Times are certainly a-changing. Often the film industry has been slow in catching up. Online distribution, VOD, day/date screening, transmedia and of course the threat of piracy are all part of the new frontier.
I am presently revamping the Raindance website and revisiting our marketing and PR strategy. The author and marketeer Jeff Bullas highlighted several key factors in his excellent blog. A survey of nearly 2,000 companies rated the optimised press release as the most effective way to release news. Optimising press releases for news search engines is now called “SEO-PR”.
If you are a filmmaker, you better get tooled up – because this is where it is all starting to happen. The tools that relate to marketing in general pretty much all pertain to a successful film launch.
A Short History of Press Releases
In the good old days, i.e. pre-2007, a press release was distributed to a handful of presses. The release itself had to include quotes from sources to verify the news contained in the press release.
One was only allowed to write a press release if the news was worthy. If the release was of the right calibre, a magazine or newspaper picked it up and wrote the story. If a newspaper did write the story, the only way to measure the effectiveness was to employ a press cutting agency to monitor the story and physically cut the articles out of newspapers and present them as a ‘clip book.’ The number of clippings gave the press agent an idea of how many people ‘found’ the story.
3 New Rules of Publicity
The internet and social media have dumped the rules of publicity on their heads. No longer are press releases designed for a select group of journalists. Rather they are designed so readers everywhere can pick them up.
1. Audience is Everything
When publicist and magician Cindy Gordon was hired to publicise the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando Resorts she could have used any amount of budget she wanted. How did she let the world know that there was a new entertainment facility being built? She decided to only tell seven people.
She invited the seven most rabid fans of Harry Potter to a meeting in Professor Dumbledore’s office via a webinar. These fans were hand-selected by Gordon’s team, with Warner Bros. and Rowling herself providing input about the choices. These seven were invited to participate in a top-secret Webcast held at midnight on May 31, 2007. In the Webcast, live from the “Dumbledore’s Office” set at Leavesden Studios, Stuart Craig discussed how his team of twenty designers was bringing together The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.
She realized each person’s power as a media outlet. Those seven fans enthusiastically spread the message to over 350,000,000 other fans across the world. Mission accomplished.
Cindy Gordon understood her audience. “If we hadn’t gone to fans first, there could have been a backlash,” Gordon says. She points out how disappointing it would have been had they learned about the plans to build a Harry Potter theme park in the NY Times instead of through an insider fan site. (I don’t know if the kids are reading the NY Times but J.K. Rawlings books are rather thick so maybe her readers do read such intellectual stimuli.)
Cindy Gordon also realized the power of the internet today to accelerate a brand and the speed to which a message can be spread. When us filmmakers harness this knowledge and learn ways to express our stories via social media, imagine the slick ideas we too will dream up .
2. It’s About Attention
We are after attention. The paradox is that as the world gets more and more tuned in and turned on, there are more and more of us vying for attention. It’s a competitive world out there, and a very noisy one at that. In order to get the attention your film and your career deserves, you need to understand the basics of how to get attention, and steal the spotlight from under your competitors’ noses.
1. Buy it
Buying ads on the internet is not cheap. It is also time consuming. It is also effective, if you have enough money to be able to create a big enough campagn. Facebook and Google are both refining their ad metrics enabling you to pipe an ad straight t the targeted demographic of your movie.
2. Beg for it
Pitching your film project is as old as the hills and also about as demeaning and humiliating as can be. There is nothing wrong with pitching. Just be aware of the pitfalls.
3. Earn it
If you want loads of people swarming around you and your film, the solution is really simple: create stellar content.
People are so starved of decent content that when they see it they will stop dead in their tracks, bookmark your page, tell all their friends and come back time and time again.
I remember the first time I saw Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I was living in Toronto at a time when the television was, quite smply, terrible. I was surfing through the American PBS channel one night when suddenly I was in the middle of a Python sketch. Within 20 seconds I was totally hooked, and never ever missed a sketch after that. Imagine my excitement when I found out that they are making another movier for the first time since 1983! You can see their next Monty Python movie project here.
3. Losing Control
Have you heard of the Grateful Dead? They are one of my favourite bands from the era of Bob Dylan and The Beatles. They encouraged people to record their live shows. They even sold special ‘tapers’ tickets’ and allowed tapers to sit in behind the sound desk making recording of exceptional quality. Suddenly, out of every dorm, every car window and every late night greasy spoon came Grateful Dead music. They became the highest grossing live stage act in America, performing more than 2,300 shows over 30 years.
How did Grateful Dead become so huge? By losing control of their music.
In the meantime, they gained control of their IP. They were one of the few bands to retain control of the publishing and licensing rights to their music. They also created a huge merchandising industry surrounding their live performances which genereated millions more.
The internet and it’s advantages have yet to be explored by filmmakers. The industry ignores the potential of the internet and pretends their old-style distribution tactics will remain unscathed.
Now is the time for you to figure out how losing control might actually put you in control – financially.
New PR means new ways of thinking about your film and your career. You create the press release and release it yourself, making sure the actual press release is optimised and placed in the right location on your website, Facebook or blog.
And keep that content coming.
Are you speaking on a panel at a festival? Write a release.
Did you win an award? Write a release.
Do you have a new take on an old problem? Write a release.
Did you get a new distributor interested in your film? Write a release.
Can you link a current news story to your film? Write a release.
This will work.
Hope this helps,