Isaac Boothman | What even is PR?

From November 2020 – January 2021 we offered one of our musicians the chance to undertake a Marketing and PR placement with Nevis, to get experience and receive training and mentoring from industry experts. Trumpeter, Isaac Boothman tell us how it’s all going.

This wasn’t how I expected to join an orchestra. In 2019, when I was living in Birmingham, I had auditioned for Nevis Ensemble, ready to join a couple of days of music-making in May 2020. Fast-forward to November 2020, and I was living with my parents, in a Zoom meeting with the Nevis team, listening in on schemes like now almost-impossible-full-ensemble-live-recordings(!), to sustainability meetings with national orchestras.

I’m a trumpet player first, and grew up with the brass and big bands (and pop music, of course) from around West Yorkshire, before starting playing ‘orchestral’ and ‘art’ music from when I was sixteen. Orchestras were all so difficult, so removed – fun, too, but it seemed like people didn’t like leaning in to that bit. Nevis was like an antidote, or a new combination of older elements – programming, playing, performing and working with our communities in mind, and to me it fundamentally reimagined what live music can do, vividly and joyfully.

A desire to help communities to is what had lead me to want to work in music administration: to support organisations, musicians and audiences. So when Nevis advertised the Marketing & PR placement to the Nevis musicians, I knew I should go for it, as they are an invaluable skillsets for small arts and community organisations. I was so glad to start, but the number of training opportunities on offer really took me aback –  I’ve never been mentored before! What does that even mean?

Once I got over that shock, and the ridiculous anxieties of posting on social media (‘Is that emoji really appropriate?’ ‘Will that person be angry if I follow them?’), there was much work and much training to do. I’ve been writing copy for ‘fake’ and real press releases, newsletters and social media posts, editing videos and interviewing our musicians, with the odd bit of admin work too.

And then there’s the training – hearing national industry professionals talk about their projects, guiding me with advice on analytics, social media campaigns, copywriting techniques, the specifics of each platform, the lay of the journalist-land and then the hidden fundamentals. What’s a boiler plate? What are the notes to editors? What even is PR?

I haven’t learnt so much, so quickly, for a very long time. I’m extremely grateful to Nevis, my mentor Victoria Taylor, and all the people who very kindly agreed to go through a couple of hours’ worth of their careers: Hannah Fiddy (Alternative Classical), Chris Glasgow (Cryptic), Andy Saunders, and Carol Fleming (RSNO). You’ve really helped me, through encouragement and skill, and definitely pointed me in a good direction, and I hope to see you in person to thank you!

As I write this, I have about a week left of posting, writing, researching and chasing up left before I become an amateur trumpet player again, and start trying for jobs in earnest. But whatever happens, this training placement has meant I know how to write clearer and more usefully, where to reach people, and how help the various schemes of organisations like Nevis, through the the things that make up ‘Communications’. The placement has felt like a lift in grim times, and I have no idea how I could have learnt these things without Nevis’ atmosphere of real, actual enrichment. Thanks all – I’ll be off, trying to be helpful!