their email distribution service, which I never agreed to, which I then had to opt out of in order to avoid additional pointless press releases.

However, this is not the end of the story; a few days after I received this email via this mail distribution service, I received a similar email directly from the PR company which I also had to unsubscribe from in order to opt out of further correspondence. Oh, the joy.

What They Did Right

  • They began with a greeting
  • They used my name
  • They kept their pleasantries short

What They Did Wrong

  • They pitched a theatre publication a film/DVD story
  • They included a pointless ‘Discographic’
  • They assumed that I didn’t know about Chic/Nile Rodgers – I do, which they didn’t realise, but they assumed that I (and other journalists they contacted) were ignorant of the joys of D.I.S.C.O.
  • They signed me up to a third-party mailing list without my permission
  • They subscribed my email address to their internal mailing list without my permission

Post Mortem Recommendations

  • Pitch the right publication
  • Research the journalist
  • Just because infographics are ‘in’ doesn’t mean you should include one in your pitch
  • Don’t subscribe email addresses to a mailing system. Ever.
  • Ah, freak out!

Why Your EdFringe PR Campaign Sucks

3 Jun
Fringe Posters image by Daveybot, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Fringe Posters image by Daveybot, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

If you’re a performer or part of a theatre company that’s handling your own PR campaign at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, perhaps for the first time, there are three things that form the basis of any Edinburgh Festival Fringe PR campaign; discipline, research and hard work. I know, that’s pretty obvious, but while the Edinburgh Fringe is presented as a fun and unmissable festival (it is) it’s also a bit like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

But I’m Only at the Fringe for Three Days

Three days? That’s brilliant! Shorter runs at the Fringe are becoming quite popular for various reasons, and the length of your run doesn’t limit your PR campaign. Get in there early, contact journalists; send them an exclusive invite to your first show and promote the Hell out of it.

But I Want to Party Hard

While it may look like the Fringe is one big party, the reality is that the festival is hard work for everyone involved in the Fringe. For performers handling their own PR, the Fringe presents an almost unique experience in terms of promotion.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the biggest, if not the biggest arts festival in the world; this year a record 2,871 shows will be performed by 24,107 artists in 273 venues across Edinburgh. The number of shows at this year’s Fringe has increased by 6.5% compared to last year. So, if you want to party, do it in moderation, you have a job to do.

But The Fringe is Too Big

As the Fringe grows, so do the opportunities for marketing a show and producing a strong and unforgettable Fringe PR campaign. A bigger Fringe means more journalists, more publications, more blogs, more audience members, more venues. It means more work to publicise a show successfully.

It means that your Fringe PR campaign must be as important as all other Fringe preparation. Think about all the work you have put into your show so far: the planning, the auditions, the creating of sets, costumes, the booking of a venue, the organisation of Fringe accommodation. Why should PR take a back seat?

So, I Just Shout Loud Enough and I’ll Get Reviewed?

It’s often said that the person who shouts the loudest has the most influential voice in the room, but for the Fringe, and for wider PR, I would argue that having the right voice, rather than the loudest voice is more desirable to journalists.

There is so much ‘noise’ generated by PRs and performers during the Fringe; journalists will be getting promotional messages fired at them daily, so, you have to find a way to make your voice more noticeable and most of all, more inviting to them.

How Do I Make My Voice Heard?

You need to target the right journalists, the right publications, and promote what it is about your show, your piece that will appeal to them. If your show is a political piece, are there journalists who specialise in reviewing and previewing political theatre? Is there a specific publication that tailors to your target audience?

Make a list of your Unique Selling Points (USPs) such as, if this is your first year at the Fringe,  are you performing the world première of your show? What is it that you can offer journalists the competition can’t offer them? Why should they choose you over the thousands of other artists at the festival? Why do you want a journalist to review your show? Once you are clear about this, then you will find it easier to put together your PR campaign.

How Should I Submit My PR?

Once the PR is written and the right journalists have been identified, how will you submit your PR? Will you post it if you have the publication’s address? It’s not as immediate as email, but some journalists prefer it. If you’re unsure, contact the journalist or publication and ask.

