Film productions have many potentially newsworthy moments, but how can you get through in the media? Here we take a closer look at the tricky business of sending out press releases.
Who to target with your movie press release
Whether a certain channel or journalist takes interest in your production depends on things like your budget, genre, subject matter, filming location, cast members, awards or other related things such as a unique production method. Start by defining your strategy. Ask yourself, who would consider your production newsworthy. Based on that, you can choose to focus on the mainstream media, freelance writers, indie film websites, notable bloggers / vloggers or other mavens. Depending on your subject matter, you may even find traction outside the typical channels. For example, with a documentary about mental health – approach mental health organizations.
Build relationships with people who have extensive (real) online reach.
Twitter is a good place to start. Find writers who cover similar productions to yours. If it’s a sci-fi, find the sci-fi enthusiasts. Get to know the content producers. Read / watch their material. Share their material on social media (it goes both ways!). Essentially, you should build relationships with people who have extensive (real) online reach. Check out the Twitter lists on the bottom of this page.
Don’t forget the local newspapers or even your old film school. Anyone who has a personal connection to the filmmakers is much more likely to share their news.
How to write a movie press release
What is it about your production that makes it newsworthy? If you can’t think of anything, the chances are it’s not. Not every single film and TV production on earth has to be covered in the media. But if there is something special about your production, OPEN with that.
Make sure it’s newsworthy, not just an ad.
Put all your thought and energy into those first lines – including the email subject line. Think about it as writing a news article with a grabbing headline and a sub-heading. If it’s good enough, the journalist may use it and this will increase your chances of getting through. Who wouldn’t want to have their work cut out for them?
In the body of the email, explain what is happening, when and where, who is involved, how it’s done and why it’s newsworthy. Make sure to offer all necessary information – including important dates, names, and locations.
When composing your press release, collaborate with team members and other writers you trust. Ask for feedback. Send test emails with different subject lines to ask your team to rate how they responded to reading them. It’s also good to have someone other than yourself to proofread the final version.
How to send a movie press release
You can use a press release distribution service to deliver your press release to all appropriate channels. If you’ve done your research, you can also approach freelance writers and newsrooms directly. Often the most effective method is the combination of these two.
Most press releases today are delivered via email. The safest option is to copy-paste the entire press release directly in the body of the email. Avoid large email attachments, but consider offering a small image that is optimized for social media sharing. Don’t forget to add photo credits and captions.
For other material, link to the virtual press office on your movie website, where they can download your EPK, poster, additional images and other promotional material, as well as watch your teaser or trailer. Check out our EPK tutorial for more info.
When approaching a content producer individually, let them know that you’ve actually read or watched their work and understand the subjects they cover.
Don’t send large bulk emails. Some channels don’t want any email attachments or accept press releases only via their website. Find out about their preferences and send either individual emails or BCC’ed emails to small groups with similar requirements. When approaching a content producer individually, let them know that you’ve actually read or watched their work and understand the subjects they cover. Be genuine, not a suck-up.
How to not end up in the spam folder
Ideally, you want your press release to land in the recipient’s primary inbox. This is why you should not send bulk emails to hundreds of contacts. Using Mailchimp or another newsletter service will usually get your email categorized as a promotion, not primary inbox material. Even individual emails can end up in the spam folder if the sender’s email / domain is blacklisted. Check yours here:TEST YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
When to send a movie press release
With timing, there are two things to worry about – how much notice to give and the date and time of actually sending the press release. Let’s face it – stories about (indie) films are not Breaking News. Many channels have their “low urgency” items mapped out for weeks ahead, so if you’re hoping to get a story out before your big premiere, make sure you give them enough time to schedule it in – but not so much time that they will put it aside and forget all about it. How much notice is needed varies from hours to several weeks, even months. Smaller online channels usually have a faster turnaround, whereas traditional newsrooms plan further ahead. This is something you can actually contact the writers about – a good way to start building those relationships!
Smaller online channels usually have a faster turnaround, whereas traditional newsrooms plan further ahead.
So, when should you press ‘send’? The general rule is ‘early in the week, early in the day’. Unfortunately, there is no magic hour. If you’re approaching someone who writes for a living, avoid late afternoon and Friday, when they are already signing off and might not remember your case the next time they sit at their desk.
However, if you’re approaching someone who blogs or vlogs in the spare time, this rule may not apply. Follow them on social media, find out when they’re active (consider that they may be using Hootsuite or similar to schedule posts) and try to approach them when they are online. This way, you’ll be ready to answer any questions immediately.
Social media, Syndication and Brand Building
To make things easier for bloggers and arts editors, make sure you have your social media assets available for easy re-use. You can prepare images that share nicely on social media or even offer a few pre-made shares for Facebook and Twitter and link to these from your press release.
Once the press release is out, make sure you are active in sharing the articles written based on your press release. To keep track of the new articles, you can use services like Google Alerts.
Build cross-promotional partnerships. People are much more likely to share posts that have already been shared a few times.
To maximize the reach of each social media post, build cross-promotional partnerships. This means making a pact with fellow filmmakers or bloggers/vloggers to share each other’s posts. People are much more likely to share posts that have already been shared a few times. You can also mobilize your production team to do this, but it usually works best among parties that are each promoting something and spend a lot of time online.
For your brand building it is better to share the articles written about you rather than just your own virtual press office – and don’t forget to add links to the articles to your “featured in” section on your EPK website.
Make sure to read the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) tutorial as well.
Short e-mail pitches. I ditch e-mails after one or two sentences if they aren’t getting to the point.
— Ben Parr, former editor of Mashable
Press Release Guidelines
Top 10 Press Release Dos
Top 10 Press Release Donts
Download Checklist & Templates
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Press Release Tutorial Videos
Former TV news anchor and media professor Mark Grimm gives easy to understand tips on how to create a great press release. This media training Includes plenty of insider’s advice on writing, visuals and journalists’ needs with strong examples (2013)WATCH
Clare Freeman outlines how she writes a great press release, and uses media relationships, to get her startups international coverage in publications like The New York Times magazine and Condé Nast Traveler (2014)WATCH
“How to find any reporter’s email address”. This video explains how to find any email address using a handy spread sheet and gmail. Link to the spread sheet is at the bottom of the page with other handy tools for building your own press list.WATCH
Movie Press Release Examples
How to Find Film Journalists
Sources & Further Reading
Press releases: 10 common mistakes (The Guardian, 2012)
PR Guidelines (Independent)
Community Tool Box
Press Release Tips (Raven Tools)
How To Write A Press Release (Raindance)