By Loraine Ritchey
Publicity: first appeared in “Dancer” January 2000
Whilst you are reading this column I am still stuck in the last one. What a difference 8 short weeks can make. Because I will or have been away (depending what century you’re in) for the month of November. Two columns had to be written in October! I would like to tell you that I had planned all along to use this column to answer reader’s questions (so that I could keep last year’s resolutions) but I didn’t! The winding down of the summer Highland season coupled with Highland conferences etc. brought more mail than usual.
Maureen Petru wrote, “ I was reading back issue of “Dancer” and noticed that your bio said you dealt with publicity. What can you suggest to help my studio, not Highland by the way, top get our recitals, programs etc. covered by the media?”
The reason there are people who make a great deal of money in “media/public relations” is it isn’t an easy task. Obviously, most studios cannot afford to hire a professional. There are certain guidelines that I have found help.
First of all you must remember, “You are not the only one!” Whether it is dance, sports, theatre, or cause of the moment, everyone is vying for “free space” in the media. Free is the operative word here because any periodical, radio TV will certainly give you space with paid advertisement.
You must first “know your outlet” for an example, the local newspaper. Make a phone call; find out whom on the staff covers your area of interest, in your case dance. Check and see what their requirements for publication are, color or black and white photos. Will they accept your own or do they require their own photographers? What is their deadline? Also when submitting copy or a “media package” makes sure the text is double spaced and easy to read. Do not send pages and pages. If you can personally drop off the information to the reporter/writer do so. The journalist will then put a face to the voice making you more than just another voice at the end of the phone. Do this in plenty of time before the “deadline”. No writer etc wants to have been given information close to his or her deadline. Make sure you have someone, as well as yourself, who can speak intelligently for your studio. Make sure phone numbers are included. Reporters do not like chasing people down.
How do you stand out from every other dance studio? What makes you different? Our local media has the choice of 52 area Community Theatres (and that isn’t including the semi-professional, professional and high school productions). What makes one “Sound of Music” different from another “Sound of Music”, one “Nutcracker" from the next, one Highland exhibition from another?
You have to find your “hook”. Look at your cast; is there a human-interest story unique to your studio? Are you doing the production for a charity? Do you have a famous or quite famous person involved? Is it an inaugural season? What makes “your “ production different from the rest that the reporter/writer gets across his/her desk? Then that is what you must point up in you “media/publicity package. You must be as creative when dealing with the media, as you would choreograph a new “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”.
Unless the company (media) has a reporter who specializes in dance and is somewhat knowledgeable, don’t assume that the voice on the other end of the phone has the slightest idea of what you are talking about. Highland studios will find that even a “dance reporter” will have hardly any inkling as to what Highland dance is. It has been my experience they think it is “Riverdance”
The “publicity package” should include photos. If sending to more than one newspaper in the area, make sure you send different photos to each. Newspapers, magazines if they are in competition with each other, trying to reach the same consumer base, they will not want to print the exact same photo. Should they both publish the same photo your job is going to be much harder the next time you want publicity. Tailor the photos to the newspapers requirements. Lightly write on the back of the photo the who is who in the photo, left to right. When giving the text of the publicity make sure you have covered: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW MUCH, BOX OFFICE, PHONE and CONTACT INFO
You’ve either dropped off the package or mailed it. Wait a couple of days and make a follow-up phone call making sure that the reporter/writer has received the information and if there is anything else they require. Try to develop a relationship with you local media. A letter of thanks always goes down well. Speaking from personal experience there is always great interest in getting your information in print, but very few people follow-up with a thank you. The “thank you” are appreciated and remembered.
You have the interest of the reporter and sometimes they will call for an interview. One of the most important things to remember when dealing with the press, very rarely do they print the questions, just your answers. Also you must remember very few publications share the same positive philosophy as “Dancer” and it’s publisher “Owen Goldman”. If a reporter can get a little controversy in the article, it may mean they can squeak another story out of it. When you are writing for a daily periodical and it’s a slow news day, well you get my drift.
My son recently found out the hard way when giving an interview to the local media. Yes! The reporter quoted him accurately, but out of context and the readers of course were not privy to the questions asked. “That is not what I said” Well, yes he did say those things but not in the order they were printed, which gave the article a little different slant than he was striving for. Be careful! Do not be drawn into potentially controversial statements. Talk only about your studio And your production and remember anything you say may end up in print!
As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at
Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.