Step by Step Guide on How To Write A Press for Artists
- An Easy to Follow Template
- What Are News Hooks? And How to Get In Print By Using Them
- The Skinny from PR Pro Michael Lewis on the Top Mistakes to Avoid in Your Press Release
- Actual Example of an Arts Press Release That Got Media Attention
by Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
Want to know what PR professionals say are the three biggest mistakes that cause most artist’s press releases to be torched by editors? Here we go.
#1 Press Release Mistake – Length
Artists’ press releases tend to be insanely long. Instead of running the recommended one page in length, they usually top out at three or even five pages.
#2 Press Release Mistake – Relevance
The subject of the artist’s press release has nothing to do with the editor or the publication.
#3 Press Release Mistake – Artists Don’t Realize They Are Asking Something for Nothing.
Good press releases are even exchanges; a good story for the magazine in exchange for publicity for you. Editors don’t mind you wanting or getting publicity. But if your story is all about you and zero about their reader? They will pound on that delete key.
On a positive note, those three mistakes above are ones you can easily avoid.
And did you know editors and reporters actually want to hear from artists?
Editors and Journalists Want Your Arts Press Release
“Editors and journalists start their day with dozens of blank pages that must be filled by the end of the day,” said Steven Lewis, a former journalist and author of How To Write a Perfect Press Release.
“They can’t fill all those pages pounding the pavement themselves-they need a good percentage of their stories to come to them, but that doesn’t mean you can send in rubbish,” said Lewis.
So, let’s help you give the media what it wants; A non-rubbishy mini-story about your art that also qualifies as NEWS.
If you do this you’ll skyrocket your chances of seeing your smiling face and your fabulous art in a newspaper, magazine, or online arts calendar very soon.
Ready to make the news?
Pick Your News Hook + Fill in the Template = Good Press Release
First, you will need to find a simple angle (news hook) for your mini-story.
“Press releases that get noticed contain what’s known in the trade as a news hook. You need to just wrap an aspect of your art life around one of eight known news hooks to interest editors,” said journalist and copywriter M. Sharon Baker.
Mini-stories built on news hooks are the ones that get great results.
What kind of great results?
“Don’t be offended if your entire release is just printed verbatim,” said Lewis. “It means you have taken all the elements of a good story and delivered it perfectly with nothing to add. You did your job and got your page into print.”
So Now Pick a News Hook For Your Press Release
1. Proximity: Local stories are news for local media.
Your geographic location can be a big part of your arts news story.
A writing coaching client of mine, Ottawa-based FASO artist Laura den Hertog, just self-published a book to help artists figure out how to make a living in the 2020s.
Nice achievement right?
Logically, she wanted publicity for her book. But where should she send her story?
Well, after interviewing the PR experts for this press release article I knew she shouldn’t send news of her achievement to The New York Times; the arts editor there wouldn’t care.
Instead, I suggested Den Hertog could increase her chance of getting the story into print by leaning on the Proximity news hook and targeting a bunch of Ottawa-themed magazines.
She went ahead and did just that.
And recently, Den Hertog and I did a happy dance because Ottawa Life Magazine printed a story about her book that was a near-verbatim version of her press release!
You can get your story in print yourself as well.
I’ve included the press release Den Hertog crafted (using the Baker template below) at the end of this post.)
But the proximity news hook Den Hertog leaned on, is just one way to go. Let’s look at your seven other exciting news hook options.
2. Timeliness: What’s New is News
Got a gallery show, online group drawing event, or public competition coming up in a few weeks?
Pitch that future event to the calendar section’s editor of the news outlet where the event will be held.
The more time you give them the better.
Or does your art involve something new, trending or timely?
3. Prominence: Fame is Relative.
What famous people, politicians, and experts say and do is news.
Got any even, mildly famous people connected to the history of your story?
“Small, local celebrities count for small local papers,” said Baker.
4. Impact: Who Could Your Story Help?
“The more people your story affects, the better chances for coverage,” said Baker.
Does your art address some condition a lot of others are impacted by like, say, ADHD or rheumatoid arthritis?
If so, send it to the Op-Ed, Arts, or Health editor of your chosen mag, newspaper, or online venue.
5. Novelty: Are You or Your Art Weird? That’s Great.
“The weird, bizarre, and odd stories are always an easy sell,” said Baker.
