Public Relations for Theaters and Local Art Organizations

Public Relations is the promotion of News for your theater and arts group, it is a bit different from marketing, however the two should work hand in hand. Many organizations hire public relations firms to help them get in the news, and will hiring experience is always better then doing things yourself odds are small arts programs with very little budget cannot afford to do this. You must then do public relations on your own.

One of the most important pieces of news for the theater is the newspaper, news papers especially local ones are usually fairly friendly to the arts and theatre. This said how good a reception you get from them still depends on the quality of your approach and on . how many other arts enteritis there are in the local area, if you’re the only one then your job is much easier. If you are competing with other organizations especially larger ones for attention then you might have a bit of difficulty. Further odds are better then not that you don’t just want the people from your town to show up; you want people from the small and even large towns around you to show up as well. Getting in the papers of other cities will require extensive PR.

If your organization has never done public relations before, has no history with a paper you should begin your relationship by sending a backgrounder. This is the basic information on your organization. As a theater chances are you are a non-profit entity, however even if you are not you should pitch your organization a little like one. In essence you need to describe your organizations goals, and accomplishments, as will as your important leaders, tax numbers and the like. This way those at the paper are more likely to be aware of your existence and will be better prepared for your future correspondence.

As you begin to do news worthy things you will want to send a press release to the news paper journalists most concerned with the arts. Be aware that not everything is news worthy, you should be careful to send only interesting articles to the journalists or else they will simply discard what you send, and eventually they will stop looking at your releases all together. Think of what’s interesting, if you’re in a small town and the only arts organization then many things might be interesting so long as they are not repetitive. In larger towns with lots of theaters and arts programs a small one becomes less of a novelty. This does not mean you can’t send out your performance announcements, especially to papers that print the shows that are showing. However it means that you should make more effort to be interesting.

Also make certain that your press releases are well written, before writing a release write a blue print of exactly who, what, when, where, why and how the event being discussed is happening. You are likely excited about the event, however you should not gush about it, nor should you use flowerily language, or technical jargon. Be straight to the point, while keeping the article well written.

After an article is sent it is possible to follow up by phone unless of course you know that a journalist does not like to be called. Whenever making a phone call you should have come up with basic talking points, so that you can give details quickly. You can have interesting angles outside of the ones sent early to give you something to add to what was sent. Also you should come up with 4 or so story ideas before calling so that if one is shot down you can quickly move on to the others. Finally before you call you should have a script prepared for exactly what you will say if you get an answering machine, remember you have to be interesting enough for a journalist to call you back, you are a theater so coming up with a creative yet to the point script for this should be possible.

Once you get the journalist introduce yourself, even if you just spoke, people often mistake voices over the phone, and you don’t want to make them ask who you are. Asking questions like that makes it easier to say no and hang up. Once you’ve introduced yourself get right to the point, know your theater, the performance, and what you are talking about, so you can provide information and answers. It the journalist seems detached you can ask if their would be a better time to call back, always be polite, and never ask journalists for advice. Journalists have lots of PR people bothering them and they don’t like unprofessional ones.

Coming up with an interesting angle.

Coming up with an interesting angle for your theater, one which is news worthy can be difficult. One thing to keep in mind is that people like celebrations, anniversaries, and holidays so if you can do something related to these that will help. For local theaters special events related to the building of a neighborhood or the town, or some other local event can be helpful. As an arts program you can also have some awards ceremonies to help increase interest.

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