Most newspapers publish events calendars and most local radio stations broadcast listings of events in their listening area. Inclusion in these listings is usually free, provided the event is open to the public and put on by a not-for-profit entity (most participatory dance and music events fall into this category). To have your event included, you need to write a press release and send it to the station or paper in time to meet their publication deadlines. This can be a great way to reach a wide audience with an announcement of your event. Here's how to do it.
Develop a Mailing List
Newspapers: Look for publications in your area, including arts/culture weeklies, the local newspaper, smaller independent papers, and local or regional cultural magazines. Find an email address for each where you can submit calendar listings. Usually an email address will be listed somewhere on the publications' web site, but you may need to call and ask specifically for their guidelines on submission. Find out the deadline for submissions, how far in advance they like to receive them, and whether they accept photos as email attachments.
Radio Stations: Look for radio stations in your area, especially public radio, college radio, and community radio stations. Find an email address on the station's web site for submitting Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or calendar listings. If the station has a folk music, world music, or other relevant show, contact the host of that show to ask if s/he has an event calendar. Again, you may need to call the station to ask about submission deadlines.
Compile the email addresses into a list so you can easily send your press release to all of them at once.
Writing the press release
A press release should be short and to the point while conveying relevant information about the event. The first one or two sentences should answer the very basic questions: what, where, when, who. Additional sentences can describe the event in more detail, provide brief directions, and encourage beginners to attend. The last sentence should tell people what to do to learn more, with email, web and phone contact information. Two paragraphs is a good target length for a regular (monthly/weekly) event; longer may be appropriate for a special event (ball, weekend, etc.) You can also include media contact information (who the paper/station should get in touch with if they have any questions) at the end of the email.
This sample shows how to write a press release for radio or newspapers.
Date: May 1, 2008
Subject: Announcing: Contra Dance in Walpole Saturday May 17
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE IN ARTS AND COMMUNITY EVENTS CALENDARS
WALPOLE, NH; On Saturday May 17 the Walpole Contra Dance will feature music by Van Kaynor and Ethan Hazzard-Watkins on fiddles, with Ann Percival on piano, guitar and ukelele. Ralph Sweet will call contras and squares for the dance. The dance will take place at the Walpole Town Hall, located next to the common in Walpole, NH. Ralph Sweet will teach a beginners' dance workshop at 7:30 p.m., and the dance will run from 8:00 to 11:30 p.m.
Contra dancing is an easy, fun, accessible social activity that is open to anyone; no experience is necessary and all dances will be taught. For more information or directions, please visit the Walpole Dance website at http://www.walpoledance.org, call 123-456-7890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Print quality photos of the band are available at: http://www.bandwebsite.com/photo.jpg
Print quality photos of the caller are available at: http://www.callerwebsite.com/photo.jpg
Newspapers may publish photos of the performers or of the dance style if they are available, but DON'T EMAIL ATTACHMENTS unless you have confirmed that they can and will receive them. You can opt to provide links to a location online where high resolution print quality photos can be downloaded. Feel free to include flowery prose about the wonderful performers if you want, but be aware that most of it may be edited out by the paper or radio station.
Putting it All Together
Once you have your mailing list assembled and your press release written, figure out the most appropriate time frame for sending publicity emails depending on everyone's deadlines. You may need to do several batches, for example radio stations and monthly publications one month ahead, weekly or daily publications two weeks ahead. Send it all off, and double check that the papers actually publish your listing. If they don't, follow up with a phone call to see what went wrong.