I’m pleased to announce my brand new 2017-2018 Unit Publicity Portfolio that showcases my experience in running PR campaigns and media relations strategies for indie film & television projects all over the world. If you’re interested in my PR strategies, please contact me for more info. Take a look at my case studies for more in-depth looks into my project as well.
As a unit publicist with experience running public relations campaigns for short films, an actor at a film festival and a horror film moving through a competition, this film presented challenges I hadn’t previously dealt with in my other projects. For my other short films, I’d had the benefit of support through the film event I was working on (see my Crazy 8s case study) or it was a one-off event such as the TIFF strategy for Peter Dacunha or helping Black Land through the Cinecoup competition.
Heartless is my first American-directed and produced short horror film where I didn’t have a film event, competition or team behind me as a jumping off point and a sense of urgency to make the publicity campaign flow easier. Heartless, and by extension, the film’s award-winning production company, Sunshine Boy Productions, also has the distinction of being the first film I’d actively pursued for publicity.
An unintended benefit of this being my first major solo unit publicity campaign, however, was the ease in obtaining film reviews where it had previously been difficult for my other film projects. Not only did the fact that Heartless is a horror film make it much easier to obtain reviews, Kevin & Jennifer Sluder, the film’s director & executive producer (and owners of Sunshine Boy Productions) have also been readily available for interviews as the production company is their primary business, rather than a side venture.
Focusing on local media (newspapers, magazines, blogs), indie film podcasts, blogs and horror review outlets, I updated my media database based on the region the film was screening at on the festival circuit. As a result, I was able to pitch Heartless to countless local media in regions such as Lansing, MI, Durham, NC, Calgary, Alberta and the greater Los Angeles area.
In addition, I was also able to pitch interviews and reviews for Heartless with numerous horror and indie film media outlets worldwide such as Ready, Steady, Cut out of the UK, Rue Morgue Magazine out of Toronto, Canada, Promote Horror out of the US, Dave Bullis’s Indie Film podcast out of the US and Popcorn Horror out of Scotland.
When you have a new film project, web or TV series or a short and you want to share it with people, what do you do? You talk about it with friends and family and you create a presence on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and possibly a few others like Periscope, complete with photos and/or video, making sure, of course, to tag the right people. Right? Of course you do.
But here’s what you might not realize: there’s more to sharing your story and receiving some promotional publicity than putting photos and video up on social media. It’s the quality of what you choose to share.
Of course, I’m not talking about blurry or dark photos-it’d be common sense not to post those. To cover key pivotal moments, you need really good photography. When you think about how great images shape film posters, billboards & websites-it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to have some professional publicity as a long term investment towards a film’s future.
But there’s more that professional publicity can help with than amazing photos & videos. Here’s 3 major reasons why professional publicity matters & how it can help you step up your game in promoting a film or TV show.
Publicity Isn’t Just About Knowing What to Share
Having a publicist to help promote your project isn’t just about knowing what to share and how to share it. It’s also about knowing when to share a piece of news. Maybe you have an awesome teaser trailer or some behind-the-scenes B roll that hasn’t quite cleared the editing stage or a concept for a film poster but not the final image. Sometimes holding things back can benefit your project in the long run and save you time and energy when it comes to the editing stage -and that’s where having an expert publicist in your corner to schedule things can help.
Publicists Have Valuable Relationships With Journalists
Any publicist who knows what they’re doing is bound to have existing positive and influential relationships with journalists. Through these connections, publicists are able to pitch your film/TV show in a way that you wouldn’t be able to (at least, not without spending a lot of time, energy & your own money) and based on that prior experience and knowledge, they know HOW to present your project to a journalist.
These relationships are invaluable and having a professional publicist who knows journalists and talks to them daily-is vital.
Publicity Generates Buzz BEFORE a Film’s Finished
Remember what I said earlier regarding the fact that publicity is sometimes about holding things back? Well, that doesn’t mean that you hold everything back until the film’s finished.
