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PR and Porn Part 4: Joanna Angel, Superstar

In yesterday’s third chapter of our week-long “PR and Porn” series, performer/producer Joanna Angel described her entry into the adult entertainment industry and the events that inspired her to dedicate her career to her company, Burning Angel Entertainment.

Today, she discusses some very old-school PR techniques that she used expand her brand in a challenging market.

After Joanna attended her first AVN Expo in Las Vegas in 2004, she made a few key decisions:

“I decided I wanted to be one of those big studios, but I wanted to do it my way. I wanted to show people what I thought was sexy– so I went home and made it happen.”

How did Joanna promote her company in its infancy?

“We didn’t have the money to do big ad campaigns or market research like real businesses, so we reached out to friends and fans and had them hand out stickers and flyers wherever they went–it was real ‘grassroots’ marketing. I grew up in the punk scene, where people help each other out, and I posted stuff all over MySpace, Friendster and all the punk and hardcore message boards. Friends who ran little record labels put our ads on their sites. I tried to get our name out in whatever avenues were either free or affordable.”

Burning Angel’s PR efforts slowly grew more organized.

“I got to know all the New York party promoters I could, and we helped each other out. Every good party needs hot girls, so I brought my girls to events, we’d dance and have fun, and the promoters would put the Burning Angel name on their flyers and banners. We still do that today.”

“We pay very little for advertising. Our whole marketing strategy is really based on trading favors.”

Her first big move was producing the company’s debut full-length DVD.

“Something about putting out a DVD, a physical product, lit a fire under my ass. We started to get more press–someone wrote about us in the New York Times, then we started getting calls from Hustler and other big magazines and setting up meetings with big distributors. We were on the map.”

Joanna didn’t experience much in the way of industry pushback against her very unique style.

“I think people know I don’t listen to anybody–that’s always been my blessing and my curse. Once I decided to be a punk rock porn company, nothing could have changed my mind. This was never really a profit-making venture–I was driven by passion.”

What were the biggest challenges facing Burning Angel as it began to rise toward the top of the porn world?

“We were going up, up, up and then all the tube sites and torrenting sites started. That definitely stunted our growth. (Ed. torrenting is still a big problem. Joanna recently sued 525 Missouri residents for “sharing” one of her videos.) We were lucky in that our style was unique, but now there are lots of tattooed girls in porn.”

“We’re still a small company. We’re good to our staff, we produce unique content and we encourage the communal aspect of our site. But we’re never gonna be number one in quantity–we’re like the boutique competing with Walmart.”

How does Joanna cater to loyal subscribers?

“I go to conventions and give fans as much attention as possible. A couple of people have been members for so long that they’re friends–if I’m in their city I’ll hit them up for a drink!”

How has Joanna’s PR strategy changed now that Burning Angel is an established name in the industry?

“I don’t have to chase people around anymore; they come to me. We used to have to beg bands for interviews as favors, but now I get so many emails from publicists trying to hype their bands that I have to pick and choose. It also used to be a struggle to find girls for our site, but now we have to turn people away.”

Audience research and data analysis hasn’t played a large role in Burning Angel’s PR efforts. 

“I don’t even know what our target demographic is. For a while we tried to collect data, but all I figured out was that there was no real pattern whatsoever. We got a spike in traffic when we got covered in a tattoo magazine and when I appeared on Fox News, but when I went on Howard Stern we got nothing. Then we’ll get a plug from a little blog somewhere and it’s huge.”

Turns out that market research and finding out what works is just as challenging in the adult entertainment industry as it is for all PR professionals.

Be sure to read the first three parts of our “PR and Porn” series and check back tomorrow for the final entry, in which Joanna discusses her funniest PR stunts and talks about the things that would surprise people most about her business.

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