Public Relations for Theatres and Local Art Organizations

Public Relations differs from marketing, but the two should work together to get the word out about your theater or arts group. Many organizations hire PR firms to help them get into the news. While hiring people with experience is always better than doing things alone, small arts programs with small budgets probably can’t afford to do this. Then you have to handle your public relations.

The newspaper is one of the theater’s most important sources of news. Most newspapers, especially local ones, like the arts and theater. Still, how well they respond to you will depend on how well you approach them and how many other artists are in the area. If you’re the only one, your job will be much easier. If you are trying to get the same amount of attention as other organizations, especially bigger ones, it might be hard. Also, likely, you don’t just want people from your town to come. You may also want people from nearby small and even large towns to come. Getting into the papers of other cities will take a lot of public relations work.

If your organization has never done public relations or worked with a paper, you should send a backgrounder to start a relationship. This is the most important information about your group. If you run a theater, you’re probably a non-profit, but even if you’re not, you should market your organization as if it were. You must write about your organization’s goals and successes, its important leaders, tax numbers, and other information. This makes it more likely that people at the paper will know who you are and be ready for your future letters.

When you start doing newsworthy things, you should send a press release to newspaper art reporters. Be aware that not everything is newsworthy. It would help if you were careful to send only interesting articles to the journalists, or they will throw away what you send them. Eventually, they will stop looking at your releases altogether. Think about what you find interesting. If you’re the only arts organization in a small town, many things might be interesting as long as they don’t keep happening. When there are a lot of theaters and arts programs in a city, a small one isn’t as interesting. This doesn’t mean you can’t send out notices about your performances, especially to newspapers that write about shows. But it means you need to work harder to be interesting.

Even though you’re probably excited about the event, you shouldn’t talk about it in a fancy or technical way. Be clear and to the point, and make sure the writing is good.

You can follow up by phone after sending an article unless you know that a journalist doesn’t like to be called. When you make a phone call, you should have some basic talking points ready to give details quickly. You can have interesting ideas different from those sent early, giving you something to add to what was sent. Remember that you need to be interesting enough for a journalist to call you back. 

Once you’ve talked to the journalist, introduce yourself. When you ask questions like that, it’s easy to say no and end the call. Once you’ve introduced yourself, get right to the point. Know your theater, the performance, and what you’re talking about so you can give information and answers. If the journalist seems uninterested, you can ask if there is a better time to call back. Always be polite, and never ask a journalist for advice. Many PR people bother journalists and don’t like those who are not professionals.

Find an interesting way to look at it.

It can be hard to come up with a story that is newsworthy and interesting for your theater. People like parties, anniversaries, and holidays, so if you can do something related to these things, that will help. Events like the building of a neighborhood, town, or any other local event can be helpful for local theaters. As part of your art program, you can also hold award ceremonies to draw more people to your theater.

Short plays, 10 minutes long that are interesting to the community and the papers can also be done in theaters. These plays could be about local history, current issues, or something else. Finding ways to get the city involved is also a good idea. For example, in a short ten-minute play, kids could paint the background, or the audience could participate in some way. Interestingly, by getting people in the neighborhood involved, you bring people closer to the theater and give the newspapers something to write about.


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