By: Benjamin Perez
This week, SXSW representatives Jody Arlington and Brett Cannon spoke to Texas PRSSA about SXSW and entertainment PR. Below are the main questions that were asked during the meeting and the responses to each from Jody and Brett.
About the Speakers:
- Jody Arlington is the publicist for the SXSW Film Festival. She has been involved with entertainment PR for over 20 years. Before settling into entertainment PR, she worked for Burson-Marsteller and FleishmanHillard. She has previously worked for Sundance Film Festival and AFI Docs. She has also represented films at SXSW, Tribeca Film Festival, and Sundance Film Festival.
- Brett Cannon is the publicist for the SXSW Conference. He was previously the publicist for the SXSW Music Festival and the SXSW Eco Festival. He has also been involved with the SXSW Film Festival in the past. He started his own entertainment PR firm in college, which he later sold to Edelman before going to work for them. After a couple of years, he left Edelman to go work at SXSW.
What is SXSW?
SXSW is dedicated to helping creative people achieve their goals. SXSW is made up of several tracks, which include brands/marketing, tech, style/fashion, filmmaking, food, journalism, sports, music, comedy, etc.
How do you handle last minute problems/unexpected changes?
Crisis communications is communications, only faster. It’s also preparing for certain situations so when these situations do arise, you already have a sense of how to deal with them. When something unexpected does happen, you have to be honest with your media and with your audiences about what is going on. Usually, when communicating with the media/audiences, it’s best to just say nothing beyond what you’re required to say. At SXSW, they’ve dealt with a lot of different scenarios and a lot of crazy stuff in the past, so they have plenty of prior experiences to learn from.
What do Jody and Brett do when SXSW isn’t going on?
Immediately after the festival, all time is spent on thank you’s and evaluating the festival and what went right and what went wrong. Also, a lot of time is spent gathering and prepping all the photos/videos from the festival and distributing them to whoever needs them. For the film team specifically, the offseason is spent visiting film festivals in order to scout films and meet with press and various film studios.
What do Jody and Brett expect from their interns? How do they expect them to grow during the SXSW process?
The expectation is for interns to come in with a baseline understanding of communications. Interns must possess a great deal of curiosity and a willingness to work hard. They must also try to understand the endgame of everything they’re asked to do. For interns, understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing is important to doing it better. The hope is for interns to be more marketable when it comes to their skill sets/tools and to understand what they’re doing and why at the end of their experience.
SXSW has volunteer opportunities available for students that could provide valuable experience and would look great on a resume. All you’d have to do is be willing to give up your Spring Break for it. Further information can be found at https://volunteer.sxsw.com