How to Write and Send a Press Release

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By America Meredith (Cherokee Nation)

When sending a press release out, assume that whoever will receive it is underpaid, overworked, and swamped by similar emails. Clarity and brevity will get your press release read. It doesn’t matter how newsworthy your topic is, if your press release is a confusing wall of text, it will get deleted.

What is the goal of your press release?

Pick one primary goal.

Do you want a listing on a calendar? If so, you might see if the publication/website has an online form for calendar submission. If you use the recipient’s protocols for submission, your event will be more likely to be listed. (For instance, FAAM has a submission form for our event calendar.)

Do you want a blog post or an article? If so, you want to begin with basic who, want, why, when information that makes it obvious what the press release is about, then flesh it out and provide quotes, which the recipient can craft into an article (or copy and post).

typewriter

Photo: Megan Ng, Markham, Canada (PD).

Where to Send

Research where you send your press release. Does the media outlet (periodical, radio station, blog, television station, etc.) cover the type of event you are promoting? Since the First American Art Magazine website clearly states that we only cover art by Indigenous peoples of the Americas, I automatically delete any announcements of non-Native art events.

Spellcheck your press release! Run it through Grammarly. Print it out, and proofread it—or better yet, have a friend proofread it. Google names to confirm their spelling. Delete any superfluous words.

Timing

Plan ahead! Check with the media outlets you are contacting, but, typically, a weekly publication requires that you submit information three weeks in advance, and a monthly publication requires you submit information three months in advance. Earlier is better. Daily newspapers need story ideas much more than monthly magazines, who in turn are more open to suggestions than quarterly journals.

Format

Try to eliminate any extra effort the reader has to take to access your information. Put the basic information in the email subject line and post the press release text in the email body (or a shortened version with a clear headline explaining the topic) and attach it.

If you are sending an announcement that you hope the recipient will share online, PDFs are not ideal. Send the text in an email and an attached Word document to make cutting and pasting easier. PDFs are a pain to share on social media. If you want the recipient to forward information via email, a PDF might work, but a JPG or PNG image with a website link for further information and a downloadable PDF is better. Sending both a Word document and a PDF is a good compromise.

Contact Information

List the primary media contact’s name, title, email, phone number with area code, mailing address at the top of your press release and the bottom of your email. A logo or letterhead makes it more official.

Text

Text on the email should be plain. Text on the Word document should be 12 points with a readily available font, such as Times New Roman or Helvetica.

Write “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” or, if the release date is in the future, write “FOR RELEASE on [date].” Write the title on its own line that explains exactly what is happening and when.

Begin your first paragraph like a news article with a location (e. g. Bethel, Alaska—). The opening sentence should explain who, what, why, when, and where and be its own paragraph.

The next paragraph can go further into detail. If you are announcing a group art exhibition, you can name all the artists in a bulleted list with pertinent information about them.

Then you can write alluring information to pique curiosity. A good quotation by a main organizer or artist enlivens the press release. A subsequent paragraph can acknowledge funders. The final paragraph will explain the mission of the organizing entity/venue.

The entire press release should fit on one page.

Conclude your press release with three pound signs on a line by themselves (###).

Images

Do include an image or several images (not too many—two to four is fine) related to the subject of your press release. Make them as attachments, not embedded in the email. Only embed very small images in emails. Send low-resolution versions with information about how to obtain higher resolution if needed—or send a link to a Dropbox with higher resolution files and a Word document or PDF with caption information.

Make sure you have copyright permission to share the images. Galleries and other art organizations often have an option on their contracts with artists to secure permission to reproduce images of the art for publicity purposes. Allow the artists to opt-in or opt-out, then use the images of the artists who opt-in.

Send 72 DPI images for online posting, 300 DPI for print. Gmail can handle 25 megabytes of attachments. If your recipient doesn’t have Gmail and you want to make multiple high-resolution images available, use Dropbox or create a webpage. The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Media Center: http://media.museumofnewmexico.org/ is a great example.

File Names

Don’t just use press_release.docx or image.jpg!!! When downloaded, the image will be separated from the email. Always include your gallery/museum/art center in the file name, e. g. ahalenia_studios_inner_demonsVI_pr.docx.

Use the file name to explain what the press release is about: your institution, name of the event, and/or date. Use underscores or hyphens, not spaces, in filenames.

For images, include the most important information: artist name, title, and possibly your institution. For example, edmonia_lewis_ojibwe_death_of_cleopatra_1876_saam.tif or howling_wolf_cheyenne_at_the_sand_creek_massacre_1874_amam1904-1180-5.jpg. Long filenames are terrible for publishing online but helpful when emailing. Then include full image caption information in your press release, and in Photoshop insert the caption name under file info (found under File).

Sending

Email your press release. Period.

Do not send a press release via Instagram Director Messenger or Facebook Messenger. It is unprofessional and difficult to read and retrieve.

Save a tree. Don’t mail out hard copies of your press release. They will get lost and/or thrown out.

Good luck! A well-crafted press release will not only help you in your efforts to promote your art event; it can also be a service to the media and help you build positive relationships with art reporters in your community.

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