FAQs About Working With A Film Publicist

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The indie film landscape has changed in the past 20 years in new and exciting ways. Filmmakers can cut out the middle man and self-distribute, there are avenues for distribution open now (including the streaming services) that weren’t open at the start of the 21st century, and filmmakers can grow their audience right in the comfort of their own homes thanks to social media.

Film publicity is changing, too. Long gone are the days when it was just a matter of sending out a press release and phoning up a journalist to secure an article in a newspaper or a piece on the nightly news. Publicity now regularly involves going beyond the traditional media and connecting with social media influencers, as well as websites, blogs, and podcasts. Social media marketing is usually intertwined with publicity to give great results (and extend the reach of the filmmaker as well).

Of course, this also means the possibilities for filmmakers to self-promote are also boundless.

Does that mean the film publicist is becoming obsolete, especially for independent films?

Not quite. There are advantages to having a film publicist on board (check them out HERE). Once your film has secured distribution, chances are you will have a publicist attached thanks to the distribution company…but there are also some instances pre-distribution when a publicist can come in handy:

  • If your film has been selected by a top-tier film festival
  • If you have cinematic screenings or VOD and want to secure reviews, interviews and features
  • If you want to grow your media presence to help your work to be noticed

Those three instances are primarily the reasons independent filmmakers have come to me for assistance over the years.

And during my time as a publicist, social media marketer and crowdfunding consultant, I’ve had questions about publicity for film that pop up frequently. With that in mind, I’m answering these frequently asked questions so you know just what a publicist can be expected to do…and what they can’t (or won’t) do!

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Q: Can You Make Me Go Viral?

A: The short-and-sweet answer is ‘no’. The longer answer is that no publicist can guarantee virality. It’s not possible. If someone tries to convince you to put up your hard-earned dollars in exchange for guaranteed virality of your content, it’s a scam. The lifespan of virality is shortening, thanks to the sheer amount of content in front of us every single day.

In a previous post, I said this about virality, but I think it’s worth echoing here:

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.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting your work to go viral, but it’s not up to anyone else, whether it’s a publicist or a social media marketer, to make that happen. Instead, I suggest securing reviews, interviews and features. Reviews in particular are useful, because they can provide quotes for your posters and promotional artwork.

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Q: Do all publicists also do social media marketing?

A: it depends on the individual publicist these days. Some publicity companies will also do social media marketing, whereas I know some freelance publicists who might only do publicity and won’t handle social media marketing. I do both, because one complements the other. By having publicity and social media marketing, you’re reaching your audience right where they’re ‘at’, whether that’s scrolling their Facebook feed or reading a local community newspaper. It’s a win-win.

Q: Can I get a friend or crew member to do my publicity?

A: if they have a background in publicity and/or have had experience writing things like press releases or your press kit, I say go for it. The one thing I caution against is using fans to do your publicity or social media, because those relationships can sour, and sour badly. I’ve seen it happen, it’s always ugly and potentially impacts on the reputation of the filmmaker. Avoid at all costs.

Q: Do I have to pay a publicist?

A: if you’re getting an outside agency or a marketing freelancer to do your publicity and/or social media marketing, then the answer is a resounding YES. I once had a filmmaker whom I’d never even spoken to in my life trolling me for about a year on social media because he objected to the fact that I charged for my services.

Here’s the thing: I trained up to be a publicist, and it took hours of study and implementation, coupled with the five years of publicity and social media marketing experience I now possess. This is a job for me, and I also have bills to pay like everyone else. That’s the same for every freelancer, regardless of their expertise. Freelance does NOT mean free.

It’s worth noting that when you pay a publicist, you’re paying them to do publicity work like reaching out to media outlets/influencers/websites. Their work should not be dependent on the result of that outreach. Nor is it dependent on the amount of digital sales generated for your VOD, or ticket sales for your screening. Think of it this way: a shoe-maker is paid for their work creating shoes, not on their ability to turn the wearer of the shoes into a marathon winner.

Q: Can you get me into Variety/Empire Magazine?

A: The ability to secure something in a big publication like Variety or Empire really depends on a few factors: how far along in your career are you? Does your film have well-known actors? What are the newsworthy elements of your film?

