Press and Marketing summer internship, Heartbreak Productions
MA Creative Writing
“By interning at Heartbreak Productions, I have improved my employability significantly by gaining practical and professional experience to compliment my academic study.”
Overview of internship
I was very fortunate to have a summer internship in the press and marketing department at the outdoor theatre company, Heartbreak Productions. I worked closely with the Marketing Manager and Marketing Assistant to deliver the 2017 season marketing campaign. This included creating content for the email campaigns and social media campaigns, as well as creating and distributing print materials for the various venues across the UK and Ireland. I also helped to contact societies to offer group bookings and liaised with press contacts to arrange interviews and reviews.
As Heartbreak is an intimate company, I had the opportunity to work closely with other departments (including Accounting and Administration), meaning that I gained extra insight into how a small, creative company works. On occasion, I helped to secure accommodation for the travelling cast members, arrange refreshments for them during their stay and compiled venue notes for further reference. I was also given the opportunity to help deliver pre-show drama and craft workshops for children. This involved setting up and supervising activities, such as making rain shakers and creating a dance to a song, which were linked to the performances on that date. Finally, to reflect upon my activity, I wrote a weekly blog on my website.
What were your main achievements?
One of my main achievements was helping to organise press in Leeds. It was three weeks before our touring companies were due to perform in Leeds and the marketing team still had not managed to secure any reviews. This was disappointing for those of us in the office who had worked hard to arrange press and for the actors who liked to see their work publicised. The Marketing Manager gave me the task of giving one last push to contact press in Leeds.
First, I researched the best contacts to ask for reviews and interviews. This meant going through Heartbreak’s Press Contact List and adding other contacts to the list that I had found on the internet (including Arts Editors of local newspapers and magazines). I also looked on Social Media sites for Arts Bloggers and at local universities for student newspapers with arts sections.
I then created a press contact spreadsheet for Leeds, which allowed me to keep track of the conversations I was having with my contacts. The spreadsheet tracked my first point of contact, second point of contact and third point of contact and allowed me to make notes on the outcomes of these. I worked through the list methodically and made sure that I was keeping track of their responses. My first point of contact was an email explaining the shows that were coming to Leeds and how we would love to gain some press for them. Unfortunately, this rarely attracted their attention, so my second point of contact was to call them directly and I found that this gained more results. In the end, I managed to secure two reviewers for the show and an interview with one of the cast members to go in a local magazine and I was incredibly pleased (and relieved).
What did you enjoy the most?
Working as part of a creative team in a theatre environment. As an intimate company with big dreams, the team work closely in fast-paced conditions that are often challenging. My dedication and enthusiasm allowed me to flourish as part of this team. It was brilliant to develop ideas in the marketing department and to see them grow and establish as each person added to and shaped them. It meant that we supported and encouraged each other when deadlines were looming and celebrated a group effort when we found solutions to challenging problems.
It was also great to work with, and learn from, other members of the company, including the actors, directors, administrators, and creative directors, who were all willing to share their knowledge with me. As a result, I managed to gain a clear perspective as to how a small touring company works, from choosing the play right through to performing it. It was incredibly rewarding to see the audience reactions to our performances and know that I played a small part in its success.
I had always known that I would enjoy working in a theatre and my internship at Heartbreak Productions confirmed that.
What were the hardest aspects?
With more shows and more venues than ever, it was a busy (occasionally stressful year) in the Heartbreak office. The marketing team were very busy, working hard to stay on top of deadlines.
One of my main responsibilities was to work alongside the Marketing Assistant and ensure that our email and social media campaigns were scheduled in advance of posting. This proved difficult because, as more urgent enquiries came into us, scheduling often took a back-seat in our concerns.
To ensure that we stayed ahead of our posting, Emily and I created a scheduling calendar that outlined important dates and deadlines. The calendar was based around two notions, ‘We’re coming’ and ‘Don’t Miss Out’. Three weeks before the company were due to be at a venue we would send out a ‘We’re Coming’ post and then a week prior to the performance we would enhance publicity with a ‘Don’t Miss Out’ post. As well as this, we marked special occasions with content too, such as ‘National Welly Day’ (which worked well considering we are an outdoor theatre company and often audiences are forced to sit in the rain) and the official start of summer.
By creating the scheduling calendar, we ensured that our followers were kept up to date with our shows as our companies toured the UK and we didn’t miss any important updates despite being busy in other areas.
What skills have you developed?
I have developed a wide range of skills, including communication, creativity, computing skills and teamwork.
Communication: As part of my internship I was required to liaise with a wide range of people on the telephone, via email and on social media. I became an adaptable and persuasive communicator who can recognise the needs of the audience and tailor my words to these needs.
Creativity: The internship encouraged me to develop my creativity in a professional, working environment. I took what I have learnt in my MA in Creative Writing and implemented it in different areas, including content creation, editing copy, and developing ideas for posts on social media.
Computing skills: My computing skills have developed significantly since starting my internship. I used Microsoft Excel to monitor tickets sales and track communication, used social media to promote a brand and got used to working with a database. I was introduced to different pieces of marketing software including Mail Chimp, which I used to create and schedule email campaigns.
Teamwork: At Heartbreak, I established myself as an important and contributing member of a creative team, offering enthusiasm and encouragement. I became confident in voicing my own ideas and encouraging to others, while also learning how to problem solve as a team.
How do you think your internship will benefit you in the future?
By interning at Heartbreak Productions, I have improved my employability significantly by gaining practical and professional experience to compliment my academic study. I have a BA in English Literature and Drama, (studying for) a Creative Writing MA and now I have professional experience working in a theatre’s marketing department, proving that I can put what I have learnt into practice.
It can be incredibly difficult to gain experience in the arts and I strongly believe that, by having this experience on my CV, I am in a better position to pursue a career in arts marketing. I have already been given interviews at the Almeida Theatre (London) and the Royal Court Theatre (London) for entry level marketing positions and - although I was not successful - it is clear that my time at Heartbreak has given me the skills and experience needed to be considered for an entry level position in a creative, marketing department.
Following my internship, Heartbreak have asked me to return to the office one day a week (paid) to help plan and manage their marketing campaign for the 2017/18 season. I intend to return to the office, continue to develop my skills and look forward to seeing how the company work year-round rather than solely in the summer months.
Thank you to donors
I would like to state my greatest thanks to the alumni and donors of the University who supported me during my internship. It can be difficult for a student to gain an internship when it is unpaid (especially in the Arts) and your funding enabled me to travel to Leamington Spa and gain the essential experience I need to pursue a career in theatre marketing.
Because of your generosity, students like myself can improve their skills and employability significantly and I am incredibly grateful for the experience you have helped me to achieve.
It is a great scheme that allows students to gain professional experience to complement their academic achievements and it helps them to become more fully-rounded individuals ready to begin successful careers.
With grateful thanks to the alumni donors who made the PGT Professional Development Bursary possible.