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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Outside the Frame, Wednesday 20 Show Recap

On Wednesday’s Outside the Frame show, deconstructed the Studio Press Kit, your most valuable package and learned how to write effective Promotional Press Releases, the centerpiece of the package, to get your name and work in print.

The Studio Press Kit is an extremely important package that is necessary when you wish to launch a thorough media campaign. The press kit is most often presented within a 2-pocket folder and contains information about you, your business and the work that you do. It is extremely effective if all your Press Kit materials (business card, letterhead, brochure, postcards, and folder) have a unified look. This can be achieved by utilizing a printing service such as that offers various business documents in matching designs.

Your package should contain – a tip or fact sheet that provides a little history and information about your business and the services you provide (preferably on your letterhead) or in the form of a brochure. Your biography, resume, list of exhibitions and collectors, as well as, captioned photos of artist, works, and shop or gallery along with a bullet-item list of special activities or special offers you have planned. You should also include copies of any prior press coverage in the form of clippings. Be sure to staple or affix your business card to the inside of the inner pocket. At the heart of your Studio Press Kit or package is the Promotional Press Release.

Public relations opportunities used to be referred to as “free advertising” but by today’s terminology are known as “publicity” and defined as publicized events that you can participate in (or initiate) to bring attention to you and your work. This type of publicity is obtained through issuing a simple document called a “news release” or “promotional press release”. Whether or not your release gets published or tossed into the trash is dependent upon whether or not the release was written in the correct format. The news media receives thousands of press releases each day, of which only a few will be printed. A common way for editors to filter out the good ones is by immediately throwing away those that are typed incorrectly, are illegible, or contain obvious errors.

In journalism, there is a simple method of writing which tends to dominate stories found in newspapers – this is called the “inverted pyramid”. The purpose of this is to provide the editor with as much of the following in the first paragraph of the story: who, what, where, when, how and/or why. This way, when placing the story in the paper, the editor can simply chop off the bottom if space restrictions dictate – without losing the essence of the story. When writing a press release, remember:
1. List important facts – answering who, what, where, when, how and/or why.

2. Try to squeeze that information into the first two paragraphs.

3. Keep the paragraphs short and concise – not more than 6 or 7 lines. Avoid flowery language.

4. Keep the information relevant to the story and the story pertinent to the reader.

The following rules set forth are the correct format in which press releases should be submitted:
1.) Use standard 8 ½ by 11inch standard copy paper or better still, your letterhead. Your release should be written on one side only … and while the usual advice is for double spaced releases, I have sent out many that were single-spaced and they were printed with no complaints. While you can get by with not having a release double-spaced, you should strictly adhere to rules regarding length. Your release should be no longer than one page (or 300-500words).

2.) Your name, business, address and phone number should be at the top of the release …include both work and home numbers of the primary contact as the editor may have questions or assign a reporter to write a feature story.

3.) Be sure to include a release date that indicates the story is either for “Immediate Release” or is to be held until the posted publication date.

4.) Photographs included with the release should be at least 3 by 5 inches and on larger than 4 by 6 inches. Polaroids do not scan well so don’t use them. All photos must be captioned on the back and listed/captioned on the release. The works within the photo should be titled, as well as, all persons within the photo should be identified. If proper identification is not possible, such as a photograph of you at a show or festival with other people milling about – you can caption the photo: “The artist, DeDe Sorensen, at the show opening with an unidentified attendee”. Also on the back of each photo, you should include a return address label so that the photos can be returned to you or be replaced in your press kit.

5.) In journalism, you need to put “slug lines” which are three pound signs (tic-tac-toe grid) in a row centered on the line after your last sentence to indicate the end of the page. The headline that you write will likely be changed by the copy editors to account for the given space allotment, however, do include a headline as it will be used as reference by you and the editor should questions arise.

6.) One of the most important things to remember is Deadlines. Everything in new revolves around the deadlines. If the deadline is 4 PM on Thursday and the release arrives at later … it will have to wait until the next edition and by then, your event may have already passed.

7.) If you’ve followed all the rules and have given it your best shot to get your release delivered to the right editor on time, yet your story doesn’t get run; don’t take it personally or be offended. Sometimes your story will get pushed aside because there is just too much news to report. Keep this in mind when you schedule events so that they are not competing with big, community-wide events like festivals or fairs. If your event must compete, then a small display ad would be more cost effective in this instance.

By following the Associated Press (AP) Style Guidelines, you will endear yourself to the news editors who have to reformat releases that don’t adhere to AP Style. You can find posted on my website a Press Release Information Sheet that will help you to write your press releases as well as a sample press releases.

Don’t forget the Outside the Frame Listener Appreciation Drawing at the end of the month where you have the opportunity to win an 11”h x 14” w matted print of my work Sunset: Oregon Coast. An image of this matted print is posted on my blog along with full details. This month’s drawing will be on May 31with a new print going up on June 1. Be sure to tune in next Wednesday to Blockhead Radio for Outside the Frame to learn the remaining eight tools that along with the Mailing List (episode 3) and Studio Press Kit (episode 4) comprise the 10 Essential Marketing Tools you need to promote your work and yourself.

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