There’s a belief that more money automatically equals a better PR campaign. But that idea has been proven wrong, by an award winning campaign that brought a South African film to the rest of the world’s attention. Michael Bratt spoke to Janine Lloyd of PR Expert, the company that ran the campaign to find out how it was structured, and why it did so well.
The campaign to promote Hear Me Move, South Africa’s first dance film, has proved you don’t need a massive budget to create a hit PR campaign. The biggest challenges it faced were that the company behind it is a new business, it was the filmmaker’s first film and they didn’t know a lot about marketing or public relations. The campaign also faced budgetary issues. Coupled with the fact that the movie is in a vernacular language and no big stars were lead cast members added extra challenges to the campaign.
Its aim was to get the general public to recognise the film, want to see the film and to get them to see the filmmakers as really high quality.
“While it’s wonderful to sit and go ‘Oh I can have the most amazing budget, let’s do a huge ad campaign, let’s do radio, which we know works’, we had nothing and so you have to think differently. And you have to almost go back to basics,” says Lloyd.
This was done through several means. Firstly, the campaign identified a unique hook for the film, something that was touted whenever the PR team spoke to the media, potential partners or influencers. This was the fact that the film is South Africa’s first dance movie aimed at the urban youth.
“It’s the first of its kind in this country and the filmmakers are breaking new ground,” explains Lloyd. “We spent the time finding out the stories of the people involved in the film and promoting those,” she adds. An example she cites of this method was a lead cast member who is known as ‘the Prince of Soweto’, someone who is not very well known outside of the area, but is doing amazing things for the community.
This story was used to leverage publicity, along with many others. These also included celebrity cameos in the film, using their channels to promote the film.
Celebrities who appeared in the film include Thembi Seete, Amanda du Pont, Khanyi Mbau, Lorcia Cooper, Khutso Theledi and Boity Thulo. Lloyd says they also chose elements that were brand related, for example Cassper Nyovest contributing some music tracks to the production and tweeting about their inclusion for free.
“It was really just looking for ways to create exciting content and matching it with people who could amplify it for us. And that’s the simple strategy, there’s nothing more than that,” Lloyd summarises. These stories were included in television, radio and online interviews as well as editorials that were constantly being sent out. Another element of the campaign was the use of media partnerships, including the SABC, Good Morning Africa, LoveLife, YFM, and YoTV. The core strategy that the campaign utilised was that the celebrities, key cast members and filmmakers would become ‘ambassadors’ for PR.
Here are Lloyd’s three tips for crafting a successful public relations campaign:
- Keep it simple and don’t try and create an overly complicated campaign. You don’t have to have a big budget to make a campaign successful.
- You do have to have something intrinsically different about the campaign that you are working on. For Hear Me Move it was the fact that it was South Africa’s first dance movie. “If it had just been a normal, average, not particularly exciting film, it may not have had the traction we wanted,” Lloyd confesses.
- A filmmaker must set aside money for marketing. “A mistake filmmakers make, and this is more for new filmmakers, is they don’t necessarily put money in for marketing. They raise the funds with government bodies and most of it goes into producing the film but not much goes into marketing. When marketing and PR work together it has a much bigger impact,” Lloyd explains.
The one thing that Lloyd regrets about the campaign is that she wishes it could have included more experiential elements.
“Unfortunately with no budget, we could only do several partnership events at some key locations. If we had budget we could have done more around the country,” she says. These events included dancers from the film showing their skills through live performances, photos and videos, and having them explaining to the attendees what dance has done for their lives. “I know and I believe that’s why I’m in this industry, the power of public relations. If you get it right. So imagine if we had had support of budget, what it could have been, from a sales perspective,” Lloyd adds.
The reception from the South African audience for the film has been very positive, with Lloyd explaining that they couldn’t find one negative review of the film. The film was also well received in Nigeria, when it was shown there and there has been a lot of interest from European and US markets.
“We have a very unsupportive moviegoer in this country. I’m not blaming moviegoers in any way; I’m just saying it’s easier to support a Step Up, which does millions at the box office in South Africa, than it is to support a local film. There’s still that disconnect that local is not good enough and look at the quality of Hear Me Move, it’s superb. We still need to support our own,” she says.
She believes the South African government is doing more to promote local productions and she believes the SABC’s move towards more local content is a step in the right direction.
The results of the campaign speak for themselves. The film’s Facebook page received 22 112 likes and saw 1 330 138 impressions, 141 178 engagements and a celebrity reach of 5 294 723. The top celebrity was Thembi Seete whose top post recorded 116 941 impressions and reached 98 908 accounts.
Twitter also saw some big numbers with a celebrity, influencer and media engagement audience reach of 10 109 367 and 201 204 impressions and 5 902 engagements. A Twitter marathon that was done recorded 117 285 impressions and 42 589 accounts reached. Along with the social media reach, in total the film was also covered on 294 media platforms from broadcast to online and print. With all this publicity the movie also won some awards. It scooped Best Original Score and Best Original Script at the Kenyan Film Festival, it was nominated for three SAFTAs, winning one and it was a finalist in the Kaya FM Bizz Boost. Most recently it walked away with an award for Best Editing at the Africa Movie Academy Awards, which took place in Nigeria.
With no budget, the public relations campaign for South Africa’s dance movie, Hear Me Move, was a massive success and caused the film to have a huge presence. Here’s hoping that more South African films will cause such a stir, making the country proud.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8