Ever wondered what being a Press and Communications Manager entails? Sagar Shah shares with us a day in his life as Press and Communications Manager at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC).
It's October*. I wake up and I read the news. I’m a media junkie – the orangey-blue glow of my phone is frequently the last and first thing I look at every day. It’s probably not healthy, but it certainly doesn’t harm being a Press and Comms Manager.
I bookmark anything that’s interesting or relevant for my colleagues – keeping my colleagues informed is part of the job.
On my way into work I’m listening to podcasts. Maybe Front Row or a new comedy podcast or something thought-provoking.
I get into work and I’m still listening. Fun stories can come from anywhere, being nosey (or curious, as I like to think of it) certainly helps when working in press and communications.
In my role I’m responsible for several areas. I talk to the media about what BAC is – from showcasing genre-defying performance, to supporting change-makers in our local community, to being a centre of radical history. I build relationships with journalists, influencers, and writers. I try and identify interesting details that really reveal BAC and seek out the best people in the media to tell those stories. I ask critics to review shows, organise interviews with artists or pitch photo stories exploring our archives.
I try and keep a helicopter view of what’s happening at BAC and look for any potential reputational risks. I also reflect to my colleagues what’s happening in the wider world and what people are saying about us.
It’s late morning and I’ve flicked through my emails. A festival in Australia is announcing its programme the next day and want to check some details on a BAC Production. I check their press release and send back amends.
Now it’s time for a comms kick-off meeting with a visiting theatre company. I work on literally dozens of different projects that are at different stages of their comms cycle. A few months before a show opens I’m writing a press strategy, drafting press releases and doing long-lead pitching. A few days out I’m setting up production photoshoots, organising press nights and working with my marketing colleagues to ensure they have what they need to create rich, digital content for all our channels. The kick-off meeting happens before we’ve even announced a show. I really look forward to these – there’s nothing more energising and exciting than hearing directly from artists about their work!
It’s lunchtime and I’m meeting with my friend and fellow PR, Ariane Oiticica. I’m in-house, therefore I’m constantly collaborating with external PRs. We talk about The Agency, hugely successful project which provides training, support, funding and advice to help young people create projects to benefit the local community. I also mention a Brazilian show in BAC's upcoming Going Global season, When It Breaks It Burns, which sees fifteen young people who participated in school protests across Brazil in 2015 coming to the UK to tell their story.
When it Breaks it Burns by coletivA ocupação, Battersea-Arts-Centre, (c) Mayra-Azzi
She immediately recognises the location of the production photos as Teatro Oficina – a legendary Sao Paulo space with a long history of challenging, counter-cultural work. I now have a new angle with which to pitch the show and am reminded of the benefits of consulting with people who have direct cultural experience of the topics I’m dealing with.
It’s the afternoon and I’ve been on the phone, pitching a corporate story – BAC’s launch as a Relaxed Venue. A national newspaper wants to cover it, as do a few industry outlets. I receive an email from one of our Agents – they’ve been approached by Amnesty International for an interview. The interview is in a few hours – I contact the magazine to find out as much as possible about the piece, and then work with the Agent to come up with key messages about their project. A few practice interviews later and they’re feeling much more confident.
A news alert pops up – more reviews of Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas’s show ONE have been published. Some quick analysis reveals that the reviews have been shared hundreds of times across social media in just a few hours.
I think about the day I’ve had and am reminded that comms people are the windows of an organisation – they communicate out, but they also reflect the wider world in. That's why keeping a diverse and inclusive perspective is so important.
It’s 6pm and there’s no press night tonight, so I can switch off and head out.
It’s late at night, I’m in bed, and as I flick through Twitter a news alert pops up – BAC Production Frankenstein: How To Make Monster’s Adelaide dates have been announced. I’m on Australia time. It’s definitely time to sleep.
Frankenstein: How To Make Monster, a BAC Production. (Credit: Joyce Nicholls)