No matter who you are or what you’re offering, an essential part of marketing is to regularly get your name out there in front of new people—the people who aren’t yet aware of you. Yes, social media is a useful modern way to do that but there’s nothing wrong with the old-school method of getting your name in the press. In fact, press coverage is so valuable that it really shouldn’t be overlooked. And for an artist, it’s not that hard. People are fascinated by creative types, and the people in your community really do want to know more about your life as an artist.
Last week, I talked at length about how to build rapport with journalists in your community. Those preliminary steps lay the foundation for press coverage when you need it, so don’t wait to start identifying and nurturing relationships with the press. You can start today. But let’s assume you’ve already been working on that, and now you’re ready to communicate with your local media.
Any time you’re going to do something important—hold an exhibit, be part of a group exhibition, teach a workshop, give a lecture, go on a painting trip, etc.—it’s time for a press release. Send them out at least six weeks in advance of the event. On the flip side, when anything important happens to you—you win an award, land a big commission, etc.—it’s also time for a press release, preferably within 48 hours of the event. In addition to including a relevant jpeg or two (such as one of the pieces from the show or the painting that won the award), your press release should follow the standard format shown in this fictitious example:
Santa Barbara, CA, June 11, 2016 - In honor of the U.S. National Parks Service's 100th Anniversary, the Plein-Air Painters of America has organized "Milestones," a group art exhibition at the Steamboat Springs Museum of Art. Southern California artist Mary Smith will be one of the 36 artists featured in the exhibition, and each painting in the show highlights a different park in the national park system. The exhibition runs from August 5 through October 15, 2016, with an opening reception on August 12. Art enthusiasts are also invited to paint with the artists at locations around Steamboat Springs on August 12. Visitors to the Steamboat Springs Museum of Art, located at 801 Lincoln Ave in Steamboat Springs, can expect to see stunning landscapes and wildlife art created in a wide range of media and styles. The museum's website is www.steamboatartmuseum.org, and the phone number is 970-819-2850.
Founded in 1986 by artist Denise Burns, on Catalina Island, California, the Plein-Air Painters of America began as a small group of seasoned outdoor artists dedicated to painting from life, or "en plein air." This challenging method of landscape painting—in which artists generally only have about two hours to create a painting—was popular among the early Impressionists, but fell out of favor in the mid 20th century. Fortunately, dedicated artists like Smith kept the tradition alive through organizations like PAPA. For the first two decades, PAPA held annual paint-outs followed by an exhibition in Avalon on Catalina Island. This format, unique at the time, has given birth to countless similar groups and events across the country. In 2007, PAPA expanded its format to include exhibitions in museums and art centers. For more information about PAPA, visit http://p-a-p-a.com.
Known for both her plein-air and studio landscapes, Smith is a Signature Member of the Plein-Air Painters of America, the Pastel Society of America, and the American Impressionist Society. Her paintings are in the collections of numerous private collectors, celebrities, and art museums, and she has been honored by her peers with dozens of top-tier awards, including a Gold Medal. A long-time resident of California, Smith currently lives near Santa Barbara. She says she finds endless inspiration in the state's varied terrain, particularly the coastline.
For more information about the artist and the exhibition, contact: Mary Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notice a couple of key things about the press release:
- The headline is written from the standpoint of the reader. Ask yourself, why would people in my community be interested in this particular story about me? Is it something they’d like to participate in? Is it because I’m a local person who is achieving some level of success? Is it because I’m doing something that’s unusual and interesting? Are my actions going to benefit my community? The headline is probably the most important element so spend lots of time coming up with a headline that will pique the journalists’ interest because it’s designed to pique the readers’ interest.
- The first paragraph covers all the basics of who, what, when, where, and why. Additional details and information are saved for later paragraphs. You should always devote one of those subsequent paragraphs to your own bio summarizing your most distinguished credentials, and you should write another subsequent paragraph providing extra info about the event. In general, you’ll usually have three paragraphs, and again whenever possible they should link back to what’s important to the people in your community (why they want to see your exhibit or attend your lecture or take your workshop), not necessarily what you think is interesting and important.
- Be sure to include your contact info at the bottom so the recipient can easily follow up with you.
And now for the most overlooked, yet most important step of all: the follow-up. Here’s where your investment in relationship building will really pay off. After all, which do you think will get better results—calling up a complete stranger to say “hey, are you going to publish my press release?” or calling up someone you’ve been interacting with on social media and possibly even met in person and asking if they’re going to feature you. Aha, yes, now you see it! Plan to follow up by phone or email about a week or two after you send your press release.
One last thing: Be open to whatever suggestions the journalist may have for press coverage. Some may simply publish your press releases as is, which is awesome, but others may want to turn your news into something more. For example, I recently sent out a press release about an artist who is going to participate in an upcoming plein-air event in Laguna Beach to journalists all across the region. When I called to follow up with an arts editor in that community, she suggested a much larger story that highlighted this artist and this event but included the history of plein-air painting in Southern California. Umm, did I mention that it’s the L.A. Times that has more than 650,000 readers? How’s that for an opportunity to build awareness among people who aren’t familiar with you yet?
Always remember that newspapers, news radio, and TV news stations still need those fascinating human interest stories to keep their readers and viewers hooked. So give them what they need while building awareness for yourself. Sharing your news is a win for everyone!
How about you? What press release techniques have worked well for you? Let’s connect!