Contacting People About Your Film Via E-Mail? Avoid These Mistakes!

Email Mistakes

When it comes to connecting your audience to your film or webseries, social media is fantastic. But combine that with pitching to media and doing outreach to interest groups and influencers via e-mail, and you’ve got a winning combination. There are, however, some things to avoid when pitching; common mistakes I see happening every day, especially when they land in my inbox!

Have I made these mistakes before? Oh yes, absolutely. When I first started out I made many of these mistakes. I’ve always vowed to be honest on the blog!

Here are some mistakes to avoid so your e-mail isn’t instantly relegated to the trash folder, as well as some handy tips to get the most out of your e-mail exchanges:

Not Doing Your Research

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I cannot tell you how many times my inbox is full of people who haven’t done their research about Sprites, and what we do. Their emails contain references to the possibility of me writing a review and ‘sharing with [my] readers’. I’ve seen frustrated journalists on Twitter talking about people who e-mail them with an inappropriate request, like asking them to write about a beauty product when they’re a tech journalist, and so on. I cannot stress how important it is to do your research before contacting someone.

Whether it’s pitching your film for a potential story in a newspaper or contacting a reviewer, check out whether your film is a good ‘fit’ for that particular avenue. For instance, if you’re looking to receive coverage in a regional newspaper, what connections does your film have to that area? What’s ‘newsworthy’ for that particular newspaper that would encourage them to do a feature or interview?

Research also avoids embarrassing faux pas, like contacting someone who is a vegan and animal rights advocate when your film has hunting in it, or reaching out to an organisation without vetting them first and then finding out that they have ideals that don’t align with the message of your film. The advantage of doing thorough research instead of just firing out e-mails haphazardly is that you get to know who is interested in covering what, and who you may potentially be able to contact again for a future project if it aligns with their interests and the interests of their audiences.

Copy and Pasting Messages

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I can always tell when someone has copied and pasted their information, because it will contain things that raise red flags. Sometimes, they’ll mention that they love something I’ve done…but I haven’t done it. Or it’s so generic that there’s not even a greeting at the start!

Personalising your emails takes time- and that doesn’t mean just changing the name of the person you’re sending it to, and the name of their blog/publication/website, etcetera- but it’s worth doing. Make sure you tailor your e-mails to each person, including the tone of your message. If you’re corresponding with a hip influencer, you can afford to be a bit more informal. If you’re reaching out to a journalist, your tone might be a bit more formal. The personal touch really means a lot, but also people can definitely tell if you’re sending out generic copy and paste e-mails. That often says to people that you actually don’t care about their specific publication or organisation, you’re just flinging e-mails out there and hoping something sticks. And speaking of copy and paste, this next no-no is the one that is the most infuriating of all…

Sending Unsolicited Links Without Explanation

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I’ve previously written about the one thing we have to stop doing on social media, and it ties in with this. There are countless times I have opened an email to see a copy and pasted synopsis of a film, with a link. No salutation, not even an ‘ask’ to share or for any other assistance. This habit ties in with the two above to make for an infuriating e-mail experience! People can’t tell from this interaction what you’re looking for. Are you wanting them to share the information via social media? If so, that’s not the right way to go about it. Again, it’s better to personalise your e-mail, and ask for what you want to happen with regards to that link. It doesn’t guarantee that person will comply, but it makes for a much nicer experience (and your e-mail won’t end up in the trash folder).

E-mail is a tool that has been a part of our existence for so long now that I think people have forgotten the art of conversation. E-mail is a conversation, so make sure it’s a good one. And I’m going to play Devil’s advocate here: you might be thinking; “I don’t have time to do that.” It may mean that you spend a bit longer with your e-mail communications, or, if you can’t hire a publicist, allocate the task to someone on your team. The benefits of being mindful about your e-mail communications are numerous, including forging positive ongoing relationships with journalists, having the support of influencers and organisations you can potentially call on again in future, and having your creative endeavours viewed in a tremendously positive light.

