How to Put a Publicity Budget Into Action (and Get the Best Value For Money!)

how to put a publicity budget into action

Recently I’ve been letting you in on how to get more bang for your publicity buck, along with some more no-cost and low-cost publicity and social media ideas. This post is a continuation of that series. In this post, we’re going to look at how best to put together a publicity budget and then get the best value for money out of that budget (even if you have very little to spare).

If you receive distribution for your film, chances are the distribution company will do the PR and social media heavy lifting for you…but what happens if you have to self-distribute but still want to utilize publicity and social media marketing to connect with media and audiences? How do you plan a publicity budget and make the most of it?

I’m no expert, but I’ve worked with indie filmmakers just like you over the past 4 and a half years and regardless of the budget available, we’ve made it work very effectively. I think it helps that I grew up in an impoverished household. I saw how my mother was able to make do in miraculous ways. Needless to say, I’ve adopted that mindset when it comes to budgets of any kind. This is the way I approach publicity budgets and it’s a way that I’ve found works. You may have a better way, or adapt this to suit your purposes. There’s really no wrong way to do this.

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So, let’s look at how to work with what you have available (even if you’re low to no budget) to get maximum results:

  • Define your project: is it a short film, feature, webseries?
  • Define your publicity and social media marketing goals: what are you hoping to achieve with publicity and social media marketing of your film/webseries? List everything. Examples could include: growing your social media presence for your film, encouraging people to purchase tickets to local screenings, gaining reviews of your film, securing interviews and features in the run-up to your film’s release, etcetera.
  • Look at your publicity and social media marketing budget: absolutely NO money available? NO problem! It just means you’ll be looking for no-cost options, like creating and maintaining your film/webseries social media presence, reaching out to reviewers and journalists, or staging a local screening in conjunction with a club or organization (or a very kind venue that will stage it for free!). Check out our previous posts for some no-cost options. If you have funds available, look at your goals and research your options. If you have screenings coming up locally or on limited release, you might want to put a percentage into running paid Facebook or Instagram promotions, or paid promotions on film genre-specific websites. You may even choose to outsource your publicity and social media marketing to someone else who can do the heavy lifting for you (that’s when people come to us!).
  • Work out a publicity plan going forward and allocate funds based on the above: share this plan with your producers and anyone assisting with publicity and social media marketing. It’s good to have the numbers down so everyone is clear on the financials and you have a record of everything. Even if you have no funds available, I still suggest doing a publicity plan so you’re not flying by the seat of your pants with your publicity and social media marketing efforts!

There’s countless options available that don’t mean taking out a second mortgage- you can achieve great things with little to no funds available and make your film or webseries a huge hit.

More No-Cost and Low-Cost Film Publicity and Social Media Ideas

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There was an overwhelmingly positive response to our post about getting more bang for your publicity buck with no-cost and low-cost ideas for film publicity and social media that we’re sharing even MORE ideas to help you stretch your publicity budget further (even if it’s non-existent!):

Sanity-saving apps

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We now live in a world where almost everything is right at our fingertips (literally!). Thankfully, apps can make social media marketing of your film so much easier. It means you’re not having to be tied to a desk in order to reach your audience immediately- how cool is that?

Whether using a smart phone or tablet, there’s a few apps that can make social media posts painless, fun and engaging. One of my favourite apps is Canva, a graphic design app that is also available via the website. Canva gives you a multitude of free options for designing anything you can think of: from a flier to social media graphics for various social platforms, there’s even free templates, photos and text available if you’re completely unsure of where to start. There are also paid plans, which give you more options for templates and far more photos as well as other features, but the free option is pretty comprehensive.

Another great design app I love is Promo Republic. Create, share and schedule your social media posts all in one place, PLUS they have a handy calendar which shows you a comprehensive list of public holidays, awards ceremonies and popular events, celebrity birthdays and more; all of which can be handy to use on social media to get your audience engaged and sharing your content.

