Over the past few weeks I have watched a whole range of glamorous awards ceremonies on both sides of the Atlantic, and noticed they are all missing one unique feature: me.
I’m only half joking, because while I haven’t done anything high profile enough to merit an award, I do notice that, as well as the star names, there seem to be a lot of other well-dressed people swanning around at pre-show and after-show parties who might not be picking up gongs yet, but who are certainly in the right place to network with people who could further their careers.
I believe I have talent, and do good work given the chance. I also scrub up well, even if I do say so myself. The only thing keeping me from the same opportunities the celebrity set seem to get is access.
My serious question is: would it be worth engaging a PR company to get me into some of these events, so I can connect with movers and shakers? I’m not expecting it to be cheap, but if it works, surely it is just as worthwhile an investment as yet another showreel or headshot session?
An effective PR campaign can play a key role in putting the spotlight on good work and worthwhile projects that would otherwise be lost in the flurry of voices competing for our attention. This is particularly true of the arts world, especially when it comes to smaller stage or screen projects that can’t rely on the mega advertising and marketing budgets of bigger players.
A smartly written press release, well-planned media appearance or clever idea for online engagement not only puts bums on seats but can also lodge the actor or writer involved firmly in the back of our collective minds, and perhaps even in the mind of the person who will give them their next gig.
Good as all of this sounds, there are two important caveats worth noting. The first is that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ – it sounds clever but it isn’t true. Just as there is good theatre, bad theatre and mediocre theatre, there are levels of talent and expertise in the PR industry and those who charge the most are not necessarily the best.
As with any professional service you consider buying, shop around and seek recommendations and be very clear what you want to achieve from your campaign, as different companies and individuals specialise in different areas.
Even more important is my second caution: the best PR person in the world can’t promote you if you don’t have something to promote (a good one will tell you this when you initially approach them). Yes, a well-connected PR firm can probably secure you invites to those glamorous events and openings you are keen to be seen at, but beyond cool photos for your Instagram, what will you have to talk about when you are there? Rubbing shoulders with celebrities doesn’t work in the same way as jump leads between two vehicles – it is your responsibility to kickstart your own career and nobody else can do that for you.
Once you have taken that step to create something of substance, whether that is an interesting acting role, whether it comes via casting or your own theatremaking efforts, or a project such as a play or film you have had some creative input into, a PR professional will then have something to work with, and to help you make the most of. More to the point, when that role or project exists in reality rather than as a dream it will be much easier to narrow down which platforms and audiences will be the most useful to target to give you the best chance of a proper return on your investment.
Contact careers adviser John Byrne at firstname.lastname@example.org or @dearjohnbyrne
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne