Looking to up your PR game in 2018? Music PR specialist Emma Bartholomew kicks off this 2 part series with 5 key considerations for building your PR strategy.
1) PR starts with first impressions…
PR is all about perception. The audience and industry’s perception of any artist (or brand, which is effectively what an artist becomes in the eyes of the watching/listening/consuming world), starts with how they act and how they interact with their fans and any industry professionals with whom they come into contact. I always tell emerging artists they should never assume a person’s level of importance when meeting them at a gig or in any professional environment – the most unassuming, modest person in a crowd could be the key to unlocking opportunities in a career, so treat everyone you meet along the way with equal respect. That’s where the PR begins…
Remember that you are building a brand as an artist, so think about all aspects of that brand, from the styling on stage to the wording on your social media accounts. These all reflect who you are as an artist.
2) Never underestimate the power of DIY
Although I’m a firm believer that artists should be free to be artists and not have to spend all of their time and energy on admin, the reality is that, in the early days, you will have to do everything yourself, from bookings to social media and gig promo. These days our industry is all about DIY, especially for emerging artists. This can be a great thing as it gives artists full control over the development of their sound and image, and it’s important for artists to learn about as many aspects of the business as possible. Your long-term goal might be to get signed or hire a manager, for example, but gaining an understanding of the various business practices involved will empower you in the long run. In terms of PR, if artists keep up to date with what’s going on in the music press, they will have a better idea of what makes it into the few music magazines that still exist and onto the plethora of music blogs and online magazines out there.
It’s essential to get a grip of just how much competition there is out there when reaching out to the music press. Journalists are inundated with submissions, so artists need to put in the research to know which titles are best suited to their style of music and within those titles, which writers might be most interested in their material.
3) Always include a “hook”
When contacting the music press you need to have a “hook” – something interesting and engaging to tell the press about. Once you have something to talk about, like a new release or an exciting gig, draft a one page press release (there are plenty of online templates to guide you) and try your luck with relevant press/bloggers. Remember, there is so much white noise out there in the press ether, most of what you send will not register on journalists’ radars.
If there are any press-worthy points about your release/gig, include them in the press release to make it stand out. This sounds really obvious, but it’s vital to include the name of your single/EP, the release date and some kind of link to enable the journalist to listen to it. If you’re plugging a gig, always include the venue name and address, date, set time and, if there’s a press or VIP list, include details of how to sign up. You’d be surprised how many press releases get sent out where either that basic info is not included or it’s so hidden in irrelevant rambling that it’s hard to find.
Other points to consider:
- Think carefully about the title of the email you’re sending – make it relevant and interesting.
- Name drop – if you’ve worked with anyone of note, name them. Who produced or co-wrote your track? Who mixed or mastered it? Did you get to record it in a decent studio?
- Who else is playing on the line-up of your latest gig? Is it an iconic venue? All these elements can add credibility to your product/brand.
- Had any recent sync placements or features on high profile streaming playlists? Now’s the time to mention this.
4) Don’t ignore local press or radio
Don’t ignore your local press when you start out. You are far more relevant to your local paper or community website than to the national press. If they run music reviews or have anything resembling an arts desk, build a relationship with them. This will give you good experience at communicating with press, writing press releases and possibly even giving interviews. Just as local radio stations are run on syndicated material from one studio to another, local papers are often hooked into national groups and your coverage might go further than you think, especially in this digital age.
The same rule applies to radio. Some local stations have dedicated shows or even sub-stations fully committed to playing all new music, and these can be much more accessible than national stations, although digital and online station Amazing Radio is all about supporting new music, so it’s worth checking out how they like to receive submissions and sending tracks to them. Don’t forget to submit your music to well-respected local radio stations, especially via the BBC Introducing uploader. This is divided into regional BBC stations and artists can have three tracks on the system at any one time. If the producers on your local BBC station like what they hear, you will get airplay with them. Some do live shows featuring Introducing artists, which is a great opportunity for playing live radio sessions in a proper studio. Great thing to promote on social media too, remembering to hook in all the right handles and hashtags for the station, presenter, etc.
5) Small budgets can go a long way
On a small budget there are also things artists can do to get their message out there. Relatively small spends on social media ad campaigns via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be really effective when building up to a single/EP launch or a gig. The same can be done on YouTube when an artist has a video coming out. The targeted nature of the ad systems on the platforms makes it all very user-friendly and regular reports can be accessed with all the analytics to see how and where the ads are working and if it’s worth investing more budget to keep them going. Generally though, get on top of your social media accounts, engage with the content, follow the right people, post regularly, but not so often it becomes annoying, and be consistent and relevant in what you’re putting out there. Nobody needs to see pics of you posing for selfies with your mates on a night out when they have no idea who you are as an artist – that’s for your personal account.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where Emma runs through when to hire a PR, what to expect from a campaign and sync-specific PR advice!
About the author:
Emma Bartholomew runs a PR, Brand Strategy & Events agency for the Entertainment Industry. She works with clients in the entertainment industry and organisations who wish to use music and entertainment in activations to drive brand strategy. Recent clients include Midem, Coversion, Dubai Airports and Future Music Forum.