How to Write a One Page Press Release That Will Get Eyeballs on Your Art
Easy to Follow Template
Example of a Press Release That Worked.
by Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD.
Think you can’t write your own press release?
You can write a press release that gets you media attention; even if you’re not a writer.
Why on earth do I say that?
Because all the seasoned PR experts I interviewed told me the same thing.
Most press releases are really bad and really long.
If you write something that’s not half bad, and short and send it to the right editor at the right publication — chances are good you’ll soon be seeing your art in a newspaper or magazine.
Editors Are Longing For a Good Arts Press Release!
Believe it or not, editors eagerly await a press release they can make into an article.
“Editors and journalists start their day with dozens of blank pages that must be filled by the end of that day,” said Steven Lewis author of How To Write A Perfect Press Release.
“They can’t fill all those pages by pounding the pavement themselves; they need a good percentage of their stories to come to them.
A dirty secret in media: some newspaper articles are little more, or nothing more, than rewrites of press releases!
But this does not mean journalists are going to be grateful for any old rubbish you throw in their inbox,” said Lewis.
Lewis isn’t saying you have to be a great writer to create a non-rubbishy release.
So what is he saying?
The Big Secret to Writing a Successful Press Release?
All you have to do is put the needs of the newspaper and its readers first.
The more you gear your (ultimately self-serving) press release, to the needs of the editor and audience of a publication, the better your chances of having it read.
And the better your chances become of getting the media coverage you deserve.
That is priceless information for artists.
Even if you write a rough draft of a release and never send it out, you still win.
Because learning to be yourself on the page, and learning to write for others and not to others (in a concise way) will make your future art business writing appealing and clear.
But what if you do have the guts to send it out?
And what if someone does a story on you?
Why Go To the Trouble?
Getting a story about your art in print ups your credibility.
Getting press substantiates the prices you put on every piece of your art.
A press page also acts as an incentive for other journalists to write you up in their periodicals as well.
Sounds good right?
So let’s get right into the three steps to making your art dreams come true.
How To Write A Press Release in 4 Steps
Step 1: Choose Your News Hook
“The number one mistake press release writers make is sending out a release that does not contain any actual news or news hooks,” said journalist, teacher and copywriter M. Sharon Baker.
Press releases that get noticed contain one of the following eight compelling news hooks.
Wrap an aspect of your art life around a hook and you’ve got news.
Pick the News Hook from the List Below That Will Make Your Story Tempting To an Editor
Summarized By M. Sharon Baker
1. Timeliness: New news is always better than old news, so don’t pitch or send a release about an event two weeks ago.
2. Proximity: Don’t pitch your news to Seattle if your art biz is located in Atlanta and has no Seattle ties.
3. Prominence: What famous people, politicians, and experts say and do is news.
4. Impact: The more people your story affects, the better chances for coverage.
5. Novelty: The weird, bizarre and odd stories are always an easy sell. “Man Bites Dog” is a story, “Dog Bites Man” is not.
6. Usefulness: People love practical tips, and lists that are of service.
7. Conflict: We love to hear about turmoil, fighting and the little guy defeating the big guy.
8. Human Interest: People are interesting, and their sad or uplifting stories tug at our emotions.
How about one example of using a news hook?
Say you just sold an oil painting to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth.
Don’t send your release about your achievement to the New York Times; the arts editor there doesn’t care.
You increase your chance of getting the story into print by leaning on the proximity news hook and targeting the Fort Worth Weekly or another area paper you decide is the best fit.
Okay, you are ready for step two.
Step 2: Imagine You’re A Newspaper Editor
“Journalists are up for a good trade: a good story for them to write in return for a promotional opportunity for you,” said Lewis.
Lewis recommends you ask yourself this question before you send off a press release.
‘Why is this story a great story for the publication I am considering sending it to? Who will want this news?’
Always scan the paper you’re considering sending your release to and familiarize yourself with the kind of stories they favor and the sections your story would fare best in.
Step 3. Now, Imagine You’re a Typical Reader
Here’s a fun “Sunday Magazine and Coffee Exercise” to try.
Sit down with a cup of tea and a few magazines and local newspapers on a Sunday morning. Leaf through them.
Use your powers of observation and intuition to get a feel for who the reader of this periodical in your hands, really is.
Notice how the reader you picture in your head morphs into someone new as you pass from magazine to magazine, or even from the op-ed section to the funnies.
Notice the articles or sections that draw you in.
Ask yourself why?
Who is writing about artists in this paper or magazine?
Take down the names of the journalists you think might want to hear about your news so you can send a release directly to them later.
See a section of a periodical that looks promising?
Jot down the name of the editor if you find it on the masthead of the magazine.
Tip: Send your press release to the correct editor of a specific section of a magazine or newspaper and you skyrocket your chance of success.
Now that you have a news hook and a magazine you want to send it to you can use plug your info into the press release template.
Step 4: You’re Ready To Fill Out This Easy Press Release Template
Here is your template with coaching for how to fill in each section below. Let’s get started.
