Helen Hogh, artist manager, Ingpen and Williams Ltd
Digital is a help, not a hindrance, but agents need to adapt: With the advent of digital media, the role of the agent is still largely what it has always been with our priority being to nurture and manage our artists’ careers to the best of our abilities. Many of our artists now have their own websites so promoters are now more able to contact the artist directly, but this can often prove to be problematic as the performance dates listed may not be up to date or an artist might not be aware that we are already holding a period in their diary for a possible engagement.
Our artists know that if they are contacted directly it’s always best to refer the promoter to us to avoid any double bookings! Youtube has an impact too as promoters may look there to hear an artist rather than coming to us for a recording – we can’t police videos online so we’re now having to become more aware that we need to offer sound downloads on our website so that they’re easily accessible to promoters.
Use social media in both directions: It’s certainly a lot easier now to get information about an artist to promoters all over the world, so social media has definitely made our job easier from that point of view. It’s also much easier to promote artists – many of ours have Twitter accounts and we have our own that we regularly update with news on what performances are forthcoming or any new signings etc.
It’s about chemistry: There are many excellent international artists who have approached us for management and who we’ve declined, not because of their musical talent but because we didn’t have the right chemistry. You do have to maintain a professional manner but you’re dealing with these people every day so of course you become more familiar with each other over time.
Charles Walker, literary agent, United Agents
Every agent-client relationship is different: They always differ, and some people like regular input and contact, while others like your thoughts on a project once it’s complete, be it a book or screenplay or something else. However, sometimes you might have more criticisms than positive comments, which are a reason to keep things more professional.
Don’t see location as a stumbling block: I don’t think proximity is a problem – it’s very nice to meet people in person, but with email, Skype and so on it’s possible to have a close relationship wherever you live.
Anna Wetherell, artist manager, Konzertdirektion Schmid UK
Be supportive: Showing genuine support to artists is important too, ie demonstrating that, even if things go wrong (they have a bad night for example) the support of the management is still behind them and committing to working with them to get back on track. It’s about nurturing.
Andy Hipkiss, managing director, Triple A Media Limited
Transparency and honesty are the best policies: We always try to be as transparent as possible when in the midst of negotiation, giving the clearest of picture on how it’s going but at the same time protecting our client while they’re continuing to work on air or on screen. It can be a tricky balance but to use one of our more cheesy analogies – we’re all in the business of ‘show business’ and for me, those two words should be divided between the talent and the agent. The show is the talent; the business is the agent.
There will be times when both parties don’t particularly agree with one another but with an honest and transparent relationship those moments won’t cause too much of a problem.
Katie Threlfall, theatrical agent, Katie Threlfall Associates
Face-to-face meetings and chats are vital: The whole social media and digital thing is a mixed blessing. It speeds things up and makes approaches much easier, but I feel that it’s not helping in building relationships with either the client or the casting directors and producers that I deal with. With an email/text there is no tone of voice, eye contact and so on, and often you don’t get nearly as much information as you would with a phone call.
Crista Cloutier, creative entrepreneur, The Working Artist
Treat the relationship like a marriage: I always advise that artists look at the agent relationship as a marriage. There has to be room for two – there has to be respect, trust and honesty. The child, if you will, is the work itself and you are both doing what’s necessary to set that child loose in the world. Professional or friendly, it doesn’t matter – as long as you can work well together.
When looking for an agent: You need to think of an agent not as someone who takes a percentage from you, but as someone who adds to your potential audience – be selective and only choose someone you trust. You should look around a lot, understand the market, and do the research to find the best match, before approaching anyone.
Commenter, Laura Quigley
When it comes to arts organisations: It’s actually when I’m talking to an organisation, discussing a project, that I feel the lack of an agent most keenly. I often feel like an agent would help the whole discussion feel more professional and I’d have more confidence discussing the financial aspects particularly. There’s something an agent brings to the discussion, to advise on the relationship between the ‘talent’ and the production house. I think both sides benefit when there is an agent involved.
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13 tips for those working in arts PR
Amber Massie-Blomfield, PR director, Mobius Industries
Think beyond the role: I think PRs, particularly in house, are often seen as being in quite junior positions and expected to focus purely on the admin of sending out press releases, inviting critics along etc, instead of playing a more central role in thinking about what role that organisation should be playing in our arts culture.
