Keeping it Fresh

What do we do when hired to promote the same production that we promoted last year? And the year before last? Or for the last 25 years? Keeping the press and public interested in an annual or long-running engagement can pose definite challenges, so it is imperative that we approach each project with a fresh eye and ascertain new opportunities for coverage, whether the client is returning for its yearly visit or simply trying to continue momentum here for an open-ended, long running engagement.

The world-famous Cirque du Soleil, never short on creativity, is no stranger to Chicago. Beth Silverman has represented the Montreal troupe for each of its Chicago engagements since it first entered the market in 1989. At the beginning, the idea of a circus with a live jazz band instead of animals was newsworthy enough, not even taking into account the incredibly skilled performers and other-worldly environment created for each production. However, with the influx of Cirque imitators flooding the market over the years, and Cirque du Soleil’s nearly biannual visits, their arrival is no longer “news” on its own. Similarly, another long-time client of TSG, The Joffrey Ballet, presents its own version of The Nutcracker each holiday season. Since 1987, virtually the same costumes, sets and choreography have returned to the stage for this beloved annual tradition.

In both cases, The Silverman Group must put a new spin on the production, creating “news” to incentivize the media to cover a return engagement. As always, rather than trusting that name recognition of an organization alone will carry our efforts, we commit to some serious sleuthing work and determine the newest, most attention-getting aspects of an engagement, ideally spending time on-site with those who are “on the front lines” and know the most interesting day-to-day happenings. For instance, stories in support of The Nutcracker might tout new dancers tackling classic lead roles, a reinvention of costume pieces, an orchestra member who’s accompanied the performance since 1987, and/or one of the many “hometown hero” stories that can be shared with community press on behalf of the ballet’s many child dancers.

Similarly challenging, once a production, exhibition or institution has officially opened, the initial newsworthiness naturally subsides and the media tends to move on to the “next big thing.” However, if a client intends to stay in the public eye and continue to sell tickets (or attract patrons), it helps for us to maintain momentum via consistent placements in the media. Again, post-opening, creative publicity efforts are imperative, augmented with promotional appearances and events. We mine a wide range of niche media – targeted to those of specific geographic areas, cultural backgrounds and/or sexual orientation – using as spokespersons the various members of a staff or ensemble who might fit the bill. In addition to spreading the word to multiple media outlets, we secure publicity in multiple sectors of the same outlet, i.e. reaching those who might scroll past the entertainment section of a newspaper website, but covet the Food section (and welcome reading of an actress who bakes while on the road). Applying a fresh eye (and some dedicated research time), is how The Silverman Group keeps our clients in the news season after season, year after year, as always compelling and relevant.

Beyond straightforward publicity, for maintaining ongoing presence in the public eye, we have found it extremely valuable to also secure promotional appearances for cast members or client representatives, especially at events that themselves might be covered in the media. We’ve enlisted actors to serve as Grand Marshal for a downtown Thanksgiving Day Parade that’s broadcast on a national network affiliate – and attended by thousands – and a music ensemble to perform at a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by a government official, which typically attracts cameras. And even if an event is geared more to the masses than the media (such as the appearances we’ve booked at high-traffic locations such as Navy Pier or the Lincoln Park Zoo during the holidays), exposure to the right audience can spark huge positive word-of-mouth. The Silverman Group has numerous contacts at City, cultural and civic organizations that are responsible for presenting some of Chicago’s most high profile events, and frequently seek out our clients for entertainment value.