Work for a small or medium sized festival? Ever gnashed your teeth in anger and frustration when the press, yet again, picks up on a story about one of the big beasts of the festival world, but won’t even find space for your dates and line-up?
Securing free publicity – the best kind there is – is no mean feat, especially with local press closing titles and slashing their staff. When I started as a reporter at the Derby Evening Telegraph, there were two of us to write a daily local music page. These days, some dailies have that many reporters producing the entire paper.
A reduction in numbers hasn’t quelled the appetite of the newspapers for copy – if anything, the churn has got greater. What’s diminished is the amount of dedicated content being produced by reporters. And that presents a major opportunity for small festivals, which are clued up in their PR thinking.
What you have, that the giants don’t, is a close relationship with your people. You probably know your crew from years of builds and breakdowns. You’ll know the stewards you can trust to do the important jobs.
In PR terms, these people are incredibly valuable.
When people attend festivals, they love the feel of the familiar – in fact, for a group of people who might like to think of themselves as anything but stereotypes, they can be some of the most conservative you’ll come across.
Your loyalists offer you a wealth of human stories, which potential customers can relate to. They can talk passionately about the friendliness, the atmosphere, the things that keep them coming back each year.
Many of them will be local – and if there’s one thing the local press loves, it’s a great human interest story. Who’s been there since day one? Who fought back from tragedy with the help of their festival family? Who’s watched their kids grow up at your festival? These are the hidden gems. And if you package them up in a format that suits the platform, they’ll be even more grateful.
A line-up announcement might get you a small story and a phone call asking you to buy advertising. But a great human interest story could get you on the front page… and that’s the sort of coverage that really sells tickets.
About the author: John Atkin has worked on award-winning festivals including Bearded Theory, Beverley Folk Festival and Dogfest, as well as being an artist manager and promoter. He’s a PR manager for The Tonic Communications, whose credentials include Leicester Music Festival.