When you’re ready to start alerting the media to your film, the traditional way to do it is with a press release. Even in this day and age, a press release is the most straightforward way to make editors and writers aware of news they should to cover.
Thing is, in order to get that coverage, the press release has to pass the smell test. Not getting the coverage you want? Could be that what you’re pitching isn’t newsworthy (the truth hurts). Could be the way you're pitching it, too. While there's not much to do about the former, there's a lot of ways to fix the latter.
Even if you do everything right, remember that journalists are busy and, like all of us, are lazy from time to time. Expect that anything you put in a press release will be published as is, so fine-tune your phrasing and stick to the facts.
As Film Festival Secrets founder Chris Holland puts it, “You should be writing the article you want written about your film. Once you learn that trick, drafting up a press release that will actually be used becomes a lot easier.”
If your press release isn’t getting the traction you’d expect, it could be that it just sucks and is costing you the attention you deserve. Below are the top five mistakes a bad press release makes. And, more importantly, how to fix them.
Mistake #1 - Typos and Poor Grammar
Like a resume that spells “experience” wrong, a typo in your press release will spell immediate disregard. Editors are crazy busy, these days tasked with more work than ever as reporting staffs shrink. A typo or poor grammar is an easy way to pass on something they don’t really have time for anyways.
How to fix it: Have someone else read it! So easy, it’s inexcusable if you skip this step.
Mistake #2 - Way Too Much Info
There may be a million things you want writers - and their readers - to know about your film, but here, focus is your friend. A casting announcement. A world premiere. A theatrical opening. Each of these is a single release, not one big one. When you try to include too much, the person on the other side of the email has no idea where to begin, and will likely just move on rather than try to figure it out.
How to fix it: Pick a priority announcement and stick with it.
Mistake #3 - Way Too Long
A solid press release is succinct and to the point. It includes contact information, a headline and sub-head, body copy and an about paragraph with background info. And it should be one page, max. Again, consider the reader. There’s no time to read a three-page missive about your film premiering in Topeka. Get to the point, partner.
How to fix it: Edit, edit, edit. Then edit again.
Mistake #4 - No Call To Action
Sending a press release announcing you locked picture can be tempting - it’s a huge accomplishment! But what will the editor do with that news, exactly? Make sure your press release includes something for readers to do: visit your website, follow you on social media or, even better, buy tickets to a screening or rent the film on iTunes. It’s also a great idea to include your availability for interviews in case anyone wants to be in touch for their story.
How to fix it: Give the reader something to do.
Mistake #5 - Sent to the Wrong People
This one is a killer, but is sometimes impossible to know until the release is out in the world. There’s nothing worse than being on the receiving end of a press release with news you don’t even cover. Do your due diligence and research the specific editors and writers at each publication who are likely to cover your news. Check out what they’ve covered recently to confirm if it’s a good fit.
How to fix it: Hire a film publicist who already knows the right people.
Sending a press release can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Taking some extra time to craft a few well-written, information-packed paragraphs will help elevate you out of the email inbox wasteland and into news coverage you can brag about.
This is the second in a series of articles by Lisa Trifone, a longtime veteran of film festivals and marketing for the independent film industry. Find the first post on Press Kit essentials here.
Need a super-slick press release for your latest news? Contact Lisa Trifone at 11th Street Lot Marketing and Publicity