To create an extensive and successful publicity campaign, you need to start early during pre-production and get the jump on having a presence on IMDB as well as creating a plan/schedule for possible publicity events. You should also start early when it comes to getting together teasers of the publicity materials (ie. footage, posters etc.) when you get them.
Want more info on how to step up your game in promoting your film or TV show? Stay tuned for Why Publicity Matters Part 2: Why You Need a Unit Publicist and my upcoming post on Top 10 Best Ways to Promote Films & TV Shows.
In PR, conventional wisdom dictates that you do one of two things to get press in different areas for your clients, company or event: 1) draft a media kit, stocked with company/event backgrounders, info on the key people involved, PR releases and maybe photos and send them to a journalist covering that area OR 2) draft a traditional one-page PR release that details who, what, where, why and when, send it to the correct journalist and cross your fingers to hope for press.
There are 3 issues that come up with both these approaches: 1) Journalists don’t work off your promotional calendar. 2) Journalists need to give their readers what they’re looking for. 3) Journalists are absolutely drowning in pitches.
How does these 3 issues affect the media kit or the PR release you’ve sent the journalist of your choice? Let me elaborate on each of them individually so that you know understand why the traditional media kit or PR release doesn’t always work to get press.
First of all, the reporters you contact for press have their own deadlines and editorial calendars to work with. Chances are, they’re not waiting around for your press package announcing a new product or your company opening its doors. Secondly, journalists have a duty to tell a great story that’s newsworthy and relevant to their audiences and they may have a different angle or similar story to yours that has already been featured recently, which means they’ll pass on your story. And lastly, journalists are so inundated with traditional PR pitches on a daily basis that yours could easily get lost in the pile because your traditional pitch looks the same as 500 others.
So how do you go about standing out from the piles of PR releases? Here’s a list of awesome ideas to help you stand out from the crowd and build better relationships with media.
1) Craft a narrative your customers care about: A news story on your newest product, service or office is going to focus its implications on how it will affect your industry or geographical area, depending on the publication. What your customers and your audience care about the most is how your products, services or new location will benefit them. Does your product make running a business or lifestyle changes easier for them? Does a new location make customer service more seamless for them?
Releases should reflect how your customers think and talk about your products and company. Eliminate any nonsensical terms and flowery language that your customers won’t understand and speak to them in ways that they’ll respond to; instead of catering your releases and blog entries to impress reporters.
2) Think outside the box: You might not have a big event or huge product announcement always on the horizon but there’s always an opportunity to get noticed.
Does your company do a fun scavenger hunt as a team-building event every year and raises funding for a local cause? Or maybe you have employee perks that are unheard of in your industry. It might not be immediately press-worthy, but by posting your own blog post on your website about it, you keep customers engaged and you drive traffic to your website.
Don’t be afraid to think beyond the usual for content formats as well. Use formats to your advantage. For example, when oneforty was bought by HubSpot, the PR release was formatted entirely in tweets, which caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal and many other outlets.
Skew the traditional PR release altogether and get your fun story across with an infographic or two or even a video.
When you’re trying to show that a senior VP at your company is an expert at a given topic, don’t pitch that to the reporters first. Publish a blog post with some of your VP’s insights and then send it to reporters so that they know it’s relevant.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and don’t be afraid to be creative!
3) Create Awesome Content
Typically, in a traditional PR release, you focus on applying the ‘who, what, where, why and when’ approach to content, which although informative, isn’t really all that exciting. Reporters are people just like you and they respond better to content that’s fun and exciting, not a bland template.
Focus on what makes your story unique and worth reading, make it shorter and more concise, maybe even add a few ‘Share This’ or ‘Tweet This’ links to encourage reporters to share your content.
Don’t wait around for reporters to take notice, get your company out there. Research a few high-profile industry blogs out there and see if you can guest post. That will help drive traffic to your website and result in potential media coverage because it establishes you as an authority in your field.
The first step in successful inbound PR is to learn how to tell your story first. That includes creating your own infographics, blog posts and whatever other fun content you want to generate attention. It’ll help you gain valuable traffic to your website and attract coverage.