Every filmmaker wants to appear in the well-known film publications and in the mainstream news (which is an awesome goal), but depending on the factors I mentioned above it might not be possible. When a first-time director comes to me with a no-budget short film which has no well-known actors attached, it’s going to be more difficult to secure press in ‘big’ media outlets. One of the reasons for this is that these days with traditional media (newspapers, television, magazines, radio), newsrooms are being downsized, articles are being syndicated (which means less room for unique local content), and more people are turning to the Internet for their news. It means that stories about films and filmmakers have to compete for space, and so that space is quite often taken up by the big blockbusters with huge budgets and an A-list cast.

It also depends on your timeframe for requiring features and interviews in mainstream media: bear in mind that the traditional news sources (especially magazines) will tend to have their editorial calendars booked well in advance. If you come to a publicist in November wanting a feature on your Christmas story in the next edition of a magazine, your chances are slimmer than if your publicist has time to pitch at least three months in advance.

In other words, there are possibilities to appear in larger publications or mainstream news, but timing is everything. You can, however, secure quite a number of reviews, features and interviews with local newspapers, podcasts, community access radio, websites dedicated to film (especially ones dedicated to genre films if you have a horror or sci-fi film), etc. Don’t discredit these sources- podcasts are still massive in terms of reaching audiences, you’ll find hardcore fans for your film on the genre film websites, and community newspapers are often keen to pick up a story if you’ve done location shoots in their circulation area. Every positive piece of media exposure helps!

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Q: How often should I check in with my publicist?

A: It depends on the nature of your project, and how long you’re working with a publicist for. It’s completely fine to get in touch with them with regards to any queries you have (e.g. someone at a Festival coming up to you and wanting to know if you have a press kit available, etc) as that’s part of the process. The one thing I would caution against is checking in on a daily basis to see how much media exposure you’ve received. Your publicist will let you know of any interviews, reviews or features that have been posted or published, and will liaise with you to schedule interviews with journalists. They cannot push a journalist or publication to post or publish content any faster- journalists and editors work on their own timeframe (and in the case of podcasters and bloggers they’re often having to fit their film work in around other commitments unless they’re able to podcast/blog full-time).

So there you have it! Whether you hire a publicist or not, at the very least you know what to expect if you get to the point where a publicist might be handy.

While I have your attention….

Film Sprites PR has now provided 5 prizes of $1000 worth of film marketing as part of this year’s AFIN International Film Festival prize pool! The winners of Best Feature Film, Best Australian Film, Best Short Film, Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short will receive:

• 1 hour Skype consultation with director and/or producer to answer your burning questions and discuss your needs and goals

• A bespoke publicity and social media marketing plan tailored to their needs and goals (at the time of winning the award)
• 1 month’s publicity and social media marketing advice on-call (e.g. will answer any emails related to marketing plan and give advice)
• 1 month’s social media marketing cross-promotion on Film Sprites PR’s social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

Sounds like the kind of prize you’d find useful? Make sure you submit your work to the AFIN International Film Festival 2020 HERE.

 

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.

When’s The Best Time to Grow Your Film’s Audience?

when to grow your film's audience

A few weeks ago I was up in Auckland to catch up with clients and film industry acquaintances. One afternoon, I was chatting with an acquaintance who has been in the film industry here in NZ for many years. We were discussing the best time to grow your audience for your film via publicity and social media. The consensus? Pre-production.

Yes, really! Pre-production is the best time to start to grow your audience. Mainstream releases and tentpole films generally have the benefit of being able to secure coverage and have a built-in audience due to things like the cast, a known director, being part of a franchise, and more. It can be a lot harder for indie films and filmmakers to receive that sort of coverage…but it’s not impossible. It just takes a bit of strategic planning early on in production.

So why start building your audience in pre-production?:

  • You will cultivate a following that wants to support you every step of the way: this can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to crowdfund during production or in post.
  • Your intended audience will have more awareness of your film on release: imagine having a dedicated following and fan base ready and waiting to see your film and media outlets who are more likely to provide coverage and/or review your film because they’re aware of your film prior to release. That’s powerful stuff!

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So, how do you go about building your audience in pre-production?

Make sure you have your social media accounts and website established: if you have a production company website and social media accounts already set up and with a large following, you may want to retain that instead of setting up separate accounts, especially if you are building your audience for a short film or have a slate of films in the works. Check out our post on the most frequently asked questions about social media for filmmakers for more hints and tips.

