GUEST BLOG: A Day in the Life of a Broadway Publicist by Emily McGill
Ok, the title is a bit misleading as no two days are alike for a Broadway publicist, but a general idea of how we spend our time can be really helpful when you’re working with your rep or looking to get the word out about your own project.
From the moment my eyes flash open in the morning, I’m checking emails and Google Alerts (I prefer Talkwalker, but either will do) and catching up on the news. As someone who works with and around the media, it is vitally important to know what is happening in the news cycle, what stories are being told, and who is telling them. A lot of my time is spent reading – whether it is news stories, information on a new show or project, or emails (there are a LOT of emails).
If there is an opportunity to tastefully inject a client’s project into the current news cycle based on coverage that is trending, we have to jump on it. Suppose your show tells the story of a timely topic, you need to leverage that into conversations and possible opportunities.
A typical day always starts with catching up on news, sharing coverage with clients, and reviewing my to-do list. Then I move on to writing media pitches to share with contacts that might be interested in telling a story about my client or calling a writer/editor/producer/journalist to pitch them. I can’t stress enough how important relationships are in this aspect of the industry (or, let’s face it, ANY aspect of this industry!). It is vital to get to know the people that you’re asking to cover your story. When you know what they cover and how they work, you are more likely to get a response, even if that response is a no.
In order to effectively do our jobs, we spend a lot of time cultivating relationships and networking. From coffee or cocktails with a journalist to lunches with a segment booker or producer to conversations with prospective clients, relationship building is vital to a press rep doing their job well. Equally vital is managing expectations. Every writer or producer believes in their show, you have to in order to get it up! But the expectations of those who are most passionate about a show are not always realistic and so it often falls to your press rep to temper those expectations with a dose of reality. There are ways to do this gently, but ultimately it comes down to awareness around who in the media (and that outlet’s audience) will connect with the story and what that outlet is able to do with that story for coverage purposes.
I also spend a lot of time connecting with existing clients over phone, email or in person. They need to know that I’m out there advocating for them with the media and working hard to help them tell their story. It is important to update clients about conversations that I’m having with writers, editors, producers and journalists, or with other press reps in the industry who might be working on something similar (you never know when an opportunity for a trend story could appear, and by working with other reps we can help journalists formulate those stories).
Of course the exciting things like television appearances and opening nights and awards season events are what have the most visibility, but you don’t see all of the hard work that goes into making them happen. There are countless phone calls and emails and booking cars and writing memos and handling logistics and juggling schedules.
Broadway press reps also have responsibilities that many folks don’t think about. Has it ever crossed your mind who built that Playbill in your hand? (Yup!) Or who scheduled the production photo shoot, selected and refined production photos, or produced a b-roll shoot? We all know that ultimately – like everything else in the theatre – it is a collaboration, but the heavy lifting of each of these falls to your press rep.
At the end of the day, communication is really what we do. We communicate the story that a client has to tell with the wider world, we communicate the status of conversations to clients, and we communicate with audiences to help tell stories.
Emily McGill is the founder of Press Play, a boutique public relations firm. Emily has represented the Tony Award-winning productions of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, Memphis, and Billy Elliot, as well as Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock and CATS, George Takei’s Allegiance, along with the Broadway productions of This Is Our Youth, Rock of Ages, Ghost, Elf, and First Date. Since her start in theatre, she’s expanded out to other forms of entertainment including music, live entertainment, film and television, and corporations. Clients have included companies of all sizes (from Disney, HBO and Fathom Events, to Abrams Artists Talent Agency and BroadwayHD), individuals, musical acts, and male strippers. Yes, male strippers.
For more information, visit PressPlayPro.Rocks.