Event Listings

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Got screenings but no budget for advertising? Listing your screenings on platforms like Eventbrite is a great option. In New Zealand? Arts website The Big Idea has an event listing page, and as well as the free event listing you have paid promotional options that won’t break the bank.

Competitions

Got leftover perk merch from your film’s crowdfunding campaign, like signed posters, t-shirts, etc? Or perhaps you have additional Blu-ray or DVD copies of your film from a pressing run? Think about using them for social media competitions. There’s various ways to run a competition via your social media, and the options are endless. Whether it’s entering fan art to be in the draw, or simply liking and sharing the post, it’s a great way to get your fans engaged.

Pick our brains!

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Don’t have the budget to hire Film Sprites PR to handle your publicity and social media for you? We’ve got you covered! Our blog gives you hints and tips for all aspects of publicity and social media marketing of films. My belief has always been that independent filmmakers deserve just as much publicity and social media marketing assistance as mainstream films, and the hints and ideas you’ll find on the blog are tried and tested and come from being “in the trenches” with indie film as opposed to someone who comes from a purely marketing or commerce background. I know the pressures, constraints, and frustrations of indie filmmaking, so you’ll find that the blog posts are no-bull and speak directly to indie filmmakers. And I try to make them as cheeky and enjoyable as possible.

Achieving your goals for your film and connecting with your audience doesn’t have to involve a gargantuan publicity budget. With some creativity and clever solutions you can build a community of fans around your film and most importantly have it being seen and loved.

Crowdfunding and The Benefits For Indie Filmmakers

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Chances are, if you hop onto Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and check out the pages of indie filmmakers and their films, you may encounter posts about crowdfunding campaigns. Since the “early adopters” phase of crowdfunding in the early 2010s, filmmakers are looking at crowdfunding and various crowdfunding platforms to help assist them in funding their projects. In fact, Film Sprites PR started primarily by promoting and supporting crowdfunding campaigns for filmmaking. In the almost 4 years of operation, we’ve assisted with various successful campaigns (which you can read more about here if you’re so inclined), and the creation of Sprites came about after being inspired by Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, The Art of Asking. We’ve seen what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and everything in between. There’s nothing more fantastic than seeing a filmmaker not just cross the 100% mark, but exceed it and be able to celebrate with their donors, fans, friends and family!

There are a now variety of crowdfunding platform choices available to filmmakers; from film and TV-based Seed & Spark, through to all-or-nothing crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and flexible funding like IndieGoGo. And while this array of platforms gives filmmakers various options for their crowdfunding campaigns, there are many benefits of crowdfunding campaigns which go above and beyond providing funds for filmmaking and webseries creation. Here’s just some of the benefits:

Crowdfunding is a good chance to grow your audience (and stay connected with them): you’ve planned and prepared your campaign, you’ve launched it, and the contributions start rolling in. You finish the campaign…but what happens next? If you’re really savvy, you’ll use the campaign updates function on your crowdfunding page (and/or update people via your website mailing list), and keep people updated. Your audience gets to see how production is progressing, and it’s also a great chance to have your fans be a part of the process, especially if you get them to share content (like the perks they received via your campaign) with specific hashtags. Don’t think of a crowdfunding campaign solely as a way to secure funds- it’s a way to connect with the core of your audience, the people who passionately believe in your work and want to support you 100% (if you’re interested in more info about maintaining contributor connection after your crowdfunding campaign, you can read about it here.)

Your campaign can provide useful financial information when approaching other investors: let’s face it- funding any film or webseries, big or small can be tough. When it comes to the financials, sometimes funding will come from various sources, making up the finished funding puzzle. But having the ability to approach a private investor or production company and be able to provide proof of the viability of your project? That can be particularly useful.

Crowdfunding is another opportunity to grow awareness of your films: when people come to your crowdfunding campaign page, you have a fabulous opportunity to think of it as a window into your filmmaking world. It’s not only a campaign to secure the funds you require, but it’s also like having free PR! It’s a moment in time to capture the hearts and minds of your audience, and hopefully have them contribute joyfully to your campaign. It’s a win-win.