Crowdfunded in pre-production? Capitalize on campaign updates: the great thing about crowdfunding platforms is that they provide you with the opportunity to raise funds for your project, but also help you to build an audience at the same time. The campaign updates function on your campaign page should not be forgotten after your campaign! You can find out about maintaining contributor connection after a crowdfunding campaign here.

Establish a mailing list: invite people to subscribe to your mailing list via your website or a call to action on social media. Provide content like production updates, competitions, and cut-and-paste sample tweets or Facebook posts that can be used by fans when you’re getting ready to launch!

Reward your fans: some of the most passionate, dedicated fans are the ones who follow your entire journey, so why not reward them? Think about having a ‘Fan of the Week’ post on social media, share fan art, have competitions for signed merch, and more. Your imagination is the limit here!

Start building relationships with journalists and media outlets: get to know the journalists and media outlets that you would like to secure coverage from when you’re ready to release your film. Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, interact with them and share content from them that is relevant to your audience. Never underestimate the power of a great connection with media and journalists.

Building your audience in pre-production may sound daunting. After all, you’ve got so much else to juggle! But think of it as an investment in your film that will return to you right when you want it.

Things I Wish I’d Done Differently When I Began My Film PR Career

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I turn 37 on Friday.

I’m completely fine with ageing- in fact, I relish it. I think my life has opened up in exciting new ways from the time I turned 30 and I can’t wait to see what my life will look and feel like by the time I reach 40.

Of course, with the dawning of a new natal year comes a time of reflection, and recently I’ve been thinking about when I started my film PR career in 2013 (with Film Sprites PR being born in 2014). There’s definitely a few things I wish I’d done differently. I don’t regret pursuing my career in a different manner, but there are some ‘tweaks’ I would have made earlier on that I believe might have made a difference.

So, why am I talking about this, and what are the implications for you, dear reader?

Perhaps you’ll gain some insight into your own goal-setting and career path. If you want a little bit more information about pathways to a job in publicity and digital marketing that are a bit more pain-free than the way I started, you can read about them in a recent guest post I did for We Make Movies on Weekends.

I’m also talking about this because so often on the Internet and on social media we see a very sanitized, edited version of people’s lives. We’ve seen an influx of beauty products touted to help you achieve a perfect selfie (including colour correcting concealer and tooth whitening pens)! I always talk about authenticity in social media, and here I am, pondering the past and bringing to light the messier, muckier aspects. It’s a crash course in not doing what I did! So what do I wish I’d done differently?

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I regret not having a business plan: when I started in publicity, I was working as a freelancer under my own name. I didn’t have a goal to start a PR consultancy…I just wanted to be head-hunted. But fate had different ideas, and when I popped on Twitter on April 17th of 2014 to ask if filmmakers were looking for publicity and digital marketing assistance, the influx of requests took me aback. I literally had to work backwards! I didn’t have any seed money, my branding was very quickly knocked out on Canva in about 5 minutes, and I definitely did not have a business plan.

By the time I met with a business mentor in 2016 to ask about drawing up a business plan, however, he looked at my website and branding (which by now were up to standard) and went; “you need a business plan…why?”

I still wish I’d had it. Back in 2014 I was flying by the seat of my pants which only worked for a small amount of time before I had to go back to the drawing board again.

And again.

And again.

Even if you’re not going to be setting up your own business, I thoroughly recommend sketching out your long, medium and short-term goals. I knew what I wanted, I also knew what I wanted to provide in my role as a publicist, but I couldn’t articulate it- never a good thing when you work in an industry which requires clear communication!

I regret not attending networking events sooner: the beauty of working at home is that, well, you work from home. If you’re an introvert, you have the ease of not having to stick your neck out. But that can also be detrimental. Although I had spent from July of 2013 right up to the day I asked if people wanted my services constantly networking online, doing online networking still can’t fully replace networking with your colleagues and peers face-to-face. Thankfully now I enjoy networking events and the chance to meet people in various industry roles. If, like me, you’re an introvert you might want to check out a recent post I did about self-promotion and networking. These are strategies I’ve found that work very well.

I would have learned how to set up my website earlier than I did: initially, I started with a WordPress blog. Although it was rudimentary,  it did the job…at least for the first few months. Eventually the blog morphed into this website, with a blog attached. But that would happen a year and a half into working at Sprites. That’s a long time when you consider that a website is one of the places people come to to ascertain whether you’re a suitable fit for their services or not.

