Example Scripts of the 3 Emails You Should Send a Press Contact

Of course there’s more to getting press coverage than what your press release looks like and when you send it out. It has a lot to do with reputation and relationships, but once you’ve got those under control you do want to think about when is the best time to send out press releases about your show – and what do you say to your media contacts when you send them out.

Those are things I touch on in the marketing calendar that I make freely available through Sold Out Run. The calendar just touches this idea lightly, though, so Wes has a few questions:

Hey Clay,

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of both Reaching A New Audience and your free marketing template over the last year or so. Thank you!

I have a question about press releases: the marketing template has three press releases for a show: a “save the date”, an “invitation” and a “reminder”.

I’m just wondering if you have templates or examples of each of these specific types of press release… I feel concerned about sending out so many press releases if they are too similar/repetitive (our theater is in a small market of just 70,000 residents and only 8 or 10 media outlets/publications), I worry about overwhelming the local press folks and causing them to tune us out, especially as our season includes lots and lots of two-weekend runs of original works, one after another, meaning a lot of overlap…

Any pointers on keeping the press releases distinct and offering the right amount of info in the right order, that kind of thing?

Thanks!

First of all, thank you, Wes, for asking this. I think this is a great question, and I’m confident other Sold Out Run readers are wondering the same thing.

Note: I’m asking a couple of professionals that I know get invitations and press releases all the time to share their thoughts to in the comments, so don’t miss those. Update: I’ve already got the first comment in, and it’s full of useful stuff.

I’ll start by sharing this idea is something I coaxed out of Jessica Redden of Bohlsen PR on episode 38 of the podcast. The approach here is not to actually send your press release three times, but to make contact three times.

The schedule

The idea is to reach out to your media contacts 6 weeks, 4 weeks, and 2 weeks out from opening night – or whatever night you’d like them to attend. This timeline is a starting point, by the way. Each media outlet might want more or less lead time.

There’s a local public television show in Indianapolis called The Art of the Matter that books their stories months in advance. Obviously 6 weeks is far too late to be making first contact with them.

How do you find out when a media outlet wants to receive information about upcoming events? Ask them.

The format

For the best chance of success you want these contacts to be as intimate as possible. If you can be talking to the person who makes these decisions face-to-face, that’s great. A phone call might be second best, and sometimes an email makes the most sense when you just don’t have that close of a relationship.

I present email scripts below, but you could take the gist of these and adapt them to a real-time conversation. Always use the communication channel that your contact likes best. (That might mean someone you have a close relationship with prefers that you send them email because it makes their life easier. If that’s the case, then absolutely use email.)

The real moral here is tailor this approach to each source where you are looking for coverage. Now on to the three contacts.

Contact #1: save the date

The purpose of this message is just to get your show on the radar of your media contacts. You’re not even sending a press release right now. There’s a lot of demands on these people’s time and attention, so planting a seed early is important.

You may have a few contacts respond right away that they want to attend. As your reputation and relationships in the community grow, this might happen more frequently, but many people will just scan the message and delete it at this point. That’s perfectly fine for now.

Hi Alice,

Hope all is well. This is just a short message to let you know that ABC Repertory Theatre will be mounting the Hawaii premiere of Spring Awakening this October.

We’ll send a full press release before the end of the month, but if you’re looking ahead at your calendar, we open on 10/17 and run for four weeks. We’d love to offer you a pair of complimentary tickets to opening night.

Thank you,
Clay Mabbitt

P.S. If 10/17 doesn’t work for you, please let me know as I’m confident we can find another date that does.

Contact #2: invitation

This is when you’re sending the actual press release. I format it as a PDF and attach it to the email message. Update: Check the comments below – apparently I make life a lot easier for my contacts if I include the content of the press release in the email body! If you’ve got a digital media kit, this is also the right time to include the link.

Alice,

I sent you a brief email a few weeks ago about ABC Repertory Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening. As promised here is the official press release. Promotional stills and other information are also available for download at:
http://abcrep.org/mediakit

We open on 10/17 and would love to have you as our guest.

If there are any questions I can answer about the production, please don’t hesitate to ask. My cell number is 317-555-1234.

Clay Mabbitt

Contact #3: reminder

This is one more attempt to connect with anyone you haven’t heard from yet.

Hi Alice,

Just wanted to check in to see if you were interested in attending our production of Spring Awakening. If you are I want to make sure we’ve set aside a pair of tickets for you.

I’ve attached the press release to this email for your convenience. The opening is 10/17, but if another performance works better for you please let me know.

