So, You Want Some Publicity, Part 1: What I Won’t Write


{All photos courtesy Pixabay and used under a Creative Commons Public Domain license.}

After reading the Blue Avocado blog entry “Stick With Old Media: Not Cool But It Works” as well as the blog entry on ArtsJournal’s “About Last Night” on how to get reviewed in The Wall Street Journal, it made me want to revisit my February 2005 article, “Stage Savvy: The Art of Publicity”, and my January 2006 article, “Stage Savvy: Press Release Tips”.

While written over five years ago, much of the information and tips in those two articles is still relevant to today’s media. As the Blue Avocado blog states, “You need legitimate news: something remarkable, a trend that tells a story, or research you’ve conducted. Second, you need a hook …. Third, before you pick up the phone to pitch your story, familiarize yourself with what the reporter has written, particularly as it pertains to your issue. Don’t forget to email a reporter to let them know you liked a story they wrote with an offer to buy them a cup of coffee … getting on their good side before you need to pitch them.”

The first two I covered in both columns listed above. I’m constantly amazed by how many people in the performing arts world think that the mere fact that the organization is putting on a show is newsworthy. I know the arts are having a hard time in this economy, but that’s like being impressed that McDonald’s served you a hamburger. Isn’t that what your organization is supposed to be doing? (Of course, in the case of McDonald’s, maybe that IS impressive.)

In all seriousness, the fact that your organization is putting on a show in and of itself is NOT legitimate news — especially for KC Stage, whose whole purpose is to cover performing arts news in the Kansas City area. We have over 200 organizations registered with us, and they are all putting on performances — tell me why I should focus my time and effort on your production rather than someone else’s. Why should I care about you and not them?

But it’s that third tip where I think most of the emails sent to me fail. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone contact me asking for a story on them (or their organization) in which they reference a prior spotlight or article I have written. (And I can probably count on one hand the number of times someone’s offered to take me out for a coffee equivalent — I don’t drink coffee — to pitch story ideas to me.)

And I pretty much immediately dismiss anyone who sends me an email wanting me to write a feature article on their organization (especially when they suggest we do a spotlight on the organization). A quick peruse of our past issues can clearly show that — except in very rare occasions, when what the organization was doing is newsworthy — we don’t do feature articles on organizations. We will do the occasional article on something the organization is doing (or if they are celebrating an anniversary) — but just a straight up article on the organization will typically not get my interest.

And I do have a petty side: I will be more likely to dismiss a story idea if it involves a person (or organization) I’ve had a bad experience with. (Or if I’ve tried to work with them and have been dismissed — that is, until they realize I’m with KC Stage — then suddenly I’m their best friend.) I will sometimes offer the story idea up to our contributors (contact us if you want more information on how to be a contributor to KC Stage) — but the chances of someone on the list wanting to write the article are slim. I’m also petty if they misspell Fiedler (or mispronounce it, although I’ll give them a little more leeway on that one) or write it as Fiedler-Sutton (as I have never hyphenated it anywhere). It’s not hard to go to the “About Us” part of KC Stage and confirm the spelling of my name. The fact that you didn’t make that extra step shows me where I stand in your estimations and I will give you the same consideration in return.

I also don’t write articles on items that are obvious gimmicks, which is why I didn’t cover Musical Theatre Heritage’s all-female 1776. To me, it felt like the only reason they were doing it was to be newsworthy. And based on the coverage other arts organizations gave them, maybe my impressions were wrong. (Yes, I do admit when I’m wrong.)

So, what types of articles DO I write about? Visit the blog again on Thursday for a list of things I keep in mind as I decide what I want to write about. {Note: part 2 can be read here.}

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