Is It Time to Hire a Publicist?

Hiring-PublicistEveryone has a friend who “made it.” Maybe it’s your band’s former drummer, who’s in a new band that’s taking off. Or your MFA classmate whose novel sits in the recommended section of every indie bookstore you frequent. Or the person in your improv class who’s already selling out shows.

Sure, your friend is talented, hardworking and deserving. They also have a tenacious publicist … and you don’t. So you start to wonder if you should hire one too.

Publicists do more than write press releases—they frame your story just the right way. They develop relationships with journalists and know who will cover your project. A good publicist handles hard-hitting questions or crisis management if something goes wrong. And then there’s the most laborious part–crafting pitch after pitch after pitch.

When you reach a certain point with your events, band, book or any venture, hiring a publicist may make sense. Remember there’s only so much a publicist can do—your project should be ready to promote. If you lack concrete goals or a strong following, handle your own PR for a bit and see what happens. If the buzz becomes too much to manage on your own, it may be time to consider outside help.

Signs It’s Time

  • You don’t have time to correspond with media or you have a day job that does not allow you to do outside work.
  • You put on more events than you alone can handle.
  • Your event includes controversial or political material and you think you may be fielding tough questions by the media.
  • You’ve dealt with negative media in the past.
  • You’ve hit a roadblock or a lot of dead ends managing your own publicity.

Pros of Hiring a PR Pro

  • They are trained to reach out to media using the best tactics and practices.
  • They have existing relationships with media members.
  • Since they’re focused on publicity, they’ll be able to promptly reply to media inquiries and take a giant chunk of responsibilities off your endless to-do list.
  • If you have a mid-to-high-profile guests, performer, etc. for your event, a publicist will know the strategies to get them an interview.

How to Find a Publicist

If you organize long-running or frequent events, consider a PR agency, but be wary—agencies are costly. Before you start setting up meetings, have a solid budget and expectations in place. Know how the agency measures success and who they’ve worked with before.

In the entertainment industry, freelance publicists are easy to find. Check out LinkedIn or Facebook PR groups or contact a local university—you might be able to find an entry level publicist who’s willing to work at a flexible rate.

Brown Paper Tickets offers free promotion advice and resources. Email our promo team at promo[at]brownpapertickets[dot]com. They won’t manage your publicity, but they have a wealth of information on how to do it yourself.

Did you hire a publicist? How did you know it was time? Comment below.

Event Tips >

4 Steps to Finding the Right Ticket Price

Ticket PricesFinding the right ticket price is tough, especially if you’re just starting out. Too high feels like a rip-off; too low feels like the event is undervalued. So what is the magic number?

With a little research and number crunching, you can find the “sweet spot” where audiences feel like they are getting a value and you walk away with a little cash in your pocket. Take these four steps to determine what to charge:

1. Figure Out Your Budget

Factor in costs: what you would ideally like to pay your acts, room fees (room rental, sound, lights, etc.) and promotional costs. Don’t forget to budget in payment for yourself. Depending on the draw, keep 20-25% of your profit.

Organizing a show is hard work and takes weeks of preparation. Often the work is done in your free time, outside of your day job. If you aren’t paid for your efforts, you will burn out quick. That said, if you have a poor turnout, cuts should come out of your take first. The artists did their jobs; your job was to bring people in the door. If you fail to do that, your pay should reflect it.

Once you have your total costs, calculate expected draw. If you have already put on some shows, this is easy. Look at past tickets sales and figure out the average attendance. Low-ball that number. In other words, base your costs on how much you would bring in with an “okay” turnout (half the capacity of the venue or even less). That way, on an off-night, you are prepared and if it is a great night, you are stoked.

2. Trim Costs

Before you set anything in stone, negotiate to cut your overhead costs. Is the venue’s sound person charging too much? See if you can hire one for less. How much is the venue charging for promotional costs and what does that include? Consider handling your promotion—many venues won’t do much more than include you in their listings. That said, there are venues that will distribute posters and actively promote your event, so do not assume that they are ripping you off.

Talk to the performers. Find out the least amount of money they need to do the show. Then offer a guarantee or a percentage of the door. Be honest. Don’t exaggerate your expected draw or promise more than you can deliver. Always keep any guarantees on the low end until you know you are going to have a successful night. Sometimes I will say, “I can offer you x amount but if we have a good night, I will get you more.” I have found that if you are honest and upfront, most performers will be willing to work with you. There will be some performers who won’t and that is OK–cut them for someone who will.

3. Do Research

Pick up your local alt-weekly and find out what similar shows charge in your area.

Look at the popularity of your acts. Have they received a fair amount of press? Do they have a large Facebook and/or Twitter following? Are they good at promoting? Also, check out their website and see what their shows typically cost.

