DIY Publicity Guide

So, you’re holding an event, exhibiting your work or producing a show. That’s great!

Artists, performers and producers who have tackled their own publicity already know that it’s a task that requires persistence and (for the best results) some lateral thinking.

This resource from the ABC of Publicity will guide you through some of the things you need to think about when publicising your event.

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Don’t forget, publicity is not paid advertising.  Ideally, it’s for mutual benefit – gaining some profile for your project, and some interesting copy/airwaves for media outlets.  Don’t take it for granted – it will require time and some creative thinking, as well as perseverance.

Look at the arts sections of newspapers, street press, magazines and listen to the myriad of shows on the myriad of radio stations. Find out which journalists and presenters are into what – after all there’s no point targeting a journalist whose primary interest is jazz when you’re presenting contemporary drama.

There are some great resources about publicity and marketing available through websites such as Arts Hub ( and Fuel4Arts (

Don’t forget that word of mouth is one of the most effective means of getting an audience.  So think carefully about this when planning your publicity and marketing strategies and ensure friends, family and fans KNOW that you’re performing/producing/exhibiting.  Sounds obvious, but some events neglect these important audiences in their pursuit of media coverage.

Where to Start

You will need:

  • A telephone (with voicemail/answering machine)
  • Reliable access to email
  • Perseverance
  • Creative thinking

Before you start planning your publicity campaign, you should think about;

What are you selling? 

What is your point of difference, your unique selling point?  You need to grab people’s attention by focussing on the most important, most interesting, most unusual aspect of your event.  Consider whether you can tailor this for different potential audiences.

Who are your potential audiences and how do you each them?

Some of the most successful publicity campaigns are those that do not rely upon the mainstream media.  You’re creative, so have a look at these ideas and give the left side of your brain a work out!

  • Special interest groups.  Contact specialist interest groups / specialist media that might not ordinarily be known for their coverage of or attendance at arts events.  For example, if you’re playing gypsy music, contact your local Balkan society together with Balkan language programs and media.  See if there is a Balkan Society Facebook site or Twitter feed that you can contribute to.
  • Schools.  If you’re doing a show related to the school curriculum, ensure you tell as many schools as possible about your show. 
  • Tertiary institutions.  Make sure that tertiary institutions teaching drama, dance, music, performance, visual arts etc know what you’re doing.
  • Remember to submit information about your events to print and online diaries such as:
  • Your contacts. Email friends and family and ask them to pass on details of the show to their friends. 
  • Set up your own email database.  Have a list handy at your event for audience members to record their email address

Writing your Media Release

Journalists receive umpteen emails, faxes, letters and telephone calls so if you can attract their attention with the content of your media release, you’re off to a good start. You’ll find some examples of media releases attached.

In the simplest terms a media release should cover the ‘what, where, why, how, who and when’ of the event it will be used to publicise.  Kick off with the most important and attention grabbing information – your unique selling point.

Remember, you are competing against lots of other shows and events for print / air / web space so make it as interesting or newsworthy as possible. 

Consider these points:

  • Sum up your pitch in one, punchy sentence – for your opening gambit, a strong overall concept trumps the detail.
  • Where possible, be topical – hook to an anniversary, a current news story, a local issue/topic.
  • A cracking personal story will win every time.

Try to keep your press release to a maximum of one A4 page in length. 

The things you must include in your release are:

  • The name of the show / event
  • The dates and times of performances / event
  • Ticket prices
  • Booking number and address
  • A contact for media enquiries
  • The nature of the performance / event
  • An explanation of themes/style
  • Brief background of the artist (s) involved

Write targeted media releases for different target media…particularly pick up on local newspapers and local radio in the artists’ home areas.


Photographs that relate to your show/exhibition are very useful but the cost of professional photographs is an expensive proposition.  Ideally photographs should be in colour, clear, strong and be representative of your event. 

Some publications will send a photographer if they’re publishing a preview article, but sometimes you’ll need to supply your own photograph if it’s a review. 

