Friday, April 23, 2010
Publicity and Web Series
UPDATE: This is an old post and a lot of this info is out of date. Please use the contact page if you have any questions.
A few months back I did a post on the Dos and Don'ts on the Red Carpet and I think it is time to write a companion piece called Publicity and Web Series. I am going to throw out a few guidelines that are specific to The Web Files, but I know there are new media journalists out there that are seeing some similar issues. Liz Shannon Miller at NewTeeVee has posted some helpful guidelines for submitting your show to her for review, but what is pure comedy is the email she received this week. It made me realize that it was time to write the post that has been formulating in my head for awhile.
We all know that publicity is a key component to driving viewers to your show and keeping the buzz out there in the web series world. I would imagine most of the Streamy-nominated shows have seen a nice lift in viewership over the last six weeks, you want to keep that momentum going. How do you do it? Here are some suggestions:
1. Festivals: I have really started to pay attention to what is happening on the festival circuit from ITVFest to NY Television Festival to SXSW. Take a look at the success stories from ITVFest 2009....Al Thompson with an Atom.com deal, MERRIme.com with distribution on The Frisky, Oz Girl's Streamy award (and more news to come), and Urban Wolf's distribution deal with Crackle. It is thrilling to watch the success happen in less than a year's time. The festival circuit is a great place to start to create some buzz, so head on over and submit your series.
**Update: This category continues to grow and I want to make sure to get some of those higher profile festivals out there for you to check out: iTVFest, NYTV Festival, AFI DigiFest, Comic Con, and Sundance's New Media Lab. Good luck! **
2. Networking Events: There seems to be a new media event, launch party, red carpet, screening, or meet-up each week. While we see a lot of the same faces over and over, it isn't a bad thing to stop in and hand out a business card or two if you are ready to launch your show. In fact, we nabbed our first two interviews for The Web Files at Geek Out 2009 by meeting Tay Zonday of Chocolate Rain fame and Brett Register of The Crew. Without them, we wouldn't have had such a successful start to The Web Files.
3. Reviews and Interviews: Now some of you are lucky enough to have new media publicists who take care of all of your publicity needs. There are some fantastic representatives out there who are working hard to promote the heck out of your show. I can name seven publicists off of the top of my head that we have worked with on a consistent basis. If you can afford a publicist, go for it. It is tremendously helpful and it takes a lot of the burden off of your plate.
However, I know the reality of budgets in the web space and you are probably doing the publicity at the same time you are producing, writing, and starring in your show. So, how do you give your series that extra push? I have already given you Liz Shannon Miller's tips for "How to Pitch Me Your Web Series". Everyone needs to remember this word, "pitch". You should pitch your show in an email the same exact way you would pitch your show in a meeting with distribution executives. In fact, this should be excellent practice for all of the meetings you will be taking after your web series is a huge hit, an award winner, and it opens doors on even bigger platforms. That is exactly how the pitch should be handled.
So, while I DO want links to your reviews from Tubefilter and NewTeeVee, here's what I don't particularly enjoy:
-"Check out my link. You should interview me."
-"Why haven't you interviewed me yet?" or "When is it my turn?"
-"The Streamys are over, so let's sit down so you can cover my show."
-"Come interview us. We have an event tomorrow."
Yes, these are all direct quotes. So, you can see I am getting some unprofessional emails and it is a little surprising. I certainly can't email the studio publicists and say, "It's time for The Web Files to interview your talent. We will be there tomorrow." I have to pitch my show and let them know why it would be beneficial for their shows to be interviewed by us. I submit a formal email with links, a press release and talent bios. I want them to see The Web Files as a professional media outlet, not some hack entertainment web series. Please treat your show with the same respect whether you are dealing with a small show like ours or a huge network like E! You spent so much time and effort on the creative side of the business, remember that once it is completed and you are dealing with publicity, monetization, or distribution, it is all business.
The other issue is contacting us a day before your event. If pre-production took a month for you, it will be the same for us. We have a crew to organize, a show to plan, and we have to make sure I am in town. (Easier said than done during my travel season.) I love covering events, but some notice is appreciated and it is necessary for us to produce a quality show for you. I want to make sure I have done my research on the talent and we want to have our core crew on hand. Trust me, they are GOOD, so a little calendar courtesy goes a long way in our world.
4. Press Releases: A simple and free way to get the word about your show out there on the net. PRLog just requires a short registration and it is a fantastic way to get the word out about your news of season premieres, finales, distribution, and events. We have utilized this service quite a bit and we always see a lift off of the press release.
5. Timing: Yes, timing is important in terms of publicity. Take it from the master, Felicia Day. When she is writing The Guild, she puts herself in a media blackout creating more of a demand for her when she returns. I am sure she wants to avoid the distraction, but it is a brilliant idea. When your show is launching, ending, there is distribution news, casting news, or a red carpet event, that is when you want to hit the PR wire. That is exactly when we want to interview you too. We want launch our episode with you because it is a win-win in terms of buzz and viewership. In fact, the next six interviews we are shooting involve: a Streamy winner, a launch, distribution news, casting news, DVD release, and a new media event. As they say, timing is everything.
6. Patience: I think Liz said it best, "Please be patient with me. I eventually watch everything I’m sent, but I only write one review a day and you web series creators have been freakin’ BUSY." I know at The Web Files, we are doing our best to keep up with your emails. We do have an official list and we banter back and forth as to why we should do a particular series now or later. It is an ongoing discussion and it changes each month. The best example of that is our interview with the series, Chick. It had been on our list for a long time, but the timing felt right in early 2010. I even wrote about the timing in my Behind the Scenes post for Chick. The show did extremely well for us in terms of views and we received more emails about this show than any other episode so far in 2010. Chick has a lot of heart and I think that resonated with many viewers, so I was thrilled we gave a smaller show a boost and we felt like we did it at the right time.
Where can you hone your PR skills? Well, I know there are several new media workshops going on in the month of May with NewMedialocity and WebTV Workshop, or you can go back to the basics with UCLA's Extension program and sign up for PR 101. I am hoping the Web TV seminars address the publicity issue in depth because it will be beneficial to many content creators.
I hope this was helpful to you from a media perspective. I would love to hear your comments on this topic because I know many of you will have even better suggestions from a creator's point of view. So, let's get some dialogue started!
To submit to The Web Files: TalkToTheWebFiles at Gmail dot com
We look forward to learning more about your web series!
**Update** I received an email from a content creator accusing me of being part of the LA web series "bubble" and some unknown clique out here. I have to take issue with this. We do not have a travel budget for The Web Files right now. If you know of someone that would like to sponsor us, we would gladly take you up on that offer and cover web series all over the country.
Please do not accuse me of not supporting web series. I have worked hard along with everyone else at The Web Files for FREE since May of 2009. We want to tell your stories and we are doing the best we can on our limited resources. We are happy to cover any web series that is visiting LA and we try to take advantage of that situation whenever we can make that interview happen. So, please keep me in the loop of your travels, especially if you are coming in for Digital Hollywood or itvfest. Off my soapbox. :) kb
PS. I must be doing something right if I got my first piece of hate mail. Yay!