Get the Word Out: Publicity From Scratch

Presented by Cecilia Tan (


How do you get the word out about your event, meeting, group formation, or other important news? In this workshop, you'll learn how to work with traditional news media (newspapers, radio, tv), how to write a press release, how to cold call, how to build a database of media contacts, how to make your news seem newsworthy, etc... as well as how to take advantage of community resources, from flyering to the Internet.

  1. Intro: What Is Publicity?
    1. There's a distinction between publicity, advertising, promotion, and other forms of public relations, but they all relate to one another--we will touch on promotion and advertising a bit, too.
  2. Publicity Outlets--Each outlet needs to be approached differently, and for different purposes.
    1. Traditional:
      1. newspapers
        • big city daily (Washington Post)
        • community/gay/township weekly (Washington Blade)
        • freebie papers (Citypaper, The Village Voice)
        • "entertainment" papers (Stuff, Club Night)
        • adults only publications (Private Games, Rocky Mt. Oyster)
      2. magazines
        • leather community publications (Sandmutopia, Leather Journal)
        • fetish magazines (Skin Two, Secret)
        • regional magazines (i.e. Boston Magazine, Time Out New York)
        • newsstand (Time, Cosmopolitan)
      3. radio
        • talk shows/call in shows
        • music radio, promotion, ticket giveaways
        • community radio/college radio, calendars of events
        • NPR sponsorship
      4. television
        • community access, cable
        • local news
        • Oprah, Jerry Springer (just kidding, beyond this workshop)
    2. Nontraditional (but essential):
      1. World Wide Web
        • your site, what it needs, what it will serve
        • links to/from others
      2. Internet
        • newsgroups
        • email discussion lists
        • building an announcement list
    3. Community-based:
      1. Flyers, posters, location location location
      2. Club newsletter/publication
      3. Announcements at meetings
      4. Announcements at other clubs' meetings
      5. Cooperation/Co-promotion
  3. Reaching Out
    1. Essential Tools
      1. Cover letter
        • who are you contacting and why
        • what info can you include that wouldn't be right for a release
      2. Press release
        • information checklist
        • structure of release for maximum usage, "triangle form"
        • contact info
        • follow up info
      3. Web site
        • even more detailed than the press release
        • no limit on wordage, but must maintain focus
      4. Clippings -- increase the seeming importance of your release
        • previous media coverage about your event/group
        • related stories or items from national media
        • "briefing book"
      5. Database
        • building database of contacts
        • where to look up radio/tv/newspaper
        • fax broadcast, email announcement list
      6. How To Approach
        • phone call
        • letter
        • press release
        • different tacks
        • follow up
        • The most effective publicity comes through established relationships.
  4. WHY
    1. who are you trying to reach?
    2. what do you hope to gain from media notice?
    3. who will be the spokesperson if the media does take notice and wants more?
    4. what will be the consequences of media notice, both positive and negative?



How To Write a Press Release


A press release needs to have all of the following information:

Contact Info:

  1. Your name or name of someone editors can call if they need more
  2. Mailing address
  3. phone number
  4. optional but becoming more and more necessary: web site

Informational Info:

  1. Classic info is: who, what, when, where, why, and how
  2. Today's date, or date information should be released
  3. a headline

Your press release should be organized and written as if it is a news story, ready to be printed AS IS in a newspaper. (If you've ever had a class in journalism, you know this already.) The idea is, if the editor has to screw around with it too much, or if the information is incomplete, they aren't going to have time or inclination to do anything with it. but if it can run AS IS, in a worst case scenario they might just stick it into their publication. In a best case scenario, they decide to build a feature based on it, and will follow up with you for more information.

With that in mind, structure your press release as follows. Build it with the most important information first, so if the piece needs to be shortened, the end paragraph can just be lopped off. If it needs to be shortened again, the second-to-last can also be lopped off. And what you have left still reads and stands on its own as a press release. The triangle shape in this diagram represents how if you slice off the bottom layer, it's still a triangle and stands up. It also represents how you add more and more detail as you go along.

Four paragraphs is an ideal length for most press releases. There is some debate as to whether it is best to single space and keep everything on one page, or double space and use two pages. Some editors prefer one, some the other. Myself, I have been leaning toward one page, now that most typesetting and copyediting is not done by hand anymore. (Double spacing was to facilitate re-typing and editing marks, most of which is done on-screen now.) Obviously, if you are emailing the press release, it should be single spaced, but paper and fax will have more pull with many editors, and if you are sending any kind of photos or clippings, you'll need regular mail.

