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Coffee Chats: Publicity and Press!

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LeahCevoliThis month’s Coffee Chat is going to focus on PUBLICITY! Specifically, gathering your own press for your projects before you can afford a top-notch publicist. A top-notch publicist is the way to go when you can afford one, because it truly is hard work and a niche skill-set.  But, as you know, an actor must be their own agent, manager, publicist, etc. until the time that those team members join you.

In the digital-age, social media makes it easier than ever before to promote yourself and your projects. Everyone reading this article should already have a good grasp on social media and self-promotion, but, how do you get the big guys to notice you?

In the past 2 months, myself and/or my projects have been featured on ABC News, FOX Morning Show, CNN’s  IReport, Entertainment Weekly, and dozens of other magazines, vlogs, and podcasts.  Okay great, but how did I do it?

Step One
A well-crafted press release.  Figure out who your target audience is and what key points should shine. Grab a couple of quotes from the people involved (celebrity endorsements do wonders) and come up with a very, very catchy almost exaggerated headline.  Be bold!  Now is not the time to be timid.  Pump up your passion for your projects and put it into the press release.  A well-crafted press release landed us this interview on the FOX morning show last month.

A great place to check out examples is www.free-press-release.com . I love this service.  They offer a standard release for free, but for only $19 you can add up to 3 photos into your press release, and everyone loves a good photo.  So now you have a home-base for your press release, a link to include in your emails, and the great thing is that the site is set up to tell you not only how many social shares your press release is getting but how many views in general. My last press release received over 2500 views.

Once you have the press release, now what?  Unfortunately, just putting it up on that website is not going to do much other than look pretty.

Step Two
Get the press release SEEN by the right people.  Hopefully, you’ve been building press contacts up over the years, and have some sort of system in place where you’ve categorized your contacts into media type as well as the genres and interest-areas they cover.

If you have a budget, www.presswire.com is great. They have a vast address book, and for a few hundred dollars they’ll send your release to their contacts. It’s because of this site that a press release for Blood Kiss, ended up in a blurb in Entertainment Weekly.  They didn’t even alert us that they were covering it! I happened to be Facebook friends with the photojournalist that was assigned the project. He saw my name on it and messaged me that EW was covering my project!  I later found out that a journalist had seen the press release on another site.  She happened to be a fan of the actors involved and covered it in her piece for EW! So you just never know where that release is going to end up!

There are many services out there that will help you send out bulk mailings but I’ve found the best way to get your project noticed by the bigger guys (on a low budget) is to do it the old-fashioned way of emailing it individually.  Enlist a group of friends or interns to help you send out the emails.  It’s not hard but it does take time.

For instance, last month Comic-Con released a list of over 2200 press contacts that had applied for press badges. I had three projects at Comic-Con- all completely different.  I put together a different team of interns/friends for each project and we checked off each contact as we went.  THEN, when the responses started to come in, I created a new spreadsheet (for each project) that included the person’s name, the outlet, the type of media, the day/time they would like to interview us, and if there were any special requests (i.e. a specific person they wanted to interview).

Okay but how do you – as an actress – talk about your own project?  I didn’t. I have a gmail account set up for publicity from a web-series I produced a few years back. Up until now I had only used it for red-carpet requests but for Comic-Con I took it one step further and created a publicist. So, that way “she” was responding to the press requests and setting up the interviews, not Leah. (It was an interesting experience, rsvp’ing your own name for a big party and having the answer be we’ve only got room for 2 of the 5 names submitted- and your name isn’t one of them).  But it worked!

And if you don’t have contacts or Comic-Con doesn’t give you 2200 email addresses?  DO YOUR RESEARCH (which is actually a step you should have already done).

Do you know who out there in the local news covers human interest stories? If not, you should! We hired a publicist for the last week of the Blood Kiss campaign.  He got the press release in front of George Pennacchio who fell in love with the project and put us on ABC’s 11:00 News.  We literally had 45 minutes notice from the time ABC called our publicist to the time the news vans showed up at our house! We found out from George that he had been pushing for 2 days to cover our project and finally got a producer to say “yes” so he ran with it!

