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