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You Had Me At Hello

Hello image courtesy of Odd.Note via FlickrThis is your goal with the media when it comes to easing the pain of your unending quest for coverage. Yes, there are still some markets with arts critics and reporter, but they are running to stand still, just like you are. Sure, your real goal is coverage, but you won't get there unless you have them at hello.

According to the local media panelists I heard this week at a marketing roundtable, most arts groups don't have them at hello because they haven't taken the time to master the new rules. I thought now might be a good time for a refresh on what to do and what not to do when it comes to marketing arts events to local media. One panelist said, "Someone actually called me the other day and asked me to send a reporter out. Like we still have reporters!! Seriously, it's two of us putting this whole publication together every week. Don't they get it?" You don't want to be that person.

Here was some of their advice:

Kitten Image courtesy of London Looks via FlickrDon't talk to your audience. The media doesn't care about your audience. They care about their audience. If you aren't pitching them with a clear appeal to the majority of their audience in the first 50 words you’re out.

Keep it short and sweet. Who, what, where, when (time before date), how much and most importantly, why? Spend at least half of your pitch on the why. Why is this event a great pick? More than that is too much and it won't be read.

Describe it like you would food. If you tell them it's "amazing" or "a classic" you've lost them. Think about the kind of detail you would use in describing an amazing or classic meal and apply it to describing your amazing or classic event. What really makes it irresistible to their audience?

Work your angles. If you're doing one press release make sure it includes multiple angles. You may not be selected for a feature, but you may get picked up on the society page, a local zone edition, a special insert or a "best bests" if you're angles fit. The more options you give them, the more likely they can find a place for you – even if it's not the one you want most. Or even better, make multiple pitches to each section editor.

Not all deadlines are created equal. Here is what they said about lead time:
Newspapers Image courtesy of Jon S via Flickr

  • Newspapers: If it's Monday and your event is this weekend, forget about it. Minimum of two weeks. And if you hope for more than a calendar listing your feature pitch should require next to no work on their part. Compelling copy. Compelling photos. And if those photos are of dogs or cute kids, even better.
  • Magazines: Months, with an "s". And If you hope for more than a calendar listing you need a lot of stunning visuals and not all of the same people or your donors (unless that's your angle). Just like with the food description, the photos should capture the full experience of the event. Head shots generally don't do that.
  • Local TV: Unless it's on fire or has fallen into a sink hole right now, don't expect coverage. The TV rep gets upwards of 1,000 emails every day and plans "day of" starting at 4:00 a.m.  Breaking news is king and we all know what that means these days. What TV media needs most is simple content like bulleted items, photos, or 5-10 seconds of footage they can use to fill time. And again, if it involves dogs or cute kids, even better.

Don't color outside the lines. Follow all of their guidelines to the letter. If you don't, you're just making their job harder.

Last and mostly importantly, make their job easier. If you follow these rules and are nice, chances are that you'll have them at hello. This means they will actually open your email, read your press release, and see what they can make happen. It's more likely you'll get some coverage because you've earned their trust by getting to know them and understanding their needs rather than focusing on your own. By earning their trust, you'll have them at hello every time.

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