Recently some Minneapolis improvisers met with Dean J Seal, the Skyway News Arts Editor and Curator of the Absolute Originals one-person show festival and Sara Gioia of the Director's theater. (I'm not going to attribute everything, both Dean Seal and Sarah Gioia had wonderful things to say, but I can't promise I know who said what. Also, I'm paraphrasing.)
SARAH'S TIPS: PRESS RELEASES
- Keep them short. Not old reviews, not bios, just one page about this show in a simple format.
- Mail them a hard copy FIRST, then send 2 follow up e-mails with more information (possibly a digital photo or a link to photos on your website)
- Call in the middle of the night just to leave a message to say you've sent the press release, they should look for an e-mail from you, whatever.
DEAN'S TIPS: PRESS RELEASES
Dean gave us an excellent handout, let me know if you want a copy.
-Getting press is dessert, not your meat and potatoes. It's not going to sell tickets, you have to take care of your primary audience first, and what you can do for no money at all. Your three markets are you, your friends, your friend's friends.
- Dean and Sarah disagree, but Dean says a nice cheap photo is your best investment.
- Tap Neighboorhood Newspapers, a mention in the Southwest Journal is much more useful than spending hours and hours begging the Star Tribune. Your neighborhood, the theater's neighborhood. Also if anyone in your group is gay, Irish, Jewish, a woman, Native American, an alum of a nearby college, send to those papers. - Push opening night, through comps, phone calls, word of mouth, whatever it takes.
DEALING WITH NEWSPAPERS
- Dean is currently Arts Editor for the Skyway News. He says he really only looks at things that are
In on time
Understandable in a paragraph
Have an interesting photo, possibly digital.
- The perfect press kit: "One page, one photo, one great conversation"
- Give them a story, 'here's what's unique about this show.'
- Entertain the calendar editor by including funny little things in the envelope, and by keeping your copy entertaining.
- You can do something on the outside of the envelope, like a rubber stamp or a colored envelope, to make it eye-catching.
OTHER PROMOTIONAL OUTLETS
- Posters: worth a small effort, as long as you post them where they're welcome, and they're eye-catching and informative.
- E-mails should be one or two sentences, with a link to a website for more information.
- Keep mailing address up-to-date with a return address.
- Call your friends, and call people you've sent postcards to to say "Did you get it? Are you coming?"
- Contact Radio stations, KFAI, MPR, Radio K.
- Play at Patrick's Cabaret.
- Find a way to market to groups and associations. Log the results of cold-calling to see what kind of mistakes/successes you're having.
- Sell Ad space on your programs – take a 15-20% commission.
-- then you can also put cards at their store.
-- Janelle Ranek, for example, has developed a relationship with the candle store in Calhoun Square, they put her cards in their bags.
- Handing out postcards is the best thing. Interacting with you as you hand them the postcard is like a free sample of ice cream, they get to see who you are, and how funny you are.
"BUILDING A CRITICAL MASS OF KNOWLEDGE" – Sarah Gioia
- Hit them three times; postcard, e-mail, call or postcard, postcard, call.
- It's a foundation, when they see you listed in the paper they'll feel like they already know you.
- Promote like a band, read up on guerilla marketing.
Improv needs to create a place where audiences can go see improv. We may want to cash in on an established venue, "borrow a space and bask in reflected glory" – Dean Seal
The inherent problems with improv are that it might not be good, other improv they saw might've been bad, and there's no hook.
- Dean recommends titling your show in a catchy way. (Personally, I think Joint's getting that kind of catchy-name-awareness).
- Co-Bills, like Joint, are a fabu idea.
AS THEY LEAVE
- Plug your signup at the show, be out there afterwards to capture as they leave.
- Hand them a postcard for your next show, or for the show of someone you're co-billed with.
SPLIT UP THE WORK
Assign everyone five coffee shops to develop a relationship with, and to follow up at to see if they've thrown away your cards, to see if they're ready to place an ad, etc.
START WITH YOUR CALENDAR
When you've got a show date, work backwards on a calendar and set dates to
- send out press releases
- follow up press releases
- send out fan postcards
- send out fan followup
- ad deadlines
This will help you split up the work as well.