It can provide valuable skills: as an indie filmmaker you will know that sometimes you don’t have the luxury of having people taking care of aspects of the filmmaking process (like publicity or producing) so that you can solely focus on directing. When you go through the process of planning and implementing a crowdfunding campaign, you pick up skills that are not just useful in the short-term, but will have benefits long after the campaign has ended. These skills include investor relations, pitching to media, audience building just to name a few.

Your crowdfunding campaign can be a unique experience, not just for you but also for your audience and contributors. If you’re thinking of running a crowdfunding campaign, good news: we’re dedicating the month of March on our blog to providing hints, tips, insights and advice on crowdfunding, so keep your eyes peeled for further posts.

*this statistic takes into account the amount of dollars pledged for both successful and unsuccessful projects. For more stats, click HERE.

Identifying Newsworthy Elements of Your Indie Film

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So, you have an amazing film and you want everyone to see it- of course! And while social media is the most immediate way of connecting with your audience, chances are you’re going to want to secure some reviews, features and interviews as well.

Recently we talked about how to pitch to media to secure coverage for your film via traditional (newspapers, print magazines, television and radio news) and new media (websites, blogs, podcasts). In it, we talked about the fact that in order to secure coverage, your pitch for your film needs to be newsworthy (you can see the criteria we used here). If you do your research with regards to your audience and their demographic, you can very easily use these newsworthiness criteria to assist your chances of gaining exposure for your film. The best way to highlight the newsworthy aspects of your film is via your press release. So how can you find the newsworthy aspects of your film in order to secure media coverage? We’re going to give you examples using the newsworthy criteria mentioned above.

Timing: new, now, fresh: timing is everything. You don’t want to secure coverage for your film’s big advanced screening and Q&A after the fact. If your film was released to VOD six months ago, your chances of securing coverage lessens, especially with regards to gaining reviews in large media outlets. Film critics and reviewers are inundated with screenings every day, so you want to get your request to review in as soon as possible (we give you a good timeline here).

Significance: significance can be a useful newsworthy criteria, particularly if your film has a topic that would affect many audience members. For instance, you have a documentary about an illness that affects a large percentage of the worldwide population, it’s worth citing statistics in your press release.

Also, if there’s something of huge significance about the film or the filmmaking process, that’s definitely worth mentioning: for instance, your film raised the most money of any crowdfunding campaign to date on a crowdfunding platform, your principal photography had something of significance, like the longest recorded principal photography shoot in a certain location (or the shortest), etcetera. If, like me, you’ve just seen Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, it’s worth thinking about his film and filmmaking and then thinking about what sort of significance it had that would make it newsworthy (outside of the fact that it’s a WWII epic, directed by Christopher Nolan and with many prominent actors).

Proximity: Citing proximity is always great if you’re pitching to producers at local and national radio and TV news stations, or editors of local and national newspapers. No matter how big or small a film is, regardless of budget, people love the sparkle of movie-making. If the area your film was shot in has particular significance (again tying into the significance criteria) historically that can be a newsworthy element. Perhaps you’ve made an epic Western in an area that has a rich tradition of goldmining, or a psychological horror in a town where a particularly famous horror auteur was born. It’s definitely worth noting if your film has employed predominantly local crew, as it shows your commitment to that particular area and the skills the people of that area have brought to your film.

Prominence: Does your film have a name actor, or crew members that have been attached to Hollywood blockbusters (like SFX people, producers, scriptwriters etc)? This is what you can highlight to make your film more newsworthy, especially if your name actor has had recent successes, won awards or has a huge fanbase.