There are times when I didn’t listen to my gut…and I definitely learned the hard way: your intuition is an incredible tool. It’s that voice and feeling inside that tells you when things are going well…and when they’re not. My intuition tends to be very highly tuned now. If something is amiss, I have an internal GPS that feels like a guitar string snapping. When things are going well or I get an intuitive nudge in the right direction, it’s all tickety boo. But there have been times when I haven’t listened to my intuition to my detriment.

I definitely find that meditation and mindfulness practices really help to fine-tune your intuition.

What advice would I give to my younger self, and to anyone chasing their dreams? Believe in yourself. First and foremost, you have to have the grit and determination to see things through. Sometimes a goal can be a very lonely thing- people may not understand what you’re doing, you may have to go it alone for a very long time. So it’s imperative that when all the doors seem closed and you feel like you’re in an echo chamber you truly believe in yourself and your capabilities. The more you believe in yourself, the more willing you are to prove yourself to the world. The more willing you are to prove yourself to the world, the more people will see what you can do. It’s a snowball effect. Never give up, never give in.

 

The Art of the Pitch (and Why It’s Not Just For Publicists)

The Art of the Pitch

 

What’s your inbox like? How about your DM inboxes on social media? If they’re anything like mine, you’re inundated with unsolicited requests. If you’re a director, a producer (or a film publicist like me), you see them coming a mile off: links to videos, unsolicited requests from crowdfunding campaigns, showreels and more…things that clog up your inbox, take up your time and also distract you from the messages that matter.

Sadly, I cannot tell you the best way to avoid this (other than the nuclear option of blocking), but I can tell you how not to be THAT person, especially when you want to connect with someone for something and want to not only make an impression, but make things happen. Whether you want to collaborate with someone, network or pitch an idea, you can learn a lot from the way publicists pitch their clients to media.

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The art of the pitch is something that can be used successfully in many different arenas in your life, and I’m going to let you in on some of the techniques I use every single day that have assisted me in securing results for my clients. So, whether you’re making contact with someone for networking purposes to help further your filmmaking career or pitching your story idea to potential producers, these techniques are tried and tested:

Introductions are vital: remember the restaurant scene in The Disaster Artist where Tommy unsuccessfully ‘pitches’ his script? Don’t be Tommy! When I was building relationships with bloggers, websites and journalists at the beginning of my career, I would send an e-mail introducing myself and my business. The reason? I didn’t want to send an unsolicited pitch and have it be ignored. In fact, if I was particularly keen on having a film client interviewed by the media outlet I was getting in contact with, I would ask if they would like to be added to our media list for when we had films and filmmakers that their audience would be interested in. It worked so well that with some media outlets would prioritize my clients in terms of reviews/interviews/features. Whether you’re getting in touch with someone for networking purposes or discuss an up-coming project or script, a great introduction is vital.

Do your research: one of the things I hear frequently from journalists is the amount of times publicists get in contact with them wanting to secure a story for their client without actually doing their research. This means they get pitches for beauty products when they are a site that has nothing to do with beauty and/or doesn’t have an audience that would care about beauty products (let alone purchase them). It happens more than you’d like to think.

The same goes for pitching ideas, networking and getting in touch with people you really want to work with. Don’t just do a cursory skim of their website. I had a rambling, incoherent pitch arrive in my inbox the other day from a writer who was looking for a female filmmaker to shoot his script. When I told him that I wasn’t a filmmaker, I was a film publicist, he was extremely red-faced and horrified. The problem? He’d been given a list of female filmmakers to contact…but whoever compiled that list hadn’t done their homework…and he hadn’t either.

Craft your communications: here is the absolute best piece of advice I can give you when it comes to contacting anyone for any reason. Keep this phrase in your head as you write: what’s in it for them? Don’t think about what you want to get out of this communication- hone your writing so you highlight any benefits or advantages for them.

Here’s an example from my world: when I have a client and I’m pitching to journalists, I’ll highlight what’s newsworthy in bullet points, bearing in mind what’s newsworthy about my client and/or their film. For instance if I’m pitching to a film-related website that has a strong commitment to championing women in film, perhaps I’ll mention that the film passes the Bechdel Test, or something similar if it is applicable.

the art of the pitch women in workroom

Take the virtual into the real: communications over e-mail and Skype are great, but if you have the possibility of meeting up, it’s worth suggesting having a coffee meet…and yes, you will be buying. Including a suggestion of a coffee meet is a great way to take the working relationship a step beyond an email. I quite often schedule time in the year where I will go to Auckland or Wellington to meet up with film industry contacts and acquaintances over coffee in order to talk about potential new collaborations, opportunities, and to see what’s happening up north in the industry.

