Kiplin Hall & Gardens is a nearly 400-year-old historic house, open today as a museum, gardens and award winning tearoom. Not to be confused with Mr Kipling, Kiplin has quite a reputation for exceedingly good cakes. Proper Yorkshire portions and the aroma of fresh bakes are a daily delight.
As marketing officers for museums know, the appetite for press coverage is insatiable. But in the process of churning out press releases I fear the odd soggy bottomed story, slightly undercooked in the rush to sell the exhibition or event.
Based on our success here at Kiplin, including a 65% increase in visitor figures and winning the Museum + Heritage Award for Marketing Campaign of the Year 2022, I’m confident to share my recipes to gain more press coverage by stepping outside of the format of a traditional press release.
1. Change the format
A press release is normally used to promote an exhibition, event, object or person – but unless there is a newsworthy angle, it’s just an advert. Museums and galleries are chock-full of interesting and long-life stories, so how can we make the old stories we have to tell new?
The answer is to change the format. Rather than working on a press release, offer up feature articles.
The difference is a little like the distinction between chips and crisps. Both are made from fried potato, but the results are unalike. Using the skills, knowledge and resources you already have you can repackage your stories into a new feature appetiser, tempting newspaper editors to share them, and readers to become visitors.
To create feature articles, I recommend working on a theme. This allows you to create a series of articles that link together, offering a great opportunity for brand recognition and building a rapport with new and established readers and visitors.
Below are some examples of how we’ve done this at Kiplin Hall:
- Through the keyhole
Kiplin ran a Through the Keyhole feature with The Northern Echo in 2020. This resulted in 16 full-page articles in print and online. At the time, a half page advert cost around £199 so this equated to more than £6,000 worth of coverage.
Each week we provided an article about each room in the historic house. The articles gave a potted history and highlighted key objects and/or people associated with that room. We also branched out to areas of the garden.
- The people behind the place
We interviewed staff and volunteers exploring their favourite objects and their role in the organisation. We also wrote articles about people from Kiplin’s past. This was a great way to explore parts of the collection that had been dormant in our press coverage for some time while offering a personal connection.
By using the faces of people from different backgrounds we were able to show some of the diversity in our organisation.
- An A to Z of Discovery
This was the most successful of our features. By following an “A is for…” format, we were able to tell the stories of objects, people, or places starting with each letter of the alphabet.
Twenty-six articles printed fortnightly gave us just over a year’s worth of coverage with The Northern Echo. More than 200,000 people read The Northern Echo, making it one of the UK's largest daily newspapers.
Examples of the A to Z of Discovery format can be seen on Kiplin Hall's blog.
2. Writing your piece
With each approach, we followed a very similar “recipe” or model.
Start with an introduction. A short couple of sentences introducing the theme and setting the context for the series. This will be the same/similar each week and needs about 50 – 70 words.
What are we talking about today? Get to it. About 300-400 words will form the main dish of your article. At the end say what you’ll be covering next week very briefly, just one sentence.
End with a call to action or sales message in about 30-70 words. This can change with each article as it may have timely links to your programme. You might want to provide a website link, the date of an event or your opening hours.
3. Getting it in print
If you want to gain column inches in a certain publication, buy and read the publication first. This will help you to learn their style and to write like them. You’ll see the page layouts and will be able to send pictures and content to easily fit their style.
Don’t spend weeks writing articles without a place to serve them. Instead pick one theme and draft a first article. Remember to write in the third person, as if you are the journalist. Contact the publication and pitch the idea, offering to write the rest of the series if they’ll print it. Remember to tell them how many articles you envisage the series taking.
Think about what you need this coverage to do and make sure you check your timings – for example, in the run up to an event to push ticket sales or during your quietest times to drive more visitors through the door.
While the words of the feature article are important, it’s the images that accompany it that really sell the story. You must have a selection of good-quality images to accompany your article.
Remember when you read the publication to note if they tend to use portrait, landscape or square images. Do they use a header image and smaller cut aways in the body of the text? Give them images that will fit their format.
Your aim is to create an article that can be copied and pasted into the newspaper template with minimal editing or work on their part. If you can make the life of the journalist or editor easier, they’ll be delighted to print your content.
Samantha Jennings is the marketing officer at Kiplin Hall & Gardens. She can be contacted on email@example.com if you have any questions. The Kiplin Hall blog features examples of the A to Z of Discovery format.