Recently, we gave you a handy timeline for when to generate publicity for your independent film, including securing media coverage. Just as there are great ways (and not so great ways) of engaging with your audience via social media, contacting media for coverage of your film can be tricky.
Journalists, bloggers and editors have inboxes full to the brim every single day. They can only cover so much, and it has to tick the boxes when it comes to being newsworthy, especially in an age where breaking news is available via every digital device conceivable. Does that mean your indie film can’t get coverage? Not at all! You know you have a great film that audiences would be interested in, it’s just a matter of finding ways to pitch to media so they are keen to let people know about your film.
How can you ensure you have the best chance of securing press for your film? We break it down for you:
1. Do your research: the old adage is true- if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. It means taking a good look at your film and seeing who fits into the demographic for your audience. It sounds like a cold procedure, but being able to identify who your audience is means you save yourself time in the long run when pitching to media because you’ll have a good idea of what sort of media they’re likely to engage with on a daily basis. Look at some of the famous loglines from classic films and you can probably identify who their target audiences might be, based on some of the key words. The same is true of your own logline-chances are you have been able to capture the essence not only of your film’s narrative in the logline, but the genre and potential demographic as well.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, you need to start making a list of journalists, reviewers, bloggers and podcasters to contact who are known to write for that audience- especially if they have a keen interest in the genre of your film. When you identify your target audience, it also makes it easier to search for websites which feature film news, reviews and features for that target audience. It also means that with local and national news outlets you can identify exactly who has a keen interest in certain subjects. Another avenue to go down with regards to target audiences is fan sites and groups, especially if your film has a name actor in it. Fandoms are amazing when it comes to spreading the word about what they love.
It’s a good idea to keep a note of names, the website(s) they write for, e-mail address, social media handles and any relevant notes (for instance, the genres and subjects they write about). If someone publishes a piece online, be sure to add it to your website on your ‘Press’ page.
2. Polish up your press materials: If you’ve been following our series on how to prep for publicity success, you will have your press kit ready to go with everything you need. The best place to have your press kit, press releases, stills for media to use and director’s statement is under a ‘For Media’ page. That way, anyone keen to know more about your film and potentially write about it has access to everything they need. Another way to do this is to have a clearly labelled Dropbox link you can send to media. It should have your press kit, press releases and stills clearly labelled. Make sure your pictures are in .jpg form. Depending on the length of your shoot, you may want to send out more than one press release- that way you can also have press releases that are targeted towards different segments of media. For instance, if you want coverage in the regional press, you might want to have a press release about ‘Bringing Hollywood to [region]’, talking about the locations where the film is being shot.
So, how do you go about making sure your press releases are juicy enough to tempt the media to give you coverage? It all comes down to what’s known as newsworthiness. You can find a wealth of newsworthy criteria if you Google it, but I particularly like this article, stating 5 main criteria.
3. Build up relationships with media outlets: it’s a great idea to build a strong relationship with media outlets from day one, both mainstream and independent. Follow the social media accounts of newspapers, magazines, websites, podcasts and blogs. If there are items covered by these outlets that are particularly relevant to the audience for your film, share them on your own social media, especially if it’s something you love yourself.
The reasons for this are three-fold: firstly, it’s content that keeps your audience interested in your social media content between shares of your own content. Secondly it’s a way to get you ‘on the radar’ of media outlets. At times, you may not have to reach out to journalists/bloggers/podcasters- they may come to you. Thirdly, it’s a great ice-breaker for when you come to pitch your film to journalists and bloggers. You can get in touch via e-mail and you’re not just paying lip service to what they do- you actually genuinely love the content and share it. Being able to e-mail someone and say: “You may have seen that we’re huge fans of your writing. We particularly loved your piece on [x]” is better than randomly popping up in someone’s inbox with a copy-and-paste e-mail.
4. Get ready to pitch perfectly: so, you’ve identified media outlets you’d love to have covering your film. You have contact details and you’re ready to pitch your film. How do you do it? In your email it’s a good idea to introduce yourself. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people e-mail us at Film Sprites PR simply with: “I want help with my film”! You want to secure coverage for your film, but it’s always a great idea to explain why you’re keen to get coverage via this outlet. For example, you could say:
My name is [x], the [director/producer/publicist] of [film]. I’m getting in touch because you may have seen on our film’s social media accounts that we’re huge fans of your [website/writing/blog/podcast/magazine]. I was wondering if you would be interested in covering [film] for [website/writing/blog/podcast/magazine]?
It’s best to adapt to your own writing style and what you want to say, but the above gives you a starting point. Then, you want to give your logline and synopsis, as well as the link to your press materials. Why haven’t I suggested attaching a PDF of your press kit and/or press release? So your message doesn’t get caught up in the spam filter, as some spam filters automatically flag attachments.
Make sure you adapt your pitch to the person you’re writing to. I cannot tell you the amount of times we’ve received e-mails Film Sprites PR where the person has clearly not done their research and mistaken us for a film review website…they have also clearly copied and pasted the email! Don’t be that person.
Think about it- would you rather copy and paste quickly to 100 media outlets and have 2 pieces of coverage…or carefully craft each pitch to 50 media outlets and have 45 pieces of coverage? It takes time, but that time is worth it.
If you have established great relationships with media outlets and they’re keen to provide coverage, then you can also include them on your list of people to send additional press releases to down the track. It also means you can contact them again at a later date when you’re ready to publicize your next film.
When I first established Film Sprites PR, I didn’t have any firm media contacts. So what I did during that first month of operation was to get in touch with independent film websites, blogs and podcasts, introduce myself and Film Sprites PR and talk about the fact I’d love to include them in my media list, should we have any films that may be of interest to their audience. I didn’t assume- I asked. I asked because I genuinely wanted to make sure that they were keen to receive emails about the films we were publicising as opposed to spamming people who weren’t interested. As a result I was able to build up great media relationships. It then meant that I could send a quick email to establish whether or not that media outlet would be interested in a particular film, and most of the time they were and would consistently write features, do interviews or publish the latest press release as a result.
5. Gratitude matters: so, your film has received glowing coverage! Congrats! What’s the next step? Make sure you post it via your social media. If you have coverage in a local print newspaper or magazine, scan the clipping or take a photo. If it’s a link, post the link and be sure to thank the media outlet involved. You’d be surprised how many people forget this vital step. It means thanking every single outlet, whether it’s a trade paper, an entertainment website or a small independent blog. Not only is it good karma, chances are the media outlet may re-share your thank you, generating even further exposure.
Pitching to media doesn’t have to be difficult, and forging relationships with media in an authentic way can be hugely beneficial for your current film and for future releases.