Want to See PR in Action? Go to the Movies!

by Keith Diggle


Publicity aims to make people want to buy what you have to sell. In the first instance it is directed towards people who are already favourably inclined to what you have to sell, whether they are currently buying it or not – the Attenders and Intenders. Advertising, the principal tool of persuasion, aimed at these people will only be effective if an atmosphere of favourable awareness has been created in their minds – this is the job of Product PR.

The film industry offers an excellent example of how a highly effective PR machinery can be used to create awareness of a forthcoming film in such a way that the experience of it is willingly, eagerly sought. The product is scheduled to be available at some point several weeks ahead. No member of the public may sample the product ahead of this date. All that you know of the film is what you are told and the emphasis of the information will be that most likely to make you want to experience it. The industry relies upon star names; they are vital to the process because the stars can be wheeled out ahead of the release date and, because they are famous, the media jump at the chance of interviewing them. The forthcoming film merely provides a justification, a peg, upon which to hang the interviews.

TV movie programmes go along with this system to the point that they will schedule coverage of a film that they know to be bad and not worthy of coverage because they too want to co-operate with the PR system and they too want access to the stars.

Film advertising relies upon very striking posters and very ordinary press advertising plus what is unique to the industry, the trailer, which is probably the most potent force for persuasion yet known to mankind and which may be held up as a scintillating example of how to project a complex image of something which you have yet to see in a way that emphasises its strongest, most appealing and compelling features, dynamically, excitingly and, above all, briefly. Study the film trailer and you will see quintessential Product PR.

In marketing the performing arts we deal with different products with different characteristics. They cannot be put on a shelf like books. They cannot be offered for sale simultaneously in fifty different venues around the country. What they have in common with books and films is the need for Product PR as the instrument for providing background information that relates to what potential customers already know and is capable of making them favorably inclined to what is for sale.

People go to cinemas because of the films they show. They do not go because they have any liking for the cinema building itself. They feel no affinity for that building. They have no particular regard for the organisation that runs the cinema. Because one movie is good it does not follow that the next one will be good. Each movie stands alone. This is where the cinema industry parts company with our performing arts world. When a theatre develops a reputation for great work then its public becomes favourably inclined to the building, the organisation, the company and will buy tickets months ahead, far ahead of any Product PR or Product Advertising. This, in part, accounts for the often huge advance sales of opera, classical music, ballet and theatre subscription schemes. This is Corporate PR. Corporate PR and Product PR are probably the most influential components of Arts Marketing.