Fringe folk, I’ve been where you are. It’s a few months, weeks or days before your show opens at the ginormous Edinburgh Festival Fringe. You know your lines. You’ve had posters and flyers printed. Time to pump out press materials to convince media to cover this precious thing you’ve invested heart, soul and so much money in.
It’s not impossible to stand out at EdFringe or any festival without hiring a high-priced publicist. The keys are knowing who the media are, what they want from you and how they want to receive it.
This is where many performing artists go blank. They don’t know where to start. Some give up and think, “Oh, well, if I’m great, they’ll find me and make me famous.”
At the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe there were more than 3,000 shows in 350 venues. There’ll be more than that in 2016 and more again every year to come. Easy to get lost in that crowded landscape.
It’s not impossible to stand out at EdFringe or any festival, however, without hiring a high-priced publicist. The keys are knowing who the media are, what they want from you and how they want to receive it.
I’ve worked both sides of this equation. For decades I was an arts journalist, reviewing shows in print and online, including reviewing dozens of Edinburgh Fringe shows last summer for BroadwayBaby.com. I’m also a playwright and solo performer. My one-woman play, Sweater Curse, debuted at the 2013 Fringe and ran again in 2014.
Knowing nothing about EdFringe, I spent months researching how performers interact with media there. Sure, there’s “Media Day” at Fringe Central – a sweaty scrum of costumed performers lined up for hours to do two-minute pitches to jet-lagged and hungover critics, reporters and bloggers.
I started my publicity push well before packing for Edinburgh. I skipped Media Day completely and whattayaknow? Even as a completely unknown first-timer at EdFringe, I got a ridiculous amount of coverage (all good) and five-star reviews. All because I knew how to match my ideas to media’s needs.
Using what I know, I’ve been teaching my Media Matrix workshops to actors and artists, including sold-out sessions at Fringe Central for the past two Augusts. Now I’ve put all my best tips, tricks and media-friendly strategies in a new eBook, 107 Publicity Boosters That WORK: How to master the media matrix at Edinburgh Fringe, every other Fringe and back in your own hometown (available on Amazon UK and Amazon US).
If you’re just starting your media campaign, here are nine of my best tips to get you going:
- The press release is dead. Send out story pitches. Figure out what stories you’d like to read about you and your show and write snappy, personalized emails offering those stories to the media people most likely to cover your show. A story must have a “news peg,” something that explores who, what, why, why not or how much.
- Bloggers will love you if you provide a cut-and-paste Q&A interview they can use on their sites. That’s right. You interview yourself (or your cast) about some particular angle readers might find intriguing. If a blogger sends you more questions, answer with wit and honesty and get those answers back quickly. Proofread twice!
- No attached files. We in media loathe downloading the dreaded PDFs. Put all info in the body of your email. Preferably in simple, larger-than-10-pt type.
- Don’t scattershoot one pitch/release to all media. Personalize, focus, target. Read the critics and feature writers who cover EdFringe to figure out who might like you and want to know more about you.
- Time before date before place. Generally, that’s how you write the info you give media. Example: Acme Players’ Hamlet runs at 5 p.m. daily, August 5-29, Sweet Venues Grassmarket, Edinburgh. (Include a link to online box office. Don’t use extra letters after those date numbers.)
- Try not to clog media email inboxes with too many high-resolution photos. Have a Dropbox or other online collection (not Facebook pages!) where media can easily download high-rez versions of your production pix. Include a link to them in your email pitches. Put all ID info and photo credits in the file name of each photo. Example: Don Jones as Hamlet for Acme Players photo by Sally Smith.jpg. (You can put LOTS of words in a photo file name. That’s fine.)
- Have a big variety of production photos, not one artsy shot for an entire run. Some publications want close-ups; some want well-lit pix of how your show looks on a stage. Digital photography makes variety easy. Hire a professional shooter who uses a good camera. Do not shoot your show pix with a phone. The quality of the “art” often dictates the size of the coverage.
- Be generous on social media about praising others; good vibes bounce back to you.
- Get a great review? Thank the critic! Send an email, write a note, buy a drink at the pub. Get a not-so-great review? Do the exact same things. “Thank you” works magic with us media peeps. We remember who says it and who never does.
I have 98 more insider secrets and step-by-step boosters for your publicity efforts at EdFringe – or anywhere. Check out my book and let me know what’s working for you!