Human Interest: As the post about newsworthiness criteria states above, this is the sort of thing you see at the end of broadcasts: the cute, the quirky, the inspirational. So what’s cute, quirky or inspirational about your film? This is also where you can highlight anything funny or unusual that happened on set, especially if you have a name actor who is happy to be quoted about something that happened. For instance, a few years ago we mentioned in our press release of a short film (and also via social media) that the film only had two consecutive days allocated to shooting…during the British summertime. Of course, anyone who knows the particulars of British weather knows that this was asking for a miracle. Thankfully, the weather gods smiled on the crew and they had two consecutively fine days to film. This was the approach we used when pitching to British media, knowing they would appreciate the drama of waiting on two rainless days!

Finding newsworthy elements to pitch your film to media doesn’t have to be hard. Every film has a range of the various elements that can be mixed and matched in your press release in order to maximise exposure. Happy filmmaking!

 

 

When To Generate Publicity and Social Media Coverage For Your Indie Film

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Recently on the blog I wrote about whether or not independent films really needed publicity. There’s still a perception that publicity for independent films is nice to have, but isn’t essential. That as may be, if you’re looking to gain significant coverage of your film and build your audience then it’s completely doable- especially as I’m about to give you a good timeline of when and how to generate publicity and social media coverage for your film even if you don’t have your own publicist on board.

Pre-production and production: This is a great time to build your audience prior to release. Now, it’s not so much a Field of Dreams scenario where “if you build it, they will come.” It means forging a genuine connection with your audience. The best way to do that is via social media. The advantage of building your audience in pre-production and production is that the audience gets to take the journey with you. They feel included and will champion what you are doing because you have taken the time to say: “this is what we’re doing right now, wait until you see the finished product!”

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And while you’re in this particular phase of production, it’s an ideal time to gather up visual and other media for use later on: on-set stills, behind-the-scenes informal snaps, interviews with cast and crew, etc. All of these can be exceptionally useful for your social media, for press kits and so on. If you’re thinking about crowdfunding for post-production funds, think about getting cast members to sign items and while you’re at it, photograph them signing the items so you can (again!) use that on social media and during the crowdfunding campaign.

Make sure you have a press release created at the very least, or better yet create a press kit. Be sure to have this in PDF form, and compress the PDF in order to make it smaller in size so it is easier to download and quicker to open. Have this available on your website under a ‘media information’ tab, along with details on who to contact for further press inquiries.

Post-production: here’s where things can ramp up with publicity and social media marketing, and there are many different avenues to look at. If you’re doing post-production crowdfunding for finishing funds, there are many independent filmmaking blogs and podcasts that have entire sections dedicated to films that are in the crowdfunding phase. IndieWire’s Project of the Day is a great way to secure exposure for your film and connect with indie film lovers across the globe.

If you’re submitting to film festivals, you’re going to want to keep your audience updated with all the happenings (including any festival wins- go you!) and that’s best done via social media. Make sure you share any press coverage you receive on all of your social media channels and have a link to coverage on your official website.

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Pre-release: keep that social media presence up! By now you’ll be in the swing of things, so congratulations. Pre-release is a good time to seek out reviewers for your film. Bear in mind there are reviewers who will only review when the film has been publicly released, and that’s fine- you can get in contact with those reviewers when the film is available to the public. Pre-release reviews are useful for building up anticipation of the film and also serve to provide some reviewer quotes that are handy for branding.

Pre-release is also a great time to reach out for features and/or interviews. Media editorial calendars (whether it’s mainstream outlets or indie media) tend to fill in advance extremely fast and make scheduled events a priority. So, for instance, trying to get last-minute press during an international film festival season is not the best move. Again, this is where having a publicist on board can be extremely helpful- they know editorial time frames and events that may impact on the ability to secure coverage.

Release: congratulations! Is that a hefty number of film festival laurels I see on the cover of your blu-ray? The reviewer quotes are a deft touch, too. Hopefully your calendar is booked with interviews and the reviews are glowing. This is another optimal time to promote your film via social media. Got fan art coming in? Share it via your social media networks (yes- it does happen!). Re-share glowing fan reviews and comments. Continue keeping up that connection and keeping the fans up to date with all the news. Make sure you don’t let your social media channels go “dead”, especially if you are planning a new film or working on a new collaboration with someone.