Frequently PR is intended to mean ‘the person who is responsible for press’ when in fact the term ‘public relations’ implies something much wider than that, of which media relations is just one aspect.
Attention all graduates, arts communications is wide open at the moment: And as for tips, I’d say make sure you are as clued up as you possibly can be on current debates and trends, read widely across the media, get involved in social media and don’t be afraid to speak and establish your own voice in industry circles.
Also, don’t be afraid to get in touch with people you admire to ask for their advice – maybe you could do some work with some emerging artists who you like and who would be grateful for some support in the comms area, where you could learn as you go, and could experiment with some different approaches?
Eleanor Hutchins, account director, Four Communications
Remember the basics: I think a press release in its most basic form is just a way of presenting the salient information in one place – to journalists in the first instance – but we all know that there is the potential for them to have a much wider audience and are often posted word for word for anyone to see.
Depending on the kind of project or story you’re working on it then really depends on what the next steps are. I’m inclined to agree that it should be the start of a dialogue.
Use a press release as the start of the process, not the end: You can’t rely on it to deliver creative and successful campaigns every time. For that you need good relationships, and by that I mean with journalists (traditional and non) and the client – it’s all about building communication in from the start of any project.
Marta Bogna, press and media manager, The Place
Packaging your press release: We use word documents; I find that PDFs create all sorts of problems. The press release is uploaded on the news section on the website and images are either available on the website, or attached in low resolution to the email. I always include the link to the press release, as well as twitter info on #howtofollow. I’m also sending some of my releases via Twitter.
Eleanor Turney, freelance journalist, editor, copywriter and proofreader, Word Ninja
Avoid the unnecessary arts speak: “Arts bollocks” can be a problem with all communications, not just press releases. A lot of my work is about conveying information in the clearest, most concise way, whether that be a press release or any other piece of copy. I think it’s important to think about what you would like to read or receive when writing your copy – if you wouldn’t read your own release then you’ve got a problem!
Always remember the integrity of PR and of journalism: As a reviewer myself, I would say that the deal is one free ticket for one prompt review. The deal is not: one free ticket for one positive review. If the blogger or reviewer is to maintain any integrity they have to give an honest appraisal of the show. I have had PRs and theatre companies request that reviews be taken down if they are not wholly positive.
Understand your audience: One of the best things a PR or press officer can do is build relationships and find out (to a reasonable extent) what individuals prefer – some people like a phone call but I’d much rather have an email.
Use social media and encourage others to pass on the message for you: PR companies that recognise the power of word of mouth are doing their clients a big favour. Every tweet has the potential to generate interest in a show or event or artist – I often tweet when I am going to see a show, and often get into debates with other tweeters who are going or have been.
Twitter hashtags used to aggregate tweets about a specific event or show can be a great way of showing people who else is talking about something they’re interested in, and building a mini-community around it.
Siobhan Waterhouse, freelance arts publicist, Mr. Fahrenheit PR
The question isn’t “Is reviewing still relevant”, it’s more like “What’s the role of the review?”: With the rise and rise of blogging, Twitter, tweetseats etc, arts publicists are starting to realise that rather than desperately crossing your fingers for a good review in the daily newspaper, reviews are now about creating dialogue, offering diverse standpoints, highlighting perspectives and giving people another reason to want to come to the theatre, performance or gig. Reviewing will never die out, it’s just evolving.
Think of the story and come up with an angle: The most important part of the whole campaign is developing the story and its angle, sitting down and working out which journalists want which stories and then pitching the hell out of them.
Know how images work online and in print: Great imagery will get a story across the line more often than not. In Australia I find I have very little control of the imagery I’m given (pre-opening, publicity images, I mean – not production shots, they’re easier) – and it is very frustrating. Marketers and directors or producers rush off and get some fabulous dark and moody shot of an actor facing away from the camera and OF COURSE the press hate it.
Include the right images with any press release: If it is a gallery or museum, then I really need a wide-angle photo of the venue itself to convey the scale of the display. If I visit somewhere that bans photos and I ask for media images, I often get three close up photos of a pot (or whatever) and it’s totally useless unless I was writing just about the pot and not the venue. A selection of photos of the venue, the objects, and people involved will probably cover most publications needs.