How do you stand out in a crowded festival?

Edinburgh Fringe

Chloé Nelkin leads Chloé Nelkin Consulting (CNC), a PR and marketing agency for the arts. Prior to establishing CNC, Chloé studied History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art graduating with undergraduate and Masters degrees; she now sits on their alumni board. As a trained classical singer, Chloé’s knowledge of opera and classical music complements her passion and understanding for work in these areas.

Tell us a bit about how you work with theatremakers at Chloé Nelkin Consulting.  

In a nutshell, we help incredible theatremakers promote their work. CNC helps companies publicise their projects so that people are aware of the amazing and diverse offerings in the arts. CNC was founded in 2010 and evolved into working with theatre clients at the beginning of 2012. We have vast experience working with theatre productions and handle shows of all sizes across all genres. Our team relish reading scripts, going to rehearsals and really getting involved with our projects. We truly love what we do and hope that passion and enthusiasm comes across in our chats with clients and the press alike.

There are thousands of shows at the Fringe. How do you grab the attention of the press, industry and the public?

Edinburgh really is a beast – we love it and the Fringe is our second home, but there’s no denying the level of competition. We look for a show that stands out in some way – does it have an interesting, personal or autobiographical story? Is there a catchy or relevant theme? Is it topical? We work with our clients to make sure we are getting across the key exciting elements of the show and capturing the zeitgeist of the summer.

What do you look for when selecting clients to take on for the Fringe?

The most important thing for us at CNC is that we love the show we’re working on and the people we’re working with. When we can, we try to look for a show that stands out and has a strong or personal story (we often have quite a gritty roster) but the key thing for us is that we feel passionate about the project. Whenever possible, we try to curate our Fringe roster with themes so that we can talk about shows in groups.

Passion is at the very heart of all CNC does. This is partly because there are no guarantees with PR — sometimes you don’t achieve the press you hope for, no matter how hard you work. While we’re very clear with our clients and never make them promises as that wouldn’t be honest, it can still be disappointing and we need to be sure we can have honest conversations with the people we work with. We truly love the projects we work on and are committed to getting them as much exposure as possible and it can be heart-breaking for us when that doesn’t happen.

How do you work with a client to make a PR plan for the Fringe?

We start early! We try to confirm our Fringe roster by the end of February to allow us time to really get to know our shows and to craft our press releases and pitches. The Fringe can creep on you, so we prefer to have lots of time to plan, prepare and have early conversations with the press.

We’ve spoken about PR but what are your suggestions for maximising your marketing while on a budget?

Of course marketing is crucial, but if you’re on a budget, don’t underestimate the importance of grassroots work. Find your target audience, and cater your messaging to them. Are there local groups you can reach out to with ticket offers? Are there shows with a similar theme that you could do some cross-promotion with? Think about what other ways you can help build word of mouth – something that’s vital in Edinburgh. 

Outdoor posters and flyers are very effective in Edinburgh. As soon as you get all your great reviews, don’t forget to print your press quotes and stars and staple them onto all your marketing material. This sounds basic, but it can really help draw attention to your show, as people often book into things quite impulsively. Be prepared to chat to people on the streets, and have your ‘elevator pitch’ ready to go so you can sell the show in person. And if you’ve got enough money in the budget, have a think about merch – everyone loves a freebie!

Any tips for first time Fringe participants?

Pack for all seasons – Edinburgh is likely to experience every kind of weather in a month. Everyone catches ‘Fringe flu’ at some point – the stress of opening and Festival Frenzy is exciting but tiring. Take care of yourself – take vitamins, eat properly, drink juice (beer doesn’t count), exercise and sleep! Make sure you go up Arthur’s Seat and take a trip to the seaside. Both are stunning. And, most importantly, enjoy it – the Fringe is an absolutely incredible festival with the most amazing wealth of theatre, comedy, circus, music and art. Try things you wouldn’t normally see, take a risk and surprise yourself. Have fun!

And finally, what types of shows would you like to see more of? 

I’m really excited this year by how many shows are blending disciplines and trying new things One show we’re working on, No Place Like Home, fuses spoken word, original music, dance and video art. While Something in the Water combines stunning video projections, puppetry and physical comedy. And Rapsody uses live rap, trap and drill. I could go on and on, as I can’t wait to see all these brave companies try new things and really push the boundaries of what theatre can be.

Thank you to Chloé for her great insight! Follow @chloenelkinconsulting on Instagram to keep tabs on all the great theatre that will be showcased at the Fringe.