PR tips for indie filmmakers and PMDs

June 1, 2011
posted by sheric

I was listening to a podcast on the Pixability site last week that was supposed to be about using video in your publicity efforts. I am not really sure I took much away about that subject. Their angle was using video press releases instead of text ones. I get why Pixability sees things that way, but I am not sure about that approach both as a journalist and someone who courts publicity. I did take away some great, succinct advice from the speaker, Cameron Herold,  on the most effective uses of PR and understanding exactly what PR is. I will share these with you over the next few posts.

The Right Mindset for PR

It is best to look at PR as a service you are offering to journalists. You aren’t selling a product to them, you are providing them with story ideas. Story ideas are something they need on a regular basis. If you keep up a blog, you know what I am talking about.

Do not send a one sheet, which is a piece of sales material typically designed to attract buyers like at a film market. There is no story hook in a one sheet, nor is there a story angle in some typical press releases. Journalists are not in the business of simply promoting your film (the ones whose sites are not owned by studios/distributors anyway), they are in the business of developing and writing a good story for their audience. How does your film or your work help them do that? Hint: it should be unique. It is NOT that you have made a film. The easier you can make a journalist’s work, the more likely they are to write and publish a story.

You should be researching what these journalists write about and what their audience typically reads on the site or in their publications and find a way to tie your work into their interests. This doesn’t mean send mass press releases to a big list of journalists (believe me, I am still getting these from PR people who should know better because I was on the Sundance press list), it means crafting a custom pitch to select journalists who can help you achieve your objectives. Those objectives could be audience attention, but they could also be industry attention for your career.

Finding Journalists

A few resources were offered and most were geared more toward the needs of a corporate entity, like PR Newswire and Vocus which caters to the masses. Masses are not what you want. Tightly focused, interest driven publications are your goal. First start with Google and look for journalists in a particular region (if you want to promote a screening or if you are shooting in that location or if you are from that location), or journalists who cover a very specific topic (something related to the interests of the audience of your film). Again these could be industry publications (covering Jewish filmmakers, or women filmmakers, or LGBT filmmakers) too. My recommendations for finding journalists is not to look for lists because those only encourage you to send one email en masse which is the lazy approach and unlikely to result in much coverage. This is going to take some time and effort, research and reading to figure out the best fit for your story. If you take that little extra time, your email is less likely to end up in the mass delete column in a journalist’s inbox.

You may also want to target journalists who have syndicated columns which can result in your story spreading through many different publications, even worldwide. Once it starts to spread, other publications that aren’t even part of the syndication are likely to pick it up.

Next up…finding an angle and crafting a pitch

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