The best press or media releases are pretty much sample news stories, written by you in the third person (i.e. ‘Artist is having a show at Gallery’, instead of ‘I am having a show at Gallery’), that tries to persuade to an editor, critic or journalist to write about a particular person, event or exhibition.
Listen to Colin Perry talk about how to get the arts press to cover your exhibitions and projects.
Media releases are often sent with some sample images accompanying the text, with information on how to access more if required.
Media releases have a simple and direct format which is well-understood by journalists to make it easier for them to take sections of the release for their story. In the best case scenario (for you), a journalist will simply lift whole sections of your release for their article. Why should they re-write what is already a well-written piece about an event that they already want to cover? Media releases are a great way to get your practice written about or otherwise broadcast to a large audience, if you follow the rules.
You may also want to choose a ‘look and feel’, layout or brand from galleries or other existing organisations that you feel best represents your practice.
The basic formatting is as follows:
Keep this short, pithy and to the point. Remember that many journalists will not have heard of you or your practice, and you should tailor this to the publications you are targeting. A headline for a specialist art journal should be different from one for a local newspaper.
Include a date and the words PRESS RELEASE in your headline to avoid any confusion.
A useful way to briefly flesh out your story – think of this as the first line of a newspaper article, and aim to encompass as much of the story’s interest as possible. Are you working with young people, in an interesting area, with unusual materials? Think how you can hook readers in to your project.
The first paragraph needs to include Who, What, When, Where, How and Why – the real meat of the story. Many media releases for galleries and exhibitions launch straight in to the philosophy and theory behind the show without first saying why anyone should be interested in it.
- Remember that journalists, critics, and art world professionals get dozens of media releases every week, and the time taken to read each is limited. To stand a good chance of getting covered yours needs to be as clear and concise as possible.
- Get in as much as you can in as little space as possible.
- Get a friend to read it to make sure it makes sense.
- Avoid hyperbolae terms such as ‘unique’, ‘breakthrough’ or ‘important’.
- Keep the whole thing as short as possible – ideally one page. If a journalist needs more than this, they’ll be in touch.
Ideally, your media release writes the story so the journalist doesn’t have to. Quotes about your work (from recognised sources), fuller descriptions on the theories behind your work and other important working practices you use are all important to have here.
Include a paragraph or few sentences to flesh out the rest of your practice and other things of interest or note – educational background, other exhibitions or projects etc.
Notes to editors
This final section repeats some of the information in the main press release, but in bullet points instead of free text. Also include your contact information for further information and images.
Creative Boom also has a useful article on ‘How to avoid common mistakes when writing press releases’.