Dealing with the media: We're not so bad

I've almost recovered from my very hectic, but very exciting, weekend. I saw two stellar theatre performances -- The Playhouse Theater's Romeo and Juliet and Theatre Tulsa's Educating Rita -- and I had the honor of being a presenter at Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's latest installment in its Artist Survival Kit workshops, called Stop the Press!

The workshop, which spanned about three and a half hours Saturday, involved a wonderfully informative presentation by Adrienne Nobles, communications director for the University of Central Oklahoma, on the basics of writing and releasing press releases, making and maintaining media contacts and otherwise connecting with the media. The information was intended for artists, but it would be valuable to any small business person who lacks the experience or know-how of working with the media.

Following her presentation, we lunched and listened to Kathy McRuiz update us on the progress of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa's Visual Arts Center, an exciting endeavor that that will bring even more cultural and arts appreciation to the Brady District and looks to be completed by fall 2010.

Then, Glenda Silvey and I talked on what to expect during a media interview. I had no idea that Silvey was an avid collector of Oklahoma art, and, after speaking with her, I appreciate so much the coverage she gave local arts endeavors while she was an anchor at KOTV. I didn't realize TV stations are so reluctant to cover arts and culture stories, and Silvey said the sparse attention given these kinds of stories is only going to get worse, as more and more stations become increasingly concerned with their bottom lines.

I'm totally in the dark when it comes to the ins and outs of broadcast media, and I appreciated Silvey's informative and insightful presentation. What I liked most about her, though, was her sincere interest in each and every artist who attended the seminar and her desire to help them in any way she could.

OVAC is doing a highly commendable thing by offering this series of workshops, which serve to teach artists the business of art, giving them access to the tools they need to be, not only creatively successful, but also financially successful in their work.

Briefly, here are some of the highlights of the seminar. Most of these are borrowed from Nobles' presentation.

*In writing a press release, highlight the aspect of your exhibit or event that makes it unique to your reader. What are you doing that is different, contemporary, exciting?

*Invest in an Associated Press style book (available at college bookstores and online) and write according to AP style. This makes it much easier for the media person you're contacting to translate your release directly to print.

*Also invest in an Oklahoma Media Guide, available at www.okpress.com, and get to know the media contacts in your area. Before you even have an event, make contact, let that person know who you are, offer to take him/her out to lunch. Nine times out of 10, you won't be turned down.

*Know the publication/station's deadlines, for stories and for calendar submissions, and get your stuff to them as early as possible.

*Have a Web site or a blog on which you display your art work. A Web site is the most important marketing tool you have.

*Have someone else read over anything you plan to send to the media before you send it. Make sure it is informative, well-written and clever, free of grammatical errors, misspellings and punctuation mistakes. Always include a link to a site to which someone can go to view and download images of your work. Make it as easy as possible for the media to use your words and images, and they will.

*If you have questions about writing news releases, try these links: Publicity Insider, Press Release Writing Tips, wikiHow

*Don't be nervous! We're people, too! That said, don't always expect your event/gallery/whatever to receive coverage. We try to cover everything we can, but there's no possible way to cover it all. Be patient, be persistent and don't give up. And, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!


Michael Bates said...

I'd add one more personal peeve about press releases: Include links to images of your work, but don't attach unsolicited high-res images, documents, audio, or video to your e-mail. Use a program like IrfanView (free!) to create a small, low-res copy of any image you want to send, and then include a link so they can get the high-res version if they need it for publication.

Be aware of the size of the e-mail you're sending. Less than 100 KB is preferred. Anything more than 1 MB (1024 KB) is a real imposition on someone's inbox.

Celeste Vaught said...

Excellent, informative post Holly. I've heard Adrienne Nobles speak on other subjects regarding marketing and she's quite inspiring.

Holly Wall said...

Thanks so much to you both for your comments! It's great to know someone is reading!

Michael, that is an excellent point, one Nobles actually made in her presentation. I should have thought to mention it here. Glad you did!

In real life, I live at sarahatlee.com said...

Thanks for posting this! It's a great roundup for folks who didn't make it to the workshop. Thanks also for posting helpful links.