First, 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 appropriate newspaper your Headline need not be monumental, as in “Cure for Alzheimer’s Discovered.”
It just has to be clear and relevant to the person receiving the email.
A good headline for the story for The Fort Worth Weekly might be as unpretentious as: “Local Fort Worth Painter Sells Portrait of Texas Rodeo Queen to National Cowgirl Museum”.
Your Headline also serves double duty as the subject line of the email your press release is sent in.
Don’t put “press release” as the subject line of your email.
Journalists will assume it’s one of the countless irrelevant spammy sales pitches they receive daily and fast track you to the trash.
Then, 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.
Don’t hesitate to use humor in your lead.
Example: “Once upon a time women roped steer in Wyoming— just last Wednesday in fact. And Carmen Alvarez will be painting cowgirls in action, on-site at the upcoming Lander Rodeo this July.”
Share your lead with a friend. Get her feedback and revise if necessary.
On to the Body: Answer 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.
Here’s the place for a non-generic, intriguing quote or two. 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.
“Don’t be offended if your entire release is printed verbatim, it means you have taken all the elements of a good story and delivered it perfectly with nothing to add,” Lewis said.
“You did your job and got your page into print.”
Why It’s a Terrible Idea To Go Longer Than One 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 3-5 page press releases,” Lewis said.
Pro Writing Tip for Press Releases
“That means no life stories. 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.
Here’s a link to some of the things I make. Contact me on this number,’” Lewis said.
Ultimately consumer magazine editors are searching for stories that speak to their readers, not speak about their writers.
To get your story in print go with a mini-story about your art that readers of that mag would relate to.
Now, Pop Your Contact Information In
Reporters have to work at the speed of light.
If a reporter calls and gets no answer they usually move on to another source.
Only put a phone number of someone (hopefully you) who will actually answer the phone when it rings after you send out a release.
Same with email.
Put Social Media links here.
If you’re on Twitter, embed a tweet that compliments the story. That’s one way to make your story more appealing to your recipient.
Time to Fill In the About Section of Your Press Release
The About section is your elevator speech.
Place a link to your home page here. Dig yours out of that notebook you put somewhere.
Include specific links to photos, podcasts, videos or other marketing extras that apply directly to your story if you have any.
(NO ATTACHMENTS! You might get deleted right off.)
Don’t forget your full name, business name and your location, if those details don’t already appear the text.
OMG. You are done!
Let a friend read it over and give you feedback.
Tweak it a bit.
Check your press release for typos and grammar errors with a free writing program like Grammarly.
Thinking of Hiring a PR Person Instead?
If the thought of writing a release all by yourself has you dazed, you could always hire a professional copywriter to create it from scratch for you.
Expect to pay between $400-$500.
If you dislike writing and marketing and have a budget of more than $2,000 consider hiring a good, small PR agency to not only write the release but to pitch it to the right people at the right media outlets on your behalf.
If you’re going to shell out a lot of dough, be wise and interview any prospect before you sign. Ask to see releases and the results they produced for other clients.
Or write the release yourself and purchase a single affordable writing tune up coaching session from me. I will help you make your press release shine. I’ll also help you send it to the right editor at a publication that is a good fit for your art and your story.
But now that you know what editors and journalists want, why not write and send at least one release out on your own?
You may shock yourself.
Here Is a Real Press Release That Worked.
This release was written by M Sharon Baker.
The Gail Harker Center Exhibition of Certificate Students’ Work October 20 & 21, 2012
The Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts will hold an exhibition of graduating student’s work Oct. 20 and 21.
This exhibition, which is free and open to the public, is a celebration of the accomplishments of seven Level 3 Certificate in Art & Design students, who have just completed two and a half years of study with Gail Harker.
While on this course students use inspirational designs to create exciting and unique interpretations for their individual work. On display will be multi-media artwork and sketchbooks.
The seven graduates include Lorraine Beegle of Coupeville, WA, Judy Roloson of Lynden, WA, Charlene Rankin of Sammamish, WA, Leslie Christian of Seattle, WA; and three Canadians, Gillian Smith of Salt Spring Island, BC and Ann Rogers and Lexa Shaw, both of Saanichton, BC.
What: Art Exhibition
When: 20 & 21 October 2012 From 11 – 5 p.m.
Where: Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts at 12636 Chilberg Road Mt. Vernon, WA (just outside La Conner)
Gail Harker, phone: (360) xxx-xxxx email: email@example.com
About Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts
Internationally known textile and fiber artist, author, and educator Gail Harker has the equivalent of a Masters in textile and fiber art as well as Contemporary Embroidery, also known as Stitch. More than 2,000 artists have studied at the Center, which offers certificate and diploma programs in Design and Stitch. Several students have gone on to win national and international awards. Learn more at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts website.
*A version of this article by Thea Fiore-Bloom appeared in Professional Artist Magazine in Spring 2017.