Are you festival ready?

Edinburgh festival brochures

What's that distant rumble? It's the sound of the world's best actors, directors, comedians, dancers, authors, musicians and fire-jugglers getting ready to descend on Edinburgh.

Walking the streets of the Scottish capital in July and August is like being in the eye of the festival storm. Posters fight for your attention on every spare bit of wall and fliers are thrust at you from all directions. So how do you make sense of it all? My top tip is to check out the festival previews and round-ups from our best critics and publications. This isn't a substitute for trawling through the brochures and making up your own mind, but it can help point you in the right direction. 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh's festivals and from the sounds of things, there's more than ever to choose from.

For theatre, the Guardian's Lyn Garner is a sure bet. In 2016 I managed the Pleasance Press Office and Lyn was the critic that all the performers wanted to impress. Her What To See and Where To Go blog is a great preview of the Fringe's most promising theatre shows. Her tips  range from Fleabag to Forced Entertainment, with Shakespearean puppet shows, a dance marathon and a love letter to Dolly Parton.

The List's special festival editions are a must-grab and in the run-up to the festival they do lots of preview round-ups online to help you decide what to spend your money on. 10 Reasons to Visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017 is a great introduction. The List also has a solid round-up of this year's Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival highlights - look out for the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Scofield and Kandace Springs.

The Skinny is another good source of festival news and reviews. Check out their Edinburgh International Festival reveal Spirit of '47 report which shares details of the EIF's partnershp with the British Council celebrating arts and culture from across the globe, from Syria to Stirlingshire.

The Scotsman has a nice round-up of which film industry luminaries will be visiting Edinburgh this year for the Edinburgh Film Festival (Kevin Bacon and Oliver Stone top the list), while The Herald previews the Edinburgh International Book Festival, including details of new venues as well as speakers as diverse as Limmy and Nicola Sturgeon.

This year I'll be working with The Corner Shop PR to help generate advance publicity for clients including The Pleasance and Underbelly. I can't wait for the circus to roll into town.

From Edinburgh to China

EdinburghOfficial WeChat channel

When I got a call asking if I could write content for the Chinese social media channel WeChat, one question came to mind: would I have to translate it into Mandarin? Happily the answer to that was 'no' - the Confucius Institute had the translation covered.

Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) has been running a programme called China-Ready which helps businesses put themselves in the best possible position to attract and impress Chinese visitors. It's a rapidly growing market and official tourism figures show Chinese visitor spend to Scotland has exceeded £43 million over the last three years.

In early 2017 a new strand of the programme was launched, in the shape of Scotland’s first-ever destination campaign on Chinese social media sites Weibo and WeChat.

ETAG describes WeChat as "China’s closest equivalent to WhatsApp and Facebook, and has over 800m active monthly users." Figures from the World Tourism Cities Federation’s 2015 Chinese Outbound Tourism study reported that 75% of Chinese outbound tourists rely on Weibo and WeChat to help with their travel planning (most Chinese nationals are unable to access Google, Facebook and Twitter).

I produced a wide range of written content for the “EdinburghOfficial” WeChat channel, showcasing Edinburgh's visitor attractions, shopping, landscape, culture, festivals, weather and much more. It required a different approach to my usual writing as the majority of the audience would have very limited knowledge of the city. This meant stepping back and writing for a reader who was completely new to the geography and history of the city. The Royal Mile, the cafes where JK Rowling wrote her Harry Potter novels and haggis were all mysteries that had to be explained.

As of June 2017, the EdinburghOfficial social media channels have received more than 30 million impressions. It's been a really enjoyable project to work on and I can't wait to see where China-Ready goes next.