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Hit Me With Some Actual News

June 2, 2010

news.jpegThere's nothing like teaching a class on something to make you think more clearly about it.

Yesterday evening, while teaching a seminar on press release writing to a bunch of artists and arts promoters at the Luggage Store Gallery for the non-proit new media incubator, Independent Arts and Media, it dawned on me that the "Art of the Press Release" rubric that I had created on this blog early in 2009 (and which I used as a jumping off point for the class) was missing perhaps the most basic tenet of all: namely, that it's only worth writing a press release if you actually have something press-worthy to tell the media about i.e. an item of news.

This sounds terribly obvious, but it's amazing how often I receive releases that don't tell me any news whatsoever. In fact, sometimes it's difficult to tell why the person who drafted the release bothered at all. A baffling missive I received in my inbox just yesterday, which consisted of several paragraphs of purple prose about an artist called Tucky McKey ("The first thing you experience when viewing Tucky McKey’s paintings is his uncanny sense of perspective") followed by a lengthy Q&A with the painter, provided no news at all. I'm still confounded as to why the Artist Guild of San Francisco sent it out. Is the organization hoping that media organizations will lift the Q&A right out of the email and reprint it? Nuts.

I'm not saying that it's only worth sending out a press release if you or your client has won a Pulitzer Prize, sold a painting at auction for more money than has ever been reaped for a work of its kind, or become the longest-running show on Broadway. More modest happenings, such as the opening of a new musical, a ground-breaking ceremony for a new arts building, or the receipt of a big grant in economically tough times are also worth telling the world about.

And one more thing: It's not enough to tell the media the news. Make us understand why we should care about it too.

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