Why Hoping to Go Viral is Like Waiting For a Fairytale Prince

Why hoping to go viral is like waiting for a fairytale prince

A note: while I’ve used the concept of a fairytale prince, you can substitute it for ‘princess’, ‘Iron Man’, or a gender-neutral savior…whatever suits you- the point is, you’re waiting to be saved! Now, carry on…

Gangnam Style. The Harlem Shake. Rebecca Black’s Friday. Chocolate Rain. They shared, we shared, they went viral, we moved onto the next viral hit. One of the things I’m asked most is “can you make me go viral?”, which ultimately gets a hard “no” from me. Why?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go viral. The prospect of having your work go viral is exciting, right? But keep in mind the fact that just like having the ‘flu (which is a virus), the infectiousness of your viral content will pass, too. Add to the fact that, according to Socialbakers’ Jan Rezab the lifespan of virality is on the decline thanks to social media going mainstream and hoping to go viral is basically like waiting for a fairytale prince. Not convinced? Read Jan’s post Stop Trying to Go Viral on Recode- he gives evidence but also gives some fantastic alternatives that really work.

Add to that the fact that since the advent of social media in the mainstream there has been a consistent and steady stream of content available to the public, and it’s harder to make a dent virally. Even Tay Zonday of Chocolate Rain fame thinks that it’s more difficult to go viral now than back in 2007.

If you use virality as a sole benchmark for the success of your work, you’re going to end up feeling pretty bad about things- not because your work isn’t great, but because virality is so unpredictable and on the decline. There’s also this myth that going viral means you become an overnight success and everything is peachy keen. That can happen for some, but the experience is different in every case.

I always say to people when it comes to building an audience for their content: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Even though virality is juicy and attractive and seems like the goose that laid the golden egg, it’s less valuable in the long-term. As with any relationship-building, it takes time and care. You can’t just throw any content out there willy-nilly and hope it sticks. Experiment. See what your audience resonates with, and what they’re not so keen on. Keep tabs on engagement levels and what your audience is saying about your work. And most importantly, let them know that you appreciate their shares, comments and support. Build a solid foundation for your work and your brand and you will reap more consistent benefits than a moment of overnight success with a viral video.

REALLY Stuck For Blogging Ideas? Here’s Some Sanity Savers

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As you may know, we’ve made blogging for filmmakers a focus of our blog content this month, and SURPRISE! here’s a bonus entry to round out the month.

When it comes to growing your audience for your filmmaking, blogging is one of those things that is nice to have but isn’t essential. That being said, if you’re keen to add regular blogging to your film publicity arsenal, there can be times when you might be stuck for ideas. Eeek! I’ve been there! If you’re keen to do a blog post (or have a few up your sleeve for later), but find that suddenly the creative synapses are firing, here’s a few ideas to help get things revved up again. They’re based on my very own experiences of having a complete and utter ‘brain fart’ (for want of a better term):

Do a content digest: ever come across content on the web that you think everyone should see? No, not just cats in suits. Or maybe that’s just me….! Perhaps you find an inspiring TED talk about creativity, a SXSW chat with a filmmaker, or a book on screenwriting that rocked your socks off. These can be repurposed into a content digest blog post. I have done this several times on here, mostly because I had found books, videos apps and filmmaking tools that were too good not to share. In fact, one of the most visited and shared posts on this blog was The Indie Filmmaker’s PR and Digital Marketing Toolkit

Make a list: it sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do we have ideas swirling in our brains like some delicious creative soup but we don’t write them down? Take some time, make a list, a mind map, a diagram…whatever your chosen recording method is. Get those potential blog post ideas down on paper and keep them somewhere you can refer to them for later. Another option if you’re not going to be doing a blog post updating people on your film’s progress, etc, is to have a jar on your desk where you’ve written blog post ideas on slips of paper and pick one.

Elaborate on past posts: perhaps you’ve touched briefly on a topic in a previous post and think it would make a really excellent separate post. Or perhaps you want to revisit an earlier post and elaborate further (or do an update). Either way, there can be some hidden gems in previous posts that can be teased out, repurposed or elaborated on in a fresh and exciting way in a new post.