Inbound Marketing that Journalists Will Thank You For
Journalists today unfortunately don’t have all the time in the world to research for story angles, find the right phone number or email to reach a publicist or your marketing team. So do what the best companies do: make it as lightning quick, easy and intuitive for journalists to get the info they need.
That’s why your website should have a press page containing the contact info of your media relations professional, company backgrounders, recent news etc. and any other associate materials a journalist would need. Some best practices for a press page include:
• Provide real contact info: Give reporters the name and contact info of a real person that they can talk to rather than a generic company email. It shows that you care about the kind of response they’ll receive
• Decode You ‘About Us’ section: Make sure the description of what your company does is crystal clear to journalists. Use illustrations or diagrams to showcase your business in visual terms if it becomes too lengthy to explain in words. If a reporter doesn’t understand what you do, there’s no way they’ll be able to explain it to their readers in an article, so keep it short, concise and specific.
• Include profiles of your executive team: Most of the time, reporters want to know information about your CEO, CTO, CFO etc. are in order to develop stories. Provide high-res photos, bios, social media profiles and maybe a quote or two for reporters to investigate and reference. Having the info readily available makes it hassle-free for journalists to get the content they need.
• Other helpful industry data: if a reporter is working on a story about your industry, chances are she will also need statistics and data to help capture market growth or trending topics. So putting a few industry stats and info about trending topics could make their lives easier and increase the likelihood that they will return to your website with a similar request in the future.
• Add social media sharing buttons: Make it easier for employees, customers and media alike to share your news with the world. It’ll help the conversation start on social media about what your company’s up to.
• Share your coverage: When your company is covered in an article or blog post, interviewed in a video or mentioned in print, post a link in it on your Press page. When you build a long list of coverage over the years, create a news coverage page so journalists know exactly where to go to find the buzz about you.
Building Relationships With Media
First and foremost, respect their role. A journalist’s job is not to sell or promote your product no matter what outlet they write for. Their job is to capture relevant news for their outlet, tell a great story and make sure that they give a fair and reasonable assessment of your company, product or service. By recognizing that, you’ll get better results, manage expectations more carefully and build lasting relationships.
Make sure you’re also patient about reaching out to journalists. Only contact the ones that cover the area you want covered and only do so when you have something of value to offer them and their readers.
Here’s 5 Tactics You Can Use to Identify, Reach Out To & Engage With Journalists in Your Space
1. Do Your Homework-You can usually find basic contact info for the reporters on their outlets contact pages for editorial staff or using the ‘contact me’ button at the top of a story. You can use Excel spreadsheets or Google Docs to build your lists. Make sure you include their contact info, a link to their recent coverage, Twitter/Facebook profiles and a short bio.
2. Leverage Social Media-Use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to monitor how and when reporters are talking about topics in your industry and respond with helpful tips and links. You can use Hootsuite to create notification lists based on subjects you’d like to pitch to journalists to see when they’re talking about it.
3. Take Time to Personalize-Refer to the journalists you contact by name, take the time out to personalize your outreach as well. If you know they’d rather prefer a friendly email, send them one.
4. Test, Learn & Apply-By using a program such as MyEmma, Constant Contact or MailChimp to send your emails, you can see who opened your emails and track who clicked your links. You can also track which emails bounced or who didn’t open the email. It will help you plan your next steps on who to follow up with, with a second email and where you have to update contact info.
5. Give Before You Get-Add value when you contact the reporters-comment on their status updates, promote their content and maybe give them sneak peeks of your business. Media relationships are a two-way street, so make sure you offer them value.
Check back here every week to learn more about how to make the most out of Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest, create awesome inbound marketing content & get fans engaged! Read THIS to learn how to make the most of Twitter & Vine.
