ARTS THREAD’s guide to writing the perfect press release.
WHAT IS A PRESS RELEASE?
A press release is an essential communication tool, one that is used to provide information on a graduate show or when launching your own business or at any time after graduation. You use it when taking part in exhibitions and also for promoting your work outside of exhibition times. Ideally, a press release is a brief summery of what you do and who you are. It has to be eye catching and informative. Sharp and to the point.
WHAT IS IT FOR?
A press release enables anyone from the press and the media as a whole to learn in a few paragraphs about you and your product.
Imagine going round an exhibition, seeing every stand and trying to remember them all. You can see how useful it would be to have all the information printed out or on a screen, ready for the journalist to pick out what interests them.
The press release needs to have a particular focus, or hook – Why should I write about this? And why now?
You can use a press release for a specific event such as an exhibition or for a new product you are launching or as a news story – the collaboration you have formed with another designer, is a typical example.
WHAT WILL MAKE THEM USE MY STORY?
The prime focus for any publication, whether online or in print, is to keep its readers. This is done online by keeping them on their site as long as possible and in print by ensuring they buy every issue of the publication.
Target your press release by selecting publications that you think would be most likely to be interested in your work and analyse the stories they cover. We will look in more detail at how this is done below under WHAT PUBLICATIONS SHOULD I SEND IT TO?
A key point. It is vital that the first paragraph of the story interests them and holds their attention. If this is the case, they will look at the photos you’ve supplied along with the story and make a yes/no judgement. Should it be yes, they will then go on to read more of the release.
To sum up. Your aim is a punchy first paragraph, good images, easy to understand text and laid out easily for them to copy and paste if necessary.
WHAT SHOULD BE IN THE PRESS RELEASE?
- Limit yourself to the digital equivalent one A4 sheet, as this is all most journalists will read. Choose a typeface that is easy to read and set your text with plenty of room for the journalists to write notes on it (if you are writing as hand-outs at a show).
- Put your logo at the top, then the date and in large type the title and sub-title of the press release.
- The key first paragraph must answers the following questions and should be no more than 50 words. What is the new product/exhibition/event? Who is involved? Where is it happening? When is it happening?
- In the first half of the page, concentrate on the event/product and what makes it newsworthy. Pick out the unusual and new aspects of the design – the materials, the technique, the inspiration.
- In the bottom half of the page talk about your business and yourself. What makes the business/you unique and different?
- Below this, add contact details. You may wish to create an email address just for press, normally firstname.lastname@example.org. Add your phone number, since it is quite common a journalist may contact you at short notice in order to meet a deadline.
- Pay careful attention to spelling and grammar. Print it out and read it through. It is a good idea to ask a friend to read through it as well, as a fresh pair of eyes can often see an obvious mistake.
- Keep the text simple and easy to read. It is important to remember that many exhibitions include overseas visitors who speak English as their second language.
- Be colourful, descriptive and enthuse about your work, but avoid too many obvious adjectives hyping your work – words such as amazing, excellent, etc won’t interest a journalists who has read them thousands of times.
WHAT PUBLICATIONS SHOULD I SEND IT TO?
- Research across both print and digital to see which publications would be best suited to your work and make a list.
- A highly effective way is to create a spreadsheet, for example in Excel or use Google Docs, listing first and last name, email, position held and postal address. By doing this, you can easily monitor the success you have with different publications.
- Email or telephone the publication to ask if it’s not clear to whom you should send your press information.
HOW SHOULD I SEND IT, TO WHOM? & WHEN?
- As above, if it’s not clear on the site or in the publication, contact them to ask how they prefer to receive press information and to whom should it be addressed. Double check addresses, as often the editorial team can work separately from the other parts of the publication.
- Check the lead times for the publications, how far in advance do they work? If in doubt, ask them. Monthly print titles can often work up to three months ahead, but these days often leave some, such as new product pages, closer to the print deadline. Online, it’s much more instant and can often be published online within days.
PRESS RELEASES FOR EXHIBITION PR
- Many exhibitions will include a service whereby the exhibition’s PR will collate all the releases from all the exhibitors and make them available to the press in form of a Dropbox or Google Drive folder. Alternatively, they give all the exhibitors the opportunity to upload information and images themselves to a dedicated part of the exhibition’s website.
- If the above is the case, do make sure you use it! This is included as part of the cost of the stand package, so it’s a key tool. Get your releases and images in early and you stand a better chance of having them picked by the press.
- In addition to the above, make sure you follow the PR advice in terms of text length and content and image size etc, as they have asked for a reason and you don’t want your text or image to appear ‘wrong’ when uploaded onto the exhibition’s site.
We cover information on press images in a separate article; see IMAGES: MARKETING YOUR WORK
SENDING THE RELEASE BY EMAIL
- The simplest method is to email the A4 press release as a PDF and attach a couple of low-res jpg or PDF images. Also attach a Word Document as journalists can copy and paste easier from Word than from a PDF. Make sure the images are less than 2MB in total, as no one wants large files cluttering up their Inbox and in larger companies, the servers often reject emails with large files.
- Think carefully about the Subject title of the email. Experience shows that this can often make a difference to someone either opening an email or binning it.
- Consider creating a flyer jpg image to sit alongside the Word Document and PDF and the images. If you can’t design this yourself, ask a graphic designer friend. If this is not possible, contact your old university/college and enquire if there are students/graduates who could do this for you.
- Once you have a done a few simple email shots and using the spreadsheet you have created, look at using a system such as MailChimp, http://mailchimp.com, which allows you to send Email Newsletters – in this case press releases – to all your press contacts in one go and allows you to using predesigned templates if you wish (free for up to 2000 email addresses). You do need to have a person’s written permission to do this and in our article on marketing, we show you how to create and build this list.
HOUSING THE RELEASE ONLINE
- It is also worth housing the release online, as this will enable you to send it easily as a URL link.
- If you have your own website, you can allow people to download the press release as a PDF and Word Document from your site and you can also allow people to download images. Some designers make it openly available, which does save time, but others protect it with a password. You can also create a URL that’s not visible on your site, which you can send to press as a URL link.
- If you don’t have a website, then you can use your Instagram feed or other social media to post up releases and images that press can use. Create and use a dedicated Instagram page for your business, not your private one!
Always remember that you are marketing yourself and your business with every email and press release you do. So always be yourself. Be professional and always be positive. Your audience, the journalists, the press and all those you need to contact in the media are quick to recognise a positive attitude and quick to respond favourably.