The key to a successful screening is to cross-promote your event, ideally using all of the methods listed below. Each method will reinforce the other. Building an audience takes creativity, commitment, and hard work, but it can be fun and very rewarding.
Word of Mouth
This is the most powerful tool you have. Spread the word! Go tell it on the mountain! Tell everyone you know about the event -- that means every person that you and your team members come into contact with each day, in both the real and in the virtual world. Invite them to come, jask them to help spread the word to others.
Have your core team members make phone calls to the groups and organizations you've identified for reaching out to. We recommend contacting the head of the group and telling them about the event and the film. Invite them to come, and ask for their help in spreading the word. If they’re not familiar with Tribe of Heart films, send them to our web site. Ask for their help. Some groups will commit to active involvement, become part of your core team, and give resources (it helps if you know someone there!) At a minimum, most groups will be willing to do one or more of the following:
- Put out flyers and handbills
- Send email announcements to members
- Post notices on their web sites, listservs, social media pages, meetups, blogs, etc.
- Place announcements in newsletters and bulletins
- Do a postcard mailing to members
Try to get everyone you talk to at these groups to use this as an opportunity to invite their friends, family and acquaintances who may not be familiar with these issues. Remind them that Tribe of Heart films have inspired thousands of people to make positive changes in their lives.
|An apple for the teacher
Contact college professors, yoga instructors, cooking teachers, health coaches, and other community educators who might be willing to make announcements about the film in their classes. Give them stacks of handbills (see below) to distribute.
Flyers and Handbills
Two to three weeks before your screening, you should begin posting the flyers and distributing the handbills. Plaster the town! Then go back again once a week to replenish the stacks of handbills and to be sure the flyers are still up. A couple days before the event, make one more round -- this is the most critical time to have literature available, as a final push on top of your other publicity efforts, and as a reminder for those who make their plans at the last minute.
We have flyers and other materials available for free download here for Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home and here for The Witness.These materials are easily customizable with your event information (short videos show you how, here and here ). You can print these items yourself, or pay to have them printed at a local copy shop. See the sidebar for a list of suggestions for where to post flyers and leave stacks of handbills.
|You will need more flyers and handbills than you think!
How many times have you picked up publicity materials for an interesting-looking event that you ended up not attending? In reality, not everyone who takes a handbill will come to your screening. For every 10 or 20 handbills you distribute, you might gain only one audience member at your event. But experience shows that the numbers do add up when you put your time and energy into getting the information out there in several different ways. Remember that flyers are periodically removed or covered over by other flyers, and need to be checked on and replaced every few days. In short, you will need many more flyers and handbills than you might imagine at first.
Even for a small event (20-50 people), we strongly recommend you print a minimum of 100 flyers and 400 handbills. For a mid-size to large screening (50-300), you will need as many as 400+ flyers and several thousand handbills. Does that seem like too much? Think of all the places they can go! Keep in mind that you will need to refresh the materials every few days (flyers last between two and seven days on bulletin boards).
One person called us disappointed because only 10 people showed up to her screening when she had expected 100. We discovered she had only printed 20 flyers. Had she printed 200, she might have had a different outcome. The posters and handbills reinforce the other kinds of promotion you do (i.e word of mouth, internet outreach, mailings and media). It is important that people SEE the posters and handbills everywhere. This will convey the message that it's a "happening" event.
Create a postering route for your community
There are so many places flyers and handbills can go (see right-hand column for some ideas). Identify teams of dedicated volunteers who are willing to take on a portion of the route and check it weekly. Make sure to give them clear instructions on where to go and how often.
Internet Outreach and Social Media
The internet and social media have become one of the main ways that people get their news and information about what events are going on in their area. Facebook tends to be the most popular platform, although Twitter and Instagram can also be very useful to promote events. It is simple and free for any Facebook user to create a basic event page. You can create one for your screening, and then invite people from your friend lists, encouraging others to do the same. If you are part of a group or non-profit, you can create an event through their Facebook page, if they have one, which will also give you the option of paying Facebook money to promote your event to a wider audience. However, we have found this not to be necessary in many situations, especially if you have your own active group to help publicize the event, as it can be quite effective to simply send invitations to everyone in the group's friends list, as well as sharing the event on your own Facebook pages at regular intervals. If you are using Twitter, you can also post regular reminders, and link to the Facebook event page..
If you prepare any web announcements or other online publicity, it can be helpful to include a link to the Facebook event page, and to encourage those who think they might attend to RSVP and also share the event with their own Facebook friends.
If other groups and online venues have agreed to help you with publicity, you will need to write up a short announcement. Ask groups sympathetic to the issues explored in the film to send the announcement out to their staff and members, as well as post the announcement on their web site and in their newsletter.
Look to see if there are any Meetup groups in your area focused on animal advocacy, veganism, vegetarianism, environmentalism, peace, independent film/documentary, ethics, and any other aligned interests. Send the Meetup group organizer your announcement at least 2 weeks ahead of time, or longer if possible, and ask if they will consider organizing a Meetup to attend the screening.
Letter to the Editor
Depending on the newspaper, and how much mail it receives each week, you might be able to get a letter to the editor published that will greatly help your publicity efforts. It is said that letters from readers are one of the most widely read sections of newspapers, so this opportunity should not be overlooked.
