This week, The Recs was chatting with an American performer who is bringing their self-produced show to the Edinburgh Fringe and is doing their own PR. In the course of the conversation, it reminded me quite how daunting taking a show to the Fringe can be, especially when of late, it is increasingly expensive to do so. Who needs two kidneys anyway?
Although the Fringe provides lots of information to shows about what to expect during their run in Edinburgh, it feels that there is some additional advice that The Recs as an online Arts review and recommendation site might be able to offer to Fringe performers.
Most performers and producers realise that Edinburgh isn’t Field of Dreams. Build it and they will come just won’t cut it to get an audience. There is a simple interconnected ecosystem that powers the Fringe: the performers who put on the show, the audience who want to come and see good shows and the media who metaphorically chop through the wood of 3013 titles to help audiences find the trees.
Yes, audiences might browse through the hefty tome that is the Fringe Brochure but we’d suggest that you might be luckier in that method if your show is called Aaaargh, It’s An Aardvark rather than Zany Zadok Has Some Zzzzs. What you need is Publicity!
First Question: Do You Need A Professional PR?
Our answer is no, you don’t – although it certainly could make your life easier. There are some terrific PRs out there, who are already linked into the media, whose emails will definitely be read. But, that doesn’t mean a good PR can always guarantee publicity.
To explain, there are some PR teams we at The Recs deal with all year round – so naturally we consider their press releases for the Fringe as we always would with their regular mailings. But the reality is if there is nothing on their slate of Fringe clients that grab our attention, then we wouldn’t feel obliged.
But the definite bonus of a professional PR is when you need to be focusing on your show, they will be out there working on your behalf.
One word of caution: not all PRs are created equal. True story: last year, in the middle of the Fringe, we received an email from a PR listing all their clients in a league table of desperation about how much each needed publicity. Imagine hiring someone and they are describing you as desperate to the media! But rest assured that its rare that a PR is that crass – most are lovely and hard-working.
But not everyone can afford a professional PR and this article is here to offer you some suggestions that could help you get some FREE coverage for you Fringe show.
Let’s be clear: these only relate to online media sites in general and The Recs in particular. If you are aiming to crack the Fringe with a 5-star review from The Scotsman, that’s not something we can help with. Not a clue. But, it’s important to recognise that print media, while are influential, are not the only game in town. Last year, we gave some acts their first professional review who went on to have fantastic sell-out runs at Edinburgh and beyond… (Hello Mythos: Ragnarok)
Next Question: How Do You Get Coverage from Online Media?
The bad news is that there is no magic bullet. There’s no lever ready to be pulled to generate online coverage. But here are some tips that very much will improve your chances.
1. Find The Media
The first task is to find as many media outlets to approach for coverage.
Anecdotally, there are media organisations who have previously covered the Fringe who have said that they cannot afford to this year. In a year where there is potentially fewer media outlets, it’s important to reach out to as many as possible to maximise your chance of coverage. Take a scattershot approach. Reach as many review sites / bloggers as possible. So how do you find them?
Pop “#EdFringe” in Twitter search box and hit Latest and get scrolling. It’s a good way to find the smaller review sites who might be covering Edinburgh this year.
Google “Edinburgh fringe 2022 blog reviews” to find the media who covered last year’s Fringe – most are likely to review this year.
Find shows that are similar to yours on the Fringe site and if they played Edinburgh last year, look to find out who reviewed them.
2. How to Approach The Media
Here’s where our advice is going to get personal. Other editors may have different preferences. I can only speak for The Recs and what we like – but I suspect this is broadly true for most digital media.
Please don’t pitch to us on social media. Unless our socials have specifically invited performers / producers to tell us about your show, it’s not the right place to pitch. Me hunting through my feed or rifling through my DMs to try and find that show I half-remember the name of – it’s just not going to happen.
Email is King! Sending an email to a media outlet is very simple. You just have to include what we might need. And what is that you might ask? In your email, just let us know what your show is called, where it’s on (and the dates, especially if you aren’t playing all of August). Then tell us a little bit about it – so the genre (if it’s not obvious), a taster about what your show is about – just enough for us to quickly ‘get’ what it’s about and figure out if it’s for us or not. If there’s something unique about your show – something quirky or newsworthy then let us know. Quite like to hear if it has won awards previously. And then importantly let us know what you are looking for from us – review, interview, etc. And lastly, attach a press release in Word.