Stand back and admire your awesomeness.

Do Indie Films Really Need Publicity?

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I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking: “oh suuure…she’s going to say yes because she’s a publicist”.

Not exactly. Bear with me on this one.

When I started Film Sprites PR it was as a response to a need: there were independent filmmakers out there that had incredible films that deserved to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience. I wanted to be able to take my publicity and digital marketing skills and help them to connect with a wider audience and media who would support their vision. That is still a driving force in everything we provide here, down to blog posts that can (hopefully!) assist filmmakers with  hints and tips for publicity and digital marketing of their films. So I’m not going to sell you a pup- I’m going to be honest!

A few weeks ago I was so disheartened to see someone commenting on a forum thread, saying that there’s no point in having publicity for an independent film because unless it’s a studio-driven blockbuster it’s not going to get the “big” publications to post a feature or conduct an interview. But that’s the thing- the mainstream film industry (especially the big studios) has the benefit of publicity departments and unit publicists. Add to that a known director and a big-name cast and they have it made. But don’t forget: the directors and the well-known actors did not just pop out of holes in the ground, fully formed. They worked their way up. The same is true for independent filmmakers and up and coming actors.

And that’s one reason why independent films need publicity. Don’t think of it as “taking on the big boys”. It takes a long time to build a reputation and a body of work to progress in any field, and publicity can assist with that process.

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Image credit: Nik Shuliahin

You don’t necessarily need publicity for your indie film if you’re creating solely for your own enjoyment and the enjoyment of friends and family. However, if you went through the exercise I discussed in the last post and your goals are such that you would benefit from media placements and publicity, then yes- you need publicity.

Generally people will build their careers (regardless of what work they are in) on a solid foundation of proven work, and continue adding to that structure to build it sky-high. For entrepreneurs and the self-employed, the structure is built to the sky in part by things like referrals, word-of-mouth, advertising, publicity and testimonials from customers.

For filmmakers, assisting the solid foundation of your film work should be things like social media marketing and publicity in the forms of reviews, interviews and/or features.

I’ve seen people say to filmmakers: “oh you don’t need publicity. Social media’s where it’s at and you can do that yourself.” They’re half right. In the digital age, publicity has morphed into something different from what it was back in the middle of the 20th century. Publicity now encompasses both traditional and digital media, due to the fact that digital media is so readily accessible now. And while social media is fantastic (especially for indie filmmakers), the ability to source reviews, secure features in publications (both online and offline) and be interviewed is invaluable.

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Image credit: Jude Beck

So what are the benefits of having publicity and social media marketing if you are an indie filmmaker?

  1. An increase in awareness of your work: mainstream media placements are great, but there’s an entire world of film fans out there to connect with via film-related blogs and podcasts as well. Who doesn’t love finding a new filmmaker to champion and new films to enjoy?
  2. Establishment of a supportive fan base: the one thing that the digital age has provided filmmakers with is the opportunity to connect in a more authentic way with their audience in real time via the Internet. Social media marketing means you can connect with your fans and build up a solid fan base prior to your film’s release.
  3. Great reviews are gold: even if sourcing reviews was the only publicity activity you engaged in, it would be well worth it. It means that you can use juicy quotes from reviewers for your branding, including the cover of your Blu-Ray/DVD release.
  4. Publicity is great for crowdfunding campaigns: you’re crowdfunding for your second short film, but you’re able to not only point potential contributors to interviews and features about your last short film, you have glowing reviews to boot. That’s a better incentive to contribute to your campaign than if you had nothing additional to share.

Soon, we’ll share with you the advantages of having someone handling your publicity and digital marketing for you. In the meantime, why not check out the podcast interview I did with Dave Bullis about marketing of indie films? Dave has interviewed the likes of James Altucher as well as a fabulous array of incredible people working in independent films.