While greeting audience members after a performance of Of Mice and Men, San Francisco actor Karl Erickson demonstrated his talent for fostering good public relations.
"You were amazing," gushed a teenage girl, meeting Erickson after his performance.
"What's your name?" asked Erickson.
"Margie," beamed the girl.
"Well, Margie, thank you very much. It means a lot to me that you enjoyed the play," Erickson said. "Thank you so much for coming tonight, and please tell your friends how much you like the play."
Karl Erickson is a publicist's dream.
A successful public relations campaign is more than landing that photo spotlight or courting critics. Publicists and public relations representatives rely on actors in their efforts to garner good publicity for a production or theatre company. Newspaper stories, broadcast interviews, and meeting the general public are some of the ways actors are called upon to help the cause.
Here are a few ways an actor can be a publicist's dream:
Be ready. Have good-quality, high-resolution JPEG files of your most recent headshot, casual shot, and a photo featuring you in your first high school play or in an award-winning role. Keep those photos ready, along with your résumé and short bio in a Word document, to email your show's publicist for potential articles.
Be interesting. You probably have a great story or interesting "hook," but maybe you just don't realize it. Don't be afraid to tell your publicist about your day job or your first theatrical experience. An actor once told me he became involved in acting at age 10 when his mother went to the local recreation center to sign him up for a summer soccer camp. The soccer camp roster was full, so his mother signed him up for an acting camp instead. I submitted a story pitch to a daily newspaper with the headline "Soccer was the goal, but theatre made the point," and a profile of the actor was published.
If you've been scheduled for a broadcast interview, have performance information on hand, and instead of saying the show is "great," use phrases that are informative, descriptive, and engaging. Be prepared with a few interesting anecdotes about the play, playwright, or theatre company.
Be thoughtful and prepared. Reporters, editors, producers, and fact-checkers sometimes need information, and they need it quickly to meet deadlines. If someone from the media calls, call them right back. Delaying your return call could result in another story selection. Always have the details of your production close at hand, in the event the editor or news assistant is pressed to make only one call. Also, double-check your personal information, the run date of the performance, box office number, and website address.
Be thankful. If you've been the subject of a story, received mention in a review, or been the spokesperson for a broadcast interview, send a thank-you note. An email is okay, but nothing beats a handwritten note to thank someone for a special mention of you or the production.
Be personable. Just as Erickon was, be gracious when meeting audience members or fans after a performance or at other locations. Ask their names and ask to be introduced to companions, family, or friends who might be with them. When people make an effort to acknowledge your performance or career, thank them for saying hello or for coming to see the performance.
Always thank members of the press or media for attending a performance or event, and if you're a fan of their work, mention it. Engaging them to discuss their own participation in fostering awareness for performing arts is thoughtful as well.
Using these tips can go a long way in helping your production and its cast and crew. Plus, you'll be a publicist's dream while establishing a great reputation for yourself.
Kim Taylor, an entertainment publicist in Northern California, is the 2007 recipient of the Bay Area Theatre Critics' Circle Barbara Bladen Porter Award, presented to an active midcareer member of the theatre community.