Publicity, or trying to get bums on seats for your show, is one of the most important things you should be doing as a student producer. There may be occasions in future where the value of what you’re doing won’t be in sharing it as widely as you can, but, in my experience, as a student, you want your projects to be seen as widely as possible. (If only so that ticket sales make back the money you were granted in funding to put the show on.)
There are several kinds of publicity, (and despite the saying, I disagree that all publicity is good publicity) and different ideas of how effective, or not, any of these are.
What can you use?
So, if there are a lot of methods of publicity, which should you use?
Posters are one of the most popular methods of publicity, and with good reason. Put these up in places your potential audience is likely to pass, to catch an eye or remind someone that they wanted to see your show.
Flyers are particularly known for being effective at the Edinburgh Fringe, but can also be useful in other contexts. If your theatre/university has statistics on audience’s choices of attendance, read these closely and see what seems to persuade people.
Banners outside theatres are sometimes used for student productions. I’ve always found these overpriced to their publicising value, but this may vary by location, so, as I said above, do some research if you think one may be useful to you.
Articles in press/online student newspapers. I would try to get something (if not several things) in press form, ideally press which reaches different audiences (e.g. a regular town newspaper and a student blog/online news site).
Online campaigning – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… I’ve found these particularly effective for attracting students to productions. I would recommend some or all of the following:
– A Facebook event (change the start time to the one for the next day 5 minutes before the set start time, as Facebook will notify an hour before the event starts, but won’t allow you to change the start time if it has already started).
– Getting your cast/crew to change all profile pictures/cover pictures on Facebook to show-related images.
– Tweeting and sharing content about the event (rehearsal pictures, any articles you do get, reviews…) regularly, and encouraging cast and crew to share/retweet all posts/tweets so they reach as wide an audience as possible.
When should you do this?
Once you know what sort of publicity you need, working out when you should be using what is extremely complicated, and varies from place to place. As a student, I think the following guidelines are reasonable (they are what I do, and it has worked for me), your mileage may vary if you feel publicity takes longer to sink in, or on the other hand if you feel the market is fairly saturated, and you want to stay fresh amongst many other shows (although I would be surprised if much shorter than this were a good idea, Cambridge is a fairly saturated market with around 4/5 shows on every week…).
You should have your publicity design (posters/flyers, any designed profile photos) ready as soon as possible, and at the latest three weeks before opening night.
Posters should be displayed around the town/university campus at the latest two weeks before opening night, and if you are distributing flyers, this should also be happening then.
The Facebook event should be created two weeks before the event, and all cast and crew told to invite friends/family to the (public!) Facebook event then.
Cast/Crew should change profile/cover pictures on Facebook around 10 days before the show (after the event is created, but long enough for people to see the poster regularly on their news feed).
Things should be shared on social media as close to daily as possible from approximately 10 days before opening night.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post, found it useful! Feel free to like it if you did, ask any questions in the comments and/or subscribe if you haven’t already. Keep your eyes peeled to find out how my first week at Fuel went (spoiler: it was great!) and I’ll see you on Friday!
P.S. the photo, for anyone who missed this post, is the publicity for A Little Night Music, which was designed by Natalie Price.