Public Relations and Press Releases

A Continuing-Education Series from Chalk & Vemilion Fine Arts, Inc.


In addition to the direct mail, advertising, shows, emailing, and personal phone calling that you do to promote your gallery (you do all of those, right?), getting press coverage of your gallery or event can really give a boost to your gallery and the public's perception of your business. You might think of public relations as something only big corporations use, but businesses of all sizes can use PR techniques to identify themselves in their market and promote their business.

PR vs. Advertising: The main difference here is that advertising is paid (by you) and therefore you can control what, where, when and how. A PR campaign or message is usually directed mainly at the media, and is therefore subject to their interpretation. Your local newspaper won't ever refuse your advertising dollars, but they won't always think that your gallery news warrants a feature story. You can't buy news coverage the way you do an ad, but there are ways to get yourself into the media (in a positive way - please don't light anything on fire).

PR is used to change the public's perception (think of the Gap changing from a boring jeans store to an energized trend-setting icon); push, plug, or launch a product; cope with crisis (remember Tylenol and the tainted capsules?), effect governmental legislation, etc. Most of what you want to do, however, is simply get the message out about who you are and what you're doing. As an ongoing function, the public relations department should be working on ways to get favorable coverage for the company or product. What's that? You don't have a public relations department? Oh, dear...well, you can get coverage on your own! The best and simplest way to do this is with a press release.

Press Release: A press release is a document you create to distribute to the press (media). It includes pertinent and interesting details about your business or event in the hope of generating some media coverage. Press releases should be well timed (not so early that they forget, and not so late they can't include it because of a deadline), short, interesting, and very to-the-point. They are not a forum for personal opinion, but a statement of the facts with a creative angle that catches the reader's attention. Here are some of the basics of a good press release:

1. The upper left hand corner should always include the date of the release, the date the information can be released, and the contact person with phone number and email address. The difference between the dates is one is the date you send out the release, and the other is when the media can use the story. For example, a company that is releasing a new product on September 1 may not want media coverage before August 1, but will want to send the release out ahead of that date in order for reporters and journalists to have time to create the story. Most releases, however, say "For Immediate Release" which means "Go ahead and write about me now!"

2. A catchy headline is important - it has to be relevant but get the reader's attention.

3. The first paragraph must include the who, what, where, how, why, and when in a well-written format that imparts these facts in such as way that the reader will continue reading. Compare it to a resume - you have 20 to 30 seconds to create an impression and make the person want to continue reading.

4. Use double-spacing, if possible, and keep the release to no more than two pages. If you have a photo, all the better. If you can't send a photo with each release, you can include a line at the bottom that says "A photo of this event is available upon request."

You issue a press release when there is something you want the media to know about so they can report it. This can include opening a new store, hiring a new manager, changing the kind of inventory you carry, offering a new product or service, sponsoring some local event, etc. As an example, we'd like to show you how we at Chalk & Vermilion create and issue press releases, and how they turn up as stories. We issued the attached press release when Chalk & Vermilion owners David and Leslee Rogath loaned 5 important Magritte pieces to an exhibit in Rome. Both Art Business News and Art World News picked up the story for their June 2001 issues. In the art world, these publications are interested in news from Chalk & Vermilion because we are industry leaders and have news to tell about fine art and the publishing industry. In your world, your local media - newspapers, magazines, cable TV stations, and radio &Mac220; will be interested in your news because you are a well-run gallery in the local business community and something new up your sleeve all the time.

55 Old Post road #2, Greenweich, CT 06830 (800) 877-2255

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