Don’t sweat it: if you’re really, truly stuck…don’t sweat it! Walk away, do something completely different, or leave it for another day. Blogging shouldn’t be a chore or something you feel tied to. If you’re not feeling it, just leave it. And don’t feel obliged to write about the things you think people want to hear about, either. If it’s not something you’re passionate about sharing, don’t force it. I look at it like redecorating your living room. You redecorate your living room in the way you want to redecorate it, in a way that reflects you, your lifestyle and your family. You don’t look at the redecorating process and go: “gosh, I should have a red feature wall with my awards on it, because that’s what Cindy likes. If I don’t have that red feature wall, Cindy won’t want to come to our housewarming.” That redecorating analogy was brought to you due to the fact I’ve been binge watching Queer Eye on Netflix, but it’s true! There are way too many other things in life that cause pressure and stress, and blogging shouldn’t be one of them.

Happy filmmaking, and happy blogging! If you’ve enjoyed this month’s spotlight on blogging for filmmakers, we’ve got a treat in store for March. March is going to be a spotlight on crowdfunding, with loads of hints, tips and real world advice on how to make the most of crowdfunding your film.

Answering Questions About Blogging For Filmmakers

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This month we’ve been looking at how blogging can be another tool to assist you in growing your audience for your filmmaking, and gave you some ideas to help get you started. We end our focus on blogging this month by answering common questions about blogging for filmmakers. Hopefully our spotlight on blogging this month has, at the very least, given you another tool to consider when building your audience and promoting your films. Time to answer some common questions about blogging so you can be inspired to give it a try if you haven’t already!

Q: How often should I post? It depends on whether or not blogging is a big part of your marketing strategy for your filmmaking or a particular film you’re working on. You also need to take into account how busy you are at any given time- for instance, if you’re currently in principal photography chances are unless you have a team member dedicated to blogging on your behalf you’re not going to have a lot of time or energy to devote to such a rigorous posting schedule. Experts say you should post once or twice per week, but you don’t have to adhere to that particular rule, especially if you are posting regularly via social media.

You also don’t want to feel constrained by an obligation to post once or twice a week- you’re a creative person, and blogging shouldn’t feel like a chore. Post as often or as little as you like, but make sure you don’t have your blog going completely dead. Want to blog infrequently but still have a desire to create blog content about filmmaking or your film? See if there are indie film blogs and websites that would be interested in having you as a guest blogger.

Q: Where should I host my blog? The beauty of blogging is that there are hosting options a plenty! Depending on your website platform you may have the option to integrate a blog into that website (as we have). You may choose to operate a stand-alone blog in conjunction with your website. Alternatively, you may choose to have an account on a stand-alone publishing platform like Medium. It’s a good idea to weigh up your options before committing to something you may not end up using in the long-term.

The benefit of having your blog on your website is that it will help to drive more people to your website- they’ll come for the blog post and hopefully stay to look at your website.

Q: Should I share my blog posts on my social media channels? Absolutely! Blogging provides even more rich, shareable content to promote via social media. Some blogging platforms will have an integrated setting which allows you to share immediately to your social media channels when you publish, which takes the stress out of remembering to share your blog link.

Q: Help! I’m really stuck for content ideas! Have you tried turning it off and on again? Kidding!!! Check out our blog post about content ideas HERE. Currently filming or in post-production? You might want to see if one of your cast or crew would like to contribute a blog post, talking about the process. Perhaps your DoP wants to share some hints and tips, or one of your makeup SFX artists wants to share their career insights and give a sneak peek into their process. Blogging doesn’t have to be a solo effort.

Hopefully our spotlight on blogging in February has been food for thought. If you have a filmmaking blog (or you start one after reading our features on blogging), we’d love to know! Happy blogging and happy filmmaking!

 

Why There’s No Such Thing As A Wasted Opportunity

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Many years ago, I trained to be a primary school teacher*. I was fresh out of high school, the world was big and uncertain and I chose to go to Teacher’s College. On the first day in our first class, our lecturer got us to introduce ourselves to one another. There were so many bright, bubbly people who were excited to be undertaking the journey. Some had waited their entire lives to become a teacher.

And…then there was me.

I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to be a teacher. I think partly it was parental pressure, partly trying to suppress my real desire to work in the film industry. So I persisted with this path for 3 years. I did well with the academic work, my teaching placements also went well. I was one teaching placement and a university paper away from graduating when I decided that this really wasn’t for me.

