10 Publicity Tips for Artists

Moi, Carla Conlin & Shelley Dunstone going a little Vanity Fair-ish on location for a recent Cabaret Summer School promo shoot. Image by Naomi Jellicoe, The Advertiser

With Fringe season well upon us – which for me, equates to crazy self-promo season – I thought I’d pry my fingers away from my own shameless promo-ing duties and put them to work sharing some of the best publicity tips I’ve garnered over the years.

When it comes to pursuing your passion in life, as we were told in no vague terms at the recent Cabaret Summer School by Sidonie Henbest, “there’s no point in being brilliant in a bubble.” 

I heartily concur. No matter how great your work, it ain’t gonna happen if people don’t know about it!

So, without further waffle, here are my 10 publicity tips for artists. Okay, hang on. Bit more waffle. Bear in mind these are:

a) assuming you already have some idea of how to draft up a media release. If you don’t, go get thee to google!

b) as the intro suggests, the best publicity tips I’VE garnered. Me. Moi. Yours truly. I’m not saying they’re the Bible, yo! Unless you wish to endow them as such. In which case, who does that make me? Oh yeah. Awesome. Totally do that.

1. Use Free Web Listings.
This is quite literally my first point of call when I do ANY show EVER. List your event on anything (relevant) you can. It’s free. It’s easy to find. A little time consuming, perhaps, to hunt down all the websites that might be appropriate. But once you’ve got the list for that city you’ve got it. Google things like “things to do in X” city: you’ll come up with a ton of starting points. Don’t hold back: they need events to fill their calendars so that they can provide that service to their customers!

2. Prepare Yourself For Operation Copy and Paste
Before you start uploading listings, sending out media releases and the rest, write your show details down in one document (I include in this document the basic show details, a small blurb, a longer blurb, the full media release) so that when you are ready to put the info out there, you’re not wasting precious time typing the same kinda details over and over: you can just copy and paste the relevant info.

3. Personalise Invitations
If you’re inviting somebody, be it a reviewer, a VIP, an industry person, a friend…where possible, I think you should actually invite THEM. I know for myself that when I’m on the receiving end of an invite, my interest radar fades rapidly when something reads like a bulk-send. Address people by name and if there’s a specific reason you want them to see your show, tell them.

4. Consider Using an Online Electronic Press Kit
A few months ago, I decided to give powerpresskits.com a go. At first I wasn’t sure why I would bother with this service, given that I already have a website with pictures galore, deets on my show, etc. however having already had some great feedback from a couple of journos I’m pretty well sold. I can send people the link directly to my kit, which has all the info on my show, looks super professional AND they can download the hi-res (i.e. printable) quality version of my photos, without me having to clog up their inbox.

5. FOLLOW UP.
Why is this in caps, you ask? Because if I had to give one promo tip to rule them all, this would be it. Send your stuff (and by stuff, I mean media releases) via email, sure. But once you have, give it a few days and then either email with a friendly note to see whether they’ve received it and/or call them. Let me tell you a secret: almost EVERY media success story I’ve had is the result of me chasing up an initial contact. Of course, don’t harass people; if I follow up once and then don’t hear back, I will usually let it go (unless they’ve explicitly said they’re interested and to get back to them with more info). But don’t just give up because you sent an email to a magazine and heard nothing back. They get a gazillion media pitches a day. It’s not personal.

6. Get a Virtual Assistant.
Once you’ve drafted your emails, media releases and/or other titillating blather, AND you have the lists of media people to send them to, consider hiring somebody to send them out for you. You can find people on sites like Elance for incredibly inexpensive rates to do the copy/paste/send combo so you are freed up to spend your time better elsewhere, doing the jobs that really only you can do.

7. Get Professional Photos.
Have them ready to go. Not snapshots, not iPhone shot, professional shots. Do not send these through to the media, however, unless the journalist requests it. (Note: this is another benefit of having an online EPK to refer them to, it’s all there without clogging up their inbox). But do write in your media release: ‘Hi-Res Images Available On Request’ or similar.

8. Join forces!
Are there other similar events/performers who, when you join together, can create a good story? Band together! If the Spice Girls taught us nothing else, it’s that there’s power in numbers.

Banding together in The Advertiser for The Cabaret Summer School. Picture by Naomi Jellicoe

9. Pay It Forward.
You’re trying to attract attention to your own shows, so why not extend somebody else the same love you’d like to get? Plug other people’s shows on your blog/site/facebook/twitter (note: make sure these are shows that you really do love; if you just promote everything you will more than likely damage any credibility you have!), become champions for others and take joy in other people’s successes. (Note: Rachel Hills wrote about this very idea this week here.) It’s a good feeling: don’t do it with an “I scratch your back now you scratch mine” attitude, but be generous with promoting others work who you genuinely admire, without any thought of pay-back. The arts world can be competitive, but only if you let it be that way for you. I think that celebrating others feels like a much better way to live!

10. Include Your Show Info!
This seems obvious, but I myself have been guilty of being so caught up in crafting a beautifully composed email that I have overlooked including this very key piece of information! It’s ESSENTIAL:  include your show details in EVERY media release, correspondence, etc. that you send out! Format it simply, but don’t forget to add your show title, venue, dates, ticket prices and how to book, usually at the bottom of your page. I’ll do it here at the bottom of this post, both to illustrate the point and to flaunt my inner promo-slorry.

Happy publicising!

AN UNEXPECTED VARIETY SHOW
Adelaide Fringe Festival
THE LIGHT HOTEL – HIGH ROLLERS ROOM
141 Currie St, Adelaide
25-26 Feb 7pm FREE
28 Feb, 6, 13 Mar 7pm Cheap Tues $10
1-4, 8, 10-11, 15, 17 Mar 7pm $20 full, $15 conc
Tickets available here. Or phone  1300 FRINGE (374 643)

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