Getting coverage by the media is essential for keeping your name before the public (and producers and directors), which in turn helps to build your following which then stimulates demand for your services. How should the media be approached? Here are some some ways to get started:
| Check List for Using the Media to Build Your Career
|√||Having a Press Agent or Publicity Person.|
|√||Saving all press clippings of your performances.
|√||Having a directory of press and media contacts.
|√||Requesting a publication’s theatre or cultural critic come see and review your play or showcase.
|√||To have placed, and perhaps maintain on an ongoing basis, an event listing that describes your presentation, and when it runs.|
|√||Pitching to have a lengthy feature story written or broadcast for you.|
|√||Getting coverage at awards ceremonies for awards you have recently won.|
|√||Announcing in advance any educational, social or humanitarian events that do not happen often that you or your theatre group will present or sponsor.|
|Use our communication tools (chat room; message board; messaging tools etc.) to reach others who can provide you with more help and information|
Traditionally, correspondence requesting coverage is mailed to the appropriate editor at a publication or other media company many weeks, if not months in advance. When making a first-ever introduction to the press corps, an artist or artistic group might want to deliver a press packet. Contents of a press packet or press kit might include:
- Standard press release
- Promotional gimmick like a pen, lapel button, small note pad, etc.
- Business card
- If warranted, invitation to a press party or function
For subsequent news information after a press kit has been sent out, usually a standard press release mailed to the editor, with a follow-up phone call will do. Information that you send to an editor needs to hook their interest by providing a unique angle, approach or pitch. This hook or pitch doesn’t need to be splashy and extravagant, but it certainly helps for it to be trail blazing (first of its kind) and timely. It needs to turn a run-of-the-mill calendar listing into news if possible. In the newsroom, they need to know why something will make an interesting story, or simply merit coverage among several other competing items within what will be limited news coverage space.
Reporters and editors generally have very little time. They usually have several things going on at once, and they are always under deadline. Because of the overloaded electronic environment bombarding them with information -- ringing phones, faxes, PC and PDA email and instant messenger news alerts -- editors look for reasons to discard unlikely items. That is why it is crucial to make things as easy as possible for editors to slip your item into production with as little fuss and reworking as possible.
Despite all the stories/newsitems competing for coverage, the news business is very much based on timing. Size can also be a factor. The bigger the media market, the less likely it is the major metro paper(s) will have an interest in small scale productions. Nonetheless, it does happen, and timing can be the primary reason why. After all, it is better to be a space filler than to receive no coverage at all. Overall, your job is to make it as easy as possible for editors to give your production that recognition. Also, by giving editors your message in an easily digestable form, you have more control over your own message, and what gets released to the public.
A simple approach to organizing and presenting information to the news media can be outlined as follows:
|Terms to Know|
Acting Resume. Focuses exclusively on acting and establishes your credibility as an actor by listing your acting experience and training as well as promote you as an actor to agents and casting directors.
Billing. The size of an actor’s role such as starring or guest starring. Also, where the actor’s name will be placed in the credits and if the name will be shown on the screen alone or with others.
Biography. A concise account of an artist or group’s industry related experience or background.
Consumer Publication. Entertainment oriented periodicals written and published for a general public readership, i.e., Rolling Stone, Spin.
8 x 10 Glossy Pictures. The primary calling card to the people who will be calling you in for interviews and auditions, and casting you in their productions.
Press Kit. A presentation including newspaper clippings, review of movie, television, musical and theater productions, a biography, headshot and resume given to the media and interested industry professionals. Also called a press package.
Publicist. A person hired to create awareness of a person or project.
Trades. Industry newspapers and magazines read by all professionals to keep up with trends and news in the entertainment business.
|For a full glossary listing click here|
- What is important? Naturally, the title and author, the company’s name, when and where the production is being performed or presented, and ticket information.
- What is your hook? What is your unique angle (and justification) for pitching this story to the news media.
- What facts develop that hook into a story? It is important to distinguish (and highlight) between facts that develop the hook into a story as opposed to facts that are related to the show but not necessarily related to the hook. Another way to say this is don’t clutter the story with extraneous information, just keep it focused.
- What is the show about? The show synopsis should be no more than a paragraph and should be worked into the story smoothly.
Once you have the message narrowed down, there are a number of ways to get that message to the media. The most important are press releases, photo opportunities, feature stories, and calendar listings. There can also be more extravagant promotional tactics and strategies certain to draw attention. Personal interviews and press conferences are used less often, but reviews are often a common item.
The anatomy of a Press Release
Press releases are the standard vehicle to get information to editors and reporters. A press release contains all the information an editor needs to either rewrite it so that it fits smoothly into the format of the news service, or to pass it along to a reporter for further investigation. This information is organized from most to lease important.
Open with a short, concise lead paragraph. It should only be one or two sentences long and the information should be general. Always include the company’s full name in the lead, followed by the appropriate abbreviation. For example, a lead might say, “next weekend, Theatre of Social Consequence (TOSC) will present...” On subsequent references to the theater, you need only refer to the acronym/abbreviation TOSC.
The second paragraph in the release should include specific details about the show’s time and place. Subsequent paragraphs should include a synopsis, quotes from the director or the theater’s board, and more details where needed. Presenting news this way is called the inverted pyramid style of news writing. The most pertinent and eye catching details go first, then, as the story progresses, get more specific. If editors need to cut something from a news story, they start at the end and work their way toward the beginning, anticipating that most press release information follows the conventions of the inverted pyramid style of presentation.
Largely because of this, a press release should end with a standard paragraph. The standard paragraph is two or three sentences that say something about the production, company or event. It could be a quick history, an adaptation of a mission statement, or something similar. If the release gets edited, the first thing to go is the standard paragraph, which is the least important information as it relates to the overall goal of getting news coverage.
The role of the Publicist
When an actor has a substantial role in a movie, play, has written a book or has won an award, the actor’s publicist will send out press releases to newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the Internet seeking to get this newsworthy information on the actor’s recent accomplishments coverage. The value or role of a publicist, or press agent as they are also known as, is to be able to gain placement in the popular media of newsworthy items concerning the actor’s achievement, usually because the publicist has solid connections and/or was a member was a member of the press corps themselves. A publicist is also involved with many aspects of an actor’s career, from molding an image to consulting on career decisions. Publicists can arrange media interviews (television, print, radio, Internet), arrange layouts, supervise photo sessions, create press materials, and give general advice that promotes an actor and gives them visibility in the public eye.
Getting your press information to the Media
For your convenience, there is a compiled listing of mostly print and online media publications with a strong focus on the entertainment and arts field. They range anywhere from general interest tabloids, to alternative newspapers, to associations and organizations that put out their own member subscribed magazines and scholarly journals. If you are ambitious enough to do your own press mailings, you might find this listing useful to your needs. Click here to go to the list.
Launched in May 2005, Newsmotto.com is a free online press release distribution and publishing service launcher under the beta preview program. Companies have to be registered members to post the press releases for free which you can do by clicking this link.
Relevant Associations & Organizations
Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
Museum of Television and Radio
Museum of Television and Radio
National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture
National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)
National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)
National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA)
For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here