WRITERS ON THE WEB: Do-It-Yourself PR

Rebecca Norris is a writer, producer, web enthusiast, and creator of the award-winning web series Split with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Follow Rebecca on Twitter at @beckaroohoo.

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So let’s say you have a fantastic web series ready to go, and need to get the word out, but don’t have much cash available to hire a publicist or PR firm. Well, time to trade in your producer hat for your publicist hat, and get ready for little do-it-yourself PR.

It can be challenging, but certainly do-able. Here’s what I recommend:

newspapers1. Write a Press Release

Here’s a good site that has clear instructions on how to properly write a press release:

http://www.mediacollege.com/journalism/press-release/format.html

Essentially, you’re writing a one-page or less newspaper article about your series to entice reporters and bloggers to cover you.  And the more relevant details you include in your press release, the easier it is for them to latch onto it.

Remember to work in:

  1. A brief synopsis of your series
  2. Brief bio on yourself and any other creatives who are working on the series
  3. What the ‘hook’ is—what makes your series special and unique (and worth writing about!)
  4. Any known cast or crew members
  5. Any awards or nominations
  6. Film/web festival appearances
  7. Any notable press you’ve already received – were you featured on Buzzfeed? Huffington Post? Web series blogs? Do you have any positive reviews you can include?
  8. If you have an impressive view count, include that number.
  9. Your contact information! Don’t forget this.

Sometimes I add one photo (usually my web series cast photo) at the top so there’s a visual to go with it.

2. Put together an EPK (Electronic Press Kit)

You can send this to any reporter or blogger who might be interested in writing about your project. Wait until someone has expressed interest in covering you before sending it, but do have it ready to go for when the time comes.

Include logos, graphics, stills both from the series itself and behind the scenes, and PDF documents with a logline and synopsis, any press or reviews, festival screenings, awards, or nominations, and bios of the writer(s), producer(s), director(s), cinematographer, and key cast members.  If you have anyone well-known in your cast or crew,  make sure he or she is mentioned.

Also include clickable links to your websites (and make sure they work before you send your EPK out.) Have your kit sitting on your computer, compressed into a ZIP file so it can be emailed quickly and easily.

3. Devise a submission strategy

There are services you can pay for, such as PR Web, that will blast out your press release to thousands of news outlets, but 1) It’s pricey, and 2) You’re just one of hundreds of other press releases being sent out randomly that same day.

Instead, target newspapers, magazines, blogs, and sites that would be interested in your specific project.  Choose 10-20 of these and research them, looking for either a managing editor’s name, or the editor of the specific section that you’re targeting (Arts & Entertainment, Culture, etc.)

Large papers (like the LA Times or Hollywood Reporter) may be out of your league, although it doesn’t hurt to try.  The worst you can hear is “no,” right? You’ll likely have better luck, however, starting with smaller, local papers and magazines and work up from there.

Find that specific person’s email and then send your press release with a very brief, professional note. You can even say why you chose that particular publication, and how your series ties into their content and audience base.  Paste your press release into the body of the email, and then also attach it as a PDF and send it off.

You will probably not hear anything back.

One to two days later, you need to then follow up on the phone (if you can find a phone number) and pitch yourself.

That’s right, I said it (gasp!) You must actually pick up that old-fashioned device called the telephone and talk about yourself to a stranger.  I know it sounds daunting. But remember: reporters and writers are in need of content to write about, so position yourself like you’re just making their job easier. You’re letting them know (briefly and politely) about a project that fits their needs. You’re a solution to a problem.

I have secured several feature stories in newspapers using this method.  If you can’t get a phone number, a well-timed follow up email can possibly do the trick, but doesn’t work nearly as well as a phone call.

I’d love to hear how this method works for you! Feel free and let me know in the comments.

ws_webseries_smallGet more web series advice in Rebecca Norris’ webinar
Writing the Web Series

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