• Mitch Leff

You’ve Made Your Movie. Don’t Forget Your Marketing.

I’ve been doing public relations and marketing here in Georgia for about 30 years now. I love what I do, and I’ve made an effort over time to work in as many different industries as possible. So that’s translated to working with attorneys, financial services firms, private schools, nonprofits, sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics, small tech startups, and even a turkey farm.

Along the way I did a stint working for a division of Turner Broadcasting, which gave me a taste of the TV and film industry. When the industry really started taking off in Georgia a few years ago, I started trying to figure out how I could get involved in a way that didn’t require me to move to California. With all the changes over at Turner in recent years, there are a lot of us “former” Turner employees out here with lots of knowledge in our heads.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to move west, the industry came to us. It’s bred an ecosystem of set builders, prop houses, caterers, wardrobe designers—all the things that a production needs.

Many of the needed pieces have fallen into place. But one thing we didn’t see was a strong marketing resource. For several years, the industry was growing rapidly, but it was all somewhat under the radar. I hate seeing great ideas slip under the radar like that. My colleagues and I work to help companies tell those untold stories.

A great new business idea always starts with asking the tough questions, but sometimes you need to figure out what questions to ask.

In turn, we started with what is often called a “concept committee” to see if there really was a “there” there. Our team, which eventually grew into what we now call the Georgia Entertainment Public Relations Alliance, spent the better part of a year looking into that.

Our questions: “Is anyone helping companies in the entertainment industry in Georgia to market themselves?” “If not, why not?” “Is there a profitable business concept in this idea?” And, the really big question: “Where’s the money?”

In the course of our research, we met with associations, government officials, and businesses large and small. We met so many great companies that were creating new film and television content, music and digital gaming. Some are local Georgia companies who’ve been in the business for many years, but many have been drawn to our state in recent years as the entertainment industry has grown, thrived and found a new home here. Many, of course, have been drawn here by tax incentives and an environment friendly to business.

As with any business, most know their own areas of expertise. They’re creating excellent content and products, and they’re executing superb services. Their business plans are usually welldeveloped for creating their product.-


- Equipment: Check. - Office space: Check.

-Legal Counsel: Check.

-Staff: Check.


What is often missed are the necessary elements to make potential customers aware of their business. That’s the marketing piece. If no one knows you exist, well, that’s just not a good business plan.

So, how can you go about making sure you’ve got a good marketing plan in place?

It’s important to recognize where your strengths lie. A doctor may be great in the operating room, but knows he needs to hire a plumber to put in a new sink. By that same token, filmmakers must recognize that they should find a marketing partner once they’ve completed their film.

You can jumpstart your marketing effort by knowing your audiences, creating good messaging, and conducting a good analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. That might sound like a lot to do, but if you do it in small manageable pieces— little bites—it’s not too hard.

Start by answering these questions:

Audiences. Who are your customers? Who are the people, or “audiences,” you need to reach who might buy your products or services, partner with you, or refer customers your way?

Often a film will have a strong appeal to a certain age, ethnic or religious community. Look for ways to reach those audiences, but don’t forget the potential broader community.

By contrast, some organizations in our local entertainment industry might have a lot of other important groups to keep in mind. For example, we are currently working with the new DeKalb Entertainment Commission, and their important audiences include county officials, local businesses, studios, music producers, and digital gaming companies.

Oh, and don’t ever forget your own employees. They’re a very important group to keep in mind.

Messaging. How are we talking about our company, products and services?

It’s important that everyone talk about the company in the same way, both internally and externally. I’ll never forget a cocktail party I attended with a client a few years ago. She was describing to someone what her company did, and I was thinking, “That’s absolutely NOT how her boss talks about their company!” But it was a great opportunity to get the company to talk as a team about how they really wanted to describe their business.

Marketers talk about “good messaging,” which just means you’re describing your film or your company in a way that’s concise and persuasive. It’s easy to get too deep into a technical description, but it’s important to keep it human and conversational. This is about how you might describe what you do if you were in an elevator and had 30 seconds to tell a fellow rider about the business.

Analysis. Do a good, honest situation analysis of your business. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Sometimes folks call this a “SWOT” analysis.