Be wary of using jargon (like "bottom") or abbreviations (like BDSM). If you are writing to the Leather Journal, well, okay, but even for your local gay newspaper, you may need to make an explanation of terms, and that will take over the whole press release. Try to stick with more generalized terms, and don't be afraid to tailor your releases to different types of outlets.

A pitch letter should accompany your release, as well, tailored to each medium and outlet, reiterating some of the points in the release and emphasizing the PURPOSE of your sending them the information--i.e. do you want them to list the event in the calendar section, are you trying to get them interested in interviewing someone, etc.



Checklist of info for promoting an event:






Leather Folk of Lapland
P.O. Box 4802
Snurg, VA 30009

President: Steeve Reeves
Vice Pres: Melinda Thurman
Secretary: Ozzie Gulliver

For Immediate Release
Contact: Mary Smith
April 1, 2000 (436) 888-9002


(Snurg, VA)--The yearly Mr. Snurg Leather Contest will take place Saturday, June 30, 2000, at The Meat Rack (211 Main Street, Snurg), from 8pm to 12 midnight. Admission is 21+, $8 in advance, or $10 at the door.

In the contest, twelve contestants from as far away as Grover County will compete Miss-America-style for the honor of representing Snurg in the Mr. Leather USA Contest, held in August in Tampa, Florida. The winner will also receive a $500 gift certificate to the Harley Davidson store in Malton and other prizes. The first runner up will get a $250 gift certificate. Contestants will have to prove not only that they have the looks and talent to win, but that they have the dedication to the leather community as well.

Last year's winner, Dale Mazurinski of nearby Abington, impressed the judges with his scores in the "swimsuit" category, as well as his impassioned speech for more inclusiveness in the leather community. Dale, as Mr. Snurg Leather 1999, has spent the year building a coalition of local leaders to fight the city council's closing of Derby's Bar in the upscale section of Snurg, and appearing at various gay community charity functions.

Organized and produced by Leather Folk of Lapland, Hawks M.C., and the Leather Brotherhood of Snurg, the Mr. Snurg Leather Contest is expected to attract a sell-out crowd to The Meat Rack. Last year, between a charity auction, door receipts, and 50/50 raffle, the event raised over $8000 for Stop AIDS Snurg.

For more information, call Mary Smith at (436) 888-9002 or visit














Leather Folk of Lapland
P.O. Box 4802
Snurg, VA 30009

President: Steeve Reeves
Vice Pres: Melinda Thurman
Secretary: Ozzie Gulliver

For Immediate Release
Contact: Mary Smith
April 1, 2000 (436) 888-9002


(Snurg, VA)--Jane Doe, founder of Leather Women's Safety Initiative (LWSI), will speak on her life and work, Saturday, June 20th, 3pm to 5pm, at the First Unitarian Church of Snurg (328 Maple Street in Snurg, across from the Jiffy Lube.) Ms. Doe is being hosted by the Leather Folk of Lapland, a coalition of lesbians and gay men working together to overturn negative stereotypes of the leather community within the gay and lesbian communities. A $5 donation is requested at the door; no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Jane Doe founded LWSI after she suffered an injury at a party on Pride Day in 1983 in Seattle, WA. She felt if she and the party's hosts had been better informed about safety issues, the incident could have been prevented, so she founded LWSI to promote safety education within the lesbian leather community. LWSI now has chapters in ten cities in the US and Canada, and the mission has expanded to leather folk of all genders and orientations. LWSI chapters host workshops, teach seminars, and publish a national newsletter, "Safety First."

LWSI's mission includes promoting "safer sex," such as AIDS prevention and stopping the transmission of other STDs, but the group also stresses first aid knowledge, mental health, and safety skills in the dungeon. "You can't learn everything on the Internet," says Doe. "Some skills have to be acquired hands on." The group offers annual First Aid Certification Courses free of charge in several cities in the US, including nearby Alexandria. For more information:

Leather Folk of Lapland was founded in 1995 and hosts monthly guest speakers and social events. Through donations gathered at their events and through Pride Day bake sales, the group has raised over $1200 this year for the Rainbow Community Center of Snurg. For more information, call Mary Smith at (436) 888-9002 or visit

(Ms. Doe will be available for phone interview prior to her visit.)






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