When an editor or a journalist receives a release in their inbox or finds it on an online press release database, they understand they will not have exclusive rights to this news and that, in fact, this release has been sent to dozens or hundreds or even thousands of contacts. It is also understood that if a publication or blog wants to use the content of this press release, they can borrow it word for word. This is why it’s important to spend hours poring over your release, crafting quotes and fact checking your information.
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A press release is usually one to two pages long, never longer. The goal is to entice people who may not be familiar with your work to want to come and see it!
At the top of the press release it is general practice to state: For Immediate Release with the date and what type of announcement it is: Dance, Visual Arts. It is also important to put the contact information for one person who is managing media and public relations for the event or exhibit at the top of the first page.
The first paragraph of the press release should state the specifics of the event or show. Include the title, artist(s) name(s), the show’s duration and if there is an admission fee to the event.
The second paragraph is the body of the press release. Explain the event and be enticing. Do not offer all the information about the event. Ideally the journalist will contact you to flesh out the story. In case they don’t, make sure all the important content is there. Here you are also “selling” the event to readers. Space permitting, it might be worthwhile to include a third paragraph with more detail.
The “boiler plate” text is the text at the bottom of a release that gives standard verbiage on the people and places involved in the event you’re advertising. For example, if the release you’re crafting is about a solo exhibit at the ABC Gallery, the release should include the artist’s bio, titled as such and a paragraph about the ABC gallery.
At the very bottom, following three ### symbols, list all the relevant contact information for the artist and the ABC Gallery.
Be strategic. Send releases early on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Mondays are bad because of meetings and Fridays are all about deadlines. PR agencies almost always send their releases mid-week. Also, think carefully about the subject line. Don’t say “Press Release.” Be clever, get their attention, but try not to end up in spam – nothing lewd allowed! Be targeted. Community papers are always seeking stories on people who live in the paper’s geographic area.
Send your release to those publications with a brief note in the body of the email or a handwritten note attached to the release alerting them to the fact that you’re a local. This works wonders!
Let’s review. The basic outline of a press release:
1. Press Release Headline
2. Press Release Subhead
3. The Press Release Lead: Journalism 101 — the lead paragraph includes the, who, what, when, where and how of the story. If the reporter were only to read the lead of a good press release, she’d have everything she needed to get started.
4. The Rest of the Press Release: The balance of the press release serves to back up whatever claims were made in the lead and headline. A quote will add perspective and make the release more enticing, because it makes for a more complete story. Set it apart from the text if there is room.
5. Boilerplate: This is template text that explain who you/the organisations involved are. (“Boilerplate” is an old newspaper term meaning a block of standard text that’s used over and over again.)
6. # # #: Below the ###’s, add contact info.
Final note: If you attach an unsolicited image to an email containing a release, make certain it is low resolution (for fast downloading, easy previewing, and to be considerate of mailboxes bandwidth.)
Let the recipient know whom to call to request high-resolution images.