13 tips for those working in arts PR

Amber Massie-Blomfield, PR director, Mobius Industries

Think beyond the role: I think PRs, particularly in house, are often seen as being in quite junior positions and expected to focus purely on the admin of sending out press releases, inviting critics along etc, instead of playing a more central role in thinking about what role that organisation should be playing in our arts culture.

Frequently PR is intended to mean ‘the person who is responsible for press’ when in fact the term ‘public relations’ implies something much wider than that, of which media relations is just one aspect.

Attention all graduates, arts communications is wide open at the moment: And as for tips, I’d say make sure you are as clued up as you possibly can be on current debates and trends, read widely across the media, get involved in social media and don’t be afraid to speak and establish your own voice in industry circles.

Also, don’t be afraid to get in touch with people you admire to ask for their advice – maybe you could do some work with some emerging artists who you like and who would be grateful for some support in the comms area, where you could learn as you go, and could experiment with some different approaches?

Eleanor Hutchins, account director, Four Communications

Remember the basics: I think a press release in its most basic form is just a way of presenting the salient information in one place – to journalists in the first instance – but we all know that there is the potential for them to have a much wider audience and are often posted word for word for anyone to see.

Depending on the kind of project or story you’re working on it then really depends on what the next steps are. I’m inclined to agree that it should be the start of a dialogue.

Use a press release as the start of the process, not the end: You can’t rely on it to deliver creative and successful campaigns every time. For that you need good relationships, and by that I mean with journalists (traditional and non) and the client – it’s all about building communication in from the start of any project.

Marta Bogna, press and media manager, The Place

Packaging your press release: We use word documents; I find that PDFs create all sorts of problems. The press release is uploaded on the news section on the website and images are either available on the website, or attached in low resolution to the email. I always include the link to the press release, as well as twitter info on #howtofollow. I’m also sending some of my releases via Twitter.

Eleanor Turney, freelance journalist, editor, copywriter and proofreader, Word Ninja

Avoid the unnecessary arts speak: “Arts bollocks” can be a problem with all communications, not just press releases. A lot of my work is about conveying information in the clearest, most concise way, whether that be a press release or any other piece of copy. I think it’s important to think about what you would like to read or receive when writing your copy – if you wouldn’t read your own release then you’ve got a problem!

Always remember the integrity of PR and of journalism: As a reviewer myself, I would say that the deal is one free ticket for one prompt review. The deal is not: one free ticket for one positive review. If the blogger or reviewer is to maintain any integrity they have to give an honest appraisal of the show. I have had PRs and theatre companies request that reviews be taken down if they are not wholly positive.

Understand your audience: One of the best things a PR or press officer can do is build relationships and find out (to a reasonable extent) what individuals prefer – some people like a phone call but I’d much rather have an email.

Use social media and encourage others to pass on the message for you: PR companies that recognise the power of word of mouth are doing their clients a big favour. Every tweet has the potential to generate interest in a show or event or artist – I often tweet when I am going to see a show, and often get into debates with other tweeters who are going or have been.

Twitter hashtags used to aggregate tweets about a specific event or show can be a great way of showing people who else is talking about something they’re interested in, and building a mini-community around it.

Siobhan Waterhouse, freelance arts publicist, Mr. Fahrenheit PR

The question isn’t “Is reviewing still relevant”, it’s more like “What’s the role of the review?”: With the rise and rise of blogging, Twitter, tweetseats etc, arts publicists are starting to realise that rather than desperately crossing your fingers for a good review in the daily newspaper, reviews are now about creating dialogue, offering diverse standpoints, highlighting perspectives and giving people another reason to want to come to the theatre, performance or gig. Reviewing will never die out, it’s just evolving.

Think of the story and come up with an angle: The most important part of the whole campaign is developing the story and its angle, sitting down and working out which journalists want which stories and then pitching the hell out of them.

Know how images work online and in print: Great imagery will get a story across the line more often than not. In Australia I find I have very little control of the imagery I’m given (pre-opening, publicity images, I mean – not production shots, they’re easier) – and it is very frustrating. Marketers and directors or producers rush off and get some fabulous dark and moody shot of an actor facing away from the camera and OF COURSE the press hate it.

Commenter, ianvisits

Include the right images with any press release: If it is a gallery or museum, then I really need a wide-angle photo of the venue itself to convey the scale of the display. If I visit somewhere that bans photos and I ask for media images, I often get three close up photos of a pot (or whatever) and it’s totally useless unless I was writing just about the pot and not the venue. A selection of photos of the venue, the objects, and people involved will probably cover most publications needs.


Click here to read the original article by Matthew Caines for The Gaurdian