Arts & Business Council’s Annual Meet the Media Workshop
In a continuing mission to aid arts groups in Miami with marketing and publicity efforts, the Arts & Business Council’s Miami Arts Marketing Project workshop series held its annual Meet the Media event on Tuesday, June 24 at the Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables.
Moderator Suzette Espinosa of the Arsht Center framed the morning’s focus, saying that with today’s shrinking arts staff, particularly at daily newspapers, it is the toughest time to be a publicist. To start the session off, she he offered the following tips to the audience:
- Think about and be aware of your options and keep yourself open; make yourself a good source for the media; have visuals ready for media requests and make sure they are high resolution; know the varying media’s deadlines which differ for television, print, online, and magazines; and accept no graciously and immediately start thinking about the next thing.
It was then the panelists’ turn to discuss the best approach when pitching them.
Luis Rigual, editor-in-chief of Miami Magazine, said their arts coverage varies so it’s best to find a Miami connection with a lead person in the production, and perhaps that would lead to a longer story on that individual. But there must be a proper tie-in.
Christine Dolen, theater critic for The Miami Herald, spoke about the newspaper’s huge online presence and how their stories go on their site immediately. They are always interested in sound and video for their site too, since they partner with WLRN. “Freelance writers cover classical music for us and although they are very talented, it still provides a challenge in this changing landscape, so we try to give them everything they need to know about the state of the arts in Florida,” Dolen said.
Alicia Zuckerman from WLRN/Miami Herald echoed Dolen’s words about the changing landscape and encouraged audience members to be nimble and have an open mind, particularly about social media. “Get it out of your mind that social media or twitter is stupid because frankly it’s another way to get our attention. Our digital editor or someone else could see a tweet and find that interesting,” Zuckerman said.
She also said it’s imperative to know arts freelancers and also to figure out who beyond the media organizations is interested in what you’re doing.
Max Duke from Art Loft on WPBT TV urged everyone to use the @ sign when tweeting and be aware that television is very celebrity driven. On their weekly show they present four or five weekly shows that are acquired from major television markets. They also commission content and hire filmmakers to produce stories. He encouraged the audience to create their own content that they can use at Art Loft.
“We acquire content, so if you can shoot and edit a three-to-five-minute story I will use it right away. We also look for partnerships we can pull content from and have a very unique distribution process across several platforms. We love to leverage our distribution,” Duke said.
Michelle Solomon from the online Miamiartzine said for her it’s all about building relationships so that her sources know what her needs are. At Miamiartzine they send out e-blasts and change content at least three times a day and they offer arts organizations a way to put up their own content on the site. “I think right now if you really can get these things down you can soar. You have so many options now. We’re in a really good place and if you just follow the recipe you’re good to go,” Solomon said.
Celeste de Juarez from MSN Latino, Vogue en Español, and a variety of in-flight publications finds that for the magazine industry covering the arts has become harder and harder. “The Pew Research Center put the news industry down 30% since 2000. As entertainment journalists we were the first ones cut so it’s really a challenge for print magazines. Websites are now more prevalent,” de Juarez said.
Ily Goyanes who writes for Miami New Times says the weekly newspaper provides a lot of arts coverage, particularly offbeat arts and events so it’s best to approach them about the quirky, weird and the non-traditional.
Anne Tschida, arts editor of the Biscayne Times and editor of Artburst, emphasized the importance of timeliness and submitting information with images — and video is always perfect. Also, people are passing everything around so the second it’s published online, as a publicist you can send it off to your whole list.
Solomon said her biggest pet peeve is when a publicist calls to pitch and it’s obvious they don’t read her publication but want to be included anyway. “Know who you’re talking to. Take a little bit of time and research the publication.”
Espinosa wrapped this discussion up by summarizing that when pitching, be specific about what section you think your article would fit in because that automatically communicates you know the publication.
The question then moved on to when is the best time to pitch and what needs to be included.
For De Juarez: Keep the pitch short and include the who, what, when, where of the event and skip the descriptive adjectives. Use precise two or three line sentences and including a good, high-res picture is crucial. Also, they’re always looking for a Hispanic talent in the show like a director or actor to feature.
Rigual from Miami Magazine needs longer lead times for his pitches, as far out as three, even four months.
Aside from her role as theater critic, Dolen also edits the Arts Notes column for which she needs the info by Wednesday. It’s another great vehicle for getting mentioned into the Sunday Herald.
Other multiple placement options within the Herald are her blog Drama Queen and Miami.com.
It’s absolutely crucial for publicists to do their research before submitting an incomplete press release, which is a common occurrence.
“Look at the information we use in our articles. Look at our To Go Box in our stories and include all the info we need,” Dolen said. “And come up with fresh ideas to get a more exciting story out there when the event is one that’s yearly.”
For theater pieces, she said, a month in advance is best for a preview piece.
It’s the opposite for Zuckerman of WLRN. Timing really varies for them. The safest bet is to pitch two to four weeks in advance. Always make sure your pitch is a really good fit and be familiar with the format.
“Reminding us of what you sent is key, so send another note in a week or so and don’t be offended. Always try again and try tweeting us too,” Zuckerman said.
At Art Loft, Duke said because they are a weekly show, they shoot within one day so if it’s something timely they need to shoot it the week before it airs. Something’s an evergreen has no real timing.
At Miamiartzine, they have staff critics and plan what they’re going to cover because they work with a specific budget for their writers. They always try to cover events that don’t always garner coverage. It’s best for publicists to reach out to her writers and cc her and do it a month in advance if they’re pitching for a review.
De Juarez said using facts and figures is crucial; and pitch times are two months prior for MSN Latino, a month before for her column with AARP, and three months prior for in-flight magazines.
Goyanes of the New Times requires at least five or six weeks prior to the event for pitching because whatever comes out in the weekly print version was decided at least three weeks before it appeared. And because of their huge blog presence – their blog gets 1 million hits a month — they require at least two weeks advance notice.
“Our readership is about 70,000 for the print paper, but over a one million people logging on to the website a month. In other words for New Times, you’re reaching a lot more people through our site,” Goyanes said.
While Tschida from Artburst, the arts media bureau that provides the dance coverage for New Times, said she needs at least three weeks in advance for a pitch.
“Our freelancers need time to write the article so three weeks and definitely with an image or video is ideal. A month helps us get a good writer and the supporting pieces,” Tschida said.
When it comes to social media all the panelists use the major ones, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and some use Pinterest.
Duke said at WPBT they are constantly posting on social media and looking for posts by others. He prefers to be contacted via LinkedIn — and sending him something through YouTube is ideal.
At Miamiartzine they have a full-time social media editor and embrace Facebook and Twitter, Solomon said, “because we are strictly an online publication.”
Dolen and De Juarez both prefer to be contacted via e-mail.
As a final note for the morning, they all re-enforced the importance of re-tweeting and sharing articles with all contacts; and ensuring that pitches are personalized to the specific outlet.