Write a Press Release in 16 Easy Steps

You’ve just been invited to have a solo show in your top-selling gallery. Maybe you’ve won a prestigious award at a national show. Or perhaps you’ve agreed to lead a weeklong painting holiday to a spectacular destination. Whatever the situation, it’s news, and you’ll want to get the word out.

You don’t necessarily have to pay for an expensive ad. Why not get exposure for free? Newspapers, magazines and other publications often print newsworthy items they believe will interest their readers. To get this exposure, you’ll need to write a press release.

Your press release must be concise and to the point. Before you set pen to paper, think back to your high school English class. A good story includes the who, what, when, where, why and how—and you must answer these questions in your release:

1.  Answer who: Tell whom the event is about.   

                “Artist Jane Doe”

2.  Answer what: Tell what the event is.

                “Summertown Pastel Society Award Presentation”

3.  Answer when: Be specific with the date. If it’s a future event, and you want readers to attend, include the time.    

                “Saturday, March 8, 2008, at 5 p.m.”

4.  Answer where: Give a precise location. Again, for future events, make sure you are precise and give a street address.

                “Palette & Pastel Art Club, 543 Water Street, Summertown, NY 12345”

5.  Answer why: If the event happened in the past, tell why it happened. For future events, tell why the reader should attend.

                “Artist Jane Doe will be presented the Art Club’s Gold Star
                    Award to celebrate her 30 years of dedication to the arts
                    community.”

6.  Answer how: If you won an award, include the organization that presents the award, whether it was or will be done at a dinner, etc.

                “The award will be presented over a black-tie dinner. Tickets
                    are $30 per plate.”

7.  Also include contact information. You’ll need two types of contacts—one for the public so they can find out more information, and one for the editor if she needs to clarify something. These may or may not be the same.

                For the editor: “Jane Doe, 111/555-0100”
                For the public: “Palette & Pastel Art Club, 111/555-0199”

8.  Now you’re ready to write the release. Start with the critical information first. Editors don’t always have enough room to print the entire release. In that case, they start with the top of the release and stop when they run out of room. If you put the contact information at the very bottom of the release, it may not make it into print. Thus, Jane’s press release may look like this:

                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—2/14/2008

                CONTACT: Jane Doe, 100 Summer Street,
                 Summertown NY 12345; 123/555-0100

                LOCAL ARTIST TO BE PRESENTED SUMMERTOWN        
                PASTEL SOCIETY AWARD

                Artist Jane Doe will be presented the Summertown Pastel
                Society’s Gold Star Award to celebrate her 30 years of
                dedication to the arts community. The event will take place
                on Saturday, March 8, 2008, at 5 p.m. at the Palette & Pastel
                Art Club at 543 Water Street, Summertown, New York. The
                award will be presented during a black-tie dinner. Tickets
                are $30 per plate.

                For more information, contact the Palette & Pastel Art Club
                at 555-0199.


9.  Thus ends the absolutely critical information. Whatever else follows should be interesting but optional.
Include a reason why the public should know about the event.

                The dinner also benefits the nonprofit Palette & Pastel Art
                Club, which for many years has granted scholarships to
                needy students who are pursuing careers in the fine arts.
                The dinner, prepared by the Summertown Culinary Institute,
                is sure to be a hit.

10.  Finally, including “human interest” quotes add a warm touch. For example, Jane’s press release may continue in this way:

                Ms. Doe has taken many student artists under her wing
                over the years. John Everyman, a noted artist himself, says,
               “If it weren’t for Jane, I’d still be a corporate lawyer. Her
                mentorship was truly life-changing.”

11.  The press release can be longer, but try to fit it on one letter-size page. If you go to two pages, number the pages.

12.  Use standard formats: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (or RELEASE DATE) and include the date in the format mm/dd/yyyy. The HEADLINE should be in uppercase. Use a basic font such as Courier or Arial in black—nothing fancy or in color. Double-space your lines. Always end the press release with three pound symbols (###), centered.

13.  Confirm all the information before sending your completed press release out.    

14.  In addition to print and online newspapers and magazines, consider sending the release to any arts organizations you belong to or to tourist boards, especially if the press release concerns an upcoming public event. (By the way, magazines have long lead times and often require press releases months before publication.)

15.  Do your research and get the release to the right person.

16.  Finally, make sure you have publication-quality photos on hand in the event the editor would like them.

A press release is a great way of getting the word out. You’ll find that just a little bit of work can get you a great amount of free publicity.


Michael Chesley Johnson, a frequent contributor to The Artist’s Magazine, is the author of Through a Painter’s Pastel: A Year on Campobello Island and the soon-to-be-released Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil and Pastel, which will include an instructional DVD. Johnson lives and paints in the Canadian Maritimes and teaches throughout North America. He is represented by Galerie Esteban in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For more, see www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com.

This article first appeared in the June 2008 issue of The Artist’s Magazine under the title “Get the Word Out.”        

  


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