If you email it, do you attach it as a separate document, or copy and paste it into the body of the email? Personally, I prefer the copy and paste method, which means I’m not constantly downloading documents. Remember that it needs to be easy for a journalist to find your PR during the busy festival period, so use the show name, venue and company name in the subject line of your email.

Many journalists, especially me and Thom Didbin from Annuals of Edinburgh Stage will thank you for doing this.

How will you begin your communication? A “Hello” is always nice. Seriously, say “Hi”, try to engage with the journalist – good PR is about building lasting relationships, if you get along with a journalist one year, they will remember you the next and might be more likely to see your shows in the future.

What About Social Media?

Social media now forms a pretty big part of any Fringe campaign, and so contacting journalists through this medium, in my opinion, is fine, you just to get your approach right. Start talking to the journalist before the start of the Fringe, build up a rapport; don’t be all promotional all the time.

Simply tweeting a journalist you’ve never spoken to before and asking them to “Please RT” a promotional tweet about your show is lazy – talk to them, don’t just use them as a mouthpiece for your work.

Do Not Do Any Of These Things in Your PR Campaign

Below is a list of suggestions for things not to do when you’re handling your own PR campaign during the Fringe, outside of the Fringe and in general. Personalising your email goes a long, long way.

  1. Email a press release with the subject line ‘Press Release’
  2. Send out a mass email beginning with: ‘Dear EdFringe Reviewer/Promoter/Press Officer/VIP/Broadcaster/Supporter
  3. Send out an email that begins with “Dear Chesney” when the editor’s name is Bella
  4. Constantly email and phone the office of a magazine/newspaper demanding that they review your show
  5. Tweet the same invite verbatim to at least 25 reviewers or publications in a row
  6. Email the same PR multiple times
  7. Email an ‘extended’ PR which gives no new information
  8. Email a PR that gives the wrong start time/the wrong date/the wrong director/the wrong actor/the wrong venue
  9. Write a PR that starts with your star ratings and reviews
  10. Write a PR that uses lots and lots of different colours, fonts, sizes and is not clearly formatted
  11. Write a PR that doesn’t begin with a greeting, but ends with an email signature
  12. Not using bcc in marketing emails
  13. Get the publication name wrong
  14. Issue a demand, not an invitation
  15. Not say thank you to a reviewer or publication for a good review
  16. Send more than one press release per email
  17. Threaten to sue over a bad review – this will not work out well for anybody

Whether this is your first Fringe or your tenth, PR is an important part of your preparation and so, it’s important to keep on top of it, and don’t leave it to chance.

Have you got any advice for companies doing their own EdFringe PR? Get in touch and let me know.

Seven Tips for the Arts PR

28 Oct

Ah, PR types, press releases, media officers, press offices, I love you all dearly, and I need you in my professional life. But there are certain things I simply cannot abide in arts PR, and they must end, frankly, as they annoy me, and they give PRs a bad name – and there are a lot of good PRs out there that I enjoy very good working relationships with – and I don’t want to lump them into the same category as the bad ones.

So, to be blunt, if you work in arts PR, or if you want to work in the industry, here are some tips from one cynical, hardened arts journalist to you. Pay attention, and we’ll get on just fine.

1. Email the Right Publication

Granted, this may sound like obvious advice, but in reality, emailing the editor of Auto Trader magazine about a new performance of  Othello isn’t going to get you coverage. Granted, that is an extreme example, but it’s important to remember that creating a suitable and relevant list of publications to contact is a good idea. This will involve some work and research on your part, but it will be worth it, so make sure you know what publication to contact for arts coverage, and whether they are relevant to you. For example, if you are trying to drum up media coverage for a final year show at a local arts college, email publications that deal with visual art coverage, never assume that the term ‘arts’ – which usually stands for film, TV, theatre and radio – includes visual art as well. Research, and find out who is best to contact or you will waste your time.

2. Email the Right Person

While time and effort will go into identifying suitable publications to contact, the same amount of time must go into contacting the relevant section editor. While some PRs think it best to contact the Editor-in-Chief, this can be pointless, as the Editor-in-Chief will be busy sorting out the whole paper/magazine/website and not have the time to pass on your email to the relevant section editor. Find out who you need to contact directly, so if you’re representing  a band, find out the name, email address and/or phone number of the music editor. If you’re looking for theatre coverage, contact the theatre editor. If you can’t find an email address for these people, find out if there is an arts editor you can contact, because they will be able to point you in the right direction.