In the press release, you can go into more detail about your show, the cast and creatives. Also include a link to press photos that are available to download. Basically the ideal is that everything is there for us so we can find everything we need without having to come back to you. If we have to chase up assets, could result in coverage happening later than is ideal.
3. When to Approach The Media
To quote the timeless advice of the Moloko hit single: The Time Is Now. By “now”, we mean from June onwards. If you are approaching the media at the start of August, you may very well have missed the boat. In June, when the Fringe programme is announced, this is the time when our plans start assembling.
As an editor, I sift through all the shows and create a long list of shows that we could cover. And oh boy it’s long. When we work out how many reviewers we have on the ground in Edinburgh, that’s when we have to put the jigsaw together. We aim that our coverage is a balance. We aim for a mix of the known and the unknown. We try and mix it up so we are featuring drama, music, comedy, dance and reflect the breadth of performance that is available to Fringe audiences.
It’s a task fraught with challenges. You’d be surprised, for example, how often the shows we’d like to feature end up performing at the same time. Also we like to do justice to the shows we review – which means scheduling in time to write up our reviews rather than just dashing down a couple of rushed lines that are little use to the shows or the audiences.
So, the message is get in touch with the media as early as you can. There are a limited capacity what each online review site can cover and that dance card gets filled up very quickly.
4. How Often to Approach The Media
This is a doozy of a question. And one for there’s no set-in-stone advice. But here are some thought that might help…
Imagine you have followed all the preceding tips: you’ve found The Recs, you’ve emailed in June with your press release…and nothing. It all goes quiet. What’s happened? What’s the process?
Ideally, if a pitch comes through that might be of interest to us, we’ll try and reply saying just that. But given the sheer volume of approaches, it’s not always possible to reply to everyone. Here’s the tough bit: sometimes we’ll get a perfectly decent press release for a perfectly decent show but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t float our boat. It’s nothing personal and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other media sites who would like it. That’s why our advice (see Tip 1) is to approach as many outlets as possible.
Creating a rod for my own back here, but I wouldn’t see anything wrong with sending a short follow-up email at least two weeks later just to see if your pitch was of interest to us.
5. Before The Fringe!
If your show is ready and you are performing preview performances ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe, let the digital media outlets know! The Recs is London-based and we can confirm that the chance of us attending your Fringe preview in London is infinitely more favourable compared to the odds of getting a review during August in Edinburgh.
So if you are doing preview shows, include that in your press release.
Most online sites / bloggers will be happy to share the review with you privately ahead of the Fringe (to allow you to pull grab quotes) but embargo its publication until the Fringe to give your review more impact.
6. Reviews Are Not The Only Fruit
You may have noticed among our Top Tips that we’ve used the words “coverage”. It’s very easy to think that reviews as the way of attracting audiences. And they are. A 5-star review will always attract attention (and in a weird way, so does a 1-star). But a top tip is not to think of reviews as the only way to publicise your show.
Many review sites do news stories about the Fringe. Some do Picks of the Fringe giving short previews ahead of the August. Some do interviews. All of these have the potential to make potential audience’s aware of your existence.
Be creative: a lot of frazzled digital editors and bloggers will bite your hand off for added guest content. Approach Fringe media to see if they might run a “self-write” (an article where the performer / writer pens a piece on some aspect of their show or time in Edinburgh) on their platform. What makes self-writes so attractive is that the show gets some favourable free publicity, the media site gets additional content that they only need to edit and the readers get a unique insight what it’s like to perform at the Fringe direct from the horse’s mouth. Word of caution: have a conversation before you write the article. Sites will have their own house style rules.
7. Anything Else That Can Improve Our Chances?
Shhh! I let you into a secret, but you didn’t hear it from me…
Online media likes to be liked. We all work hard building up our sites. So if you follow our social media channels, your name/show will ping on our radar. If you like our posts / tweets, it will be noticed. If you reply to our content, we are far more likely to give your profile a once-over. Who knows if we are browsing what you’ve posted about your Fringe show, it’s certainly going to increase your chances of getting coverage of some sorts from us. No promises but it’s something that will take you seconds and could make the difference.
We hope you find these tips of some help to you. Feel free to utilise what you like and discard any that are not for you. We won’t be offended!
Most of all, we hope you have a happy and successful Edinburgh Fringe 2023!
Steve (Editor, The Recs)