A press release for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (or any other fringe or major arts festival for that matter) is different to any other press release you will write!
You have about 4000 companies to compete with so it’s important to stand out, but how?
Here are 10 sure fire ways to smash your Fringe Press Release all the way to John o’ Groats.
1. Have an Easy to Read Layout
Obviously you don’t wanna lose any of the information the press wants to see on a press release so make sure it still contains: company, show name, venue, dates (including any days off), time, show summary and contact information. The key is in the format, ensure it is simple, concise and easy to read so that editors with a limited time can scan it in less than a minute and get all the information they need without having to message you to ask questions.
2. Think Pyramid
Picture a pyramid, the bottom is a solid, wide foundation and it heads into a small sharp point at the top. This is what you need to think when you’re writing the summary of your show. The very first sentence should provide all the information needed to understand your show, the second should go into more detail, the third more again. It is also important to remember that a lot of Fringe Publications either can’t afford or don’t have enough time for copy writers so it is most likely they will pull copy directly from your press release. It is therefore important that wherever the press copy and paste information from within you press release that it make sense both in context to the show as a stand alone paragraph but also each paragraph needs to be different enough that the whole passage could be used.
3. Find your Unique Selling Point (USP)
There are thousands of shows, so that fact that you are putting one on is not special enough so find what makes your show individual and more importantly publishable. Then in your very first summary sentence spell this out. You will capture the press with a stand out, breath taking, heart stopping, attention grabbing, killer first sentence. Once you find the hook you have found your USP. It might come from the content of your show, your personal background or the history of your company but you need to find it to grab that press attention.
4. Keep it short
I always start off by composing my Press Releases in Word or Pages, that way I can ensure they never go over one sheet of A4. It also allows me to format it beautifully before I copy and paste it into an email. Always keep in the back of your mind that the receiver will have hundreds of emails just like yours daily so they don’t have the time or inclination to spend more than a few minutes on each one so the more concise and to the point the better.
5. Don’t Spam!
This means 2 things!
Firstly, don’t just send your show out to every publication ever! Pick the ones specific to your show! Basically, Chortle doesn’t care about your World War II Children’s Puppet Show in the way that CBBC News isn’t bothered about your Stand Show entiled ‘C-Bombs ‘R’ Us’.
Secondly, don’t send them out constantly. There is nothing worse than receiving hourly emails from the same company across the entire month of August. If anything it makes the press more inclined to ignore you! But, this doesn’t mean you cant send it out again if something awesome happens during the run that you believe is press worthy.
A good rule of thumb is to sent one out in the few months before the fringe, one in opening week, and one if anything important happens in the run like you get a 5 star review from the Scotsman or win a Fringe First.
You may also want to sent out ‘Diary snippets’, information that doesn’t warrant a whole article but is still a newsworthy anecdote. Maybe you have had to cancel a show or had a celeb in attendance. I once saw a performance of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ with Anthony Rapp (from the original Broadway cast of Rent) doing audience participation in with the performers made him spell out the word: ‘LEASE: Meaning another word for RENT’. Fun pieces like this are noteworthy!
6. Tailor your Press Release
Different publications have different opinions. Tailor your press release to suit that publication. The financial times would expect a much more formal press release than comedy blogedy for example. I know it can be crazy time consuming doing this and incredibly tedious (like writing individual cover letters when applying for jobs) but it can make a serious difference.
7. Be careful with quotes
Don’t go overboard cramming in every vaguely positive press quote you’ve ever had. One or two powerful quotes from well know publications will do just fine! Also, don’t go to vague! Editors won’t be conned if you include ‘Excellent’ as a quote as for all they know it could have originally read ‘This show was anything BUT Excellent’. Make sure the quote is specific and attention grabbing. Something like: ‘An excellent display of physical theatre creating a powerful image of our current day political world’ is much better. Finally, keep in mind that quotes don’t hold much weight if not from a reputable source. Simply, a quote from The Times is much better than one from your Best Friend’s Grandma.
8. Stating Awards won and Claims to Fame
All awards won and included in your press release should be relevant and from industry known organisations. The press don’t care that you passed your cycling proficient in 1994 (unless I guess your doing a comedy show about participating in the Tour de France). The do care if you or your company had a sell out show at the fringe last year or you won the Perrier Comedy Newcomer Award.
Exactly the same applies to claims to fame! Were you in the final of Britain’s Got Talent this year? Good for you, tell the press. Did you come 6th in Dorridge Village Hall’s Annual Open Mic Night? Still good for you, but the press, probably not so bothered!
9. Be original
Both in terms of copy as mentioned above, but if appropriate, you can think about Gimmicks. They can definitely work if they’re small, clean and sent to the right people. Think more condoms with your show details on rather than blow up dolls, rock with you show name in rather than your show spelt out in alphabet spaghetti, a card which opens and plays one of your songs rather than a full barber shop quartet invading the office to sing it, you get the idea.
10. Do NOT send your Press Release as an Attachment!
I know it’s tempting, after all you have spent all that effort formatting and editing getting your press release to look beautiful! But don’t! Imagine for a second that you are the review editor for Broadway Baby and sitting in your inbox are 3,500 emails from different companies each with a 1MB attachment. That is 3.5GB worth of info clogging up someone’s business email! Nobody wants that!
So don’t send images either, although if it is key to your show ensure they are low resolution thumbnails.
Also don’t send a link to find your press release elsewhere like on your Facebook page, chances are it will simply not be looked at. The least interaction to get to your show information the better!
No attachment means no cover letter is necessary either! So both your life and the journalist your contacting’s life is made so much easier!
So nail those Press Releases Edinburgh! If you’ve got a Killer first sentence or a winning Gimmick then tell us in the comments below!