12 Tips For Writing An Artist's Press Release That Gets Published

state - of - your - art - solution

by Patricia Bouk,
copywriter and consultant

Press Releases that get published are an effective promotional tool. Yet many artists fail to take advantage of them or consider them to be a useful addition to their portfolio. It's really a shame because they're free and they give you good publicity even if it's just in your local newspaper. Getting noticed by the media by having a "press release" or "media release" can put you in front of a whole new audience and validate your credibility. In the eyes of your audience, if you have a published press release you have validation from a seemingly unbiased source.

If your work is already in a gallery, the owners of that gallery will often send out media releases for the artists they represent. But what if you're not so lucky. If you are showing at an artist run gallery or out of your own studio you have to create your own press releases. Don't let it intimidate you. Even though a press release can be tricky to write, it is something that you can learn to do. Just remember that a press release requires a certain protocol in order be published. But with a little practice you'll be able to write your own and track your publicity.

If you want your story published just follow these simple tips.

1. Stick to the proper format. Use the paper or magazine's pre-designed format for writing a press release. Many newspapers or magazines have a "press release guideline" or format on how to prepare a press release. Look on their Web site or call the editor to find out what it is. Follow it. Your press release format must conform to the requirements of each individual publication. A press release is not the place to experiment with creative formats, fancy fonts or wonderful handmade paper. When you send in your press release keep it looking professional, clean and "by the book".

2. Write to your audience. Every audience is different. If you're submitting to a local paper then an event or opening may be an interesting news item. A story of interest might be, "Major Kadwell Calls Local Artist's Exhibition A Success And An Inspiration." If you're submitting to a more national paper then perhaps a different angle may be more appropriate. For example, "Canadian Artist Challenges Viewers In Her Recent Exhibition Titled, "Paintings That Smile"." Think about what the audience for that particular paper would like to know about or find newsworthy.

3. Keep it short. Normally a press release is one page in length, double-spaced, and uses one side of a sheet of paper. Again this is technical protocol. Editors don't want to wade through 8 pages. They want a short one-page sheet of information that is easy to read and has all the information on it they need. If they want more information, they'll call you. So make sure you include your contact information.

4. Keep it simple. Edit out all art jargon and adjectives. Use simple words that everyone will understand. Read it out loud to check for readability. A good test for readability is to ask a 7 year old to read it to see if they understand it. If they stumble or are confused by a single sentence or word... rewrite it. A press release isn't a place to use long words or art terms that few people recognize. Keep the language simple and straightforward.

5. Use an image. Photos are always a good addition. A good photo can put your press release at the top of the pile. Just make sure the photo is appropriate for your story.

6. Write concisely and clearly. Get to the point quickly. Press releases are newsworthy announcements. They aren't forums to show off your skill at using adjectives. They shouldn't contain ramblings or unnecessary details. They should provide just enough information as to who, where, what and when. Think of it as a message about, "Just the facts."

7. Headlines are important. Spend time thinking about your headline. It should be clear and offer information in a way that compels a reader and editor to read on. It needs to sum up your newsworthy announcement in one sentence. It can be creative by approaching the story from an interesting angle. But, avoid being clever or obscure. When you read the headline it should be clear as to what the press release is about.

8. Plan ahead. When you send in a press release it may take several weeks to a couple months before it's published. Local papers usually need a week or two notice, while magazines may need several months. You can call the newspapers, magazines or radio stations to get deadline dates. Once you've submitted a press release do not call the editor and ask about your submission. Send it out and then track your submissions by checking the papers and magazines for its publication.

9. Check your spelling and... double-check it. Don't just use a spell checker on your computer. That won't catch a word that is spelled correctly but used incorrectly. It sometimes helps to read the entire passage backwards to catch mistakes. This technique is the equivalent of looking at your artwork in a mirror in order to see it from a different perspective. When you do this a hidden "mistake" often pops right out at you.

10. Give enough information. If you are writing a press release for an exhibit make sure to include the exhibit title, names of the artists participating in the exhibition, the dates, the opening and closing reception date and time, the name and address of the gallery, the day and hours the gallery is open and the contact information.

11. Use quotes. Quotes can add dimension and interest to your press release. They can be as important as a photo in getting a press release published. If you're writing about an exhibition, get a quote from someone who attended. If you're writing about a particular artwork, get a quote from someone who has viewed it. What did they feel or think when they saw it?

12. Stick to the subject. Do not rewrite your full artist's statement, biography, or resume in your press release. Some parts of your statement or biography may be appropriate but these by themselves do not make up a newsworthy press release. A press release is an announcement and needs to sound like an objective piece of journalism.

Over time develop a list of contacts, online and offline, that you can regularly send your press release to. Search for a "Media Directory" online or at your local library to find your list of contacts. These contacts might include magazines, newspapers, freelance writers, editors, organizations, The Chamber of Commerce, galleries, Web sites and even TV and radio stations. When you have a press release written send the same press release to all of your contacts. If you send a press release out regularly to your list then you will have the pleasure of finding it published when you least expect it.

Once you have a press release published you can use it for other purposes. These pieces of paper travel well. Put one in your portfolio along with your artist's statement. Have a photocopy of a press release available for people visiting your studio, viewing your exhibition or attending a trade show. Post them on your Web site to add credibility. Send them in the mail to people interested in your work or who have made purchases in the past. I'm sure you'll be able think of more than one way you can use a published press release.

Below is a general template for a press release to help you get started. You may have to change it slightly to comply with a specific newspaper or magazine, but this template will point you in the right direction for getting your press release published.

If you want to contact Patricia just email your questions to
Fax them to1-519-471-6361, or phone 1-519-471-6073.

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