3.4 Promoting

Don’t leave publicity to the last minute or solely to the publicist. An artistic vision includes thinking about how your piece should be represented. Dance journalists and Montréal dance lovers get bombarded with promotional images weekly, so you must find a way to distinguish yourself. Use a simple, professional approach.

The Raw Materials
Text and photographs are the raw materials with which you will develop a marketing image. This recurring theme, style or graphic representing the spirit of your work should entice the public to find out more about the piece and the choreographer.

Write a clear and enthusiastic text. Prepare a long version, a short version, and a French version. An English version is necessary when you present outside Québec. Your text is integral to creating the dossier, the press kit, the press release and the program, and should include:
• a biography of the choreographer(s);
• a presentation of the company (if applicable);
• a description of the piece(s);
• a presentation of the designers and dancers.

When scheduling a photo session, choose a moment in your choreographic development early enough to meet promotional deadlines, and late enough to reveal essential elements of the creation, such as costumes, atmosphere or movement vocabulary. Good photos capture movement, have strong contrast, tell a story, and present key elements of the work. Photographs are essential for journalists, who can include them with articles or listings, for presenters or theatres, for their season’s program, and for creating promotional material (poster, flyer and program).

Website and social media
A website or MySpace page is a potentially important reference tool for journalists, where they can view footage of your work and explore your history and aesthetics a bit more. You can easily publish your own website with WordPress or hire a professional to create one for you. Even without a personal website or page, post video excerpts online via Youtube or Viméo. It is, if possible, more profitable to present an advertisement of the show than an excerpt. An excerpt can give the impression of having seen the piece already and might work against you. Definitely become a Facebook member, where you can create an ‘event’ which will serve as a reminder to all your friends and fb contacts, as well as giving you an estimation of how many people may attend. Include a link to your website (or main web-based information centre) on all your communication tools (flyers, posters, press release, etc.) as well as links to all your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) and video footage. If you present your work in Montréal, you may want to offer reduced-priced tickets on www.atuvu.ca and Vitrine Culturelle. These sites give you good visibility and allow you to reach different audiences.

The Press Agent
The press agent or publicist’s primary job is to contact journalists and try to set up interviews with the choreographer to ensure media coverage. Following her list of media contacts, she sends out press kits and press releases and makes follow-up calls. Upon closure of the show, the press agent gives you a copy of or link to any articles and radio or TV interviews that occurred over the course of the run.

Professional press agents are expensive – if you are on a tight budget, hire a friend or do it yourself. Regardless, make sure that someone commits to this job several months before the presentation date. An up-to-date media list of arts editors and journalists can be obtained from the RQD (members are entitled to a free mini-list and can pay $50 for a more complete list on labels) or from the Québec Drama Federation (free for members).

Once you have a media list, send out a press release with all the essential information about your event: who, where, what and when. It should be dated and written in the third person, present tense on one letter-sized page, with minimal design. Including a -30- at the bottom of the page indicates that all information below that point is not for publishing. Write ‘For immediate release’ at the top of the page. Send out the press release three to four weeks before the show opens. Make sure it reaches journalists, websites and performance listings (Voir, Hour, Ici, 24 heures, La Presse, Le Devoir, The Gazette, Dfdanse, RQD, Vitrine Culturelle, destinationdancedanse, etc.).

A press kit is a package that gives journalists more detailed information about your production, with a biography of the choreographer, dancers and designers, a description of the piece, photos, and press clippings from previous works. Make sure all photos, digital or hard copies, are clearly identified with the names of the photographer, choreographer, piece and pictured dancer. If journalists ask for photos destined for print media, these must be high resolution images, at least 1MB (1000KB) and can be transferred via websites such as www.yousendit.com or www.sendspace.com, which provide a link for downloading large files.

Send the press kits to journalists a minimum of three weeks before your opening, so that you have time to make follow-up calls. Follow up calls are vital; press agents should be persistent when calling journalists without harassing them. Call them once to confirm that they received either the press release or press kit, and then again later to arrange for an interview or some sort of coverage. Print a few copies of the press kit to be offered at the door at the performance.

You may also ask your press agent to send out invitations and organize the distribution of complimentary tickets. It is customary to offer select journalists, investors and presenters one or two free tickets. However, creating promotional material and dealing with ad placement are usually not part of the job description.

Media Contacts
There are four kinds of media: radio, TV, the Internet and print. Each of these sectors is a possible target for public service announcements, previews and reviews. Target student and community radio stations or public radio (CBC and Radio-Canada), as commercial radio takes little interest in non-commercial art. For television coverage, approach local cable stations. In order for them to use your video images, your video must be broadcast quality (beta or digital). If you can capture their interest, it might be easier to invite them to film the dress rehearsal themselves.

Certain television shows don’t present emerging artists/art, but maintain websites that do. Do your research and offer video excerpts to the shows that are pertinent. If you secure an interview by radio or on TV, make sure that the interviewee can speak well in the language of the interview and is comfortable talking in public. If the choreographer is uncomfortable, it is better to send a press agent or dancer to speak about the show.

For print media, target the weekly papers, dailies, student papers and community papers, most of which require a press release at least three weeks prior to your opening. Magazines are a harder sell and require information two to five months prior to the event. Most weeklies (Mirror, Hour, Voir) will include your performance in their events listing at no charge, as long as you get the information to the right person on time.

Promotional Tools
Create an electronic mailing list of addresses including media, presenters, funding bodies, organizations and individuals whom you wish to inform about or invite to your show. Offer free tickets (comps) to the VIPs. Send them the press release and a flyer or two. Don’t forget to target studios, galleries and schools that could display your flyer on a bulletin board. Include all essential information on your poster and flyer, typically in the following order:

The information presented depends on the space available and your graphic designer, who inevitably will want to keep the design uncluttered. Despite possible crowding, crediting collaborators is a respectful way to promote their contribution and can draw people to the show interested by their work.

Don’t go overboard by printing huge quantities of posters and flyers; simply distribute the quantity you print in strategic places. Usually, 500 flyers and 50 posters do just fine. Expensive paper stock and multiple colours dramatically increase printing costs.

Distribute posters and flyers no more than two weeks before the event since they tend to get torn down if left up longer. Go to cafés, bookstores, and shops where you think your audience might hang out, and always ask the staff before posting anything. Beware of the Zoom media spots (postcard dispensers) – they own display cases and will discard your flyers in a flash. You can hire them to distribute posters and flyers for you, but the cost is exorbitant.

Advertising space in print media is generally not an option for emerging artists unless there is a substantial sponsorship involved. Consider buying ad space from smaller papers and in the programs of other community or arts events. Community radio stations often offer a 30 second ad played over a two week period in exchange for visibility – they ask a nominal fee of $30 to $100 as well as a script and concept. Do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, and don’t be afraid to promote yourself to your friends and peers – they are your most passionate and dependable audience. Keep a phone and/or email list of your audience members to contact for future shows. This personal touch is effective and well worth the effort.

… next chapter: 3.5 Opening Night


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