Front Page Headlines

      Arranged by Lee Kolozsy[1]

      

On many modern shows the post of Press Agent often goes unfilled, since it seems to be somewhat of a lost art today…

 

As an experienced publicist for many show productions over the years, I can confidently state, that in the world of Show Biz, there exists only two kinds of publicity.

 

There is GOOD publicity, and then there is GREAT publicity…

 

Any mention of an event, such as a show in town, in the papers, or on the air, is bound to benefit the management of the production. Publicity is simply advertising for which there is no charge. Furthermore, it is better than mere advertising. A mention in a column carries with it the impression of an editorial endorsement, by a well-known and trusted, familiar and reliable friend, the writer. A feature article is even more valuable. If you were to walk in the office of any small town paper, and ask about advertising rates for the front page above the fold, you would probably be laughed out of the office. You would probably never make it past the reception desk at a major newspaper office.

 

You can’t buy the front page with a million dollars…

 

However, they’ll give it to you free, if you have a good story. A good show publicist can get it for free, with a well told story, and a bit of know how.

 

I once got thousands of dollars worth of airtime on the news with a simple bit of chicanery…

 

I was strolling down the midway on the first day of the New York State Fair, and I spotted a TV news crew setting up for a live broadcast. There were a number of grips manhandling gear from the truck, a talking head with enough makeup on to star in a funeral, and a front office suit with a secretary. I noticed that the cameras were emblazoned with the channel five logo, as I made a beeline for the suit.   I grabbed his hand and pumped it as I introduced myself. “They sent me down here from the Midway Director’s office to help you with the story you guys want to do about the sideshows.” He mumbled something and turned to his sec and asked her what was on the list. She consulted her clipboard and responded that she had nothing on the assignment sheet about sideshows. I did an Emmy worthy bit of acting bewildered, glanced at the camera, and said… “My mistake partner, you guys are channel five, I was looking for channel nine, must be my disexlia…can you tell me where to find the channel nine crew?” Well, I didn’t make it two steps before he grabbed me and said… “Wait a minute, tell me about these sideshows.” He never did tell me how to find the channel nine people.

We led the five, six, and eleven, with a hook, and a live feed, all leading into a taped feature that made us an instant sensation at the event…

 

One of my former students, who now works as a political strategist, viewed the tape and said, “If you had hired a Madison Avenue ad agency to produce a slick commercial for your show, you couldn’t have gotten a better piece.”  Then…“What would you have done if they hadn’t taken the bait?” I replied without a bit of hesitation… “I would have played it in reverse at channel nine.”

 

My good friend the lion trainer was getting married…

 

He was also developing a new show and needed some publicity to help book it. His idea was to stage a legitimate wedding in the steel arena with the lions as the bridesmaids and guests. He consulted me as to how to arrange the coverage. My advice was to call the local paper at the very next performance date and invite them to the wedding, and wait for it to hit the wire services. His question was “What if it doesn’t make the national news?” My answer, … “There is no legal limit to how often a couple can have a marriage ceremony. Simply keep doing it in every new town until it does.” It was less than six months later that I clipped the piece in a small town I was playing in Michigan. It had made the AP. I later asked him how often they had to make the play before it worked. He told me he had lost count, but that he was the most married sob in Show Biz.

 

At an early age, I was reading about Houdini, and I realized that he had arranged virtually all of his greatest bookings with a book of clippings…

 

People through the ages don’t change much, and most people are terribly insecure. They generally hide it quite well behind a façade of legitimacy and social position. If you ask them to exercise any original thinking, the great majority are quite lost.  Ask them to act decisively and they will stall you and beg off. They are usually incapable of much abstract thought, and therefore are uncomfortable with ideas that are unfamiliar.

 

To sell an idea, you must be able to prove that it is a good one, and will benefit your prospect…

 

In the case of Harry Houdini, he had a number of things going for him. He had an act that was no less than sensational. Thousands of people turned out for his heavily publicized escapes, which were presented free. This would result in packed theatres for his performances, which were by now the talk of the town. It was easy to sell, because the theatre manager’s greed helped make it happen, once he pulled it off, the press coverage gave his pitch the credibility to sell it again.

 

The media coverage gained momentum and took on a life of it’s own…

 

Once you make the news, you can make it again. The more you do it, the easier it is. People in media work are no different from others, they like new ideas, they simply don’t want to risk a disaster. They will gladly try something new, once they are confident that it will work.

 

To start the ball rolling…you need a ballsy approach…

 

Faint heart never won fair lady, and fear is an indicator of weakness. When you go for it, remember that much as a doctor can bury his mistakes, if you bungle it, you will be no worse off than if you hadn’t tried. Let them write what they want and don’t worry about how they spell your name. Even misspelled is preferable to ignored. News editors are in the story business and a good story is what they’re looking for.

 

So give them a great one…

 

Remember, one hand washes the other and both hands wash the face. Both you and the media come out ahead when it clicks.

 

See you in the funny papers…


[1] My picture has been in the paper more often than Dillinger’s.

 

 

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