Publicity is an invaluable piece of your indie film marketing strategy. While the support and contacts a professional publicist provides can elevate your campaign, there are understandable reasons you might take on the responsibility of publicizing a film yourself, not the least of which is budget. In lieu of a publicist who’s spent years curating and maintaining relationships with the media, your best bet is to try to build your own relationships as quickly as possible. How do you do that? Here are seven less conventional ways to find contacts and build relationships with press.
1. Ask your friends.
If you’ve been working in the industry for any amount of time at any level, you probably know someone who is connected to a journalist. It may be the editor of a niche film blog or it could be a New York Times film writer. Either way, a personal introduction could go a long way.
2. Attend events.
Get out of the house (or turn on the Zoom) and engage. If a journalist is appearing on or moderating a panel, you’ll learn more about them and maybe pick up some tips on how they can be pitched. A bonus, you never know who you’ll meet. I once met an editor in a parking garage elevator before a screening. Sign up for email lists with organizations and media outlets that sponsor events in the industry. If you live outside Los Angeles or New York, you can now attend these events more easily while they’re being held virtually.
3. Use social media (the right way).
Start your research very early on and make a list of your favorite film bloggers, reviewers, YouTubers, podcasters, editors, and hosts. Curate the list carefully. Meaning, if you’re making a horror film and a particular writer has blasted the last 10 horror movies they’ve written up, move on to the next person on your list. Engage with them in a meaningful way. Genuinely comment on and share their content. You may find they appreciate it and are more willing to hear you out when the time comes to pitch.
4. Explore new platforms.
Get in and learn best practices on new social media platforms as soon as you can. Currently, Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces are growing quickly but there are still opportunities to stand out and connect with new people across many industries including media. When you start hearing whispers of the next wave of technology, keep your eyes open for opportunities to be an early adopter.
5. Look inside your production.
Is your DP from Kansas City? Did your composer grow up in Orlando? Local news outlets love to promote home-grown talent. You may have a wider reach than you realize right in your own backyard.
6. Align with a charity.
If your film has a social justice angle or features a marginalized population, it makes perfect sense to find a charitable partner. Start the conversation early. Maybe there are ways they can be involved in the production. And when the time comes to promote your film, you’ll have another entity in your corner who is invested in seeing you succeed. Meanwhile, you’re raising awareness and/or funds for a good cause.
7. Invite them along.
Invite press or influencers to visit your set. This is especially effective if you shoot outside the L.A. or New York markets. Offer to let them watch a scene or even put them in the background. When the film is ready to be released, you can bet you’ll have some strong advocates in your special guests.
A little out-of-the-box thinking can make all the difference when you want to stand out to journalists, all of whom manage email inboxes that are flooded with content to consider for coverage. For the best results, combine these tactics with outreach that is authentic and concise. Publicizing your film can be a big job, but as with so many other aspects of filmmaking, the more prepared you are, the easier it will become.
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