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The highs and lows of festival PR

The highs and lows of festival PR

By Louise Robertson

There’s no doubt that doing PR for a festival covers off all aspects of the media relations spectrum from the highs of celebrity engagement to the lows of good old fashioned working the phones, pulling in all the favours you can muster. Despite this, it does bring a level of satisfaction with the uniformity of the festival cycle mapping out the process from beginning to end of the PR campaign. However, even with the best planning, this inevitably includes complete pandemonium towards the end when you quite literally eat, sleep and breath festival madness.

Message Matters’ festival client is the wonderful StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, a cultural gem which takes place every year in St Andrews in Fife. We recently finished the media campaign for StAnza’s twentieth festival which proved to be hugely successful in terms of the volume of press coverage generated across print, broadcast, online and social channels.

In the months leading up to the festival, our proactive approach was rewarded with press coverage, both plentiful and positive, contributing to many events being sold out well in advance of the festival. Similarly, in the days and weeks following StAnza a significant amount of press coverage was generated resulting in a huge audience reach throughout the duration of the press and media campaign.

With the festival taking place in March we began the PR campaign the previous October with the first press announcement coinciding with National Poetry Day. Using our strategic approach to communications we built momentum for the twentieth festival, utilising the obvious hooks for press coverage as well as exploring as many different angles as possible to increase reach. We focused on StAnza’s children’s programme, digital and international themes, as well as the festival’s French language focus to generate media interest. As well as distributing press releases to Scottish and UK press, one of the slightly more complex tasks was producing tailored, and in some cases translated releases which were distributed as far afield as Australia, Canada, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Quebec, South Africa and Zambia.

Looking back at the success of StAnza 2017 and the volume and variety of press coverage generated, for me, my favourite cutting came from Mumble Words, which compared StAnza to Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace restaurant stating it was “like sampling one of the splendid Taster Menus at the Castle Terrace in Edinburgh, where plate after delectable plate is served up full of aesthetic glory and supreme tastes. Rather like a very good poem.” Says it all really.

For StAnza, 2017 marked the twentieth festival with 2018 set to celebrate the twentieth anniversary since the first ever StAnza in 1998. Both 2017 and 2018 have been brought together under the festival’s exciting 20:20 vision project which we look forward to promoting later in the year when we start work on StAnza’s 2018 media campaign for their special twentieth anniversary year.