At the top right of the release should be The words “For immediate release:” or something similar, followed by information about what section the press is relevant for, and the contact person’s name, title, and contact information. In the title headline the title, location, and date should read in a nice clear easy to read font.
There is something exciting or relevant about your project. Highlight this in a well-written narrative. It could be something about the presenting organization, the time in the company’s development, something about the collaboration or the content itself. What makes this project unique or note-worthy? Including an intriguing hook at the beginning is also helpful. It’s also nice to quote yourself. Often reporters don’t have much time to do an actual interview. Having something directly in front of them that they can pull a quote from is helpful.
If information is needed to paint a social context that makes the event more relevant, take the time to do this. For Anatomy of a Cloud the context was information about the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, what it is and who it affects. For Discourse off the Walls the context we highlighted was its importance as the first public performance on the grounds of the still in construction Tannery Arts Center as well as the collaborative inter-disciplinary nature of the project in what was to become an interdisciplinary arts center. The press release for a mixed ability show might start with questions about normativity and virtuosity. A release for a piece involving drag in San Francisco might draw on the cities reputation as a queer and drag capital of the world. Whenever possible paint a picture that makes the material seem relevant and timely.
Include concise bios at the end followed by a calendar listing that clearly states What, Where, When, Tickets, Websites, and a nice concise blurb.
It can be tempting to choose an artistic photo that speaks to the symbolic content of the piece, or to choose a photo outside or in some interesting context. If the piece takes place in a theatre it’s best to send a stage photo with the press release. Otherwise the potential audience or the paper editors may be confused. Is it a photo show or a dance performance? What does a dead bird and a rose have to do with dance? These and related questions are worth avoiding. If necessary, do a photo shoot and get some good press photos.
Many college stations and public radio stations are required to do a certain number of PSAs in a given day or week. When you send a PSA, send a few different versions. A 20 second, 30 second, and 1 minute version should all fit on the same page, clearly marked. These pages should be formatted much like the press release, but with Public Service Announcement clearly written in the title, and an end date as to when it is relevant.
Make some phone calls after your initial press release. Newspapers get so many releases every day. It requires some extra footwork to bring them to the top of the pile. Like with anything, press is about relationships. Offer reviewers tickets to your show. Greet them with a press packet with additional context for the piece they will see and information abour your company. Write a thank you note to reviewers and previewers.
I recommend the following time-line that I’ve adapted ever so slightly from Jessica Robinson’s Boot Camp for Artists class at Counterpulse in San Francisco. Regardless of whether you use this time-line, use a time-line!
Collect bios from collaborators & begin press release
Create Press Contact Checklist
Finish press release, choose photo, upload to website
Send PR to section editors, critics, writers, TV/radio producers
PR to calendar editors for monthly publications
Flyer materials to designer
Send flyer to print, 1st round of press calls
Send “save the date” email to own list & performers
PR to calendar editors for weekly and daily publications
PSA’s to TV and radio stations
Hand distribute flyers & posters
Online & email publicity, 2nd round of press calls
“RSVP” email to critics (reminders)
Gather program info
Re-send publicity to own list & to performers to forward
Print program & prepare press packets