Seeking Free Publicity for Square & Round Dancing

(This is an excerpt from a presentation targeting a marketing initiative of the B.C. Square and Round Dance Federation – By Brian Elmer)

The Press Release
One of the best ways to reach a mass audience is by seeking free publicity in the press. In this case though, we recommend a different approach than inviting a reporter from the media to cover an event. Many times, things are left up to a visiting reporter. On the rare occasion that they do come, they will often prefer to focus on a human-interest aspect that might not be favourable to our image and probably won’t tell of the benefits of our dance form that you’d like to see.

Several regions have seen exceptional, favourable response from both print and online media upon submission of ready-to-print press releases with accompanying photos. The online media outlets are generally considered “community internet portals” and they serve communities with news and events information and much more, like an electronic newspaper. The method that has been followed is to write press releases in the style of a press reporter and submit them unsolicited by e-mail. A little research into your local media web sites should reveal the email addresses of their editors. The topics have varied from detailing a club event to the special activities of dancers. The distribution by email is the easy part. Taking photos, gathering information about an event and writing the release is the hard part.

In seeking free publicity, we have little control over what the media editor will actually publish, if anything. You cannot expect 100 percent success with every press release, but some persistence can pay off. Keep submitting! Dance news is “soft news” and your story might get “bumped” by some serious hard news.

If you wish, you can contact the various editors of your local print and electronic media sources and ask about their preferences regarding the submission of press releases. It can’t hurt to establish a good relationship with the press. If submitting to a newspaper, leave it to the editor to select where to place your story. They’ll gauge whether it’s suitable for the “About Town” section, the “Travel” section, etc. You might even discover your material is on the front page.

An important thing is to know exactly what geographic area each media outlet serves. In the case of newspapers, where do they distribute? Again, those that are “community focused” will be disinterested in content that doesn’t relate. An exception could be persons from the community going somewhere, in which case the story is about them and their experiences. Also, your dance group wants to be seen in media where there’s reasonable chance that the readers/viewers can interact with you. Concentrate on the media that serves the immediate community where the dance club operates and where the members live.

Photo Submission
A selection of three to six photographs are generally attached to each email press release. Each photo has a suggested caption, naming the persons pictured and/or detailing what’s happening in each shot. You want your photos to relate to the subject matter of the press release. Providing the media outlets with several photos makes it less likely they’ll all publish the same picture. In the case of competing newspapers, they want to look a little different from each other. Sometimes it’s a “photo release” that is furnished to the media. That is valuable to maintain awareness in picture form where a full written press release is not appropriate. Again, the photos should be sent with suggested captions.

Resolution of Photographs
Newspapers need higher resolution photographs than online media. Photos for newspapers are usually requested at 300 dots-per-inch. A photo file-size of 1 megabyte or larger should ensure that. Pictures to be seen online can be furnished in low resolution (100 kilobytes or less). A simple approach is to issue the photos in high resolution and let those who don’t need them that way make the appropriate adjustments.

Editor’s Note
OK, so now it’s time to put into practice some of these tips and ideas for new articles. Most SWOSDA clubs have been writing articles all along for publishing in the “Bugle” along with accompanying photos, so this should not be very difficult. While sending your articles and photos to your local media, send a copy to the SWOSDA Bugle to be shared with other dancers as well. Lets do this!

It will be a great opportunity to enlighten the public as to what “modern” square dancing is all about.

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