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ADvICE FROM THE EXPERTS

Joyce McMillan (senior theatre critic, the Scotsman)

The relationship with the media is most complex and unpredictable. Get it right, and you can have the experience of a lifetime; get it wrong, and your hunt for audiences and recognition can become an exhausting uphill struggle.

So here are ten publicity dos and don’ts for aspiring Fringe companies.

Do

  • Send out a press release that catches the eye. Never send email attachments to busy journalists unless they request them; put everything in the main text of your email. ‘Novelty’ press material—matchboxes, condoms, toy trains—can work, but only if it’s simple, attractive, and relevant to the show and doesn’t look as if it’s cost a fortune. DO NOT send anything bulky.

  • Keep your press releases short. One paragraph on who you are, one on what you’re doing and why it matters, one on where you are and how to get hold of you. Never more than a page of A4 per show.

  • Have a stock of excellent colour production shots ready to email to newspaper photo desks at or before the beginning of your run.

  • Be careful in using celebrity names to punt your work. If your celebrity has had some serious creative involvement in the project and is willing to be interviewed, fine. If it’s just a friend of a friend who’s willing to lend a name, forget it.

  • Aim for as long a run in Edinburgh as you can possibly afford. It takes time on the Fringe to emerge from the crowd. Shows that open early enjoy a strategic advantage, provided they’re willing to be reviewed from day one.

  • Aim for your publicity material to reach journalists around late June. Earlier, and it gets chucked into the bottom of the in tray; later, and you may miss schedules.

  • Put on a good show. One of the biggest myths about the Fringe is that quality doesn’t count. It does. Both audiences and reviewers are desperate to find it and, if you provide it, your chances of success are fairly high. This means original material – or a truly original take on a classic – and the highest standards of performance. And if the product is good, your marketing job is also easier.

Don’t

  • Lead your press release with review style enthusiastic adjectives – sensational! hilarious! brilliant! – unless they come from real reviews.

  • Expect critics/reviewers to attend press conferences or launch parties for individual shows on the first weekend of the Fringe, when more than 500 shows open in a period of two to three days.

  • Obsess about the media. They are important, but they’re not the only route to Fringe success. Fringe audiences talk to each other. If they’ve had a good time, they pass it on, and eventually the media hear about it. So if you fail to attract reviewers at first, don’t despair. Focus on the quality of the work, give your audiences a good time and enjoy!

THE FRINGE GUIDE TO SELLING A SHOW APPENDIX

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