I’ve been working in marketing and PR for films, events and festivals for over 14 years and I began the talk by outlining my career trajectory. I started out at the BFI as a communications assistant after answering an ad in the Guardian, and boning up on what communications means from my first job at Proud Galleries, working only sporadically with an external PR company there. I didn’t know much about marketing or comms, but I understood that exhibitions needed to be presented to the public in a way that would draw them in and that there’s a staged process to getting media attention. And I knew what a press release was. The rest was down to the fact that I love films and spent my childhood watching them on TV. I spoke about favourite films and researched what was going on at the BFI and related my passions to my interviewer and expressed my enthusiasm for learning the job to Brian Robinson, who essentially liked me, liked my energy I think, and gave me the job — he’s been a mentor of sorts and we’ve been friends now for 15 years.
After that, I went freelance working for a couple of film/art agencies, run by friends and colleagues, and now run my own Ltd. company, still freelancing for them and working directly with directors, festivals, organisations or production companies.
Then I got down to the plan. Essentially you have to really like what you’re marketing — and it helps to create a well researched plan that expresses this in the introduction. Think: why would a client hire you above someone else? What makes you the best person for the job? Outline your relevant experience, both work experience and anything else, like hobbies that might relate to a project.
Outline what the project is about and how you’d approach it — what angles or themes are interesting to you, what will your campaign focus on and most importantly who is your target audience? How old are they? What are their hobbies, where are they based, etc.? What media will you use the most to reach these audiences — traditional media, like newspapers and magazines or new media, like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat?
In the talk I stressed how important it is to know who your target audience is, so that you can come up with a plan to identify media that they consume. I also stressed lateral thinking, and how you’d go about reaching ‘new’ audiences or harder to reach ones. Clients want to know that you have innovative ideas, that you’re not just proposing a boring, formulaic plan. I talked about having a solid timeline and including a budget breakdown if you can, so the client knows you are organised and can really bring the campaign to life.
I gave an example of a film I worked on about banned musicians in Mali (called They Will Have To Kill Us First), featuring the band Songhoy Blues, and how we tied in their album release and tour with the film’s release in cinemas at the same time. I spoke about the idea of raising awareness for the issues in the film, and how political it is. I outlined some of the key target media who ran coverage around the film, and what we did as a premiere event during the London Film Festival, including a live performance from the band.
Then I set a task for 4 teams to create and present their own plans based on a film’s release, of their choice. Some of the ideas were out there and included focusing on the documentary Weiner, about a political figure called Anthony Weiner who ran for mayor of NY, but created a scandal for sexting pictures of his own weiner to the world. The team wanted to engage not only with audiences engaged in politics, but young people, by way of social media #weinerchallenge — asking people to take pictures of things that could look like weiners (but weren’t), and coming up with a fun event party too, to launch the film. Another team talked about a film about knife crime in London, and neatly ran through their target audience (mainly young black people), a launch party at Richmix cinema, with VIP’s and influencers to tweet the word out, like Ashley Walters and the Stephen Lawrence Trust as a possible partner to the film’s release.
All in all the teams really understood the task at hand and the importance of coming up with a strong marketing plan that’s smart and well researched. I think they also understood that, as long as they are passionate about whatever creative project they are working on, creating a marketing plan can be fun and engaging.