Conversations | Susan L. Schulman on Publicity for Performing Artists
“Use whatever makes you special to market yourself and your art.” – Susan L. Schulman
Susan L. Schulman is a theatrical press agent who draws on more than four decades of experience, specializing in entertainment including Broadway, Off-Broadway, dance, film, and more. She launched Susan L. Schulman Publicity in 1978, in the heart of Times Square, and since then has represented many stars of the stage and the screen. She has also handled all aspects of publicity and marketing for theatrical productions, authors, and other clients in the entertainment industry.
Schulman has graciously agreed to distill her years of experience into a few concrete pointers that the performing artist can utilize as they work to create and build an audience for their work.
Read on to learn more about Schulman’s career and gain a sneak peak into the advice she offers her clients.
NYFA: What are some first steps a performing artist can take to begin promoting themselves and their work?
Susan L. Schulman: Create a website with your name or your business as the URL. Don’t be clever and esoteric with the website’s URL; no one will find you! A website should serve two goals: to provide information to the media about you and your work, and to help you generate more work, more bookings, and more sales, etc. You don’t need endless bells and whistles (like animated graphics or numerous multi-media components, unless you are a filmmaker), but your website should be clear and easy-to-navigate with contact information for you or your representative. Always include a way to gather the email addresses of people interested in your current and future work.
NYFA: Do you have advice for networking, in-person and online, especially for artists who may not live in New York City or a major theater center?
SLS: There are no rules for networking except that you often have to go outside your comfort zone to connect with people. We are all shy. Reach out to people you admire on social media. Ask friends if they would be willing to ‘open a door’ for you either in person or via email. Most people are pleased to be asked for assistance, but remember to always ask if you can help them in return. It sounds simple, but often we forget that everyone can use help—even those who seem far more successful than us. And if they don’t need help, they will be pleased you offered.
NYFA: Your clients have lauded you as “wonderfully imaginative and creative” in your work. What are some ways in which an individual artist can take a creative approach to promotion?
SLS: Everyone is unique so there are no proven rules. Use whatever makes you special to market yourself and your art. Think of yourself as a ‘product’ you are selling. Who or what makes up your primary market, and how can you reach them?
NYFA: Are there any quirks in the field of publicity for performance of which artists should be aware?
SLS: Avoid superlatives—no editor is impressed to hear someone is “the best, the most original, extraordinary, or unique.” Show them, don’t tell them. If you can quote someone important singing your praises, go for it. Providing sharp, interesting photos can increase coverage, always with attached captions and photo credits, with 300 dpi minimum. And vertical photos are used more often than horizontal.
NYFA: You’ve had a longstanding career in theatrical press. Is there any one particular campaign that stands out to you? What made that campaign a success?
SLS: There are too many publicity campaigns to single one out. It always comes down to figuring out who your market is and then finding a way to reach them.
Susan L. Schulman has been a theatrical press agent for more than 40 years, specializing in live entertainment including Broadway, Off-Broadway, dance, film, Special Events, TV, books, and individual personalities. Schulman has represented many extraordinary Broadway and television actors including Tony winners Karen Ziemba and Brian Stokes Mitchell; Tony nominees Harry Groener and Kathleen Chalfant; and Emmy Award-winner Susan Hampshire. She has handled the publicity for national tours of Porgy And Bess and Man Of La Mancha as well as such non-profit arts institutions as Repertorio Espanol, The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, and Circle in the Square. Schulman was previously Director, Press Information at CBS-TV Entertainment, and is currently an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts, where she created and teaches a course in Theatrical Publicity and Audience Development. Learn more about Schulman at schulmanpublicity.com, and read her book Backstage Pass to Broadway to learn more about her career.
– Interview conducted by Mirielle Clifford
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Images, from top: Schulman and Karen Ziemba at a Tony Awards event sponsored by Audemars Piguet; Schulman and George C. Scott; Schulman and Mary Martin