Internet Marketing & Public Relations for the Arts

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Writing the Dreaded Blurb


Probably the most important words you’ll ever write for your arts group are *blurbs*. These are the tight summaries that define your work for brochures, postcards, posters, letters, email blasts, grant summaries, calendar listings, sponsorship proposals…

Without an attractive blurb or teaser, there's little reason for anyone to cast a glance at an unknown quantity. If you are promoting a new work, lets call the title; "The Insanity Factor",  the pubic needs a blurb to help define what this piece is, and more importantly, why should anyone go see it!

Blurbs for performances are very much like those you'd find on the back cover of a paperback or the flap-copy on a hardback.  They are there to entice the user to action -- whether it be to buy a ticket, attend a workshop, or fund your theatre.

The best possible way to learn about blurb writing is to flip through books at your local bookstore, or even start collecting brochures from other arts groups and read their blurbs.

Sell the Sizzle, not the Steak. 

In other words, describe the experience that a user is going to have by attending your performance.  Below are two blurbs for the same show (our made up The Insanity Factor)

Blurb 1:
The Insanity Factor takes places in the late 1950's in a prisoner's Asylum located in southwest Georgia. Three men, placed in the same cell, develop a friendship that eventually turns to distrust as their insanity grows over time.

Blurb 2:
3 men, battling personal demons, clash together in this riveting and haunting tale of life on the edge of madness.  Winner of the 2005 OBIE award for best play, The Insanity Factor is a white-knuckle ride into the dark terrors of the mind.

One blurb is a rather dull description of the play (the steak), the other promises an exciting night of theatre (the sizzle).

Here are some tips for creating the perfect blurb:
  • always write your blurb from a third person Point of View.
  • avoid boasting - *the best story ever told* - but do emphasize strong points like hysterical, stunning, dramatic.
  • avoid describing the plot and characters in too much detail. A brush stroke is all that's needed.
  • KISS - Keep It Short, Silly! The shorter and punchier your blurb, the more likely it is to snag a reader.
  • Answer the question: WHY SHOULD I SEE IT?
  • State the non-obvious: If it is Garcia Lorca, is it in Spanish or English? If it is Carmen, is it opera or ballet? If ballet, is it set to live music? If 2 groups are on one billing, are they playing separate sets or simultaneously? If Baroque music, is it on period instruments?
  • When possible, try to add an imprint of quality:

    Awards Received
    Winner of the 2005 Tony,  Best New Opera, Van Cliborn Award Winner...

    Credible Press Quotes
    "The best night I spent in the Theatre"--New York Times.

    Performance History
    First performed to a half full house in 1784, Don Juan is now considered by many to be the definitive opera of the millennium.

    Prestigious Funding acknowledgments:
    Sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust, this work.....

Although blurbs are short, they will constitute a great deal of your time as you work in PR.  You are the one who will decide what main points to get across in such a brief space--and for many potential audience members, your blurb will be the first thing they ever hear about the performance.