Hopefully these tips will help you hone your communications to connect with the people you want to work with…and make a positive impact. Happy filmmaking!

 

Strategies For Reluctant Self-Promoters

strategies for reluctant self-promoters

I can honestly say that I owe about 99% of the opportunities I’ve had in my career to being a smartarse.

And I don’t mean being a smartarse in a disrespectful way, but some of the biggest and most exciting opportunities in my life have arisen because I’ve been cheeky enough to ask for them in a playful way that doesn’t come off as pushy. This isn’t something that would work for everyone, but that’s my schtick. I pretty much live my life on the verge of telling a joke anyway, so using my sense of humour (and my cheekiness!) have become second nature.

It’s something I’ve had to develop over many years, because to be completely honest I’m very much a reluctant self-promoter. Part of it stems from the fact that here in New Zealand we’re not big on tooting our own horn. Part of it is because I’m very much an introvert, and while I can bring the energy for presenting a workshop or networking events, I need at least a day to recover afterwards. Introversion isn’t a hindrance to things like networking and self-promotion, but it needs careful consideration when it comes to utilising your energy resources and being at your best (I’m sure many of you can relate).

In the work that I do, I get to talk to a lot of filmmakers about their work, and I often hear them express the difficulty they have in self-promoting their work. Sometimes there is a reluctance in reaching out to people for donations to their crowdfunding campaigns,  promoting on social media or reaching out to media outlets to secure coverage or a review. It’s something I understand- sometimes it’s not easy! But your work deserves to be seen and appreciated.

Better yet, the information age provides filmmakers with a variety of opportunities to connect with their audiences in ways that were not previously available prior to the Internet going mainstream and the development of social media. The world is literally at your fingertips.

So, how can you grow your audience and promote yourself and your work if you’re really reluctant? I have some strategies that may help- they’re the same ones I have used over the years successfully:

camera strategies for reluctant self promoters

Work out what’s stopping you: chances are, when you think about promoting your work, you’ll have thoughts and/or feelings that arise over it. It’s a good idea to really drill down and find out why you’re reluctant to promote your work. Find 5-10 minutes in your day to sit undisturbed with a pen and paper or your laptop with a word processing document open and ready. Take a few deep breaths, focusing on each breath and clearing your mind. When you’re ready, think about self-promotion of yourself or your work and identify any thoughts or feelings that come up around it. Write them down.

Now that you’ve got your list, look at what you wrote. Here’s where it gets interesting! Step outside of yourself for a minute and imagine that it’s your best friend thinking and feeling these things. For each thought or feeling, write a statement that refutes that thought or feeling. For instance, if this thought came up:

“Nobody gives a damn about independent filmmakers and their films”

You might write:

“Who is this ‘nobody’? There are plenty of people who are passionate about independent filmmakers and their films. You will find those people when you connect with your audience.”

Do this for each thought or feeling. It sounds silly, but it really does work!

Take approaches that you’re comfortable with: perhaps you’re not comfortable with social media, but have someone on your team that is and can provide social media assistance. If you’re more comfortable reaching out to media outlets via e-mail, then that’s completely fine! The same applies when you’re crowdfunding your project: if you’re not comfortable with social media, you may want to approach people individually or via your mailing list.

Authenticity is key: you don’t have to be anyone else. You don’t have to try and put on airs and graces with people. Being yourself and sharing your passion for your filmmaking well and truly resonates with your audience. People are passionate about filmmaking, so let them into your world and your process.

You don’t have to do it all at once: while it’s a good idea to have your social media presence established and also tap into resources for publicity of your filmmaking, you don’t have to do it all at once! If it’s easier for you to start with one thing and then add other strategies later, then do so. After all, good things take time!

Strategies for Reluctant Self-Promoters film sprites pr

Remember your WHY: I say this so often with different scenarios because it’s applicable across the board. If you start to feel really reluctant about promoting your work yourself, remember WHY you started filmmaking in the first place. This helps to not only bring you back to your centre, but it also provides a boost of inspiration to propel you forward through your reluctance.

Happy filmmaking!

What Part Should Publicity Play In Your Crowdfunding Campaign?

