"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. "
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Although you will occasionally have to "wing it" in Public Relations, nothing beats a solid Public Relations plan for getting your message out and on target. A successful campaign needs to be planned just like a battle--you need to identify the target, and the best way to approach them.
Although every PR person has a different approach, here are my tips for creating a successful campaign:
1) Know the Show
First off, you have to learn everything you can about the exhibit you are presenting. While this sounds obvious, having familiarity with the playwright, director, artist, concept, etc. will help you shape the message you are trying to present to the public.
2) Create a Fact Sheet
After familiarizing yourself with the offering, create a fact sheet with all of the information at a glance. This should include:
• Name of Show
• Key Players (Artist, Directors, Actors, etc)
• Phone Number for more information
• Dates and Times of Presentation
• Short Blurb
• Long Blurb
• Ticket Information (Prices, Box Office Number, type of Seating)
• Special Dates (Artist Talks, Lectures, Promotions)
You will that the fact sheet is not only for your use, but you will constantly be using it to give to your webmaster, press, even artists before they go on an interview--it is all the information you need at a glance and indispensable.
3) Create Pitching Sheet
You should start working on several "angles" to pitch to various members of the press. Try to create as many stories of interest as you can--these may be just Headlines, or fully fleshed out story ideas. In addition, you should leave space for which media you have pitched the story too, and the status of the pitch.
For example, if your theatre was presenting Romeo and Juliet, your pitching sheet could look like this:
The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth
Ask lifestyle editor to run a story on couples in the area whose families didn't get along--and how they overcame it.
Capulet Family Feud
Get local morning news show to interview actors portraying Romeo and Juliet, and challenge anchor to a series of R&J trivia questions.
Movie vs Theatre
Get local library to screen Baz Lyman's Romeo and Juliet, get local arts critic on hand to answer questions about the film vs. the play.
The Athletics of Sword fighting
Pitch sports editor to come to a fight rehearsal and report on how athletic actors have to be to make a duel look real on stage.
Get TV weatherman to report the weather from Juliet's Balcony.
Etc, etc. The idea here is to create as many pitches as possible, chances are most of them will never make it off the paper, however, by writing them down and discussing with staff, new ideas may appear, which will give you even more stories to pitch.
4) Create a Timeline
I find timeliness to be indispensable. Since most arts organizations operate on specific dates (ie, your exhibit opens March 12, or your new seasons open Oct 4) it is best to work from that date backward. Understand that it is your mission to get a buzz going about your offering nearly 1-2 weeks in advance of opening--which means laying the groundwork as early as 4-5 weeks out.
For a show opening on October 10, a timeline might look like this:
Contact Magazine editors and pitch story ideas for October issue. See if they are looking for cover art--maybe a story on Halloween Costumes using cast members from R&J.
Make sure information on show is up on our website.
Get information to all Calendar listings, submit information online when possible.
Set up advance photo call for September 10.
Advance photo call for Romeo and Juliet.
Post advance R&J photos on website, make available in Press Room.
Send out initial Press Release/Fact sheet to Media List.
Send out ticket notification to E-mail list.
Send out opening night invitations to critics/press.
Contact Television stations and pitch interview ideas for Oct 6,7,8,9.
Pitch press/media Story ideas.
Contact Radio Stations for morning interviews with cast.
R&J stage photo call.
Prepare press kits.
Contact press to confirm attendance.
Place new photos on Website.
Email positive reviews to email list.
The timeline will change as you begin to secure story ideas, or get confirmation from media for interview slots. However, by planning early, you will make certain you don't skip necessary steps in getting your message out to the public.