Promotional stills and other media:
http://abcrep.org/mediakit

Thanks,
Clay

Tracking

As your list of media contacts grows, you’ll find it’s hard to keep all of the activity straight in your head. It’s a good idea to track when you sent different emails to each contact and what their response was.

media-contact-tracking.2

If someone responds that they want tickets, I make a note of the date they’ll be coming and mark an ‘o’ to show that they don’t need to receive the third email. (Even if they tell you they want tickets after the first email you still need to send the second one because it has the press release and media kit, but you might want to add a sentence to that second message confirming the date they’ll be attending.)

If they tell me they’re out for this production (because they’re out of town, they have a conflict of interest with the show, etc.) then I mark an ‘x’ so I don’t keep sending them emails.

One final note: I’m doing the last bits of work to pull together The Email Marketing Primer for Theatres, a short ebook that will be available here at Sold Out Run starting April 9th. Topics include how to grow your email list, the email campaign software to use, and the secret weapon to help you build a relationship with your subscribers: autoresponders.

Learn a bit more about the ebook and sign up to be notified when it’s available for sale.

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Discussion

  1. Greetings from IBJ and IBJ.com/arts.
    Some key things in PR/marketing relations that make me happy.

    1. Please do not put all important info in an attachment. Attachments are fine for photos and supporting info. But I need all info in the body of the email and, ideally, a clear subject line. Emails get filed and I search them when I get to a particular week or month. I can’t search what’s in attachment and may miss whatever you sent.

    2. Provide back up dates if your company is flexible. Schedules being what they are, it’s not always possible to get to opening night if I’m interested in reviewing an event. Let me know if there are other opportunities (including student matinees or final dress rehearsals). Sometimes, that increases the chance of getting to a show and covering it.

    3. Try to add at least some tidbit of interesting NEW information in each email you send.

    4. Don’t be afraid to, off the record, tell me if you think a particular show/event is going to be the highlight of your season. Be honest. Since I can’t get to everything, I may lean toward one that you believe is the one that best represents your company.

    5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you aren’t certain how something is handled or why, ask.

    6. Read. Follow. Retweet. If you care enough to want to attract a media outlet to your presentation, care enough to stay up on what that market does.

    7. If I make a factual error, shoot me a note. Tell me. It shows you are paying attention and allows me to make a correction quickly.

    8. It’s never a good idea to include such phrases as “Can you give us some publicity?” or “Can you help publicize?” IBJ–and any respectable publication–doesn’t publicize. We report and comment. That may help your publicity efforts but it’s not our mission or responsibility.

    Hope this helps.
    Be well,
    Lou Harry
    http://www.ibj.com/arts

    Lou Harry on Thu, Mar 19th, 2015 at 10:57am
    • GREAT stuff, Lou. I hadn’t given much thought to how putting the press release as an attachment might create unnecessary work for you. (I should have, but I didn’t.)

      Thanks!

      Clay Mabbitt on Thu, Mar 19th, 2015 at 11:04am
  2. Hi, Clay – Thanks for asking me to comment, too.

    Things have changed a bit for me from the six years when all of my reviews were for my own blog (http://www.IndyTheatreHabit.com) and the past year when I’ve been getting paid to write theatre reviews for Nuvo – Indianapolis’ alternative newsweekly (http://www.nuvo.net).

    Nowadays, I suggest to my Nuvo editor, Scott Shoger, what I would like to review, based on the time I have and what interests me, or sometimes he asks if I would be willing to review a particular show, but in either case, Scott makes the final decision. And he has more people than just me reviewing for him. So really, Indianapolis PR people should be asking Scott what he prefers in terms of media releases, not me.

    However, I will say that if you’re going to send a release or invitation or whatever to Scott and Lou and so on, you might as well send it to me, too, because I won’t mind getting the email and it may interest me enough to ask Scott if I can incorporate it into my reviewing plan. And if he does approve my reviewing your show for Nuvo, I will be writing to you directly to request or confirm the media pass, so it saves a step or two if I already have your contact info.

    I like the idea of a “save the date” email with promise of a more detailed announcement to come because I usually send a “reviewing wish list” to Scott for three or four months at a time. The earlier I know about your show, the better its chances of making my list.

    I don’t mind getting photos, either, but Scott or someone else at Nuvo selects, captions, and positions the photos to go with each of my reviews, plus writes the headline and tagline. So it’s fine to send photos to me if you want, but be SURE to send them to Scott, preferably with photographer credit.

    Best wishes,

    Hope Baugh

    Hope Baugh on Thu, Mar 19th, 2015 at 10:06pm
    • Hope, this is a great perspective. I think it’s useful for us to understand that you don’t necessarily have final say in what shows you cover for NUVO, but you do have some influence over the decision. Thanks!

      Clay Mabbitt on Fri, Mar 20th, 2015 at 7:28am
  3. P.S. – Good luck!

