January 31, 2009

Press Coverage of a Storytelling Festival: Troy, Alabama

Storytelling festivals often complain about how difficult it is to get press coverage. For one thing, they are competing with other events, from music to theatre to art to sports. I've also heard complaints from organizers that the press that do cover the event don't know the art form. (Note to organizers: hard to build recognition of your art form if you only hold an event (and invite the press) once a year)

This year, the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival (January 30-31, held in Bundridge and Troy, Alabama, (pop. 2,341 and 13,935, respectively) and sponsored annually by the Brundidge Historical Society with support from Troy University, the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts) can't complain.

The festival had not one, but five stories in the local news. And that doesn't include the December 29 article essentially publishing the Festival's press release.

Four featured tellers. Four feature articles the week leading up to the Festival, plus a local angle feature:

Last Saturday: Windham returns to storytelling festival

Monday: ‘The Donald’ is back by popular demand
Check out the lede for this article:
Donald Davis.

Enough said.

Think reporter Jaine Treadwell is a storytelling fan?

Tuesday: Lepp brings tall tales to stage

Wednesday: Deedy: Ball of storytelling energy

Thursday: Unfamiliar storyteller to become familiar after weekend
Although the lede for this article focuses on the regional teller appearing at the festival, the article manages to really emphasize the role of the 18 local musicians who will be playing at the event. Not unexpected for a small town paper to recognize its citizens in such a way.

Oh, and in a column for the paper (published last Saturday), Ms. Treadwell admits it: she's hooked on storytelling.

Small town. Southern state (with a strong history of oral culture). Reporter who's an aficionado.

You could say there's a perfect storm of contributing factors to make this festival appear to be the prime cultural event in the local news.

What can you take away from the Pike Piddlers' example for your storytelling event?

1 comment:

Sean said...

Always enjoyed the fact that Storyteller.net offered boatloads of coverage for events with audio and video opportunities, essentially creating a warehouse of information that future reporters could draw from for coverage and referral.

Also our coverage would create a place for future audiences to find out what the event was all about- by going back and hearing and seeing the event from last year.

However:

Number of festivals that took advantage of the chance: 0

Number of national organizations that took advantage of putting their events online for archive and information: 0

We still covered several festivals, at my expense. One of the Utah fests in particular didn't lend much support our presence but did link, for many years, to our Amphitheater site covering their event. The big national events got lots of coverage from us, but never any acknowledgement. Why continue? All the coverage of any event I wanted as long as I paid for it. LOL.

I have essentially given up on doing these archival processes as the event folks could not or would not latch on. So sad.

You want to know: What we can learn?

: Most festival and/or event organizers need lessons in marketing, something from the last few decades at least.

For example, how many festivals have blogs? Living, breathing updating blogs or ways for the audience to interact before and after the event? I know this is hard to do but we have to do it.

See also:
Bowl, Super- Commercials as Interactive Media Events;

We also learn, as in this case you cite, that it helps to be lucky and to find a reporter who loves the art.

YOU, Tim, are right on target about the need to have multiple events throughout the year that reporters can latch on to before we try to get them to report the BIG events. Publicity grows publicity. (Speaking of which, I need to go write the Kevin Cordi Press release now. Thanks for the reminder.)

Publicity is not about advertising in our own backyards. "Why would I be on the internet? You're not in my county!"

Reporters are busy people who have more to cover than they can ever cover. If you want their attention next year, you need to start sending them *quality* press info today.