I love Twitter for so many reasons.  One of them is the accessibility you have to finding magazines and outlets that are interested in your type of projects.  Is it a horror film?  Spend an hour on twitter and follow all of the horror related sites. You’d be surprised how many will follow you back and interact. Send them individual tweets about your project, and if contact info isn’t listed, ask for an email you can send a press release to.   Same thing goes for Scifi, Female Driven, Romance, etc.  You can find the niche on twitter and build the buzz amongst the people who have an interest in your genre.

STEP THREE:

Say YES and Follow through! If you’re an artist creating your own publicity, chances are you really don’t have the right to be picky about coverage. Sure we all hope for the big guys to notice.  But at the same time, if Joe in his basement in Ohio wants to interview you for his podcast, GO FOR IT!  I recently did a relatively unknown podcast for a film project I’m on, and the podcast became the show’s #1 downloaded episode.  I don’t know how many downloads that equaled, but it sounds great, right?

If you have a team of people that can share the interviews – even better.  I recently worked on the Kickstarter Campaign for The Night Visitor.  As the interview requests came in we began splitting questions up amongst the cast and director.  No need for each person to answer the same five questions over and over. Share the questions, give a few to the producers, the composer, give the star some breathing room, and this gives the readers a better feel for the team in general.

The more you say yes, the more press follows. It’s the law of attraction.

STEP FOUR

Stay Organized. Look Pro. Be Ready For Anything!  Because we had such an overwhelming response at Comic-Con, we enlisted a friend/intern to stand outside of our panel door with a press check-in folder. This accomplished a few things: 1) The press knew where to go. 2) We looked pro. 3) We now had an accurate list of who attended our panel and their contact info for follow up!

However, in addition to the scheduled interviews, my “publicist” put out a general invite for any press (that had responded to our press release) to meet us at 6pm on Saturday in the Mariott lobby. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It turned into two hours’ worth of interviews with me and the other panelists.   It was a two hour press blitz from one outlet to the other. In the future I’ll set up a press conference where each outlet gets a few questions as a group, rather than the 2hr round-robin blitz we did, BUT it was amazing, unexpected, and totally worth it.

STEP FIVE:

PIMP YOUR PRESS! From the tiniest podcast to national news – if your network of peers, associates, and future employers isn’t aware of the press you received, it doesn’t achieve its full potential.  You WANT prospective employers and team-mates to know that what you bring to the table is a whole lot more than just acting. You know how to gather press for any project you’re involved in, which in the end, benefits the whole team.

I’ll leave you with this awesome interview, the very last outlet that showed up at our 2hr press blitz, as a reminder to be open to anything!

If you’d like to talk more about press releases, publicity, and self-promotions, please contact me for a one-on-one Coffee Chat Consultation!

Leah Cevoli

About Leah Cevoli

Leah Cevoli is a multi-talented entertainment professional whose work stretches across many genres. She is a rock ‘n roll enthusiast, body image activist, a certified yoga teacher, and fan of all things horror, Leah's acting credits include appearances on high profile tv shows like HBO’s "Deadwood," and voice-over on the Cartoon Network hit "Robot Chicken". Leah is a contributing writer for Ms. In The Biz and the founder of AllShapesAndSizesWelcome.com: Body Image & Women’s Issues in Entertainment, a group of women who speak on panels and at conventions nationwide. Leah has a reputation for crowdfunding success and social media magic. To date, her company, GreenlightYourPassionProject.com has managed 50+ campaigns, and have been instrumental in raising over $5,000,000 for indie projects. Her latest projects include: the feature-length documentary "Remember The Sultana" narrated by Sean Astin, the gritty feature-length drama, "Girl Lost," distributed thru Cinema Epoch, and the light hearted comedy, "Dance Baby Dance". All three films were released in the spring of 2018.