Saturday, 28 May 2016

It's the Fringe! I'm giving Free Advice! Ignore at your Own Risk

Sigh. It's that time of year when I begin to flinch, and write a curmudgeonly article about the Edinburgh Fringe. I guess if I wanted a quiet life in August, I'd infiltrate a Taliban training camp: but this year's extended whine is a list of things artists can do if they want to make my job easier, and possibly increase their social media reach.

 I know it is hard to accept, but you are not the only company hoping to gain fame and glory at the Fringe. By June 10, my inbox will be full of optimistic press releases. I'm sure you have a Unique Selling Point and an Elevator Pitch, but the individuality of your performance is not going to work out.

Work in tandem with other companies. Have a look at the brochure: are there other companies with which you might have sympathy? Maybe they share a training, an attitude, or a subject with you. Maybe you really like the look of their show. Whatever.

Team up with them. Share information, contact the press together, maybe even suggest a themed feature. Retweet their social media, chat on Facebook with them. The Fringe might look like a Darwinian battle for audiences, but Kropotkin's take on natural selection could be a better guide, even if it is scientifically discredited. 

Putting my name at the top of a generic mail-out doesn't cut it. I'm not fooled by the email from the lovely ladies who want to date me, and I know that you've used some application to 'personalise' your press release. 

Actually think about the publications or writers you want to come to see your show, or might do a review. Most critics respond well to flattery and attention, although you'll never buy their integrity. 

Take me, for example. If you write to me, bear in mind that I am a pseudo-intellectual who is seduced by fancy words. Then remember that I have a blog with interviews on it, and I offer a place to any company that can answer email questions. 

Last year, I replied to over a thousand companies, and about half got back to me. That was more than enough, but it means that 500 companies decided that they weren't interested in free publicity. Being nice to me, and giving me content for the Dramaturgy Database is easy enough.

You never know. This year's blogger might be working for The Stage next year. Never 'discern' the value of a critic. Taking my blog again: where do you think my last minute previews for The List come from? And I know that other sites use my interviews (and academics), because they have asked for permission. 

Without being entirely Darwinian (see point one), there is competition for attention. Disdain the humble writer - who is probably being read by editors in the hope of finding a company who fits the article they are about to commission - and you are guilty of not taking the Fringe seriously.

And again, repost articles about other people's work. Show that you love the critics. 

Okay, there might be rivalry between the critics, friendly or not so friendly. If you tell me about the behaviour of another critic, I'll probably giggle. But if you act the arse in an interview, or make demands, or annoy the shit out of one of us, it'll get around. 

Even if you have a valid complaint about a critic, address it with courtesy. Yes, I know that two star review ignored your cunning application of Aristotle's Unities to a 1920s' farce script. I know you've spent a year rehearsing. But politeness goes a long way. 

This advice even applies to those lucky enough to have a press agent, hence...

This is where I am going to get blunt. A good PR has a roster of quality companies, never lies about the work they represent and makes sure that they do everything possible to make my life easy. 

This includes sending high resolution images, press releases that are coherent and following up my requests for an email interview.

Sadly, there are PRs whose names are mud. An email from them means I get a pain in the hoop. I know that they'll send me terrible images, not forward requests to clients for interviews, then, three weeks into the Fringe ask me 'for a favour'. 

If you have signed up with one of these, you might as well have gone down the casino for all the help they'll give you. I am not naming names - although maybe a brown envelope to the usual address might help - because that might be libel or something. 

However, I can give you a plan. If you haven't received a request for an email interview from me by July 30th, it is about 90% likely that they either haven't contacted me, or forwarded my request to you. It is possible that I missed their email, or it went in my spam (that does happen to mass mail-outs - which is a bonus tip). 

Oh yeah - for those who have read this far... here's my email address.

I know this all sounds rather arrogant, but it is free...

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