Have you ever wondered how some artists manage to get their exhibition mentioned in the press? Despite the time you spend on publicity, does your event fail to be picked up by local media? Be it local or national, the key to reaching more people in the media is learning how to write engaging press releases. It’s a skill worth adding to your repertoire of marketing activity which should hopefully result in you working with the media to reach many more potential visitors, and hopefully buyers of your work.
What is a press release?
In its most simple terms, a press release is a written statement to the media, typically announcing an event, promotion, award, new product or accomplishment, to name a few. It can be used to form the basis of a feature story, or a shorter news article. It is known that reporters are more likely to feature your story if they receive a press release, so when planning publicity for your event, it is well worth familiarising yourself with the press release format and contacting the local press.
I’ve never done this before - where do I begin?
Firstly, the aim of your press release is to inform journalists about your activity and hopefully for them to print an article about it. An important point to remember is that your press release actually needs to be newsworthy, rather than a simple advertisement. Is there something that links the exhibition to the local area? Is the venue of particular interest? Have you received an award, or has the event been inspired by the region? Think how the article could be slanted to be of particular interest to the local community and hopefully this will not only result in your press release being published, but also bring plenty of interested, relevant people to your event.
It helps to clearly think about the main action you want people to take after reading the press release. Perhaps you want them to sign up to your workshop or visit the opening night of your exhibition. Keep the message simple and don’t over complicate the piece with a jumble of different actions. At this stage, it can be useful to focus on the title, allowing you to determine exactly what you will be writing about.
It helps to think about who you audience is. Are you trying to attract families to your art activity day? Or perhaps you are organising a group exhibition with the aim of selling work. Keep this in mind as soon as you start writing and it will hopefully help you target the right people to your event.
What is the format of the press release?
There are plenty of websites offering very helpful structures and templates to help you begin building your press release. The Arts Council reassure us in their comprehensive guide to writing a press release: “The most important thing to remember when you're planning a press release is that it's actually very straightforward. It's not a major article, it's a short news story, even if the reporters do eventually decide to use it as the basis for a longer in-depth feature.” Do visit their guide, which explains the structure of a standard press release section by section.
The Practical Art World also have a very useful article, How to crease a press release for your art exhibition. If you are wondering why you need to bother writing a press release if you are already inviting the local press to your opening, they explain that the press release is different from an invitation, containing “background information about the artist, the work, and the show. It is targeted to members of the press who may want to check out, write about, or even review your show. That having said, you can also send your press release to clients, gallerists, curators, or anyone you think might be interested in knowing more about your work.”
And if you are still struggling to put pen to paper, do visit Write a press release in 16 easy steps. Writing doesn’t come naturally to some people so this is a very good article which breaks down the entire structure of the press release into very manageable sections. Before you realise it, you will have written your first press release.
Finally, it’s worth taking a look at the advice provided by The Guardian. Once you have drafted your release, do take the time to read their 10 common mistakes to be sure you have written and formatted your piece correctly. If you want journalists to cover your news, make their life easy by getting it right. Good luck!
By JO ATHERTON