Attention community theatre publicists.
Do you have template that you use for your Press Release?? Something along the lines of who, what, where, when, why and how?
Those are GREAT and I mean GREAT guidelines but here is the trick. You are not writing a shopping list! Don’t just rattle off all the details without considering a narrative. You can summarise all the vital stats for your production in what is known as ‘the ends’ read more about that at well, the end.
I appreciate that you probably work or study full time and you are cutting corners to save time wherever you possibly can. But a descriptive storyline will be more likely to be picked up by the local rags and maybe even a TV program.
Would you like to hear about the time I landed a cast on TV from a well thought out Press Release?
- Be a little bit nosy
As publicist for Miranda Musical Society’s production of The Sound of Music circa long ago I made it MY business to know my cast’s business. I had a short survey that I got everyone to fill in – back in the day it was on paper! Now gathering information is even easier. Simply set up a surveymonkey questionnaire and post it on whichever social interwebs method you are using to communicate with your cast. Some question ideas (survey monkey allows you to ask 10 for free);
- What is your muggle job (aka day job)? They might be an astrophysicist
- What drew you to this role? Maybe their great grandma played the same role in 1950?
- Who is your hero?
- If you could play any role what would it be?
- What is your proudest achievement?
If a survey feels too formal – just get chatty on the socials and ask leading questions. You know theatre types, they love to talk about themselves.
PLEASE don’t write a press release without getting familiar with the show, at the very least, sit down with the director and talk about their concepts and visions. If possible, attend the info night and the first few rehearsals. If people meet you there they will get to ‘know, like and trust you’ and be more likely to share a juicy story with you.
- Be eye catching
You know the deal here, a picture tells a thousand words. Get your request to wardrobe (and of course the director) EARLY re what photos you are after. Submit great photos with your release ones that fit the vision of the whole team.
We live in a world of information overload and instant gratification …. come up with an attention grabbing headline and sub-headline and those harried journos will thank you for it. They want to know what’s the story? Why they should care? Why now? All tied up neatly in one or two catchy titles. I liked this article about how to write great headlines.
- Be quirky or intriguing
Now is the time to use the information you find from the cast and crew to get creative and spin some interesting stories. Do you know how many emails and press releases a journalist is trawling on any given day?? A catchy headline and or juicy story will grab their attention.
Do you have 5 teachers and a Principal in the cast? Do you have team mates from a local netball team or opposing teams going head to head in West Side Story?
In my case I noted that there were 7 people from the same family in our cast and crew (well there were 6 but I dragged the mum in for FOH). They were all involved in a production about a large family aka The Von Trapps….I saw the connection and off I went. They in fact were not the only family cluster in the cast (not uncommon in community theatre) but relevant in this instance and I ran with highlighting all the family feels in my story. Next thing, I get a call from Sunrise. A goat peed on me on national TV. And the rest is history.
- Be timely
What is trending at the moment? Check trending hashtags and cross reference to what you learned about your cast and crew. Grab a friend, brainstorm, find an angle and get creative. Know your production dates and think celebration days….is Mother’s Day coming up? Producing Little Women? Pitch for tickets for Mother’s Day gifts you’re getting the idea now.
My angle was that heard watching breakfast telly one day that David Koch the host of the show was obsessed with Sound of Music. They ran the story as it was an anniversary year for the film. Timely!
- Be boring
Did I catch you out? I don’t want you to be boring IN your press release but I do want you to do these boring things;
- Proof read (read backwards was the trick I was taught from a copywriter)
- Get someone else to read it – preferably a Grammar Nazi (teachers are great for this)
- 1 page absolute maximum – remember you now have the opportunity to use other links that will get more of your info out there
- Check those links in your ends – nothing worse than being interested in something someone is writing about, clicking to read more and getting a page not found error
- The ends
This is where it is OK to stick with the formula. Your final paragraph basically never changes, just gets a rinse and repeat with new show details. It gives the;
- Production & Company name
- Theatre Name and location
- Dates and times
- Ticket prices
- Box office phone number
- Website booking link
- Your name
- Your role
- Your contacts
This might seem like a lot of work to the time poor publicist but the effort of all of the above will also mean you now have a whole bunch of ready-made content for your social media marketing campaigns. Read more about that in a few weeks on my next blog. I talk about ways to repurpose your press release content on social media
Have you had a great success with a Press Release? Anyone else landed on TV or somewhere else cool? Share your success stories and let me know if you used any of these techniques.
Have a Fantastix day