AS I SEE IT - 10/21/2003:
Promoting your indy promotion online
by: Bob Magee
Seven months ago...I wrote a column regarding the ways that independent promotions can promote their products. With the feedback I received on it...as well as some of the good promotion of indies I've seen over the last seven months since the article appeared...as well as the bad, it seemed like a good time to discuss the issue again.
As most of you, PWBTS, the flagship site of this column, features lots of coverage of independent wrestling. As someone who happily shills independent wrestling promotions whenever possible, one of the things that's the most maddening to me is the way independent promotions seems to have no sense about the basic sorts of things that they need to do to promote their product.
As I did months ago, I'd like to offer some observations as to some of those things I think that promotions need to do to publicize their product online.
I realize that some people may find some of the suggestions listed below to be painfully obvious, but trust me...they aren't. All too many independent promoters don't use some or all of these ideas. I've seen all too many cases where promoters don't...well...promote... and crowds suffer accordingly.
You don't need to attend the Wharton School of Business to know that Marketing Theory 101 says whether you're running wrestling shows or selling hamburgers, the most important thing is to
advertise your product.
Along with the usual (and necessary) grunt work of postering, leafleting, and flyering (and getting sponsors to defer the cost)...which is necessary no matter what kind of fan base you have, the most cost-effective way to promote your shows is online.
Here's some of the things that can be done... that don't cost much and can potentially help a lot.
- First, does your company have a website? If not, why not? it's one of the easiest ways to promote your product to fans. A website doesn't require technical genius to put up and keep current. Basic ones also aren't expensive.
- Geocities, Tripod, and others allow you to create and host websites free. So do many internet service providers. Many ISP's will let you post a personal/hobby page, which could serve as your promotion's page.
- If you want to spend a bit more money, you can also buy a domain name (e.g. http://www.mywrestlingpromotion.com) and pay a basic monthly fee to have it hosted.
What should that website consist of?
If nothing else, it should use intelligible English. Use spell check. Just write it simply with items such as these:
- Tell fans when your upcoming shows are...far enough in advance to let them make plans and so they don't attend a nearby competitor's show instead.
- Tell fans where the shows are, and how to get to the shows. The locations of your shows should be listed on your website, with directions from nearby areas, using local landmarks and major highways. You can also use Expedia or Mapquest to illustrate where you're running a show.
California's Revolution Pro is one example of how this is done, listing an upcoming show at the Boys and Girls Club in Harbor City, CA and telling fans to click for a map of the show's location here.
If possible, you can also use a existing map, especially if the venue has one available, such as this map, which is being used to help fans find their way to the Ultimate New Jersey Sports and Memorabilia Convention in Secaucus, NJ on November 8. The Convention features Mick Foley, John Cena, Matt Hardy, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Al Snow, Raven and other stars from the worlds of sports and entertainment.
The show, is just off Exit 16E of the New Jersey Turnpike, and fans not having proper directions otherwise might wind up in the Lincoln Tunnel in Manhattan, the Tappan Zee Bridge, or any one of a hundred towns in North Jersey.
You can also use one like this of a nearby
landmark... namely, a large IKEA which is directly across the street of the Rex
Plex, the venue for the loaded November 1 Elizabeth, NJ Ring of Honor show featuring AJ Styles vs. "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson, Low Ki vs. Homicide. and Steve Corino vs. CM Punk vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Samoa Joe (managed by Jim Cornette.
- Tell fans who is on the show and tell fans your current storyline behind key matches, so fans feel there's a reason to come to see them.
- Tell the fans what your tickets cost, and where they can get tickets. If you have standard ticket costs, list them. If you have remote ticket locations (local merchants that sell tickets for you), list them and where the merchants are located.
If you have an e-mail address, hotline, or ticket phone line (local numbers or
toll-free 800/877/888 numbers are preferable), list those as well.
If possible, have a part of your website devoted to online ticket orders. Some promotions, depending on which venues they run, may have to utilize Ticketmaster.com, Tickets.com, or other regional ticket brokers. If that's the case, you obviously have no problem. Let Ticketmaster do the work. But be sure to post a direct order link for
your show, as opposed to just a generic link to Ticketmaster.com.
