Ballet Business | How to write a press release
Ballet Business is a series of features tailored to specific goals : understanding how to work with the media, how to get into ballet in the first place and how to raise funds, to name three. All of these features have the single aim of helping you to raise your public profile, and that in turn has the potential to enhance your skills as an employable dancer in an extremely competitive field with a short shelf life.
In this feature I’m going to talk about press releases. You’ll learn what they are used for and how to write one, and developing this skill will help you boost your public profile as a dancer or student.
Many Ballet News readers are also parents of vocational dance students and this feature will help you to prepare the tools you’ll need when contacting journalists such as myself. A well written press release will provide all the vital information whilst at the same time, keeping it objective. It is worth keeping in mind that what is important to you is not necessarily what is important to an editor.
What is a press release ?
In short, it’s a structured document that allows you to shout about your achievements : in other words, you do your own PR. Perhaps you’ve won a choreography prize or been featured in a television show. Or, you may be writing a blog and want to achieve greater reach via the press. It’s worth having a look through the Press Release section of this website to see how professional press releases look.
How does a press release work ?
Once written, your press release can be sent to media worldwide, by email and/or by post. Always include images if you have relevant ones. It is advisable to send small images via email and to include a link to your Dropbox file (or similar) where the high-resolution files can be downloaded. Websites tend to use smaller files but for print media you’ll need to have high-res versions available upon request. I’ve written about the importance of storing images in two file sizes.
You will need to target your press release to those who are most likely to be interested in it – a blanket approach impresses no-one. Do your research, find out the correct contact details and if you already read their website/publication, make sure to mention it. Include references that back up your interest in that media outlet.
The most important aspect of writing your press release is that it must contain something new; it won’t be used by editors otherwise. Perhaps you’ve been invited to take part in a ballet gala, or you’ve developed a new business selling ballet gear, or are collaborating with others to produce a show : your press release will succinctly provide the necessary information to the media. The format ensures that you leave nothing out, while keeping the content fun and to the point.
You’ll need to think of a snappy headline. Journalists and editors receive hundreds of press releases and you’ll need something eye-catching and different to give you the best chance of receiving the publicity you’re asking for.
How to write your press release
You’re aiming for one A4 page; no more. If you have a logo (for example, if you’re already writing a blog), make sure you include that branding on the top of the press release.
It goes without saying that your English (or whichever language you are using) needs to be spot-on with no typos or spelling/grammar errors. You can use two languages in one PR if it’s relevant to your audience, and in that instance you’d first write the PR in the main language and then repeat the exercise in the second language on the same page – it just leaves you less space on the A4 sheet overall.
Then include, strictly in this order :
The date -or the embargoed date if that applies. It’s fine to embargo content as long as it’s necessary.
If you want to, include your location next. For example : 15th September 2013, Ontario, Canada. It’s not compulsory to include your location here, but if you don’t, make sure you include it in the notes section later on.
The title -make it brief and memorable. This isn’t easy to do; there are entire industries concerned with writing the best headlines, but it can be done. Be prepared that your headline and content may be edited or changed if your PR is used – and you can learn what works for that publication by noting those changes.
Your first few words should summarise the story in one sentence. Keep in mind the most important questions that journalists always answer : who, what, where, when and why, and make sure you answer them too. Write in the third person.
In paragraph two you can explain what is special/original about your story. Keep it short! Why will your story appeal to these particular readers ?
Use the following paragraphs to back up your claims with facts/stats/quotes.
Finish off with details that you’d like to see in print : dates/times/how to order or contact you/links to your blog or any relevant data. Any more detailed information can be included in the later section.
Finish with the word Ends
That’s the body of your PR dealt with.
If you have more detailed information to add about anything you’ve written above, you can include it in the next section called Notes to Editors
Here you can state whether (and when) you are available for interview, you can give fuller contact details (for example, landline and mobile) and you can include your location if you didn’t earlier.
This is the place to add ftp links to your high res images, or the contact details for the person who can provide images upon request.
Any other links to relevant information (for example, research papers) can be added here.
You can include details of your own background under the heading About (your name or the name of your company)
Once you’ve put together your press release and researched whom to send it to, you’re away! With luck your hard work will be rewarded with good press coverage that will help you reach your goals.