A Tall Order: Strategic Pitches Ensure Media Coverage for Historic Arts Venue During COVID-19

Devastation from two of the world’s pandemics–the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic pandemic that followed in its wake–is well known. In the US, despite recent gains, the economy is setting dismal growth records and joblessness. There are roughly 20 million Americans without jobs, per the US Department of Labor. As of Nov. 25, nearly every state in the US is experiencing rises in coronavirus cases. More than 265,000 are dead of the virus and the Nov. 26 Thanksgiving holiday, and other factors, could spur another spike in infections.

Even worse, lawmakers have left Washington for Thanksgiving without agreeing on a relief package for the unemployed or a stimulus plan for struggling businesses.

In short, Americans are concerned most about their financial and physical health. The arts, perceived as a luxury in good times, is far down the priority list now.

City-owned Newark Symphony Hall was placed on the Registry of Historic Places in 1977.

For this story, we visited the web site of Newark Symphony Hall (NSH), the Garden State’s largest arts venue and one of its oldest. The first thing we saw is that NSH is closed for COVID.

So, try getting support for arts-related projects when performances are suspended. Yet that’s the assignment for women-owned Violet PR, which won what seemed, on first glance, a dubious victory, in late October, to represent NSH. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Shape The Narrative

Built in 1925, NSH presents “an opportunity to tell many stories to important audiences in New Jersey and nationally,” says April Mason, Violet’s president. That NSH is closed is just one obstacle.

Besides NSH’s turnaround, among the stories it’s pitching are the positive influence on the neighborhood’s economic development. NSH promises 500 construction jobs. In a state where an estimated one-third of small businesses have gone under due to COVID-19, NSH’s opportunities for 50 small businesses is welcome news.

In addition, the public needs periodic breaks from COVID-19 stories, particularly in the US, where coverage largely is negative. Accordingly, Mason has racked up more than 50 news stories about NSH, including about its investment committee and a recent $750,000 grant for its $40 million renovation. And that’s in just a bit more than one month on the job.

Another angle Violet is pitching is NSH’s status as a Black-led organization. With the resurgence of #BLM, these stories are particularly attractive. On top of that, Violet is pitching NSH’s historic role in promoting Black culture. Fortunately, many of those moments are included in an upcoming documentary.

NSH’s leadership is another ace in Violet’s deck. Hall president/CEO Taneshia Nash Laird is a dynamic personality with several compelling stories. In addition to being one of the few women leading an arts venue, she’s also a Black woman and the only Black person heading a performing arts organization in New Jersey.

And slowly, arts are returning to NSH, though online. Violet has news releases planned around them, including workshops, virtual programs and an artist-in-residence program.

It’s far from an embarrassment of riches, yet there are many avenues for pitching. Mason tells us the firm plans to be strategic. Pitching will continue to include a mix of entertainment, business, real estate and foundation news, she says. Adding, “We don’t want to overwhelm the same small group of reporters.”

Contact: [email protected]