For the rest of you, check out the examples of the CZW's Online Ticket Reservations System or Ring of Honor's online ticket reservations site as ways that you can use your website to sell tickets to your show.
Both allow ticket orders online. Some sites will accept credit/debit cards. Others use PayPal or similar systems. Find out which works best for your needs and your budget.
Sell your merchandise.
Let's face it, if you're an independent promoter, you need every revenue stream that there is....or in English, you need any way you can to make a dime.
Some promotions are small enough that the wrestlers just sell gimmicks at the shows. But others can also do so on their website.
Here are some examples from promotions of varied sizes.
- Ohio Valley Wrestling uses their
Shop OVW page to sell videos of OVW TV shows and major shows at such venues as Louisville Gardens, programs, t-shirts, and other gimmicks.
- Carolina Wrestling Federation uses their online Store to sell videos, autographed photos and other wrestling items.
- NWA-Wildside uses their online Merchandise Section to sell videos, CDs, t-shirts, and baseball caps.
Promotions can also use tape dealers like Smart Mark Video, RF Video, TC Tapes.net to sell and tape their shows; or use Highspots.com to sell tapes and a variety of other merchandise.
Those are just some very basic suggestions for what you can include on a basic website, and some examples of how some independent promotions do those very things.
Now, does your promotion send out press releases before a show, or results afterwards to websites like PWBTS...or the Wrestling Observer...or to online wrestling newsgroups?
If not, why not?
First, press releases. They don't have to look something out of Northwestern University's School of Journalism.
First, it's not necessary to capitalize everything...or use exclamation points throughout the release you send to a website. We know you want people to come to the show, so write an intelligent sounding release that makes your company, and the show you're promoting, look good.
The things you need to include are largely the things we've discussed above... namely to:
- Tell fans when the show is
- Tell fans where the show is
- Tell fans how to get to the show
- Tell fans who is on the show
- Tell the fans what tickets cost, and where they can get tickets.
Again, any basic business course would tell you that a business must make it as easy as possible for a customer to give you their money.
But you'd be surprised at the e-mails I receive that don't provide each of those items. You'd also be surprised at the way some of those e-mails are written. To be blunt, I get some press releases that look, at best, like a third grader wrote them.
Again, press releases don't need to look like something out of Northwestern University's School of Journalism...but it would be nice if they had correct spelling and at least reasonably good grammar. That's why Bill Gates made spell-check, folks.
I've gotten promotional shills for shows that I had to spend 15 minutes re-writing in order to post them at PWBTS. I refused to run shills for a particular New Jersey-based independent, because the promotion's shills were written so poorly that the company should have been embarrassed to send them out in public. Recently someone else took over the duties for the promoter, and I've been running their shills again.
Remember that your press release/shill is how a new fan sees you. If your press release is professionally written (or at least literate), that new fan is more likely to read it, and their money is more likely to come your way.
A good example of press releases that accomplish this were the releases done by the Florida-based MLW. They push the shows regularly...list the ways that fans can buy tickets...what talent is on the shows...and repeat, repeat, repeat to get it into a fan's head that their show is worth coming to...then describe why, with each update they send.
Another good example are the releases from IWA Mid-South Wrestling. They don't come with bells and whistles, but they give you all of the above
information... doing just what they need to do.
Now where you do send those press releases?
- To wrestling websites such as PWBTS (feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org); Jess McGrath, Mike Johnson, and Georgianne Makropolous at 1wrestling.com; email@example.com for the Pro Wrestling Torch; Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer
- Widely distributed mailing lists of upcoming shows supplied to websites such as Devon Cuttingr or Nate Stein.
- Newsgroups such as the Yahoo Indy Wrestling Groups, which is both mailed to many fans as well as an interactive group on which you can promote your shows.
- To regional wrestling websites, such as Socaluncensored.com, GreaterCincyWrestling.comor Chicagowrestling.comthat cover a variety of independent promotions in their area.