The purpose of the letter is to call people's attention to a special event that is happening in their community. It is very helpful to include in your letter some local angle about why people should see this film (eg: If there's a lot of agriculture or animal-realted industries in your area, point out the film's relevance. If there was recently a relevant animal-connected story in the headlines, point out that the film provides valuable insight into the human-animal relationship. If it's a college town or a community that's into the arts, point out that the film has been shown and won numerous awards at film festivals around the country and that this is a unique opportunity to see it locally, etc.) Be creative, and think about what will best pique the interest of the people in your community.
To increase your odds of having the letter printed, look for someone (or a group of people) in your community who is well known and respected and willing to sign the letter. If there is going to be a guest speaker at your event, be sure to mention that (as well as the refreshments!) And it's probably best to have just one really well written letter sent to the editor (possibly signed by a number of people), than several letters.
If your letter gets printed, feel free to let us know. We always love to hear from you.
Targeted Mailings using Pre-printed postcards
If you or the groups you are collaborating with opt to send out targeted postcard mailings, we recommend getting them into the mail at least three weeks before the event. You can download and work with our customizable postcard PDF to design and print postcards to send out.
Newsletters, Bulletins, Calendar Listings
Send a notice to the groups and organizations that have agreed to list the screening in their newsletters or bulletins. Make sure you know their deadlines for submission.
Identify the calendar listings in your area (print, radio, public TV, cable access TV, online) and keep track of their deadlines. Send them notices of your event.
Most radio stations, public TV and cable access TV stations air public service announcements (PSA's) for community events. Make a list of the stations in your area and their deadlines.
If you or the groups you are collaborating with have the resources to purchase advertising (radio and/or newspaper), be sure to consult with the radio station or newspaper advertising staff on timing, as they should have a good idea of what works best in your area. Give yourself enough time to reserve the ad. Weekly papers especially tend to need more than a week's advance notice.
MEDIA RELATIONS 101
How to get media coverage for your event
The purpose of contacting the media is to try to get a feature story, interview, or even a short article or blurb about your screening and the film. This kind of publicity is not only free, the exposure can be tremendously effective at building the audience for your event.
You will need to identify a person in your group who will contact the media. Ideally, it's someone who has done this before. If not, look for someone who is a skilled communicator and has great enthusiasm for the film.
Step 1: Create Your Media List
Take the time to create an up-to-date media list with contact names, phone numbers and email addresses. Media personnel frequently change jobs, so make sure your information is current. If you have a professional publicist as a team member or ally, you are really in luck because publicists and PR firms subscribe to specialized online databases that list the most current media contact information. Otherwise, you can usually find the information you need on the publication's web site -- look for staff listings or links that say "contact us."
While reporters write the stories, editors are the ones who decide which stories will run, so focus primarily on these decision-makers, such as feature editors, entertainment editors, news editors, food & lifestyle editors, etc. You may want to additionally reach out to specific reporters. If you happen to know any personally, by all means, ask for their help and advice. If you've noticed a reporter who writes sympathetically about animals, or who covers vegetarian/vegan issues, it is worth reaching out to that individual as well. Movie reviewers are also promising candidates. It can be helpful to personally invite these journalists to your screening, and if it's an event where admission will be charged, offer to reserve a pair of complimentary tickets in their name.
Step 2: Create and Send Your Press Release
Check out our press releases for Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home here, and for The Witness here, to get some ideas about what to emphasize in your own press release, and how to organize the information about your event. (Note: As stated in the screening guidelines, the word "premiere" or similar terms may not be used to describe a screening without express permission from Tribe of Heart). For maximum impact, come up with a headline or a context for introducing the screening that is uniquely suited to your community.Most journalists prefer to receive press releases via email. You should send your press release in the body of the email, NOT as an attachment, and it should be of a reasonable length -- the longer it is, the less likely it will be read. Make sure the subject line of your email contains a phrase that will stand out, as well as the date of the screening, for example: "Jan 15 - Award-winning film about farmers transforming their relationship to animals" or "Ground-breaking film explores human-animal relationship, Feb 10."
Your initial release should ideally be sent out 3-4 weeks before your screening date, as journalists need time to develop a story. As it gets closer to the event, it becomes less likely that you will receive any in-depth coverage.
Step 3: Follow Up
Follow-up phone calls should be made within a day or two after sending the initial press release. Don’t wait! Think of your own email in-box… if you wait too long, your press release will be buried or deleted.
If you reach your contact and get engaged in dialogue, focus on the film being about the human-animal connection, and about the potential of people to transform their lives through the power of conscience and altruistic intentions. Believe in what you are doing! Journalists are looking for interesting stories and Tribe of Heart films are inspiring, powerful, award-winning documentaries that their viewers, readers, and listeners would truly enjoy and benefit from. If you are persistent, friendly and understanding of the deadline pressure that all journalists must deal with, you will have a better chance of getting media coverage.
Resend the press releases again as a reminder 10 days before the event and follow up again with phone calls. Resend them one more time 5 days before the event and follow up with phone calls.
Direct any interested members of the media to our web sites to learn more about the films. Let them know that the filmmakers and some of the film's subjects are available for an interview by phone or email, and that they should contact us if they are interested.
Next Step: The Day of the Event
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