Do you make fascinating art from vintage taxidermy or discarded cell phones?
Let the right editor know. Need help finding their email? Read this.
6. Usefulness: Does Your Mini-Story Solve a Mini-Problem?
Believe it or not, the most popular articles often solve simple problems, like this article a Charmed Studio subscriber wrote for her art blog called how to get oil paint to dry faster.
“People love practical tips and lists that are of service,” said Baker.
7. Conflict: Got a David vs Goliath Story?
“We love to hear about turmoil, fighting, and the little guy defeating the big guy,” said Baker.
My Art Marketing for Introverts post contains a David vs Goliath story about how a group of tiny but mighty artists got the governor of their state of Alaska to reinstate the art budget he had decided to eliminate.
8. Human Interest: Got a Moving Story?
Has your art transformed your life or the life of others?
Here’s an example of a human interest story called “Why Your Art Matters Even If You Believe it Doesn’t.“ It’s based on an interaction between a wonderful artist I know and her art’s impact on a group of grade school students.
Okay, now that you have an idea about news hooks you are ready for step two.
Fill Out This Easy Press Release Template
Let’s fill in this easy six-part template together.
You’ll get help for each section as we go.
Easy Arts Press Release Template Step 1-
Choose Your Headline
Arguably the most important line of the press release is your Headline.
“Putting sweat into the quality of this line will be time and energy well spent,” Baker said.
“Here is where you tell us why we should care about your news — in one sentence.”
“If you’re targeting an online publication or newspaper that is a good fit for your story, your Headline need not be monumental, as in ‘Cure for Alzheimer’s Discovered,'” said Baker.
It just has to be clear and relevant to the person receiving the email.
Your Headline also serves as the subject line of the email you send to editors to promote your press release.
Pro-Tip: Never put “press release” as the subject line of your email.
If you do, journalists and editors will assume it’s one of the countless irrelevant spammy sales pitches they receive daily and jump up and down on that poor delete key.
Here’s the headline Den Hertog crafted for her press release that got results:
“Ottawa’s Fairy Art Mother arrives just in time to rescue artists during turbulent times.”
(It stars the proximity news hook but also contains the timeliness and impact news hooks.)
Easy Press Release Template Step 2-
Fill in the Dateline and The Lead for Your Press Release
The Dateline is the city where you live or the location of your upcoming show.
The actual dates for your art show or other news should be in the lead itself.
“The Lead is the news in one sentence. If I don’t read anything else, tell me everything I need to know here and try to make me read the rest,” Baker said.
Easy Press Release Template Step 3-
Body: This Section Answers the Questions Who, What, Why and Where
“The job of the Body is to answer the following questions: who is doing something, what exactly are they up to, why should the reader care and where will this event be taking place?” Baker said.
You can even type out the headings who, what, why, and where and just fill them each in with a few short sentences to form the body of your press release.
Sprinkle in a non-generic, intriguing quote or two amongst your Who, What, and Why.
Put your first quote in by the third sentence, at the latest.
“Instead of a trite clichéd quote like:
‘We’re really excited about these new classes,’ or the even less interesting: ‘We’re happy to announce these new classes,’ tell me exactly why you are so happy instead, by shooting for something like:
‘We’re putting on these new art classes because we have been inundated from calls from parents saying they have always wanted to enroll their kids in local art classes but there has been nothing offered in our schools,’” Baker said.
Detailed or colorful quotes are usually reprinted verbatim.
But don’t go overboard with tons of quotes, keep the body and the whole darn thing — short.
Why It Is Insane To Write A Press Release Longer Than a Page
“A journalist is going to give you two seconds to read your headline,” Lewis said.
“If they are intrigued by your headline they will open your email and give you five seconds to read your first paragraph, and so on through the body of your press release.”
“In total, they are not going to give you more than a minute to make a decision whether they are interested in you or not. No one is going beyond your first page so you can see the absurdity of multi-page press releases,” Lewis said.
Life Stories Not Allowed
“That means no life stories in a press release.”
Don’t say: ‘I was born in a shack on a hillside in 1952 and as a little boy I found a piece of trash in the street and I wondered what kind of thing I could make with this trash.’
Do say: ‘I make beautiful things out of trash and next week is Trash Awareness Week [timliness hook]. Here’s a link to some of the things I make. Contact me on this number,’
Easy Press Release Template Step 4-
Pop Your Contact Information In
Because of industry downsizing, editors and reporters have to work twice as hard and twice as fast as they used to.
