Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Publicity 1. Press Releases

Press releases are a great way to beg for free publicity. After three weeks of work, I finally got all our Wilford's Conversion press releases out--woot! Here are a few things I learned along the way.

Writing the Press Release

Photo I sent with PRs,
Rainer Rohde at a costume fitting.
I had no idea what direction to take in writing the press release to begin with. After reading a lot of obvious garbage on how-to sites, I realized that I needed to include more than just the performance dates and venue address. It needed to somehow be a news story. What about our show was newsworthy? I asked myself. The fact that it's a semi-professional production with an eight-piece orchestra? The fact that the producer/writer/director is a stay-at-home-mom and fake blonde who needs to dye her roots?

Photo I sent with PRs,
Shauna Hatton at a costume fitting.
So, I went through half a dozen examples of theatrical production press releases, and decided to focus on the newsiness of the story itself. After all, it's the premiere of a brand-spanking-new show. So, I found a couple of ways to summarize (but not give away) the plot, and added the who, what, where, how, and when stuff regarding production. As far as organization goes, all the how-tos say to arrange the information the same way you should write a newspaper article, pyramid-style. That is, you put the meatiest, most important stuff first, then the less important stuff, and finally, basic info about who's producing it, and how to contact us to find out more. I assumed that strategy meant putting the performances dates, times and location close to the top, but my mother (with some PR experience) said to put the dates and city at the top, but the more specific time and address details at the bottom.

Photo I sent with PRs,
John Hinckley at a costume fitting.

Here's the basic version of our press release, New Pioneer Day Play at Wilford Woodruff historic farmhouse. (I snuck in the part about the orchestra after all.)

I then sent modified versions of the PR to news-sources with specialized audiences. For example, in the PR I sent to Brigham Young University's student newspaper, I changed the title to "New Pioneer Day play features BYU talent" and made a fuss about Josh Huss, the BYU student who plays our leading man. In the PR I sent to my community's newspaper, The West View, I emphasized the fact that our actors and production team members come from various parts of the state, including Salt Lake City's west side. For the Mormon Times paper, I changed the title to "New Pioneer Day Play at prophet's historic home."

One of the most time-consuming tasks in this process was figuring out where to send the press releases. It turns out, most news source don't clearly state on their websites to what email address a Pioneer Day-related theater production press release should be sent. Below is the contact information I used, plus a little commentary.

The Deseret News is a Utah-wide news source. Mormon Times and Church News are owned by Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

When I called the main news-tips phone number for the Deseret News (801.575.5600), I asked who I should talk to about sending a press release to the Mormon Times. They transferred me to the office for Mormon Times and Church News (801.333.7402). I spoke to a very encouraging guy who said to send the press release, for immediate release, right away--it was June 25, a month before the show. He said that I could request in the email message before the press release that the story get attention 1-2 weeks before the show, that the story be considered for the feature section of the Deseret News, and be put in the community calendar. He also said that it was okay that I didn't have photos to attach right then, that I should indicate in the email that I would send some later. So, I did all of that. He had me send the PR to

KSL is a Utah-wide news souce that has several different news sub-orgs, KSL News Radio, televised KSL News, print, etc. But I sent a general press release to

The Salt Lake Tribune, is another large Utah newspaper. You can find contact info for individual reporters on their website, but I sent our press release to, because it suggested sending "entertainment/arts" tips there.

The DU is the student newspaper for Brigham Young University. They take press releases at

The West View is a new Salt Lake City west side community newspaper produced by West View Media. I haven't been able to find a website for them (maybe they don't have one, yet), but I did find the West View Media Facebook page. Coincidentally, they had a recent post stating their all purpose contact email to which I sent the press release: I think this paper is a quarterly one, so I'm not sure if I sent the release in time to get it in their paper before the show--next year, I'll be sure to send it much earlier.

Fox 13 is a televised and print news source based in Ogden, Utah. Their website doesn't give a regular email you can send stuff to, so I sent the press release in their online message form for newstips.

The Standard-Examiner is an Ogden newspaper. They take press releases at

This is a Utah County newspaper. They have a page with contact info for individual staff members. I sent the press release to both Cody Clark, the movie reviewer/religion reporter (, and features editor, Elyssa Andrus (

Now I'm just crossing my fingers, hoping our story will get published.

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