A brief guide to media coverage

  • Tell Me (London, February-May 2013) by Marianne Keating (Printmaking 2013)

In the run-up to FuelRCA's 17 February event on how to deal with the media, Sue Bradburn of the RCA's Media and Communications team put together this guide to how to spark media interest in your work

Are you ready for media interest?

Before you decide to contact the press you should ask yourself a few basic questions:

What am I trying to promote and what do I want to achieve from the press coverage? e.g. is it to get people to come to an exhibition; to sell a product; to launch a new service; to publish some research?

Who do I want to communicate with?

In order to achieve the above which media are my audience most likely to use? e.g. if your show is most likely to appeal to 20-30 year olds interested in contemporary art then you would select the media they are most likely to consume, such as Dazed Digital, Art Rabbit and Time Out

Different types of media

Print – newspapers, magazines, journals

Broadcast – TV, radio, online

Online – websites, blogs

Social – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Before you decide to do a press campaign it’s essential that you do some research and find out about the different types of media and what they write about. Journalists will only write about stories that are relevant to the platforms they write for. Think less about your idea and more about the journalist’s point of view: who are they? What are their needs?

For example, if you are a textile designer about to launch a new range of homeware products you would send information to magazines such as Elle Deco, House & Garden, Living etc.

If you are a designer who has just designed a new type of skateboard you would send information to specialist skateboard and sports publications and design writers.

If you can't afford to buy lots of magazines, visit the periodicals section in any library and they should have an extensive collection of magazines and daily newspapers. Most publications also have a website. Watch TV and listen to radio programmes that might be related to your work.

Which journalist do I contact?

Once you’ve decided which media outlet you want to approach you then need to decide which journalist is the most likely person to consider writing about your story.

When doing your research look at the names of the journalist and their job title. At the front of most magazines you will find the “masthead”. This is a list of editorial staff who work on the magazine, e.g. editor being the most senior and editorial assistant being the most junior. This normally includes their email address and sometimes a phone number.

The most relevant journalists to contact are usually those working in news, and features or commissioning editors. They are on the lookout for new stories which they may assign to their writers.

Never send a press release to everyone listed in a publication! It is better to approach a small but relevant number of journalists than a bad, scattergun job.

Once you’ve collated a list of contacts, start your own press contacts database so you have a ready-made list of people to contact when you need it. 

Getting press attention

So you’ve now done your research and you know who to contact but how do you get their attention?

Ask yourself:

  • ‘Why me?’ – What am I offering that’s unique?
  • ‘Why them?’ – Why should that individual be interested in my message?
  • ‘Why now?’ – What makes me think now is a good time to be talking to them?

Persuasion

Journalists receive hundreds of emails everyday. To increase your chances of grabbing their attention think about these key points:

  • Unique content
  • A standout, explanatory title
  • How easily and quickly they can grasp your points
  • How interested the readers will be. Make it real/human, the presence of a person. Include quotations
  • How timely it is – in the publishing year
  • How timely it is for their deadlines (their deadline and actual print deadline)
  • Can they quickly get all they need – do you have good (clear/ descriptive and print-quality resolution) images?
  • Can they get hold of you quickly and easily for more info/ images?

Press releases

If you’ve never written a press release before don't panic! Follow these golden rules:

  • A press release should be no longer than one side of A4 in font size 11
  • The essential points to include are: what, when, where, who and how
  • Get the main message across in the first sentence or paragraph – think about how you would convey a message on Twitter!
  • Add facts in decreasing order of importance as you go on
  • Spelling and grammar – always ask someone to proofread before sending
  • Write as if you're explaining it to your mum or your friends – or your target customer. Imagine it as a conversation and use that person’s language and vocabulary
  • Use short sentences and plain English, avoid technical jargon, academic language or ‘artspeak’
  • Try to use energetic or inspiring words like 'fantastic', 'outstanding', 'popular'. Avoid using negative words
  • Always include contact details at the end of the release – an email and a phone number are essential - either for yourself or someone who is working with you
  • Include your website ONLY if it is up to date and has relevant press images and information
  • Most journalists like to receive information by email so if you are emailing the release, cut and paste it into the email. You can also attach one or two low-res images if they are relevant to the story. Never send large attachments

Press images 

A really strong or striking press image can often make or break a press story.

Tips:

  • One or two strong images that clearly illustrate your story is better than lots of nondescript photos
  • Make sure you have good quality digital photographs taken at high resolution (300dpi). If you can afford a professional photographer to take pics for you that’s great but even the most basic digital camera can work
  • If you have lots of good images or product shots you could compile them into an image sheet, so the journalist can select which one works best for them.
  • Think about the best way to show your work, for example if you’re a fashion, textile or jewellery designer, always use a model. If you are promoting an exhibition, have press shots of people in the gallery looking at the work

Useful reading list

Some PR and Marketing books you can find in the FuelRCA section of the RCA Library

The Marketing Pocketbook by Neil Russell-Jones

The Artist’s Guide to Selling Work by Annabelle Ruston

How to Get Free Publicity: a Handbook for small business, clubs, schools or charities by Pam Austin

The Fine Artist’s Guide to Marketing and Self-promotion by Julius Vitali

How to Market Design Consultancy Services: Finding, winning, keeping and developing clients by Shan Preddy (Design Council)

The Art Business by Iain Robertson 

Guerrilla Marketing Research: Marketing research that can help any business make more money by Robert J. Kaden

The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing by Ilise Benun

Fashion Marketing by Tony Hines

The Green Marketing Manifesto by John Grant

Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and inexpensive strategies for making big profits from your small business by Jay Conrad Levinson

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant by Chan W. Kim

Introduction to Marketing Concepts by Graeme Drummond 

Wally Olins on Brand by Wally Olins

Going for Growth: A Marketing Handbook for Co-operatives and other ethical small businesses by Jim Brown