I felt like a complete and utter failure. My parents were supportive of my decision to leave, but I knew they were disappointed as well. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do- schools need teachers who are 100% passionate about what they do and can instill that into their teaching. The classmates I had whose eyes lit up on the first day and had wanted to teach from a very young age were exactly what the education system desperately needed (and subsequently they have gone on to have very successful teaching careers).

But what at first seemed like a complete loss was actually a gift. I may not have gained my teaching degree, but along the way I gained valuable skills which transferred over into everything I did subsequently. Even now, the skills I gained all those years ago are appropriate for the work I do in publicity. There’s not a lot of difference between the research, planning, implementation and review of a lesson plan and the research, planning, implementation and review of a publicity campaign. Teaching taught me how to be adaptable, to manage my time effectively and work with a wide range of people. Better yet, when I did a Bachelor of Arts a few years later I was able to cross-credit some of my teaching courses over into my BA and ended up completing my degree in 2.5 years instead of 3.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a wasted opportunity. Even in your bitterest disappointments, you’ll find a diamond in the ashes. You might have to wait a while to find that diamond (because let’s face it- disappointments are awful and you might ruminate for a while), but it’s there. If you’re in the indie film industry, you’ll know that sometimes productions fall through, you might not get the role, or locations that were initially viable at the start of production are taken off the table suddenly. None of this is a waste of time. A production that stalls or doesn’t go through to post is valuable experience. The role you didn’t get gave you the opportunity to audition and put yourself in front of an agent and director and put yourself on their radar for future projects. The location you had your heart set on that was made unavailable may open the way for a better location.

A few years ago I spoke to a filmmaker whose short was crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With Kickstarter, it’s a case of “all or nothing” for funding, and the campaign didn’t look like it was going to reach 100%. The filmmaker was incredibly positive about things. “OK, we’re not going to get the funding. That’s fine,” he said to me, “but having our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter meant we were able to gain positive awareness around our campaign, so we’ve got a solid grounding for the next steps”.  He subsequently used the data from the campaign to look at what worked, what didn’t and what they could do in the future to ensure they had a successful campaign.

Currently, I am transitioning from working for myself to potentially joining a new PR team and that has meant sending out a lot of applications and getting in touch with agencies. I’m not worried about rejections, because connecting with agencies is another opportunity to network, and at the very least they are aware of me and what I have been doing as a freelancer. I chose to look at this undertaking as being a positive one, no matter what. Eventually, there will be the right position and it may come from somewhere completely unexpected. You can never underestimate the power of networking- there are times when someone will know of another person who is looking for exactly the skillset you possess and can put you in touch.

So if you receive a rejection e-mail, you don’t get a callback or things go kaput on a production- find the gift in it. There’s always some experience or skill you have gained during the process that can be of use later on, you just have to find it.

*= for those of you who are American, primary school is the equivalent of elementary school.

The One Thing We Need to STOP Doing on Social Media

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Earlier this week I logged into my e-mail to see a message from an acquaintance. We’d been connected via Facebook. Upon opening the message, all I see is a banner for his film. There’s no salutation, no explanation…just the banner. Curious, I emailed him back to ask why he had sent it to me.

“Well, I know you’re interested in social media so I e-mailed it to  you for your awareness”.

Awareness achieved…albeit negatively. Perhaps if he had told me more about the film and what he wanted to achieve by sending the picture, I might have been more receptive.

The one thing we need to STOP doing on social media is treating people like receptacles for links.

 

Regardless of whether it’s messaging your IMDb link to someone without context, or using a third-party provider to send an auto DM to your followers when they follow you, we need to get back to having the ‘social’ in ‘social media’. Recently on the blog I mentioned that we need to work smarter, not harder when it comes to social media- especially when you’re trying to gain awareness for your film. No matter what industry you are in, forging strong connections with people in your network is key. Think I’m wrong? Watch Joe Wilson’s video on Film Courage about actors spamming people on Twitter (note: contains swearing).

