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Working with Public Relations Departments: Building the Relationship and Providing the Right Materials
Greg Parry
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One important aspect that you should consider when you start a new job is your relationship with that person who are dealing with him or her. There are three things the public relations department will need from you. The first two, a head shot and a bio, are pretty standard and are probably part of your contract. The third, which is mostly in your hands, is your good will and cooperation.

Getting to Know You
The public relations professionals are always looking for media opportunities, and those opportunities usually revolve around people. When a new group of artists arrives, many companies have a “meet and greet” with the regular staff. Take advantage of this opportunity and introduce yourself to the public relations person. If the company does not have a meet and greet, stop by the public relations office during the day and introduce yourself. It will probably take five minutes out of your day, but it will serve two purposes.

First, it will remind the public relations person that you are at the company. When media opportunities arise, the public relations person is more likely to use someone they have met. They need to be assured that the people they are going to present to the media are articulate.

Second, you can let the public relations person know about information beyond your biography that might be of interest to the local press. Let them know if you have a connection with the community. Do your grandparents live close by? Did you go to a local high school?

When you are asked to do an interview, prepare in advance. Think about the type of questions you may be asked and have your answers ready. A lot of questions can be predicted: Why did you become an artist? What is it like performing with this particular company? What is the difference between working in a professional company versus a university? Answers should not be negative. Don’t tell them you started singing because there was nothing else to do, or that you are singing with your new company because no one else would hire you. Those answers may sound funny and interesting to your friends, but they are not appropriate in a professional setting.

TV & Photographers
If you are being interviewed or will be performing on television, avoid clothing with strong patterns. If you know you are going to be photographed in any context, avoid clothing with logos or slogans. This may come up if there are photographers coming to a rehearsal or movement class. I have had to discard some great photographs because of a slogan or logo emblazoned across a tee-shirt.

Sending Materials
I recommend that, as soon as you are contracted, you send a biography and head shot electronically. This reduces time the P.R. person spends transferring your hard copy data into an electronic format, providing more time for him/her to promote your production. It also reduces errors and is less expensive for you.

Bio Basics
  • Make sure you have an accurate list of works you have performed.
  • Check spelling of artists.
  • Remember how upset you were when your name was misspelled in a program? It is equally frustrating for composers and librettists of new works. If you have performed in a world premiere, it is a nice addition to your bio. But, the public relations people will probably not be familiar with the creative artists or the name of the new work. The performance program should be an accurate guide. Get their names right: Is it Greg Parry or Gregory Parry?
  • List the correct title of the work with accurate accents.
    Is it Beggar’s Opera or The Beggar’s Opera? The correct title is Die Zauberflöte, not Die Zauberflote. Generally, if you have sung the work in English you should use the English title: The Magic Flute, not Die Zauberflöte.
  • List the titles of work in italics, not in UPPER CASE.
  • >
  • The use of upper and lower case can be important to a title, and context may not always be obvious to someone unfamiliar with the work. Be equally careful with scholarships, awards, and competitions.
  • One final note:
    When I send a text document electronically to an “outside” computer, I do two things to make sure it is readable by the computer on the other end. I always cut and paste the text of the document (in this case, your bio) into the body of the e-mail . (Bios are relatively short, so this should not be a problem.) I also save the document as a “rich text” file, and that is the file I attach to the e-mail. If you do these two things, the computer on the other end should always be able to read your document.

  • Head Shots for P.R. Purposes
    In most cases, head shots are used in house programs and in advance stories. While newspapers usually prefer shots of an actual production, articles that are published in advance of the rehearsal/performance period may rely on head shots. For example, a lot of magazines will be working on materials now that get published months later. It may be a long shot that your photo is actually used, but it is certain not to be printed if the public relations department does not have it on file. Here are a couple of things you need to consider when sending an electronic head shot to the public relations department:
  • Send a file that is big enough to look good when it is printed, but not so large that it is difficult to e-mail or store on a computer. Ideally, you should send a file that is four or five inches tall. If you have it, send a color shot, because it is easy to convert a color file into black and white.
  • Save the photo(s) as a .jpg file at 300 dpi. Jpg files are photo files saved in the popular and common format that compresses the photo information and is easily opened by most computer programs. The letters “dpi” stands for “dots per inch.” At 300 dpi, your head shot file will be suitable to be printed in many different print publications. Label your photo properly. “Myheadshot” may work on your personal computer, but when you send it off to a company, I suggest you label it starting with your last name, followed by your first name or your initials (“Parry_Greg” or “ParryG”). A photo file like the one I have just described should easily fit on your personal computer’s hard drive and not clog up the e-mail system when you send it as an attachment.

  • Getting an electronic head shot
    If you are having head shots done by a professional photographer, get them to give you an electronic version on a photo CD. In addition to the 4-5 inch tall, 300 dpi .jpg file, you should also receive a very high resolution “master shot” and a couple of lower resolution .jpg files. Chances are, you will never personally deal with the “master shot,” as it will be in a professional photo editing program such as PhotoShop. If needed, you can give copies of that file to PR departments, but you will most likely not be able to send it by e mail, since the file will be huge. You will also be able to take your disc into a photo processing shop and get high quality hard copies made.

    In addition, you may want to receive a “Web” version. This is a photo that will only be suitable for viewing on a computer screen. Again, it should be a .jpg file, but it will only need to be 76 dpi and should again be a least five inches tall. The combination of correct materials sent in a timely fashion and the establishment of a relationship with the company’s P.R. professional will help the company promote your production, and you may end up with some excellent press materials for you and/or your manager to use for building future media interest.