- To the mainstream press, such as your local daily or weekly newspaper. See if that newspaper has a weekly wrestling column. Newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, Miami Herald, New York Daily News, the Dallas News, and Charleston Post and Courier (just to name a few) have such columns. They'll often run shills for your show.
Mainstream press coverage is a Godsend for your promotion. I noted a small item in the Baltimore Sun about Ring of Honor's debut show in Baltimore. You can't buy that.
If your local newspaper is a smaller weekly or daily, send it to whoever runs a section for community events, particularly if the event is to benefit a local charity, church, or community group. That's always a good hook.
- To your local TV station, especially if the event is to benefit a local charity or community group.
Put together a e-mailing list of regular contacts and send it out to them to plug each and every show you run.
- Get your fans to put together an e-Street Team....that is, provided they know how to write, or provide them with the information to send yourself. Have them talk you up on message boards, websites, and newsgroups.
Make being a fan of your company not just a fun evening, but a responsibility. ECW was the best-known example of this. Fans all but MADE mainstream wrestling publications pay attention to ECW. Those fans were ECW's best asset, because they felt obligated to let people know about the product.
Now, let's talk about sending out results, including accurate crowd counts.
Let me use an example of a particular promotion I report on frequently. In the eyes of their fans they often receive what they believe to be unfair treatment and/or lack of coverage by online sources, the Wrestling Observer, and newsstand publications about their major shows.
In one example, the promotion believed that the Observer report low-counted their crowd by a good 25-30% (thus ignoring the fact that they drew their second highest crowd ever). Some online news sources based crowd counts on what they receive via e-mail. If someone sending results didn't like the show, or has a grudge against your promotion, they may low-ball you with a ridiculously low crowd count, and make you look bad.
I know there have been times in the past when the same promotion's fans and staff were upset at 1wrestling.com for reviews of shows that were posted. I've seen where their fans and staff basically said "f#&@ them [1wrestling.com]". They said pretty much the same thing in this case regarding what they feel the Observer report said.
Let me say this. This particular promotion is friendly to me, as I've gone to their shows since the very beginning. I've generally liked their product, and feel I've given them fair reviews.
That's all well and good.
But the fact of the matter is that a site like 1wrestling.com gets more hits in an hour then PWBTS does in a day. A newsletter like The Wrestling Observer gets at least as many readers on a weekend than I get page views in a week. The Observer's reputation is also far more well-known and respected by wrestling fans than PWBTS or this column will ever be in my wildest dreams.
Therefore, giving me information to publicize their product is a good thing, but it'd be far better if they also did the same for 1wrestling.com, the Observer, or ther Torch.
Let me use an example from a different field of entertainment. If you wrote a Broadway play, and had a previous play you'd written panned by the New York Times; does that mean that you'd stay pissed off at them and wouldn't try to use them to promote your next play, and would just send your releases to Newsday?
Not if you have any sense, you wouldn't.
You'd spend some time talking to the reviewer (yes, promoters, that means kissing up with such things as press passes, or interviews with your talent) and try to get them on your side. After that, you need to deliver a good product, hopefully. Without a good product, no kissing up to the press will help.
In the same way, independent promotions that are able to do so should spend some time with the Dave Meltzers, Wade Kellers, Jess McGraths, and Mike Johnsons of the world, and develop relationships with them so as to get fair reviews for their product and encourage new people to come to shows.
Again, send your results... that night or the next morning to wrestling websites such as PWBTS to me at firstname.lastname@example.org); or to Jess McGrath, Mike Johnson, and Georgianne Makropolous at 1wrestling.com; to email@example.com for the Pro Wrestling Torch; or to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer...to name just a few.
Give a basic outline of who went over, major storylines that were advanced, how well you drew (especially if the crowd was good for your promotion), and a reminder of when your next show is happening. If you had a good show and drew a good crowd, make a point to get the word out...that's advertising, too.
I'm not a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. I'm just trying to provide some thoughts from the viewpoint of a person who wants to see independent wrestling succeed....at a time when wrestling fans need
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)