Imagine you’re at a conference and there’s a networking cocktail hour. People are milling about, catching up and talking about the day’s events. And then there’s you- you have a billion sheets of paper that only have the link to your film’s crowdfunding campaign on them. Instead of organically networking and getting to know people, you throw the paper up in the air and hope that as it falls, people take notice. That’s what social media can feel like at times, instead of being a conversation. One of the advantages that independent and micro-budget filmmakers have is that they have the ability to make the most of social media. Big blockbusters have PR departments, directors may have their own social media accounts but their engagement can be few and far between, depending on scheduling and whether or not they have someone else managing their personal social media feeds or not. With indies and micro-budgets, most of the time it’s you on the other end of the conversation. So instead of thrusting links upon people…engage with your followers. After all, one of the most important parameters of digital marketing is engagement. You can have all the followers you could possibly want, but if engagement levels are low, it’s not good. That’s how you can tell if someone has bought social media followers: the engagement levels don’t correlate with follower numbers.

Additionally, if you are approaching someone to assist you in any way, be it via e-mail or a social media message, approach them as if you were to approach anyone you’d like assistance from outside of social media. Sending a picture with the hopes it gets shared (and sans message) doesn’t cut it. It just doesn’t. Does that mean I’m not guilty of these social media sins? Not at all! I put my hand on my heart and say that as I was learning and growing, I committed some pretty gnarly social media and publicity sins. Everything is a learning process.

Another way of gaining awareness around your project is to help other people out. Take competition out of the equation, especially if you are an indie filmmaker. You’re not scrambling for those box office dollars (not yet, anyway!). If someone is looking for equipment to hire for a weekend shoot, share their info or point them in the right direction. If you know two people who could benefit from meeting one another and networking, introduce them. Being a connector is a great way of not only assisting others with their goals, it’s great karma. Plus, there will come a time when someone thinks of you when it comes to an opportunity, and will gladly connect you to the right person.

And yes, I’m counting myself as a recipient of this blog post, and as needing this message too. At times, I have been guilty of treating people like link receptacles as well. It’s all part of the human experience. So, from now on, let’s make even more of a concerted effort to really connect with the people who have chosen to follow/like us online. Deal? Deal.

 

Maintaining Contributor Connection After Your Crowdfunding Campaign

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The crowdfunding campaign for your film has finished, you’ve secured your funds and you’re ready for the next part of production. Congrats! This is a golden opportunity to continue to build anticipation for your film and keep forging links with your audience.

Sometimes with crowdfunding campaigns, the post-campaign period can be forgotten in the excitement of completing the film. Updates on the crowdfunding campaign page can go silent, and in some cases the campaign is not mentioned again- it’s a case of “so long, and thanks for all the fish” when it comes to contributors. So how do you make the most of the post-campaign period in order to keep momentum building for your film’s release and also increase your film’s visibility?

Don’t forget those crowdfunding page updates: crowdfunding page updates are an excellent way to keep in touch with the people who supported you and contributed to the campaign. Think about having exclusive contributor-only sneak peeks prior to the release of a new trailer, let people know when tangible perks are on their way to contributors, and keep the connection alive and exciting by getting people to share photos of their perks with appropriate hashtags on social media. If there are any issues with distribution of perks (for instance, a shipment is taking longer to get to you than expected so getting the perks to contributors will also take longer), let people know. There’s nothing worse than being a contributor and wondering where a perk is.

You can also get your contributors involved in social media for the film when you’re gearing up for release. Have graphics available in the sizes most appropriate for popular social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) that contributors can download and share (including special Facebook and Instagram profile pics and headers), as well as suggested tweets that contributors can copy and paste. That way if contributors are keen to continue assisting your filmmaking efforts, they can help you by spreading the word.

Make it part of the process: got a scrumptious delivery of those t-shirts that were a crowdfunding perk? Show people on social media! If a poster signed by the cast was a perk, take photos showing the cast members signing the posters. Don’t forget: people love being part of the filmmaking journey, so take them on the journey with you via social media.

Celebrate online: finished the crowdfunding campaign successfully! Time to celebrate! After you’ve taken a break away from the campaign (because, let’s face it, you’ll need downtime), schedule a Facebook Live session on your Facebook page to talk about next steps and answer any questions fans may have. Publicize it via your campaign updates and social media well in advance so that people know when it is coming up and can look forward to catching up with you.