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This is an archived post from our old blog. It's here for the sake of posterity (and to keep the search engines happy). Our new blog can be found at

Marketing Your Project: Can You Do It Yourself or Do You Need Professional Help?

Free Marketing Advice?!  I'm answering your questions over at VYou -- ask away!

To DIY or not to DIY?  When you're producing a show, event, or special project on a budget, it's important to look at every line item and make sure the allotment is realistic for the goals of your production.  Every artist's instinct is to do as much as possible themselves to keep costs down and the vision streamlined, but taking on duties that are unfamiliar can often hurt the project's success, from lack of expertise to draining valuable time and resources.

Many new producers (and playwrights and authors and artists...) are unclear when it comes to marketing and publicity - what needs to be done, when, and how much it should cost.

Yes, we've all sent emails before so it doesn't seem like a stretch to create an official show invite.  But we all put clothes on daily (I hope) and still hire a costume designer and create a costume budget for a professional theatrical production, right?  You see where I'm going with this.

So here are some questions to ask yourself and your team before deciding whether to outsource promotion:

What are my project goals?

What level of "professional" is this production?  If you're looking to showcase your work, build your resume, or just get something out there into the world, there isn't much need to spread the word far and wide.  But if your goals are heavily financial or invested in moving to a larger market, you'd do well to set yourself up with marketing tools that play at that level.

How much do you really have to sell?

A playwright is putting up a show in an 80-seat theatre for one weekend that has a cast of 12, and his personal mailing list alone is over 1,000 people.  Do the math: they can sell out without breaking a sweat as long as they compellingly convey the value of the show to their immediate audience.  I spoke with one self-publishing author who wanted a New York Times review but only had 600 copies of his book to sell.  Hence, he didn't need press with a circulation that big.  Match the strategy to the product.

Do I know who my target audience is and how to get information to them?

"People who love theatre/dance/opera/fiction/sculpture" is probably still too broad when defining your target audience.  Perhaps your true core audience is contemporary art aficionados in their 30s who love nightlife and have a disposable income.  Where are they, do you have access, and how will you get their attention?

Do I have the time?

If promotion brings a learning curve, it may take your entire Saturday to write a paragraph of marketing copy - time that could have been spent on another aspect of the production.  Many of my clients are quite smart about marketing, but at the end of the day they just don't have the time to execute.  These relationships are quite successful, because we collaborate on ideas and I can run with them.

Do I have the money?

Not just for the marketing firm and/or publicity firm, but for your graphic design, printing, distribution, press kits, photographer, videographer, sizzle reel, web design, advertising, search engine advertising, and everything else that is needed to properly promote your show.  When it comes to paying your promoters, I have seen off-Broadway budgets allotting $1500 per week for a press agent (this is not marketing, just press) and mid-size nonprofits spending $7,000 per month to keep a PR firm on retainer.  If you're hiring a freelancer, consider the average amount an experienced marketer in your area makes - how much would you need to spend for just a quarter of her time?

More marketing considerations...

How did marketing and PR go for my last, most similar project?

How are projects with similar scopes doing their marketing and PR?

Does it make sense to brand this project now for future iterations?

How big and how loyal is my mailing list?

How many opens, clicks, and sales do I get from my promotional emails?

How many Facebook connections do I have?  Twitter followers?

How many people do my cast and creative team know, and will they actively promote to their connections?

Am I prepared to wear multiple hats with my creative team?

Am I well-acquainted with current graphic and web design standards?

Do I know how to leverage online tools like social media and search engines to get attention?

If people their services for free, like graphic design, what happens if they miss my deadline or I don't like what they create?

More PR considerations...

Do I know the protocol for interacting with press?

Do I understand the structure and content of a press release?

Is this project pressworthy?

Do I have a current press contact list?

Do I have an excellent, industry-experienced photographer?

What makes this project different from any other?

Does my board expect to see media coverage of this project?

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to Find the Right Marketer for Your Project