    Hope Baugh on Thu, Mar 19th, 2015 at 10:07pm
  4. Great article and wonderful additional thoughts from Lou and Hope. I particularly appreciate it when theaters can give me a heads up more than a week or two in advance of a show. I also think it’s helpful when they provide a follow up or make it clear that if I can’t attend a specific night I might be able to review it at another time. Like Lou said, I’m more willing to fit it into my review calendar if I’m able to look at more than just one possible night.

    Melissa Hall on Mon, Mar 23rd, 2015 at 3:57pm
  5. Hi Clay,

    Thank you for including me and http://www.GottaGo.us in your project. You have covered the majority of the highest points. I would only add:

    1) I agree on the copy and paste into the body your press release. Attachments add an extra (time-consuming) step. Doing both is fine.

    2) Connect on every social media site (follow on Twitter for example) to ensure you stay updated on what the media outlet/person is interested in. It also keeps you in their sight and memory. Interacting with them on the sites also aids in that respect.

    3) Don’t ignore small newspapers. They are often ignored by venues which makes them easier to get into. In lieu of getting a review many will “trade space” giving you ad space in return for tickets to the show so they can give those to advertisers. You get advertising ahead of the show and they have perks for their customers.

    4) Having been an editor at small community newspapers in the past, I can guarantee writing in AP style increases your chances of being published. Often an advertiser drops out and they need something quickly to fill in that space. Soething that is drop-in ready.

    5) Put “You are invited” or “Invitation” in subject line. If it only says “press release” it might not get opened as quickly as it may not need a response.

    6) Send as early as possible, and the reminder and 3rd email ideas are great. You are right on target with your timeline, Clay.

    7) Don’t stop sending emails just because the critic couldn’t make your show. There are only 52 weekends so don’t give up.

    8) Send your full season schedule as early as possible. I also write recommendations for a magazine and the venues that make sure I have their dates get used.

    9) I agree with Lou’s #8 wholeheartedly. It makes me cringe and then delete the email when this is asked of me.

    10) Keep the press release brief. I have (seriously) received 6 page press releases.

    Keep up the good work. I realize there are fewer and fewer critics and it is difficult to get coverage.

    I hope these ideas help Please let me know if you have any further questions and see you (and your show) soon.

    Warm wishes,
    Elizabeth J. Musgrave

    Elizabeth J. Musgrave on Mon, Mar 23rd, 2015 at 8:54pm
  6. Hello,

    I have enjoyed reading and learning of new ideas. The press release information is really help. Thank you for sharing.

    Keisha Rogers on Mon, Jun 29th, 2015 at 8:53am
  7. All this is excellent thanks – I’m in Uk and when I did Brighton Fringe this yr, this was the recommended press release template – short and to the point:

    Title of show/event
    Company/Promoter
    Venue
    Dates, times
    Press contact: name, email address, telephone number
    Big bold headline here – grab their attention
    i.e. – Exceptional circus show hits Brighton Fringe
    c.100 Words – Synopsis of event (maybe brochure copy). Make it sound fabulous. Really give the journalist an idea of what the show is about in the most succinct way possible. If you are well known on the Fringe scene, remind journalists of your past shows.
    “The most amazing experience of my life” Quote
    c.100 Words – More details
    Give more information about the show, and about yourself /the company. Pick out any interesting themes or stories that come out of your event/performance.
    “This company will be bigger than King Kong!!” Quote
    Any other information
    e.g. Is your event/show touring after Brighton Fringe?
    ENDS
    Notes to editors
    This is the best place to include your full listings information (show name, dates, times, venue, ticket prices, box office number)
    You should also include any further information about your company and your website address for more information.
    Include the press contact details again.
    E.g. For more information or press images contact…
    You should also include this information about Brighton Fringe:
    Brighton Fringe is the largest arts festival in England and one of the largest fringe festivals in the world. It sets out to stimulate, educate and entertain a wide audience by providing a showcase for diverse art forms. Everyone can take part whilst enjoying a friendly and supportive environment. And all this in an iconic city with unique cultural heritage. More info: brightonfringe.org
    Brighton Fringe 2015 will run 1 – 31 May.
    For more information on Brighton Fringe contact marketing@brightonfringe.org or call 01273 764902.

    Swithin Fry on Tue, Jul 7th, 2015 at 10:01am
  8. I find the biggest problem is getting people to open the email in order to read it. I like the idea of using the word ‘invitation’ to prompt the reader’s curiosity – but if anyone has any further tips they would be most welcome!

    Jane Brandt on Fri, Sep 11th, 2015 at 2:55pm
  9. This article on HowlRound has some additional insight on how to present your invitation to the press in a format that is most useful for them:
    http://howlround.com/please-don-t-write-this-press-invite

    Clay Mabbitt on Tue, Mar 21st, 2017 at 12:00pm

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