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This month on the blog, we’ve focused on crowdfunding for filmmakers, covering subjects like aspects you need to consider prior to running a crowdfunding campaign for your webseries or film, common mistakes to avoid in your crowdfunding campaign, and the benefits of crowdfunding beyond the financial. In this post, I want to discuss a subject that is very close to my heart, which is publicity. Specifically, I want to discuss the role that publicity tends to play in crowdfunding campaigns.

Now, if you’ve worked with Film Sprites PR before, or have followed the blog, you’ll know that I’m a straight-shooter who believes in transparency. I’m not going to suggest you take on one of our PR or digital marketing services if I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial in the long-term, and I’m incredibly honest on the blog because I believe that people can learn from the pitfalls and mistakes I have gone through in the almost 4 years that Film Sprites PR has been operating. One pitfall for me was in regards to the role that publicity plays in a crowdfunding campaign.

Being that I was passionate about being a publicist in the film industry, I thought that when it came to crowdfunding campaigns, publicity was the be-all end-all. Get a feature about the campaign in front of indie film-loving fans and watch the dollars roll in!

*record scratch*

Errrr….not quite.

Don’t get me wrong, publicity for your crowdfunding campaign is fantastic- not only does it create awareness around the campaign, it also helps to bring your film/webseries to the attention of your potential audience. Both of these are very good things. But do they translate into dollars for your crowdfunding campaign? Not always. Bear in mind the fact that statistically 90% of contributions to your crowdfunding campaign will come from your existing networks. You might experience a higher percentage of contributions from film fans and your potential audience if you have well-known actors, but again that’s no guarantee.

Am I trying to pee in your cornflakes and tell you not to pursue publicity for your crowdfunding campaign? Heavens, no! But if (like Publicist Me of 2013) you are placing more weight and expectation on securing funds as the result of media placements, you might have to re-think that.

newspaper on table with latte and cellphone

You might recall the Who’s In Your Network? infographic I shared in a previous post. Publicity falls into the ‘other’ category on that infographic, right at the tip of the triangle and with the least amount of weight compared to your personal network and your film’s network. Depending on whether your film or webseries has an actor or actors who have considerable followings, publicity can sit between ‘other’ and ‘film’s network’, but that’s an instance when you can put more more importance on media outreach.

A rule of thumb? Focus on your personal and film’s networks and how you can connect with and secure contributions from them first and foremost. Publicity is a useful tool in your arsenal, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you rely on. Crowdfunding campaign strategy is less a straight line and more a web of interconnected parts that function as a whole.

So if you’re keen to source publicity during your crowdfunding campaign, here’s some hints and tips to help you:

  • If you’re approaching bloggers and film websites, be sure to read their ‘about’ and ‘contact’ pages to make sure they’re a good fit. Some bloggers and websites have a strict policy whereby they don’t accept press release submissions from films in crowdfunding campaign mode because they get inundated with them. Respect their wishes and don’t send them an unsolicited press release because you think your campaign may be the one that changes their mind. After all, you can always come back to them when your film or webseries has been released and/or requires reviews.
  • Don’t just copy and paste the same pitch to every outlet. An editor wants to know why your crowdfunding campaign is newsworthy, and why their audience would be interested in it. Of course you may want to outsource this particular task to someone who does publicity for a living, as they know exactly how to pitch and which media outlets would be most suitable to pitch to.
  • You’re going to be exceptionally busy with your campaign, so if you have pitched to media it’s worth setting up a Google alert (or two) for your phone and inbox, that way you can keep track of any published features. It’s incredibly useful post-campaign as well because you can continue to track not just features from outlets you’ve pitched to, but any organic earned media that comes up. This happened a few weeks ago with a client of mine. We had sent out review requests in November 2017 and an outlet discovered the film in 2018 and reviewed it, and that outlet was not part of our media list for that film at the time.
  • There are varying schools of thought as to whether you should attach a PDF of your press release, copy and paste it to the e-mail, etc. I tend to favour creating a Dropbox folder which includes the PDF of your press release, any video clips you’d like an outlet to potentially use, as well as high-resolution images that are clearly named (no random numbers!). That way you can pitch to media and give them the Dropbox link without potentially getting caught in their spam folder because you’ve sent an attachment.

Publicity is a useful tool to have in your crowdfunding toolkit, but it should be used in conjunction with other methods of connecting with contributors to assist with your success.