How To Write (and Use) a Press Release
We asked journalists what you should be doing
No one wants to create content in a vacuum. But getting your web series in front of an audience can be incredibly difficult, especially if your online reach is limited to the people you already know. Press coverage for your show not only creates a sense of legitimacy around the project but also spreads the word that you exist, which, for many series, is the missing link between them and success. But how do you get press coverage? If you’re very lucky, or very established, press will come to you, hoping for an exclusive. More than likely, though, you’re in an uphill battle for acknowledgement, so you might need to give them a nudge. The best way to nudge is with a press release.
Credit where credit is due: the incomparable Tara Jayn is the goddess who introduced me to press releases. She is the co-creator and star of the excellent series Social Medium, and we met on Instagram, of all places. I picked her brain for everything from crowdfunding to crowdfunding (does anyone know how to crowdfund successfully? And can you teach me??), and she gave me some incredible advice, but the most important piece, by far, was about how and why to create a press release.
WHAT IS A PRESS RELEASE?
A press release is an official statement containing information about something you want newspapers and magazines and websites to write about — in this case, your web series. Sometimes they’re for announcing an event, like the release of your new show or your big film festival win, and sometimes they’re evergreen, chock full of the most recent and relevant information regarding your show.
WHAT SHOULD GO INTO A PRESS RELEASE?
The who, what, when, and why. As a sucker for structure, I like to break mine up into sections. The first section is what and why — what’s being announced and why it’s topical.
Example: “In September 2015, Undead Burrito Productions released the first ten episode season of its original web series Brains. The series follows college neuropsychology student Alison Sumner as she navigates the dating world post zombie apocalypse. The season ended on a cliffhanger, and now the team is back together for season 2, to be released on September 19th, 2016.”
If you have more information about the announcement, that goes next. In this example from my show, Brains, we announced which principal cast were sticking around, which new cast members were joining the team, and that we recast a character between seasons. We also gave a quick description of the new season to tease interest.
After that, put your one paragraph show as-a-whole description. Now that you’ve hooked them on what’s going on, you need to give context. If you aren’t announcing something, but rather informing someone that you exist, this section would come right after the intro.
Finally, give them contact information. In general, a name, that person’s connection to the show, and an email address will suffice.
I’ve found these two resources particularly helpful for the nitty gritty: WikiHow and Best Shorts. Also, check out this post about cold email tips for advice on what to put in the body of your message.
WHAT DO I DO WITH A PRESS RELEASE?
Why, you email it to every human you can think of, of course! I’m gonna level with you: most people will not respond at all, let alone post about you. But the handful of people who do respond and do write about you will help you immeasurably. At the bottom of this blog is a list of web series-friendly blogs and websites that would be a great start when you begin sending off your press release, but first, I thought it might be helpful to actually hear from some of them have to say!
FROM THE PRESS THEMSELVES
Michelle Rose, creator of the web series site NetTVNow, told me > “if within the first paragraph or so I’m not getting the, “Who, What, Why,” questions answered, I lose interest. Additionally, it’s always great to see social media links to your web series, it saves the writers a lot of time of sorting through different social media profiles to find the right one.” She also likes it when people send along photos as well, particularly when they haven’t been shared elsewhere. “It makes me feel like what you’re sharing with me is important and should be shared with everyone else!”
Uve at The Daily Fandom had similar things to say. “The main issue we find with some press releases is that they don’t offer a lot of information. The information they give is something that can be easily found in their social media… In that regard, an improvement that could be made would be sharing additional information such as shooting details, the inspiration behind the project, the overall themes and message of the series, etc. If possible, this could come in the form of quotes from the cast/crew to get a more personal perspective of the project.” She agreed with Michelle from NetTVNow that having high quality production stills and show logos makes things even easier for the publication.
Bryna Kramer, a reporter from Talk Nerdy With Us, also suggests you get right to the point. “Personally, I only want information that is relevant to the specific message you are sending out. For example, if the release is about a television show and is coming from a network, I only want things that pertain to that particular show. If you want to share facts about your network, I would prefer them be in a separate document. If you include too much, it makes the release way too long and hard to digest.” She agrees that including links to social media and other places for more information is incredibly important.
Ajay, founder and CEO of Stareable, prefers something a little more unconventional. “Don’t include a press release as an attachment. I don’t want to read an email and then open a press release to get more info. The email should be the press release.” He continues, adding that “including a press release as an attachment makes it seem incredibly impersonal, like you’re sending it out in bulk.” He also recommends you understand the particulars about the sites you’re submitting to. For example, don’t submit your series to a blog that predominantly covers LGBT content if your show doesn’t have LGBT characters front and center.
This goes to show that each website and editor is different, so make sure to do your research before blindly sending your information out into the void.
I would suggest making a full “press kit” that you can make available to publications, which includes your basic press release, production photos and high resolution logos, cast and crew information, and synopses of different lengths. Not every publication requires all of this, but having it organized and on-hand puts you head and shoulders above everyone else.
Admittedly, there are some circumstances when you don’t want to use a press release. Pablo Andreu, PR Director at The One Show and creator of the web series Stray, cautions that if you don’t have something to announce, sometimes, a simple introductory email can work wonders. “Reporters, bloggers, and editors get inundated with so many press releases that a simple two-sentence email can be refreshing.”
If you read my “faking your own legitimacy” post , you know I’m a big proponent of web series having a website to point people to. This website should have a page dedicated to the press you’ve received. Sometimes, just knowing you’ve gotten press coverage is enough to convince a potential viewer to give you a watch.
Below is an incomplete list of websites who have written about web series in the past, but the best place to start when sending out a press release is to find out where shows similar to yours have been written about before. That way, you can reach out yourself, possibly even citing the other web series as precedent for your inclusion. “If you liked that show, you’ll like us too!”
Talk Nerdy With Us
The Daily Fandom
The Snobby Robot
New Media Rockstars
Indie Series Network
Pop Culture Monster
The Daily Dot
note- this list will update as we become aware of new or other sites that frequently post about web series! Do you know of one we missed? Let us know!