Press Release Advice

from SAQA member Jake Finch:


Press releases DO ABSOLUTELY WORK. The purpose of a press release is to notify media that something is happening. As a reporter at my mid-sized newspaper, and during my time at the LA Times, press releases were the main source, next to phone calls, for stories.

Now, here's the issue: People submitting releases DON'T give enough time and/or information to the publication for its use. Also, people don't follow up to make sure the release isn't misfiled or missing.

So, if you're submitting a press release for anything, you should try to follow some basic "rules" for the best results.

First, send it about a month ahead of time to newspapers. Much, much more to magazines. Newspapers are daily enterprises, BUT, they often pre-plan stories especially for weekends. And on weekends, if you're looking for coverage to a show or gallery, there is only a skeleton crew working at the paper and stories are triaged for importance or ease on the staff.

Second, make sure your contact information is clear and that you are available 24-hours at a number. If you're going on vacation, leave a second number for contact. Reporters/editors won't call at 2 a.m., but they might call at night and if you leave a work number, you've missed the call. Offer your cell as a backup.

Third, please keep the release tight and informative. This is your chance to SELL yourself, your event, your work. You have to GIVE the pub a reason to care and that reason is that you will appeal to their readers. If you're a local gal making it good, that works. If you're offering charity work with your art, that's great. If you're published, getting acclaim, doing something different, tell them. But keep it to the point. A press release should only be one page. Two at the very most. 12-point type (editors are notorious for having bad eyes). You don't have to tell them everything in one shot. You just have to convince them that they want to know more.

Lastly, you must follow up to make sure your release was received. The squeaky wheel saying applies here big time. If you politely nag, you will often get your story/press. Call when you send it to confirm receipt and that it made it to the appropriate place. Call two weeks before the event (if this applies) to see if they're interested (editors are also notorious for overwhelm amnesia) and call a couple of days beforehand for further confirmation.

I hope this helps. Don't hesitate to send releases. Just do it smartly. And, to the best of my schedule, if anyone needs it, I'm happy to look over a release you'd like to submit.


July 2007