For most artists, every little bit of extra publicity is welcome—after all, good press often means more art sales or commissions down the road.
But, you might ask, where can an artist get that kind of free publicity?
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In my experience, one good way to generate a little buzz is to write a “press release” (really, it’s just an article) and send it in to your local newspaper. The best time to do this is when you have an upcoming show or are participating in an art event of some kind, but anything newsworthy will work—if your artwork ties into a political or cultural cause, for example, or if you’ve just started (or finished) a HUGE project that people will find interesting or unique.
And even if your art seems commonplace to you, remember that not everyone is as used to it as you are—perhaps your methods or the story behind your art will be considered fascinating by others.
So to get you started, here are 7 tips to help you write an attention-grabbing press release for your newspaper.
1. Find a writer (if necessary)
If you’re not a writer, you really need to find someone who is a writer to help you (or even write your press release entirely.) Think about it—newspaper editors are busy, and they’re always on deadlines—your story may not get into the paper if it means reassigning someone to write an article. However, if you can come up with an article that’s well-written and error-free, newspaper editors are more than likely to just print it as-is. And voilà. . . You’re in the paper.
2. Facts first
Above your article, in either the upper left or right corner, include the title of your show or event, your name, and the date and location of the show (in other words, the basic info). You can also include the words, “for immediate release” if your event or show is coming up soon.
3. Grab attention quickly
When you write the article itself, grab as much attention as you think you can handle in the first sentence. This is where you can make or break the entire article. Ask a pointed question, make a strong (perhaps controversial) statement, do whatever it takes. . . then once you have their attention, tie it in with your art.
4. Write in third person
Write about yourself, not AS yourself—never use “I” or “me” unless it’s a direct quote. And quotes, by the way, are great for a little added color as long as you make sure to attribute the quote to that person. Don’t feel weird about quoting yourself. . . since you’re writing in third person, no one but you will know.
5. Be brief
Keep it short. Three paragraphs is fine: the first to open and gain attention, the middle one to talk about your art, and the third to wrap things up. If the newspaper wants more, they’ll assign someone to write a longer article and you’ll be glad you didn’t spend too much time on it in the first place.
6. Include your bio and contact info
Include a short bio after your three paragraphs, as well as current contact information. The newspaper may use that info to ask for a photo of you or your art (have both ready, just in case) and readers might use it to contact you as well. Usually an email address and website—when applicable—are enough.
7. Leave no errors behind
Spell-check, spell-check, spell-check. And while you’re at it, look for grammatical errors and factual errors too. The last thing you want to do is give the wrong date, place, or time for your event.
That’s about it! Now all you have to do is check your newspaper for their contact info—it’s probably just under the masthead on the front page, or somewhere else conspicuous—and then email (or mail) them a few weeks ahead of time. Good luck!
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