My team and I speak to a lot of musicians who want music publicity. What continues to baffle us is the fact that many of the artists who contact us have no idea what they are looking for – someone told them they should “Get a Publicist so they come a – calling.
So, I have written a guide to help you navigate the waters of not only doing your own PR but also what to look for should you decide to hire a team to help you.
Here is an excerpt from Part 3 which focuses on how to find, research & hire a publicist to help you…
Making Contact with a PR Firm
Before You Call: Set Your Expectations & Goals
Most major PR firms (the ones that have national acts on their rosters) have strict criteria for accepting clients and many of them plan music publicity campaigns months in advance.
It will be helpful to have reasonable goals in mind that you can talk to her about. Reasonable does not mean Pitchfork if you are just starting out. It means figuring out what is attainable from where you are today. Create a list of at least five goals – these should be specific media targets. This way you will know what you are aiming for when you hire.
I get a lot of complaints from artists who call me and say that they have tried to contact certain PR firms and that they never get a response. Speaking in defense of a busy PR firm, many are just too crazed with work to handle the incoming inquiries and many don’t handle independent artists preferring to work with signed or represented clients only. With a little finessing you can get to them. This is not a guarantee that they will want to take you on as a client, but it will at least get you in the door.
Know Who You Are Calling
Why are you targeting that firm? You should know the answer to this first and foremost. Next, visit the “about us” section of the firms website and read about the team working at the firm so you know who you may be either speaking to or asking for! And always ask for someone specific by name.
Pick Up The Phone
When you make initial contact with a public relations firm, don’t just dive in and start firing questions at whoever picks up the telephone. Note that a very busy intern or an administrative assistant may be in charge of answering the phones and most likely will not be able to tell you prices or PR firm availability.
Ask If You Can Email
Ask if it may be possible to send an overview to someone with links to music before you leave a message – Then prepare a short and thoughtful email with who you are, name of project, when you want to release and links to music. A Private SoundCloud is preferred.
If You Are Asked To Leave A Message
You may be sent to voicemail or someone will take a message. Do not just leave your name and phone number!
Leave a full and concise message saying the following:
Your name – first and last, and your band / artist name.
Your telephone number – just one number not work, home and cell.
Your reason for calling – “I am interested in hiring a PR firm and I am inquiring about your interest and availability.”
If the person taking the message seems receptive (and tolerant), then also leave your website URL, and release date, but save more until the conversation with the appropriate person.
3 Strikes – They’re Out!
If no one calls you back within 72 hours, call again and repeat.
Three strikes and move on… If a PR firm can’t call you back after 3 tries they are not the firm for you.
If You Get The Publicist On The Phone
If you do get someone on the phone on first contact, ask only three questions.
But, first introduce yourself very briefly. Example:
Hi, this is ______________ and I’m in an indie pop band from LA about to release a new EP.
1: Are you considering new clients for the time frame of ______ (your release date?)
2: Give a very brief synopsis of your project, three sentences max. Include:
• The genre of music you play (if you didn’t already mention it)
• Distribution plan
• Your release show / tour schedule with markets and highlights
Then any other parts of your release plan, like your radio promotion, your social media promotions, etc.
3: Ask – can I send you the music to consider? Then send a private SoundCloud link. Do not clog up her inbox with a YouSendIt or a dropbox – one click is all she should have to do to get the gist!
Round 2: If The PR Firm Is Interested
You will next probably set up a call to chat. This is the time when you can really see if you like the publicist, her ideas, her ability to listen and this is the time to have a candid conversation about your expectations for the campaign. If she “yeses” you to death and doesn’t manage expectations this is not a great sign.
Have These 3 Talking Points Ready
- National distribution – CD Baby or Tunecore may not be enough of a distribution plan for some larger PR firms who deal with national publications (please tell me the last time you read: “Available at Tunecore” in a major publication?)
- A release date in mind that is at least 2-3 months away from your initial contact.
- Interesting angles – Really think this through – We just signed an artist who is scoring the first VR Shakespeare performance and we think that is awesome – as VR sites and film score blogs will go nuts for this angle! A tour in place, a charity affiliation or local angles can be great too.
Ask About Accountability & Reporting
This is CRUCIAL – you deserve to be updated as your PR campaign progresses. You want to know who is pitching on your behalf, is it an intern or an experienced publicist? And you should expect regular press reports and updates from your PR team so be sure to ask about the reporting policy. Also – will they be telling you and showing you who they are pitching you to so you can be following along with social media follows? This is key.
Ask Hard Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions and really have a candid conversation.
BE AWARE: A PR firm is NOT a used car lot!
I have heard stories that PR firms do “hard sells” saying that rates are only available for a certain amount of time – this is CRAZY and means you should be running away.
Do Your Research
99% of publicists all sound fabulous on the telephone, and they should, after all communication is their job.Therefore, it is critical that you do some due diligence and research. I suggest that you use these 4 methods to research publicity firms.
- Google the individual names of each publicist, and the name of the company, and look for information about these individuals. Dig past the first few pages!
- Google the different bands and artists that they rep and search for placements (articles, blog posts) If you don’t see articles this may not be a great sign.
- Search Glass Door. An artist who was ripped off by a firm told me about this one, and she was horrified when she read about what it was like to work at that firm. Search for the name of the company at https://www.glassdoor.com and see if anyone who has worked there has reported about the company or what the morale is like.
- Ask Artists. Reach out and ask bands on socials – the best part about social media is you can directly ask bands and artists on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and ask what their experience is like. This is the BEST way, as artists will always watch out for other artists.
I hope you found this excerpt from The Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity useful, and if you would like to read the whole guide you can download it by clicking on the graphic here:
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