Prompted by a post written by Amy Taylor on her blog The Taylor Trash , in this article I hope to explain how Broadway Baby specifically selects shows to review and therefore how you can increase your chances of appearing in our schedule. Press Releases
At Broadway Baby, your press release has little or no influence on whether you’ll get a review.
I’m going to start with a pretty surprising revelation. At Broadway Baby, your press release has little or no influence on whether you’ll get a review. Actually, I’m going to clarify that. At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (and Brighton Fringe) your press release has little effect – outside of those two festivals your press release is paramount to gaining a review (if your show is outside of those festivals, feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph). But as the majority of the releases we get arrive in August, let me explain why. Firstly, as we are approved users of the FestivalLabs API, we get all our listings directly from Fringe Society so there’s no need for us to go through press releases to extract listing information. Secondly, and possibly most importantly, we have a team of over 100 reviewers in Edinburgh and there’s (currently) no practical way of sharing your release with all of them (and I have no desire to create a system which forwards on every press release to every reviewer – the volume of mail that comes into the press releases inbox is frankly eye-watering).
The above said, sending your release isn’t completely redundant. When we’re looking for stories or contacts to get hold of a photo, we’ll search the press releases inbox first. But for filling review schedules, no – it’s not much of a factor.
Please only send press releases to email@example.com - don't be tempted to send to any other Broadway Baby addresses. You may think it's an ingenious way of bypassing the system, but in reality with more than 3,000 shows to deal with, it clogs up other inboxes. Your chances of a review won't be improved by spamming every email address you can find.
At Broadway Baby we use a custom-written scheduling tool called Thistle. The bulk of the allocations made in Thistle are for shows that have been specifically requested by our reviewers. To influence those choices is a tough job, as it’s a group of people you don’t have direct contact with. Like any ordinary audience member, the reviewing team will be making their choices on what they’ve seen in the programme, previous reviews and your pre-show “buzz”. So don’t start your campaign too late. We get our listing data at the time the programme is launched and open up access to Thistle to our reviewers shortly after. The key window of opportunity is therefore June and July.
In addition to the shows requested by reviewers, our Section Editing team will allocate shows that fit our reviewers’ skillset. Section Editors are generally more experienced reviewers who’ve worked at the festival before. They’re on the look out for shows we should be covering, but for whatever reason has been overlooked by the reviewers’ wish-lists. Some of the factors involved here are making sure we have a broad range of coverage in each genre; make sure we’re not completely missing out a venue and just keep an eye out for interesting or unusual work.
If you want to tell us about your first review dates, we have a dedicated email address - firstname.lastname@example.org. Please only let us know if your first review date is anything other than your first EdFringe performance, and don't send show pitches or press releases to that address. It's only used to update our scheduling system and the data monkey who deals with that inbox may not be able to find the actual info he needs if it's buried in a show pitch. Don't upset the data monkey - he bites.
Thistle also includes the ability for the senior editorial team to ‘prioritise’ a show. This is where having an experienced PR person can be useful. Seasoned PRs generally have good relationships with the media. They know how to pitch a show and how to deal with journalists. Priority shows appear first in the lists of unallocated shows to reviewers and Section Editors in order to get them scheduled quicker.
Choose your PR carefully. Ask for references from previous Fringe clients. Not all PRs are equal.
Meet The Media
A unique event at Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the mayhem of the first Saturday Meet The Media . Make no bones, this is a gruelling event for everyone involved. Hundreds (possibly thousands) of performers turn up in the hope that their pitch will garner some interest in the flagging journalist on the other side of the table. At Broadway Baby we take Meet The Media pretty seriously and do everything we can to make it as painless and beneficial for everyone. To that end, any show that visits us that is not already in our schedule gets automatic priority in Thistle. If possible, we’ll try and schedule a reviewer there and then. We also try and keep your wait to a minimum by running two tables plus sending our section editors out into the queue to deal with you faster. If you’re not already in our schedule, Meet The Media is the single best way to get on our radar.
Make sure you go to Meet The Media with a clear plan of who you need to talk to. Don't spend all day in The Scotsman/The Times/The BBC queue - more likely than not, you've wasted your time. Take your press releases and practice your pitch. You have just a couple of minutes to sell your show, so identify what it is that makes you worth featuring.
Placing an advert doesn’t guarantee you a review and certainly doesn’t guarantee you a positive review; Editorial and Advertising is a Church and State relationship that should have no influence over each other. Yes, we realise Chortle changed the rules in 2015, but it's not something we subscribe to. Following Chortle's announcement (and Bitter Lemons in the US), we feel paying for a review fundamentally changes the relationship between critic and performer.
Advertising (somewhere, not just Broadway Baby) is essential for promoting your show, and indirectly can find you reviewers simply because the reviewers selecting shows will recognise your brand. An ad in the Fringe Programme is expensive, but will garner you more audience members and more critics than a line listing.
Industry Panels & Events
I get invited to talk on panels about Edinburgh and Brighton both in the run up to and at the Fringe. I admit I enjoy doing them, not only because I like sharing my experience of the festival, but also because I’m fascinated by the conversations I tend to have afterwards. Lots of really talented people, most attending for the first time and full of questions about how to engage the media. If you’ve spoken to me at one of those events and handed me a flyer, I’m pretty sure to give your show some priority in coverage, and I suspect other publications would too.
EdFringe organise a host of free events at Fringe Central. Make sure you check the Events section of the programme and make some appointments in your diary. Not only do you get a chance at face time with a journalist, you'll probably pick up some great tips from the panel discussions.
In ‘week zero’, which is the week running up to the official launch day of the Edinburgh Fringe (normally the first Saturday in August), many of the larger venues organise a press launch. If the venue you're in does, and you’re able to attend either to showcase your work or just talk to the journalists afterwards at the customary ‘drinks and nibbles’ do (journalists tend to never be too far from a glass of wine or bottle of lager), grab the opportunity. Week Zero is an ideal time for Broadway Baby (and many other publications) to fill up the gaps in their diaries. Do mingle at the event. Don’t stand with the cast from your show and avoid eye contact. Journalists won’t seek you out, but they know they’re fair game for a show pitch at a press launch.
Just like Meet The Media, practice your pitch for press launches. Give the journalist a very quick reason why they should feature you.
And finally, some don’ts
- Don’t send a press release to every email you can find for a publication. A generic inbox like pressreleases@ or editor@ or info@ is likely to be a forwarding account anyway, and seeing four copies of the same release in my mail client normally has me hovering over the delete button.
- Don’t phone the advertising manager’s mobile number to pitch your show. Unless you also want to buy an advert.
- Don’t turn up at the publication’s temporary Edinburgh office to pitch your show. Unless you have cake or booze. Or both.
- If you’ve managed to buttonhole a reviewer at a press launch, don’t hog their time. Do the pitch, answer any questions then move on. You’ll cover more ground and the reviewer won’t feel compelled to add you as a Facebook friend.
- Don't just @tweet us a weblink. It's the equivalent of sending us a Zip file attachment from a hotmail address telling us it's our American Airlines flight receipt that we never booked. The internet is a scary place - we don't know what could be lurking at the end of that link.
- On a similar theme, don't tweet every publication begging for a retweet. Your timeline is public. We can see it. And it smells of desperation.
- Outside of festivals, remember to add your show listing to our site - this also allows you to alert us of any press night you're holding. Don't add a listing if you're part of the Edinburgh or Brighton Fringes - we'll have those details already and duplication can lead to a lot of confusion down the line.