Edinburgh Fringe – A Pr And Comms Observational Case Study


The insane promotional force that is the Edinburgh Fringe is like a case study in all the ways to use every communication channel to earn awareness, success and engagement.

The PR machine is like a text book tick list – listicles of the best jokes, business economic impact stories, competitive funny tweeting, radio and TV guest slots, and luring the big name comedians (influencers in PR speak) into smaller acts to then share their recommendations and reviews, and of course a survey. Always a survey.

On the ground the flyering, crazy costumes and musical entertainment also all work tirelessly to boost bums on seats.

With each day, those handing out flyers look more and more destroyed, enthusiasm gives way to hoarse desperation, and the ability to even remember the name of the act they are promoting seems to go out of the window.

Lurking around in bars and courtyards, letting the promo people do their worst, is one of the greatest ways to spend afternoons at the Edinburgh festival. Whoever can persuade you to give up your next warm drink in the rain is a hero indeed. I love the acts who do their own promotion and flyering. The passion, hunger and humour is infectious. It’s not just a cynical PR who can recognise how important authenticity is.

Festival goers pour over newspaper reviews, and every act staples yet more four and five-star reviews from magazines, newspapers and websites to their posters. The Scotsman becomes an all-powerful make-or-break force. The right review, social recommendation or inclusion of a joke in a round-up feature allows acts to break through, to become career performers and overnight successes.

This microcosm of how great communications and PR – covering all channels – can set trends is fascinating.

It’s totally ruthless, but really does show how you need a little bit of everything. Strong face-to-face ambassadors with your flyers get people into shows, social media sharing and feedback talks to the crowds already seeking the next big thing at Edinburgh, the right reviewers gain endorsement and credibility, and the performers themselves being featured across multiple media platforms keep acts front of mind. And of course there are all kinds of efforts to ensure that shows continue to build momentum throughout the fringe season.

Go to be shocked, entertained, to cry with laughter, be wowed by creativity and to wonder how you can crawl inside your own skin at those who are embarrassingly terrible, but as a communications professional also go to be impressed by the machine in motion.