What if you have a night full of acts with no regular draw? Still, no reason to undervalue your event. You just need to figure out a way to get people through the door. This is your job as an event organizer and producer. When you undervalue your event, it’s hard for audiences to see value in it. Make your events special and people will show up.

4. Set Your Door Price

Once you have all the numbers in place and know exactly how much the show is going to cost, set your cover. Of course, if you are hosting a bigger gathering like a festival or theater event, you can also include multiple price points such as VIP tickets, weekend passes or group discounts.

In the 80’s and 90’s punk rock world, fans considered any show over $5 a rip-off. Unfortunately, almost 30 years later, many producers (and audiences) still stick to that credo. Nobody makes money off a $5 cover in 2016 and it is not worth anyone’s time to perform for that amount. I think $10 should be the minimum ticket price for any event featuring live performance. Anything below that and you will barely cover your costs and walk away with nothing in your pocket.

No matter what you charge, if you are not putting effort into curating your acts and developing a solid promotional plan, folks aren’t going to show. It is rare that the cost of a ticket deters audiences from seeing a show they really want to see. They might complain but if they want to see it, they’ll pay for it, as long as it is within reason.

Your job is to make your event worth the price of admission, to put that extra effort into your productions, so audiences keep coming back.

How did you determine your ticket price sweet spot? Ring in with your advice in the comments.

Event Tips >

15 Secrets to Successful Ticket Giveaways

Ticket Giveaway Clog PhotoThough it’s tempting to hoard your Brown Paper Tickets (they’re so pretty), we recommend giving some away for free to promote your event.

Ticket giveaways build excitement, attract new fans, create meaningful and memorable interactions.

Ready to Wonka your next event? Here we go.

1. Be selective. You don’t want tickets floating around everywhere because it will devalue your event.

2. But don’t be stingy. When it comes to tickets, always give away a pair. As Harry Nilsson wrote, “one is the loneliest number.” One ticket dooms your prize winner to a night of awkwardly standing against the wall and pretend texting.

3. A caveat: it may be OK to give reporters just one free ticket or pass, so they can interview performers and write about your event. Journalists and experienced bloggers are used to attending events solo, especially if they are interviewing performers. A plus one is sweet, but not necessary.

4. Start with specific, reachable goals. Do you want to attract more followers on social media? Or is your goal to boost awareness of the event? Specific goals will dictate what channels you should use to promote your ticket giveaway. Use numbers so you can measure the outcome.

5. Keep the rules clear and the sign-up form simple. We’re all grossly busy. Too busy, most of the time, to enter contests with long, complex form fields.  If you’re creating a contest entry form, stick to the essentials: name, email address and phone number.

6. Consider a “comment” contest. Ask followers to comment on your blog or Facebook page. When it’s time to pick a winner, you’ll have an organized list of entries that you can easily contact. As a bonus, this type of contest will boost your social media presence.

7. If it’s your first giveaway, start with a basic lottery. Choose one person randomly from a list of entries to receive the tickets. Easy as pie. Can’t pick a winner? Random Picker will do it for you.

8. Review contest rules carefully. For example, Facebook won’t allow you to use the “thumbs up” like button as a way to vote or enter contests. You also must clearly state that Facebook is not sponsoring your giveaway. Instagram and Twitter also have promotion rules. Pay attention. If you’re doing a large-scale giveaway, consider consulting an attorney.

9. Tailor to size. If you have a fan base of 300, it might be best to just ask your following to comment on your blog post or status update. First comment, best comment or random comment wins.

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10. Be creative. If your following is well into the thousands, you can get away with a more challenging, interactive giveaway. It will take some time and planning, but is well-worth the effort when executed properly. Giveaway tickets with trivia questions about the performers. Strong local presence? Take photos around your city and ask fans to comment with where they think you are.

11. Consider timing. You don’t want to create a giveaway too far in advance, because it’s tough to build excitement and plan for an event that’s happening many months away. Likewise, a week’s notice may not be enough to draw the amount of participants you desire.

12. Giveaway free tickets on the day-of. This is your last chance to get more folks in the door and you’ll nab those few who were on the fence about attending.

13. Have a classic, names-in-a-fishbowl drawing at your event and give away tickets to your next show. Not only can you collect email addresses for your newsletter list (clearly state they’re opting in), you’re advertising your next show.

14. Create a targeted list of local media outlets and invite journalists to enjoy free tickets in hopes that they will write about your show. Remember, even with free tickets, there are never guarantees that a reporter will cover your event and many publications forbid their journalists from taking comps. Never demand coverage.

15. Don’t ignore influencers—social media heavy hitters on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Say there’s an Instagram influencer who goes around capturing the special beauty of amber ales with her camera phone. (Believe us, such people exist). If this hypothetical shutter bug has loads of genuine followers and posts rich, thoughtful updates, offer free tickets to your brew launch party.

Have you tried a ticket giveaway? What were the results?

Event Tips >