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Seattle Dances: PR Seminar for Dance Companies

Following are my notes for a talk in 2010 for Seattle Dances "PR Seminar for Dance Companies."

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BASICS
PR is all about persuading people to listen to your story. Which means listen to the writer when they call. If they want to talk about choreography, talk choreography. If costumes are more their thing, talk costumes.  The old adage "at least they spelled your name right" is true: what you want in the story is accurate information, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the thing that you think is important. If the writer is enthusiastic, they will convey that enthusiasm to their audience...and their readers may become a whole new audience for you!

So how do you create that buzz?
  • Anticipate: learn who is covering your art and learn what interests them. If you know that blogger Q is a huge fan of dancer X, let them know whenever that person is performing. If writer Z loves choreographer A, be sure to e-mail that fact! The personal touch is going to get you further than the blanket release (although it never hurts to send those out too!).
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  • Respond quickly: OK, writer Z is dying to write about choreographer A. Don't keep them waiting. As soon as you get the call or e-mail, start making arrangements. If there are going to be delays (choreographer A is exploring the Nile this month), be sure to let the writer know that you are working on it and when an answer will be ready.
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  • Polite persistence:  Writers B and C never come to shows. Well, maybe they hate you. But more likely the timing isn't right. It's OK to be persistent, but don't be rude. If you have a personal cell or home phone number, use it sparingly unless that is what the writer prefers. If the writer prefers contact by e-mail, use that e-mail. 
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  • Really need a favor: Be prepared to give one.  If somebody comes through for you at the last minute, remember her or him!  Recommend them to someone else. Say something complementary. Buy them a cup of coffee if appropriate (some writers can't accept this due to publication rules)
    SOCIAL MEDIA
    So why all this concern about Facebook? How can a venue with 400 million active users help you?

    Let's talk about that "active" -- at least half of Facebook users are on the site each day, checking their news feed and updating their status. If you are there with them, you can share your message (words and pictures) with them. Better yet, you may be able to persuade those users to share your story with their friends: again introducing your company to a new audience.

    So how do you reach them?
    • Start a Fan page. Fan pages, like personal pages, let you easily interact with other Facebook users. Anything that you post on the wall of your Facebook Fan page appears in the newsfeed of your Fans (unless they actively opt out, a choice very few make).
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    • Update that Fan page on a daily basis. Due to the amount of posting occurring every day on Facebook, no post will last long in the "most recent" news feed. 
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    • Encourage your Fans to interact with your posts.  Pose questions, ask for opinions, encourage dialogue. The more that Fans comment on your posts, the more likely the posts are to show up in their "top news" feed.
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    • Use the other tools available! Create photo albums, post notes, give your Fans content. All this encourages them to share your story with others. The more they share, the greater audience you reach.
    GOOGLE GRANTS

    A little known aspect of Google's advertising is the grants for nonprofits. Using Google Grants, you can receive online advertising on Google worth up to $10,000 per month.

    Once an application is accepted, an organization is responsible for using Google AdWords on a regular and constant basis. Don't use, lose it!  If usage is not to Google's specification, the grant ends and an organization cannot apply again.  Good use of these grants takes a willingness to learn Google analytics, take time to regularly update AdWords, and familiarity with keywords and meta tags.