Welcome everyone, this is “Ask Bob Blume”, a weekly visual column with summary that discuss’ issues pertinent to today’s entertainment industry and appears exclusively here on Times Square Chronicles.
I’m your host and president of Step Forward Entertainment, a talent management and production company located in both New York and Los Angeles.
Our column is always also a benefit for the Actors Fund COVID-19 relief effort, and I’m asking you to go to the link below (www.actorsfund.org/stepforward) and, if in position to do so, please donate.
Today’s column #58 is titled PR Tips for Artists with special guest Joe Trentacosta.
I really got to know Joe from receiving his press releases on shows and/or performers he represented as a Tony and Drama Desk voter and then he was part of my PR team, with Les Schecter and Gary Springer, the last 3 awards show under my tenure.
About Joe…With over 20 years of experience, Joe Trentacosta has created strategic public relations campaigns for the entertainment industry.
In 2014 he launched JT Public Relations and has represented clients on Broadway, Off-Broadway, festival productions, developmental industry presentations, films in release, film festivals, numerous non-profit organizations, and special events.
Over the years he has worked with names such as Tony Randall, James Earl Jones, Terrence Howard, Blair Underwood, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, John Travolta, Al Pacino, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, Lou Diamond Phillips, Vinnie Pastore and many more.
He is also the Executive Producer of the award-nominated show Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo.
Links to his website and to the show, that he’s the executive producer of, are at the end of this column.
Bob Blume: Hi Joe, thanks so much for coming on. A lot of our viewers are performers involved in the arts. Thus, if you can give them tips on how they can help themselves, it would be appreciated, as many of them cannot afford to hire a regular PR person.
Joe Trentacosta: Publicity is one of those items that you go back and forth on whether it’s worth spending the money or not. Public Relations (PR) is not cheap and then you see your counterparts getting these great PR hits. This leads you to go back and forth about how you can scratch some money up – and ask – is it going to get me what I need?
However, there are some ways that you can help yourself when working on a project. Now most projects have a publicist, whether it’s on stage, film or a TV show.
The publicist is usually brought on board for the project as a whole. That makes it easy for the publicist to recommend you for interviews, so have high-res photos available that are usable and ensure that your bio is concise.
If there’s something interesting about yourself that might stand out from the rest of the cast, you should put that in an email to the publicist. He or she is selling what they have, with other little bits and pieces of information, expands how we’re able to cover our clients. This allows you to rely on the person already being paid by someone else to promote the show.
To help your career, give them the pieces they need, so they always can keep an eye on things that are topical and how you might tie into those stories. If there’s a strange hobby or a local angle to you within the project, make sure the publicist knows about it. You’re not being annoying but helping them do their job even better.
I’m a big fan of, once you get cast and you have your first rehearsal, or you see that contact sheet, reach out for the publicist and say hi. Don’t be annoying but, when given the tools they need to succeed, you’ll see results.
Now, on the other hand, should you be cast in a show where you are third or fourth cast member, you will not get much publicity as they will focus on the stars above you. This is when you will need to hire your own publicist to get your name out there.
Again, make sure your head shots are high-res and they’re useful. Make sure that your website is up to date. Make sure that you have a bio and a couple of pitch angles that they can use to try to incorporate you into the conversation. Those are all really helpful things that can help promote your career as well as the show, and so it’s sort of a win -win for everyone.
Bob Blume: I have an example of that. When my client, Evan Brinkman had a large supporting role in Trainwreck, a big, star-studded hit with Amy Schumer, LeBron James, Brie Larson, Bill Hader, etc. We knew Evan would not receive much coverage, so we hired our own PR, and he was invited to many red-carpet events, received magazine covers and lots of interviews. This allowed him to receive many major auditions, a role on Stranger Things, and secure a major agent.
Also, this is a service industry, and should the artist be in a slow period with nothing to really promote, they and publicist can take a non-paid hiatus until the artist has items to promote or take a fee cut and just do basic maintenance. Evan did this with his publicist in LA. They only worked together when there were real details to publicize.
Joe Trentacosta: You can put a great spin on a story and promote it well, but it has to be real. All the good publicists are real.
And the great thing about being in the service industry is that you can go on hiatus if you don’t have a whole lot going on. You know, we publicists will reduce the fee and do things like, if there’s a reason to bring you up in a conversation, we will do it.
We’re happy to wait until the project happens because it’s all about selling tickets. So, whatever we have to do, and that’s usually where publicity comes in, because ultimately any interview we’re getting on any TV talk shows or the morning shows, helps build recognition and help sell tickets, and will help any career or project for the future.
Bob Blume: How do you structure fees when you work for individuals compared to more fixed fees for projects, shows, etc.
Joe Trentacosta: Where needed, fee would be dependent on just how much you can do, or kind of what they can afford, to a point.
It all depends on the project, because the hardest part, and what people don’t really understand about publicity, is that we work really hard sometimes to get a “no.”. That means that we’re putting in the time, we’re harnessing our resources and calling on relationships that we’ve built, 20 years in my case, to try to make something happen. Sometimes it just doesn’t work!
So, I always tell people that “no” is my second favorite answer. We work it out sometimes, depending on the client. Know what the monthly retainer is gonna be; however, it always gets hard when you start to say, “well if you get me the New York Times feature, then I’ll pay you.”
Bob Blume: I know, you can’t do that.
Joe Trentacosta: You can never really guarantee anything other than you’re having the right conversations, so you’re always better off having sort of a catchall retainer that works within your budget. You don’t want to go under. But the value of having a publicist in your corner fighting for you getting you out there and making sure that you’re on the desks of these powerhouse publishers is really useful, so even if they don’t cover you now, they know your name and you will not have to be introduced later. You’ll be recognized and having a publicist get you to the right place at the right time is really important.
Bob Blume: I’ll just tell a story here. Michael Katz and I used to manage Christina Bianco, the female Impressionist. When she was just getting a big break due to a video going viral, she was invited to perform on Ellen. She did not have a PR person, and to go on a major TV show in LA without a publicist looks very bad, and you get no respect. I then asked my son, Ross Blume, working for Lexicon PR in LA if we would act as her PR liaison for the show. He went over, worked on her behalf for the day ,and it helped her in future bookings and appearances.
Joe Trentacosta: Yes, PR rep is important because there are actually a lot of things that happen before you even get on those shows and the conversations that happen before, during and after. And trying to make sure that the conversations go the right way and certain questions aren’t answered.
What we try to do as much as we can is to put our clients in the most advantageous position possible.
It’s helpful when all the actor or artist has to do is show up, look pretty and be charming. Which is, you know, how most actors are when they wake up in the morning. So, we have all those other conversations that no one wants to have. It makes it a lot easier to have somebody fighting on your behalf to make sure that it’s as good as it can possibly be, because those opportunities don’t come along every day.
Bob Blume: Thank you your helpful hints and I so appreciate your time. All of Joe’s contact information will be at the bottom of this column.
I highly recommend Joe as we have worked together on and off for many years. Always, to great success!
To my clients, when they have a lot going on, I encourage them to reach out and get a PR person right away because you do want to strike when the iron is hot. Joe, have a great weekend and say hi to your wife for me too.
Joe Trentacosta: Thank you so much Bob. It was a pleasure.
Bob Blume: Thanks again for coming on. Bye for now.
Joe Trentacosta as Executive Producer
Joe Trentacosta website
Step Forward Entertainment site is http://www.stepforwardentertainment.com/
To Donate to The Actors Fund: www.actorsfund.org/stepforward
To Send in a question: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see ALL of the prior columns: ASK BOB BLUME columns