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WRITERS ON THE WEB: Getting Press for a Web Series - Interview with Spotlight PR

Rebecca Norris interviews Tammy Lynn of Spotlight PR, about how publicists go about getting press for a web series and creating buzz for content creators.

Rebecca Norris is a writer, producer, web enthusiast, and creator of the award-winning web series Split with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Follow Rebecca on Twitter at @beckaroohoo.

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Publicist Tammy Lynn

I'm excited to continue my series of articles on getting press for a web series by interviewing PR expert Tammy Lynn of Spotlight PR. Tammy brings over 15 years of experience to her boutique public relations company, where she works with content creators, filmmakers, and actors to craft a public image, build name recognition, and generate buzz.

Rebecca: For those who are not very familiar with PR, what does a publicist do?

Tammy: There are different kinds of publicists, but generally speaking, a publicist’s main goal is to secure and manage media attention for you and/or your projects. Think of a publicist as a necessary middleman between you and the media. And, trust me…there are definitely times that you’ll be happy to have them there as that buffer.

Rebecca: How specifically does a publicist obtain press coverage for a client?

Tammy: Depending on their level of service, a publicist might write press releases, make pitch calls, develop and manage campaigns, coordinate interviews, distribute photos, create promotional materials (biography, EPKs, etc.), handle red carpet events and more. Of course, the most important thing a publicist offers any client…are the relationships they’ve cultivated with Reporters, Editors and other members of the media.

Rebecca: How would a publicist benefit web series creators? What kind of press could a creator hope to obtain after hiring a publicist?

Tammy: I work with web series creators all the time! The biggest “benefit” is that many of them simply don’t have the time to do it themselves. Is it possible? YES. But, usually a creator has so many other things on their plate (like finishing their series) that it’s easier to simply hire an expert.

If you think about this logically…it makes sense that the type of media most interested in web series are online outlets. This is perfect for web creators because most articles include a link which means a new fan is only one click away. There are specific media outlets online that focus on web series, so these should definitely be added to their target list. Also, include Reporters who cover general entertainment, indie projects and don’t forget to include any media that you might have a local tie to, like your hometown newspapers.

Rebecca: How would one go about hiring a publicist? What should web creators be looking for in a publicist or PR firm?

Tammy: Larger, full-service firms which can cover every aspect of PR for someone are probably more service than a web creator really needs or can afford. Typically, they work with celebrities and on big-budget projects.

There are a lot of boutique firms and freelance publicists out there, which you might research online by looking at who is handling people or projects similar to your own. Also, ask around…find out who other rising creators are using. I get many of my clients as referrals from either previous clients or studios/organizations that I’ve taught a PR class at.

Then, I suggest giving any potential firms a call to find out more about how they work, what you can expect and the timeline for their strategy. I’m a strong believer in being totally honest with my clients. I don’t make any promises I can’t keep, and I’m completely upfront with what I think our chances are of landing some coverage. Keep in mind, there are no “guarantees” when it comes to securing coverage. But, a seasoned publicist should be able to evaluate the possibilities based on their previous experience.

Rebecca: How much of the budget should creators put aside for marketing and publicity?

Tammy: The short answer – as much as you can!

Marketing and publicity are actually two different aspects of PR. Marketing focuses on reaching out to fans/customers directly for the purpose of selling something. This can be in many forms, like paid advertising, mailings, special offers, etc.

Publicity is reaching out to the media with a news item or story idea. It’s an indirect way to reach your fans/customers but often carries highly valued influence that can create a favorable climate for your project. In other words, people tend to trust the opinion of the press outlets they read or watch. So, if you land a positive review or story about your web series, you can expect that people who read it will want to watch your series, too. Thus, you’ll gain more fans that you might not have earned without the article.

Now, back to your question about budget! Publicist’s prices can vary depending on the type and amount of service you want.

A full service firm typically handles every aspect of your PR…and you’re going to pay for it. They tend to start at $2-3,000 per month and require a three month minimum commitment with payment due in advance of the work beginning. That’s a huge outlay of cash for a budget conscious production.

Another option is using a press release distribution service (like PRWeb, eReleases, etc.), which sends out a press release that you write to news organizations via their newsfeed partners. They range in price from around $100 to $499 per press release, depending on a variety of elements: tier + type of outlet, number of outlets, attachments (video + photo) and more.

When I started Spotlight PR, I was looking for a way to deliver quality service at an affordable price. Our most popular press release packages are priced at: $225 and $325. They include an originally written press release with targeted distribution to a minimum of 100 individual Reporters. We also post it online, along with any video or photos provided and manage all responses or requests that are a result of the press release. Also, the higher priced package includes targeted pitch calls which can help to nudge a Reporter who is on the fence about covering your project.

Rebecca: What services does Spotlight PR specifically offer and what makes you stand out from the other PR firms out there?

Tammy: So far, I haven’t discovered any other company that does what Spotlight PR is doing. Our goal is simply to offer high-value PR services at an affordable a-la-carte pricing to entertainment professionals. You only pay for what you need, as you need it.

We are not a full service company, we don’t handle celebrities and we aren’t going to require a long-term commitment or a small fortune to get you started. We focus on securing coverage for you and your projects away from the glitz and glamour of parties and events. Instead, we put effort into gaining coverage that relates to the work you’re doing…not because of whom you’re dating.

Also, I don’t believe in the “spray-and-pray” method that the previously mentioned distribution services provide. This is the practice of sending out your press release to thousands of outlets randomly and sitting back waiting for results. Instead, we discuss with you which outlets we are going to target and create a fresh distribution list for each client. It just doesn’t make any sense to send a press release about your web series to a Reporter who covers theater or fashion or sports or any other news beat that doesn’t relate to actual web series entertainment.

Plus, we will share any feedback, manage requests for interviews or photos and send you any results we receive as a result of our distribution. And, if you’ve got an extra $100 bucks in your budget…we’ll make even more targeted pitch calls to Reporters about your project.

Also, we only work with entertainment professionals (web creators, actors, filmmakers, writers, etc.), so we don’t spread ourselves too thin trying to handle news in all industries. I believe this is why we’ve been able to sustain long-lasting relationships with Reporters in the entertainment field.

Overall, the bottom line when it comes to PR -- whether you work with Spotlight, another company or do it yourself – is you can no longer afford to do nothing!

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Get more web series advice in Rebecca Norris' webinar
Writing the Web Series