3. Get the Editor’s Name Right

Again, this sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how easy it can be to use the wrong name in email correspondence. During the Fringe I was called many names by PRs and theatre companies in email correspondence. I was referred to as Andrew on more than one occasion, I was usually called John by most people, which was logical, as John Roberts is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TPR. A very nice sounding man started his email with ‘Hello Ben’, by which I assume he meant Ben Judge, the editor of Fest magazine, although I have never found out if Ben in turn opened an email that enthusiastically cried: ‘Dear Amy’. Another person began their email with ‘Dear Anne’, while some stuck to more formal titles, with Ms Taylor, Miss Taylor and even Mrs Taylor all getting a look in. For future reference, please call me Amy, or Ms Taylor – Mrs Taylor is my mother.

The trick is to make it personal, there’s nothing more disheartening than opening an email that begins with ‘Dear Edinburgh Fringe Reviewer’, ‘Dear Journalist’, ‘Dear Editor’ or my favourite, ‘Dear Writer.’ Find out the editor’s name, spell it right and use it in the email.

4. Remember a PR is an Invitation, Not a Demand

In all email communications, it’s nice to be nice. Introduce yourself to the journalist if you’ve never contacted them before, be conversational, be polite, but don’t forget to tell them precisely why you’ve contacted them. Inform the writer that the reason you’re contacting them is to invite them to review your show/film/album etc. If a journalist sent an unsolicited and pushy email to a PR, that said something along the lines of: ‘What does it take to get a pair of tickets to your show?’ Then, the chances are that the PR might think the journalist, is, to paraphrase, a little bit rude. I’ve had emails from PRs to that effect, that have no greeting, just a demand to ‘come and see our show’, or to insist that I ‘send a reviewer along, because we’ve not had any reviews, yet, and we’re getting a bit pissed off’. Giving your email a title like ‘REVIEWER WANTED’ will not inspire me to send someone along – tell me why you’ve contacted me, be welcoming, make me want to spend what little time I might have in the evening or at the weekend reviewing your work.

5. Answer Your Emails In a Timely Manner

I know journalists can get a little lax with their emails, but while we can only work on that, we need the support of a good PR who responds to our emails quickly. There have been times when I’ve received an invite to a show, and responded asking for tickets for a certain date, only have to follow-up 8 days later when I’ve still not had response from the PR. In one case, I had to email the PR two more times; in the first email I asked for clarification of the press tickets, and in the second email I had to say that I needed a response by a certain date, or I couldn’t confirm that I’d be able to attend. I hated issuing a deadline like that, but it worked.

6. Keep Your Promises

If you state in your PR that you can accommodate a reviewer on any given date or any given venue if the show is touring, then please, stand by that promise. Recently, I received a PR for a show that said reviewers were welcome on any of their tour dates, but when I requested press tickets for a certain date in the run, I was informed that they only wanted reviewers to attend on the opening night, as that was ‘easiest’ for them.

They did offer to see if they could get me tickets for the date and venue that I had requested: “I could try to contact the venue and see what can be done…” but they made it sound it like was such an effort for them, and you know what? I wasn’t asking for the moon on a plate, I was merely requesting what their PR had promised – that any date, and any venue was fine. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.

7. Communicate, Communicate, Dear God, Communicate

Similarly, I’m hearing more and more stories about critics at smaller publications and websites receiving invites to review work, but when they requested tickets, they were rejected by the PR, as they really wanted reviewers from ‘bigger publications’, such as The Guardian. This is rude. It’s like sending an RSVP to a wedding only for the bride to write to you to tell you that you’re also not welcome on the big day. During the Fringe, one of my writers had a press ticket request turned down by a PR with no reason given – what made this even more irritating was the fact that TPR had reviewed the company in question at several times previously and had given them very positive reviews each time. Always check with the company/band/performer before turning down requests, as they could have good working relationships with a number of writers and editors.

Essentially, if the PR fucks up, it reflects badly on the company that they are representing; don’t be the PR that fucks up.

KNUT

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