A DIY guide to public relations: how to be your own publicist
- 19 August 2021, Thursday
You have a new album coming out on digital streaming platforms and you want the world to know about it. How do you spread the word? Unless you’re rolling in cash and are able to afford a professional PR agency, chances are you’ll be flying solo. This guide will teach you the basics of PR for the music industry so that your next album or tour gets the coverage it deserves.
What is PR and how can it help you?
Public relations is essentially the practice of strategic communications: it’s about building relationships with journalists by offering them content that will interest their audience. For artists, it’s one of the best ways to get your name out there – the ultimate goal being to have journalists write about you and promote your work. Whether you’re an up-and-coming artist or a more established name, PR can be extremely valuable. For emerging talents, it offers the opportunity to start building your profile and getting your music heard. For the more established, PR can help you build and shape the public image of yourself as an artist.
So where do you even start?
Depending on the type of story you are pitching, there are a few different ways to get started. Traditional PR work starts with writing a press release. This is a formal document, about one page in length, that announces a piece of news to the press. In the music industry, the most common types of press releases are album launch releases (designed to generate interest among reviewers) and tour releases (which announce the dates of your upcoming tour and invite journalists along). A press release is generally written in a similar style to what you read in the news. It has a top-heavy structure just like a news story – meaning all the important facts go at the top, with a catchy headline and introduction designed to grab the journalists attention. There are plenty of press release templates available online.
Find the right journalists, start pitching
Once you have the press release ready to go, you can start building a media list with the contact details of reviewers, writers and bloggers who are interested in the genre or field you operate in. This is the list of people who you will email your press release to, along with a short note explaining why it is interesting to them. The most important thing here is to do your homework. Don’t just create one massive list of hundreds of music journalists and send it to each. Seek out the journalists who are passionate about your style of music and write an individual pitch. Most bigger publications have journalists covering different topic areas, or rounds. The last thing you want to do is send news about your new techno album to a rock reviewer, for example, because this just shows how little time you have taken to do your research. Instead, read their articles. Get to know their writing style and what areas they cover. Follow them on Twitter and use it to find out what interests them. Your ultimate goal should be to build a lasting relationship with the journalist – the best way to do this is by showing you have read and respect their work. Hopefully they will show you the same respect in return.
You’ve emailed but didn’t hear back – now what?
You’ve crafted your story and sent off your emails to a carefully chosen group of journalists. Despite high expectations, you didn’t get as many responses as expected. But don’t be disheartened – this can be a common occurence in PR, particularly if it is your first time pitching. Public relations is ultimately about building long term relationships. Journalists will often prioritise pitches from existing contacts over those from publicists they don’t know. They also receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day. So it’s up to you to craft an interesting enough story to grab their attention. When you do not hear back after your an initial pitch, the next step is to follow up. But there are a few important rules to keep in mind here to avoid damaging your relationships with the media.
The delicate art of the follow up
As a general rule of thumb, you can send a journalist a gentle reminder after 3-4 days to follow up on your initial pitch. However, you want to do more here than ask if they received your previous email. The trick is to offer them something more – an exclusive interview or perhaps some information about an upcoming tour. If your first angle didn’t grab their attention, try to offer them some new information or more details that could pique their interest the second time around. If it is your first time pitching, a quick call to introduce yourself might be in order. However, keep in mind that many journalists prefer to communicate on email. So use some discretion when it comes to picking up the phone.
The cardinal rule: don’t badger the media
The number one rule of public relations: don’t become a pest! Multiple follow up emails and multiple calls will only damage any chance you have of building a strong relationship with the journalist for the long term. Instead, always be respectful of their time constraints and deadlines. Keep your emails short and get to the point quickly. If you have to follow up, follow up once or twice as a maximum and then leave it be. Sometimes you have to admit defeat: as important as the story is to you, it might not be as compelling to the journalist or their readers.
Craft a good story and the rest will come
The ultimate tip for nailing your own PR is to focus on crafting a good story. So take a step back and try to think objectively: what is it about my story that would grab the attention of the media, and the public more generally? If you have a solid news hook or a strong personal story to tell, the rest will fall into place. Happy pitching!
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