Behind the Scenes: How Shift Secured a Two-page Spread in the Trib

Shift CollaborativeMedia Relations, PR


by Therese Joseph, Shift PR Fellow

Yesterday, on November 2, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review distributed its Sunday paper, as per usual. However, unlike its usual paper, this edition contained a two-page, cover-spread story, the longest in the paper’s memory, on the behind the scenes making of Franksgiving, the Film Factory winning screenplay produced by Steeltown Entertainment Project.

Anyone who’s attempted to gain media coverage for a company or organization can understand the challenge of getting any mention or coverage within the paper. So how did Steeltown Entertainment Project manage to score a 2099-word article with three photos? Shift Collaborative provides PR support for Steeltown Entertainment Project, and we are happy share how we made this media relations dream into a reality for our client.

How We Got the Trib Onboard

Tim Colbert, Shift’s PR Director, works with Steeltown on a regular basis. Reflecting back on when he was working to secure coverage for Steeltown’s annual competition, The Steeltown Film Factory, Tim said that the competition “started to feel, in terms of media, like old news. Oh, okay well, they won a little contest and they did a little movie and you know.” But Tim was not satisfied. He remembers thinking, “There must be a way to elevate and promote this project.”

As the Film Factory competition was coming to a close, a possible solution to this dilemma came to Tim: a behind-the-scenes exclusive. He had been working with the Trib to provide coverage on the competition and the final event in May.  As Tim remembers working with the Trib, he said “They were really interested and really into Steeltown Film Factory. And my gut told me that, having gotten to know Steven Knezovich, director/writer of Franksgiving, that he would be up for it.”

So Tim decided to go for it. As he explained, “The worst thing that could happen was someone was going to say no. Fortunately, everyone said yes.”

The Timeline

On Saturday, May 17, Franksgiving won the Film Factory competition.  On May 20, Tim put in a call in to the Trib to see if they were interested. And before Memorial Day on May 26, he had gotten the meeting with the Trib and the Franksgiving filmmakers to work out the details.

By the end of May, Tim had secured a placement in the Trib in November, five months away.  Tim admitted this was a long-term project for everyone, but as he explained, “If you want to get the good placements, that’s the kind of commitment and that’s the kind of long view time frame that’s required.” Needless to say, Tim’s long-term view has been justifiably rewarded by the coverage the Trib provided for Steeltown.

The Agreement

In the meeting between the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Franksgiving filmmakers, they agreed that the Trib would have unlimited behind-the-scenes access, including production meetings, script read-throughs, and on-site privileges during four days of filming at three separate locations.  In addition, the Trib’s photographer/videographer, and journalist would have free-rein while they worked.  According to Tim, “They took full advantage. The journalist from the Trib followed and covered the project for nearly five months.”

What’s the Appeal of This Story

The key to securing any media placement is the story you have to offer. The story needs to be considered newsworthy to even have a chance to be published. The story also needs to be pitched to a journalist who writes about and is interested in that subject matter. Without these two aspects, it is highly unlikely that you will capture the interest of a news organization.

Steeltown’s Newsworthy Story

According to the media reports, the Pittsburgh region is on track for a record-breaking year in film and TV production, but many of the city’s residents don’t know how these movies are being created within their own backyards.  “We don’t know how movies and TV productions get made,” said Tim as he reflected on the story. “Who doesn’t want to go, particularly with the entertainment industry, behind the scenes and see how the magic happens?”

The Trib agreed. This story was an excellent opportunity to provide their readers a peek into the film production process that is continually happening all around the city.  As Tim remembered discussing the opportunity with the Trib, he said, “The Trib was very excited to offer its readers this behind-the-scenes opportunity. And they were good enough to devote considerable resources and space to the story.”

What Got Published

In the Trib’s Sunday edition, a two-page spread was published on a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Franksgiving. The spread included 60-column inches of copy (2099 words), not to mention numerous photos.

On the Trib’s website, the story includes with an exclusive three-minute video including behind-the-scenes interviews with the filmmakers and the cast of Franksgiving.

The Benefits of Media Coverage

With the advent of social media, some might question the value of obtaining media coverage. According Eric Sloss, principal of Shift, the main benefit of an organization receiving media coverage is third-party validation.  When comparing media coverage to an organization’s social outreach, Eric explained that “third-party validation of your company or organization via terrific media coverage is always going to be more credible and more persuasive. You are not saying how good you are, someone else is.”

Tim then went on to note, “We’ve seen, overall, the intersection of traditional media and social media. So part of being strategic about this is: the more media coverage you get, that feeds right into your social platforms. Of course you’re going to want to link to a great newspaper placement or a broadcast segment and promote it via your social media channels. This is where they work in concert with one another.”

How Steeltown Entertainment Project Benefits

This story has two benefits for Steeltown Entertainment Project in terms of publicity and finances. In terms of publicity, this story demonstrates Steeltown’s commitment to nurturing a growing film community in Pittsburgh through projects like Film Factory. “The beauty of the Film Factory competition is that it provides invaluable hands-on, professional experience for people who want to get into the business,” Tim said. “If you are a local, you’re not going to get work on the Will Smith movie if you’ve never done anything else.”

In terms of finances, this story has given Steeltown coverage that would have cost them a fortune to produce a similar impact through advertisement. According to Tim, attempting such an investment would have cost Steeltown $63,000.

How Franksgiving Benefits

Franksgiving, like Steeltown and the Film Factory competition, has also gained a tremendous amount of publicity from this story; the story has generated interest and excitement for the film’s world premiere at the Three Rivers Film Festival later this month.

How the Three Rivers Film Festival Benefits

The Three Rivers Film Festival kicks off later this week, on November 7. As this story is published on one of their featured films in the days leading up to the start of their festival, this story is also a nice publicity boost for their efforts.

View the Story and See Franksgiving

Now that you’ve read all about how Shift secured a two-page spread, why don’t you check it out? The story is featured on the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s website.

Franksgiving will be premiering at the Three Rivers Film Festival on November 10. For more details on the showtime and how and where to get tickets, visit the festival’s website.


Image Credit: Jasmine Goldband, Trib Total Media