Joanne Soroka shares with us how to write a press release and why you want one. She also shares with us some unusual, out-of-the-box ways artists have gotten attention for their work.
Getting Your Name Into Print
by Joanne Soroka
What’s the point? Why publicize?
To raise the profile of you and/or your product/works of art. To make money.
What you can publicize?
Examples include exhibitions, fashion shows, winning a prize or competition, a new product, getting a prestige client, getting a big contract, expanding your business and artist talks.
Where you can publicize it?
Local and national newspapers, specialist and general magazines, trade papers, the Internet, email, texts, posters, word of mouth, handbills, advertising, mail shots, etc.
Press releases and publicity
- Plan ahead, start on your publicity at least two to three weeks before the launch or equivalent.
- Be aware of deadlines e.g. magazines may need three months.
- Plan on the type(s) of publicity you wish to use.
- Research the publications you want to target e.g. are you looking for reviews or alerting the public? Is there a specialist publication for your discipline?
- Do you have any contacts?
- Do you have a budget?
- Create photos suitable for the purpose or hire a photographer.
- Be realistic about the amount of publicity you can get.
Before you start to write
- Who is your target audience?
- How are you going to interest them in your work or event?
- Do you have an ‘angle’?
- Possibly write more than one press release for different audiences and publications.
Angles and getting attention
TOO much clutter? Not enough space? The British artist Michael Landy has the ultimate solution to all his storage problems. I can’t think of anything I’ve seen in my life that remotely resembles his Break Down, a 14-day artist’s “performance” commissioned by Artangel, which is taking place on Oxford Street in London, in the former C&A department store at Marble Arch.
- What is special about your work or event?
- Think of a way to make it stand out from the other press releases e.g. the first, the biggest, connection with celebrity, arresting photo, etc.
- Use strong, inventive language to create interest.
- Don’t be afraid to use humour.
- You can be controversial, but with the realization of possible consequences.
- But keep it simple and direct.
- Have a press event where something exciting will happen that press photographers can photograph.
- Use photos with extra visual interest.
- But remember – subtlety does not usually work with the press.
Text of the press release
- Have a strong title.
- Who, what, when, where, why – summarize or list.
- The angle – what’s special?
- Quotes are good.
- Give a bit of background.
- Have links to photos, website, etc and where to get further information.
- Maximum one page or 400 words.
Examples of press release writing
- Tonight three students from Edinburgh College of Art are having the opening of an exhibition of their work at the Traverse Theatre Bar. Their work is inspired by nature and includes examples of jewelry, ceramics and glass.
- Rachel, James and Sally are great artist’s! There work is enspired by nature and their show is at the Travarse Theatre Bar starting tonight, October 19th at 6 pm. Come along and meet them.
- Brunel University student’s ‘Square-eyes’ design is set to combat child obesity 17, May, 2005 Gillian Swan, a final year design student from Brunel University in West London, has designed a unique insole for children’s shoes that records the amount of exercise a child does during a day and converts it to television watching time.
Presentation of material
- Proofread and show to someone else before you send it.
- Keep it simple.
- Remember timing e.g. Sunday evening is a good time to send emails, and don’t leave it until the last minute.
- It should be visually attractive and easy to read, i.e. double-spaced and in black ink on white paper.
- Send by post if in doubt.
- Address it to the right person and spell their name correctly.
- Be persistent.
- Make phone calls to editors and journalists.
- Repeat emails or email with new information and photos.
- Create other events.
- Respond quickly to enquiries, requests for photos, etc.
- But do not expect more than 10% response max.
Or do something different
In New York, a group of artists calling themselves Art-Anon have managed to get up the noses of almost every art gallery owner in the city’s fashionable Chelsea district with their RIDER Project – an art gallery in the back of a truck. “Our goal is to provoke the galleries of Chelsea as best we can,” founder Michele Gambetta told the New York Times, after parking her truck directly in front of yet another swanky art shop.
Other ways to get noticed
Doubtless it is a publicity stunt, but is it also art?
The graffiti artist Banksy has managed to smuggle in his latest work, a dead rat in a glass-fronted box, into the Natural History Museum where it was exhibited on a wall for several hours.
Staff did not notice that the rat was out of place amid the museum’s usual fare of dinosaur bones and artefacts from the animal kingdom.
The rat was stuffed and clad in wraparound sunglasses, scaled down to fit the top of its head, a rucksack on its back, and with a microphone in one paw.
A miniature spraycan sits at the departed rodent’s feet, while above it is sprayed in graffiti-style lettering “our time will come”.
- Spend time thinking about how to approach getting publicity.
- Think about audiences and what you want to achieve.
- Start small and local.
- Be as creative as you are in your studio work.
Joanne Soroka, who was born and brought up in Montreal and graduated from McGill University, now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh is a centre for tapestry weaving, and its Edinburgh College of Art was where she studied in the 1970s, leaving with a post-graduate diploma (with distinction). She went on to be the Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Tapestry Company (Dovecot Studios), before setting up her own studio, Ivory Tapestries, in 1987. She makes tapestries, other textiles and paperworks, with occasional forays into other media such as print and video. Her work hangs in the lobbies and boardrooms of well-known international companies such as the Chase Manhattan Bank and the Glenfiddich Distillery and in hotels in Japan. She has won numerous awards.
Joanne has exhibited around the world and has taught at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Tapestry Weaving: Design and Technique, which is about to go into its fifth printing.