Last week, I had an opportunity to experience one of the best professional development opportunities I’ve had thus far in my career. Discovering that Currents 2012, the CPRS (Canadian Public Relations Society) National Conference would be held in Victoria this year was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
As a media relations and social media volunteer, I was granted the chance to attend a few of the workshops as well as a keynote address and the knowledge-and interest-I gained from each one of them is amazing. Areas such as crisis communications or issues surrounding media disclosure for companies have never been my specialty, nor have I come up against them when working for companies or with my own clients; but they were informative nonetheless and it makes me want to learn more about how to deal with such situations on a regional, small-to-medium sized business level.
That leads me to my first workshop, Crisis Communications with Linda Bilben. With over twenty years of experience, Linda is currently a Partner and Creative Director in Reputations (@ReputationsCorp), a Vancouver-based firm specializing in award-winning branding, issues and crisis communications management.
In this workshop, Linda shared with us two of her most well-known crisis communications case studies, the January 2007 BC Place roof deflation and the 2010 Canada Place construction accident in early December that saw one construction worker fall off of Canada Place’s sails and sustain life-threatening injuries while other a block away died of injuries he suffered on site. Both workers were contracted by Ledcor.
I will start with Linda’s and Reputation’s crisis communications plan for BC Place’s roof deflation first before moving onto the Canada Place case study.
Case Study #1: 2007 BC Place Roof Deflation
The 2007 roof deflation was both quick and unexpected and while Linda and Reputations had a crisis communications plan in place for BC Place, the one incident they didn’t factor in was the roof deflation.
Faced with the worries of the Ministry of Tourism, VANOC and IOC on whether or not BC Place would be ready for the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the interests of the international media, Linda and her team at Reputations put their plan into action.
By using human interest stories such as having Global BC’s Ted Chernecki up on the actual roof structure within three days, Linda and her team were able to deflect the media’s interest for the time being while a new roof was being ordered. While the new roof was stuck in customs at the US border, Linda and her team constructed human interest stories to be shown on regional and national as well as international media was 17 days straight. Every single member of BC Place’s media relations team and all of their spokespeople received media training for those 17 days as well.
After 17 days, Linda and her team had conducted 1500 media calls, thanked over 250 suppliers and vendors, neutralized the international media and won the confidence of VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism and the IOC.
Case Study #2: 2010 Canada Place Construction Accident
During sail reconstruction at Canada Place shortly before Christmas in 2010, a construction worker slipped and fell off the sails, landing on the ground below. A block away, another construction worker was crushed to death by a piece of falling equipment and both men had been contracted by Ledcor.
In less than an hour after the accident, local reporters were tweeting about the crisis, and publishing articles online as they received information. Before the work day had even started, Canada Place was facing the challenge of correcting misinformation about the event, and then sharing the actual facts in a way that maintained the trust and support of their employees and stakeholders.
Almost immediately, misinformation was coming from all sides, from blogs and other social media platforms, including WorkSafe BC incorrectly reporting that there had been 2 deaths that day, when the truth was that one worker was still in critical condition.
Linda and her team had to go online via social media and on websites and ask the media to pull the misinformation down and within in 20 minutes, correct statements regarding the Canada Place incident were in place. Two hours later, a press conference was held. The correct topics were trending via social media and the entire setup and take down of the crisis communications plan within one day of the Canada Place incident. By going to news organizations via Twitter on the topic, @ReputationsCorp ended up trending on Twitter regarding the Canada Place incident.
Final Thoughts and Vital Knowledge from the Workshop
What I’ve learned from this workshop that applies to nearly every company out there is this: a crisis communications plan is crucial to any business or situation. Always, always plan and for that matter, always plan for Plan B or Plan C. After all, Linda and her team hadn’t been prepared for the BC Place roof deflation and yet, executed their crisis communications plan successfully.
Not only is the plan vital, but so is testing the plan with clients and running through simulations with them so that they understand how to handle media questions as well as internal and external stakeholders during the given timeframe of a crisis.
And lastly, always ensure that you have a team around you who can manage and plan during a crisis. From what I learned during this valuable workshop, it’s one of my goals to learn how to manage crisis communications on a small business, regional level.