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Flash Advice, 9-1: Flack Attack 2004
The Best Publicists in New York

"Without adequate publicity, all efforts fail."

--Joseph Pulitzer

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

Following recent requests, I thought it was time to update my (emphasis on my; no one else at the Dance Insider is responsible for what follows) annual and now solicited advice on where to find a dance publicist if you're producing your own concert in New York. No list is objective, but to try to assure fairness, I've adjusted the ground rules a bit: This year's order is not dictated by any sort of ranking, but by the intended flow of this article; everyone on the list below is someone or some agency I can recommend without hesitation. I have, however, noted at the end of each entry where the publicist's strengths lie -- e.g. modern dance, post-modern, ballet, hybrid, etcetera. There's at least one major omission on this list with which some of my respected colleagues might disagree, so this is a good time to urge you to seek other opinions besides your correspondent's -- most critically, those of other companies or theaters your candidate has repped.

But first, here are some things you should look for -- at least from the perspective of this writer and editor, who not only covers dance concerts but reviews hundreds if not thousands of press releases from around the world and has relationships with dozens of press reps, with a view towards seeking coverage from other Dance Insider writers for the potentially more interesting events. First, your publicist should know dance and dance media. (Sounds pretty basic, but you should see some of the press releases I get... or never receive.) He or she should know your work or, if that's not the case, be open to learning about it. Ideally, he or she should like the work so that subsequent press releases will be written with passion, attempts at securing coverage made with conviction. The publicist should be able to write with freshness about your 'product'; take a look at previous press releases to see if the same generic adjectives and verbs come up over and over again. Your rep. should have manners. Ideally, he or she should have an exhaustive press list and, even better, demonstrated mutually respectful relationships with editors who determine coverage. In other words, you want to know that your publicist's press releases will be read, and his or her calls returned.

Here, then, are some publicists whose press releases and other communications always get this editor's attention. (In-house theater publicists and marketing directors are not included on this list for the practical reason that their commitments to their theaters make them unavailable to you. But I can't resist adding that the Joyce and Symphony Space have some major work to do in this area, while the New Victory just got stronger, adding veteran Karen Girty, formerly marketing director of the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, to an already platinum PR/Marketing team headed by Lauren Daniluk.)

Triple-threat: There aren't many publicists around who can write original press releases, design dynamic advertising banners, and are trained dancers to boot. But this description fits Tom Pearson, who set up his own shop last year after a three-year posting as PR and marketing manager for Dance Theater Workshop. It's no easier writing press releases than it is being green; unlike dance reviewers, publicists usually don't have the advantage of seeing the performance before they need to hype it. But Pearson miraculously manages to find the turns of phrase that keep the eyes of overwhelmed assignment editors and potential reviewers from glazing over, which has helped find him clients like Rebecca Lazier, Christine Jowers, and Isabel Gotzkowsky. Strengths: Modern, post-modern, hybrid, 'ethnic.' Try Tom at tpearson@nyc.rr.com.

New Attitude: Also scoring high in the writing department is William Murray, who formerly ran the PR shop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music before leaving to start Better Attitude Inc. In his press release style, Murray has pulled off the incredible feat of not seeming to be hyping a client, but simply relaying useful information about an upcoming and potentially intriguing event. This is a publicist with Authority, one whom critics and editors regard as a colleague, not a "flack." (There's a reason journalists sometimes apply a word describing unwanted fire to publicists; no one tries to duck Murray's press releases.) He's also got the stature that makes him unafraid to bark back, which, when deserved, can have a humbling effect on a haughty editor. Murray is a Big Picture guy; when I contacted him last year to try to reach Mark Morris, not realizing he no longer represented the choreographer, he could have passed the buck but instead made a concerted effort to put us on touch with the artist. Clients have also included Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, New York Theatre Workshop, Spoleto Festival (Italy), the Museum of Modern Art, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, and Zingaro. Strengths: Modern, post-modern, hybrid, international. Contact William Murray at william@betterattitude.com. Yes, he's that rare publicist with a Web site.

Nice Guys Finish First: These would be Kevin McAnarney and Grant Lindsey, who occasionally work together. Both send out press releases way in advance -- crucial for securing magazine and Sunday Times coverage -- and both are amenable to sending out reminders closer to the event. They're also a pleasure to work with. McAnarney's press releases are marked by their ebullience; Lindsey's by their seriousness. McAnarney's clients have included American Ballet Theatre, Career Transition for Dancers, National Ballet of Cuba, and Hamburg Ballet. Strengths: Ballet, hybrid ballet-Broadway, gala events, and visiting international and national companies. Lindsey's clients have included Dancenow/NYC, Gabrielle Lansner, Peter Pucci, Maria Benitez, Julio Bocca's Boccatango, Valerie Norman and Lydia Johnson. Strengths: Modern, post-modern, hybrid, 'ethnic.' E-mail McAnarney at Kppm@aol.com, and Lindsey at Grantlnds@aol.com

Nice Gals do too: Our late colleague Gary Parks introduced her to me as "the nicest publicist" out there, and in nine years, Ross has yet to let Gary or me down. Clients include Ballet Tech, Buglisi-Foreman, Nai-Ni Chen, and the Limon Dance Company. Strengths: Modern, "ethnic," ballet, Broadway, dance-theater hybrid, and non-performance events such as competitions, awards ceremonies, and galas. Contact Ross at AudreyRossPub@aol.com.

The Cool One: Spin Cycle's Ron Lasko's hipness isn't just superficial; he also writes colorful press releases. When you're repping newbie and other up-and-coming companies -- often performing at P.S. 122 or the NYC Fringe festival, two longtime Lasko clients -- with few or no press clips available, this is not an easy task. Strengths: Post-modern, hybrid, opening and after-parties. Contact Lasko at Spin160@aol.com.

Make-over: If any theater in New York has been in need of a PR and marketing make-over, it's been the Joyce. The theater's marketing department is still problematic, but it's taken a huge step on the PR front by hiring Richard Kornberg Associates as its new publicist. Kornberg and his able associate, Tom D'Ambrosio, are consummate and thorough professionals, from getting out the advance PR to arranging for tickets for working press to promptly fielding follow-up questions. An extra plus is that by hiring this agency, you tap into its contacts in the theater press as well as dance. Past clients have included Momix, Complexions, Parsons, and "RENT." Strengths: Modern, dance-theater hybrid, mainstream, Broadway or Broadway-bound. Contact D'Ambrosio at Tomdamb@aol.com.

The Big Picture Many is the time I haven't heard about a self-produced Joyce or Joyce Soho concert until it is too late to secure coverage. This happens when a (usually) out of town company hires a (usually) anonymous publicist, often not even a specialist in dance -- or, worse, decides to do its own publicity. Zachary Hastings Hooper, the out-sourced publicist for Symphony Space, is doing something I've never seen before from a theater's publicist: Besides sending out monthly highlights for Symphony Space which include not just events the theater is producing, but self-produced concerts, he also gives the names and contact info for these events' publicists. Strengths: General arts publicist. Contact Hooper at Zachary@rosengrouppr.com.

Honorable mention Technically speaking, Laura Colby of Elsie Management isn't a publicist. But she's the only agent I know of besides World Arts who understands the importance of cultivating the media, by which, of course, one is also ultimately courting presenters and fans. If you're looking for an agent who gets the Big Picture like this, try Colby at laurac@elsieman.org

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