Monday, May 13, 2013

The Press Release: it ain't no art

Only once in the history of Second Wind have we brought in an outside publicist to market a show. It’s that it’s a bad idea. Actually, it can be a very good idea for young companies if you can afford it. We couldn’t very well, but the experience helped realize one thing: that they faced many of the same obstacles to “selling” our show to reviewers and editors as we did. We were new in the area, and few in the media knew us. But they knew him, so he was able to be helpful to a small degree. And that’s the second lesson we learned: It’s about personal relationships. That means you should have one person who is the media contact for the company; don’t “mix it up” from show to show. Be personable and be empathetic—they’ve got a lot of demands on their schedule and it’s no fun saying “no” to people.

Our wizened publicist shared his press release for our show so we could proof it. I was appalled. It was three and half pages, densely packed with words. It made you want a cup of coffee or a cigarette before you even attempted to read it. It’s how I feel about letters from the IRS. I learned two things from his press release. First, he didn’t really care if they read them; it was about his relationship with them. The press release was there for reference in case they decided to do a story. And to make me, the “client,” feel good. The second thing I learned is, with a little effort you can do it a whole lot better.

Yes, the relationship is the most important thing, but you don’t always have that. The press release can capture their attention, make it easy for them to decide about reviewing the show, and diminish the chance of mistakes because they couldn’t find the info right away.

So I thought I’d share two examples of a theatrical press release. The first comes from the Donmar theatre in London. I used it as the basis from our press release for KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. You’ll notice how succinct and direct it is. It’s largely a teaser. They don’t need more because they’ve got a strong reputation in the theatre community and an existing relationship with the media. The second is from our production of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. We use a more visually dynamic approach, and communicate much more info. You might criticize it as being crowded (truthfully, it is a bit crowded), but we’re also selling the company as much as the show. For your press release, let your relationship with the press, and your feelings about your show, guide your decisions.

Second Wind KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN Press Release