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.

planning publicity budget

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.

Do Indie Films Really Need Publicity?


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.


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.


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.




We’re Getting A Blog Makeover!


The Film Sprites PR blog is getting a makeover! Nothing drastic, just a few content nips and tucks, as well as brand new updated information to keep you abreast of changes in the social media marketing and PR world.

Many of our most widely read posts will be coming back, so fear not! Check back soon to see what we’ve added.