Gather up a representative group and have a frank, honest conversation about all four of these areas. This isn’t the time to be cautious. Be totally honest around the table and you’ll be amazed at what comes out. Often, we find that people have very different opinions about what really makes their company strong.

Play up your strengths and take advantage of those opportunities. But anticipate threats and areas of weakness, and be prepared to address or respond to them.


Once you’ve done all of the above, you can start thinking about tactical ways to encourage your audiences to action. Marketing isn’t ab-out using just one tactic; it’s about doing a number of things, designed to “touch” your audiences a number of times, encouraging them to take action.

That call to action is a key part of your marketing. You want people to react, to do something, or to encourage others to act, when they hear about you. That might include:


- Buying tickets to your film

-Telling a friend about it

-Posting a review on social media

-Contacting you to see if they can work on your next production

-Offering to invest in your next project

-Inviting you to speak to a group about your work



1. Are you a member of any organizations that can help?

Look at local organizations that can help you get your message out. There are many film, music and gaming associations that can connect you with the right people, including the Georgia Production Partnership, Georgia Music Partners, and the Georgia Game Developers Association, to name a few.

Nonprofit and service organizations will also give members a forum to speak about many topics. These include Rotary, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, and Convention Bureaus.

2. Have you considered advertising?

Your advertising options include print, radio, television and online. Remember that one of the keys to an effective advertising campaign is duration. Don’t put all of your money into a few days. Rather, spread it out over several week or months.

Think also about the time of day that you’re buying. Different times will impact different demographics.

An ad campaign will require an investment in designing and producing your advertising, plus the actual cost to place each one.

3. What about adding public relations to the mix?

Public relations, often referred to as “earned media,” doesn’t require the same level of financial investment as advertising and often has a great “third-party credibility,” since reporters are telling stories (positive ones, hopefully) about you.

As with advertising, you can target your PR to specific publications, shows on certain days or times, or online media that have lots of reach.

4. Are you actively engaging on social media?

Make sure you’re talking about your film, project or service regularly on all of your appropriate social media channels. Don’t just post once and forget about it. Share on multiple days and times to best reach your audiences.

Different social channels appeal to different demographics. Instagram skews young, while Facebook appeals to an older crowd. Sometimes Twitter is a great choice, but for another project, YouTube might be better.

Always try to include photos or video with your posts. That makes them far more attractive to your followers.

5. Do you have a website that is both informative, engaging, and easy to navigate?

Creating a website is no longer the incredibly technical process it once was. Nowadays, you’ve got the option of doing it yourself or hiring someone to build it for you. I started my business with a site I built myself through a service that offered all kinds of templates. I managed my own content and edited all the text on the site myself.

Eventually, as my business grew, I had the financial resources to hire a site manager who I expected to build a site that did a bit more and had a more unique look.

An Example of How All This Comes Together

One is a project we worked on recently with Howling Wolf Productions, a Los Angeles-based production company. They were premiering a new film, Restoring Tomorrow, here in Atlanta. The documentary chronicled the restoration of the historic Wilshire Blvd. Temple in LA, with proceeds from the premiere supporting the launch of a restoration effort for Fountain Hall on the Morris Brown College campus.

Howling Wolf implemented a multi-part marketing effort, including visits to local Jewish temples to explain the film, a media-relations effort to place stories in local media, a program to leverage the Morris Brown community, and a strong social-media effort. The Regal Tara 4 theater also marketed the film through their channels. This overall effort resulted in a successful premiere and a two-week run.

For our work with the DeKalb Entertainment Commission (DEC), we had the good fortune to be able to start from scratch. Our team worked with DEC to develop their message, name, logo and website. Once that was done, we worked with them on several launch events and helped them begin building relationships with their audiences.

An ongoing public-relations effort has generated earned media across metro Atlanta. We continue to work with them to create innovative events and to position their executives as “thought leaders” in Georgia’s entertainment industry.

Georgia’s entertainment industry is no longer becoming a leader; it has arrived. It is a game changer. You are part of this state’s success. And if you need guidance to help your business thrive, you should know that there are Georgia-based entertainment professionals with businesses and/or services that can support and help you thrive along the way.

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