Ensure your photos are in jpg format and at a reasonable size (not exceeding 1mb).  Print requires a resolution of 300dpi.

Sending out your Media Release

Now that you have your media release, the fun is about to really begin.  You want to make sure that the information is going to the people who are going to use it. 


  • Look and listen to learn who’s interested in what in the media.
  • Send your media release, where possible, by email in the body of the email.
  • Use the blind carbon copy (bcc) function when emailing to the media en masse.
  • Target who you send the release to as much as possible.
  • Keep a record of who you’ve sent the release to.
  • Follow up with selected journalists.  This means ringing them, asking if they’ve received the release and then:
  • If Yes – asking whether they’d like further information or whether they’d like to do an     interview/photograph?
  • If No – say you’ll send it through again then call back in a day or so to check it’s been received and whether they’d like to take it further.


  • Send email attachments.
  • Send unsolicited photographs
  • Send viruses
  • Keep contacting a journalist if they have indicated that they’re not interested.


There are many ways you can publicise your show beyond the daily papers. 

Take advantage of social media, local papers, street press, web sites and online diaries, national, local and community radio.

Now you’ve got their attention…

Here’s a bit about media etiquette:

  • Find out who the journalist would like to speak with in your cast and brief that cast member accordingly, being especially clear about interview times, locations etc.
  • Where possible, provide a land line number for telephone interviews.  Mobile calls are expensive and subject to all sorts of technical hitches.
  • Be punctual for appointments with journalists and photographers. And be prompt when responding to their enquiries.
  • If a journalist is attending your show or event, give them the VIP treatment.
  • Provide contact numbers and addresses for both those to be interviewed and to the journalist in case there are any last minute problems.
  • If you’re being interviewed on radio:
  • Find out whether the interviewer requires any further information – biographies etc – prior to the interview
  • Don’t forget to take CD’s with you if required.
  • LISTEN to what the presenter is asking you. 
  • Keep your answers short and informative – avoid ‘waffle’ at all costs.
  • Do not interrupt, talk over the top of the interviewer or answer with just yes or no.
  • Do not answer questions that you a) don’t know the answer to and b) don’t feel comfortable answering.  Offer to find out the information and relay it to the journalist at a later time.
  • Give away some free tickets or invitations to the opening night if possible – but be sure to clear this with the station before the interview.

Posters, Flyers, Postcards, Ads

For many events, the production of artwork is the biggest expense related to publicity and marketing.  Many events simply can’t afford the costs involved, but don’t let this dishearten you;   with so many free publicity options available, you can still ensure that your potential audiences know about your event. 

If you do decide to invest in posters, flyers or postcards, remember:

  • You need to budget for a designer, printing and, perhaps, advertisements and distribution.   Design and printing prices vary considerably so it’s worth doing your homework.  
  • Be clear on how you are going to distribute your posters / flyers / postcards and if they are the best way of communicating your event to your potential audience.
  • Make sure your artists have a supply of posters and flyers to distribute.

Social Media

Australians are amongst the most active social media users globally and your potential audiences are increasingly likely to be engaged in this space.  

If you are contacting specialist interest groups, the media or educational institutions remember to check to see if they have a social media presence (ie Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) that you can contribute to. 


Most of your media publicity will be done three to four weeks before your event. 

As far in advance as possible

  • Some publications require long lead times – some specialist and glossy magazines need material three months in advance.  Research these magazine and find out what their deadlines are.
  • Contact schools, educational institutions, special interest groups so they have plenty of time to plan their trip to your event.

5 weeks prior to show

  • Collect biographical information from performers/crew as applicable
  • Write media release (see above)
  • Have flyers and poster artwork ready for printing
  • Plan invitation list for the opening night / event if applicable

4 weeks prior to show

  • Distribute media release to media
  • Distribute invitations to invitation list
  • Deliver flyers/posters if applicable

2 to 3 weeks prior to show

Follow up with media

  • Organise giveaways with press/radio if applicable.
  • Distribute flyers/posters around town if applicable


Produced with material from The ABC of Publicity event, October 2012. With thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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