So if a reporter calls and gets no answer – you lose. They often move on to another source.
This means you should only put a phone number in your contact section for someone (hopefully you) who will actually answer the phone when it rings after you send out a release.
Same with email.
But I would add you may get your story in print and not be notified at all, so keep an eye out for it yourself.
Easy Press Release Template Step 5-
Social Media Links Section
Put your FaceBook page link here.
Got a youtube video or Instagram story that is relevant? Great. Put it here too.
Want your story tweeted out?
Embed a tweet that compliments the story in the social media section as well.
Easy Press Release Template Step 6-
Fill in the About Section
The About section is a great place to plunk your two-sentence, authentic, elevator pitch.
Place a link to your home page here too.
(NO ATTACHMENTS! You might get deleted right off.)
Pop in your full name, business name, and location here if those details don’t already appear in the text.
OMG. You are done!
Read it aloud to yourself. Show your press release to a trusted friend, and check it with a program like Grammarly.
Read more here about who to send it to and how.
Then press send.
Why It’s Worth The Bother To Write Your First Press Release
Yes, it’s a lot of work.
But even if you fill in this template and don’t send it you still win.
Because learning to be yourself on the page, and to write for others and not to others will make any art business-related writing you do in the future more clear, appealing, and successful.
But what if you do possess the bravery to send it out?
And what if someone does a story on you?
You can add a press page to your website which will up your credibility in the eyes of readers and buyers.
This will help you substantiate the prices you put on every piece of your art from here on out.
And that sweet press page will also act as an incentive for other journalists to write you up in their periodicals as well.
So give it a whirl.
Want more help?
Read or listen to The Charmed Studio’s post: Improve Your Art Writing Overnight by Forbidding Yourself To Do 2 Things.
You may also want to discover how to add a gorgeous email signature to the bottom of your email for free in ten minutes in this Charmed Studio post. Email signatures are mini-press releases that can grace the bottom of every one of the ten thousand emails the average artrepeneur sends out a year.
I will help you make your press release shine.
I’ll also help you locate and send it to the right editor at a publication that is a good fit for your art and your story.
Example of a Press Release That Worked
This press release was written by Laura den Hertog (following the above template) and revised by Thea Fiore-Bloom)
Ottawa’s Fairy Art Mother arrives just in time to rescue artists during turbulent times.
Ottawa Valley – How will artists financially survive a pandemic? Fortunately, help arrived on fairy wings this April with advice on ensuring a bright future for creatives.
The Fairy Art Mother is the brainchild of Ottawa area artist Laura den Hertog. Like many artists, Ms. Den Hertog wears many hats as a professional artist. When asked why she chose a fairy to be her spokesperson for marketing art, she responded:
This know-how can be found in her newly released book The Fairy Art Mother’s Guide to Captivating Fans and Selling Art. The guide is a no-nonsense read that begins with a list of common marketing ploys that are outdated money-wasters. While this information may burst the bubble for some artists, den Hertog moves on to a concise understanding of who is buying art right now and how to reach them.
Meant for artists of any stripe, the book includes a guide to finding the appropriate venues for selling art, both online and offline.
“I know so many brilliant artists who have no idea how to make sales outside of the art gallery system. I really wanted to break through the fear that is so predominant right now and offer simple and easy solutions that I know work. Artists who embrace this concept may even discover that they enjoy marketing their work. Now that really is magic!”
-Laura den Hertog
Find the paperback or Kindle edition of The Fairy Art Mother’s Guide to Captivating Fans and Selling Art on Amazon.
About the author:
Laura den Hertog is an artist, illustrator, and author who lives and works from her century-old farmhouse in the Ottawa Valley. She is an award-winning fine artist with artwork in private and public collections across the globe, including New York City’s MOMA, and the private collection of Elizabeth Edwards. Notable exhibitions have been held at Montreal’s McCord Museum, the OXO Warf Tower in London England, and a national museum tour across the USA. As the author of The Enchanted Journal, she explores creativity in all its forms and shares her art marketing expertise through the Fairy Art Mother.
Laura den Hertog
Over to You, What Do You Think?
Let me know in the Comments below.
*A version of this article by Thea Fiore-Bloom appeared in Professional Artist Magazine in Spring 2017.
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