Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that
mutantspublicists are very real, and that they are among us. We must know who they are, and above all, what they can do! – (adapted from X-Men)
So in part one of this series I covered what music PR is and why you might need a music PR company to help your band, record label, music festival, new business start up…etc.
One of my key messages was – not everyone is going to need PR, which is a bit odd for a PR person to be saying, I know…but it’s true. Anyway, go back, read part one, get up to speed, and let’s kick off with part two on ‘How to choose a Music Publicist’.
I specialise in music PR, so this blog is mostly focused on working with bands on forthcoming releases etc or touring etc. However the basic principles can be applied to most PR situations, whether you are a small business looking to take your next step up or a huge company needing PR clout. I’ve worked in all areas and sectors from corporate business to event management and the fundamental principles never change. Adapt or die.
As always, please try to remember that there’s no guarantee a PR campaign will produce the results you are hoping they will, and the costs can sometimes be quite high, so you need to go into this experience with your eyes open. However, if executed with finesse and passion, a successful campaign will help you to raise your profile, in ways you never could on your own. Ok that’s the stern bit over, grab a coffee/cuppa tea, let’s get stuck into the dirty details and find out exactly why there’s a picture of Wolverine at the top of this blog.
How To Choose a Music PR Agency or Music Publicist
Reputation is key. Hiring a PR agency can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before, you don’t know exactly what to expect or you have heard horror stories. My advice, take a deep breath, apply some lateral thinking and do some research. When you take your car to a garage, you take it to somewhere you know and trust to do the job, or you rely on word of mouth and friends experiences, you don’t just blindly open the window, chuck hundreds of pounds/dollars out into the street and hope that your car will get fixed, so don’t do that with your band or with PR. And please remember in PR, Marketing, Advertising, we’re all experts at talking a good game, the real differential you are looking for is a company or freelance publicist who can talk it up and back it up with results. Don’t fall for the snake oil salesmen who don’t deliver.
This isn’t rocket science. Do your research. Ask your friends in bands. Find out who does the PR for your favourite bands (chances are these will be larger PR companies, possibly out of your pocket reach just now, however it will give you a starting point for research). Make a list of potential music PR companies who specialise in your particular area of music (or industry if you are a business).
Have a look at their client list. Then drop them a line and here’s the key…when you drop a publicist a line, include a link to your band facebook page or an area they can listen to music. You would think this is obvious but I can tell you, 50% of the email enquiries we receive at Hold Tight! PR have absolutely no links to music and give absolutely no clue to the style of music a band play. Publicists, reputable ones, will want to hear your music before they engage with you further. For example I won’t take on a band I don’t like. Just can’t do it. And on any given day of the week, our agency can get A LOT of enquiries to respond to, so to speed that process along, include your details, what you are looking for in a campaign, when your release date is, links to your music, any videos you have out, any gig info you can provide. There’s no such thing as too much information. There is however such a thing as OMG DUDE YOU CRASHED OUR SERVER BY SENDING US YOUR BAND HISTORY / BACK CATALOGUE AND ALL THE PICTURES OF YOUR BAND IN A 40GB ATTACHMENT. Don’t ever send attachments, just don’t do it – links are fine. Please stop breaking my emails
So you go through all the above steps, you find an agency that loves your band and wants to work with you. YIPPEE. Now the real work begins. Don’t make the mistake of being so caught up in the process and forget that this is a business transaction that, if it goes wrong, could end up costing you a lot of money for very little return. Put your captain sensible pants on and start talking turkey.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A reputable PR company will have no hesitation in taking time out to answer your questions. I know personally that if a potential client asks me questions, I’m only too happy to answer them because it shows that the client has actually taken the time to think about their needs and expectations rather than have a manager or record label tell them, ‘You need PR, go and find PR, spend this much on PR etc.’
Ok, so now I’ve said all that, how exactly can you tell the nasty PR Wolves from the rather awesome and fantastic PR Wolverines? (see what I did there, I got there eventually, you have to have patience!). I’ll tell you now, it does not involve six packs or big pointy adamantium claws but rather a set of six fundamental questions you should ask if you want to have a happy and joyous and stress free PR campaign.
1. How will your campaign be measured?
Further down the line, a couple of months into your campaign, you have to be able to measure the success of the PR strategy that’s in place, so ask how the agency are going to monitor results and if they can suggest some key performance indicators (KPI’s) which they can give you. It might be as simple as social media audience increase/retention rate, website traffic activity or increasing your email list, to even working with you or your record label to monitor how sales have increased in the markets that the PR is aimed at versus territories that receive next to no PR spend. If a company can’t answer this, then really, what are you spending your money on? A publicist can never guarantee press or say I’ll get you x amount of features for x amount of money, they just can’t. So right off the bat saying ‘I’ll get you 10 features’ as a KPI is just bullshit. There’s no plainer way to say it. What a publicist can say is – by doing this amount of activity, across this type of media, we’d hope to see x% increase in your social media audience, we’d expect to see x% increase in hits to your website and we’ll be aiming to place x amount of features, based on knowledge we’ve gained from working similar campaigns. If they DO guarantee anything, then ask them if they can also tell you the lottery numbers because they clearly have powers that even Professor X may be envious of. (Yes…more X-Men references, stay alert, you never know where I’m going to drop these bad boys.)
2. Ask who will be working on your campaign.
If you work with a larger agency you might not be working with agency heads or senior publicists, but lower level junior PR’s and sometimes even interns, so make sure you scope out who your account team will be before you start. Find out who will be working your campaign, find out if they are passionate about your band. Ask what results have they achieved for bands before. Make sure you get contact details for your account team. Especially a mobile number, then promise me that 2 months into your campaign you’ll text them at a very late hour when you know they’ll be in bed and say, ‘Don’t switch on the news, and definitely don’t read the newspaper, I’ll explain everything in the morning, I need to go into hiding now.’ – this is one of the perks of being a client, giving your publicist a nervous breakdown on a regular basis. If it’s a freelance publicist you are working with, find out how many other clients they are working at the same time as your campaign, to ensure your campaign is given as much attention as possible.
3. Don’t forget to ask about contracts/schedules.
A reputable PR agency should issue you with a signed contract, outlining terms and conditions, alongside a schedule of work etc. This doesn’t always happen, but to keep you right, it’s advisable to have one. At Hold Tight! PR we issue all of our clients with contracts, discussed with them at the inception stage which are either locked into a certain campaign term or put into rolling contracts or retainers. Having a contract gives you as a client, the ability to hold your PR company to the terms of that contract and also if they aren’t performing, then to be able to leave under breach of contract. Be sure to get a signed copy to have on file for your records. This is just good business acumen and it doesn’t matter if you are an unsigned band or signed to a major label, it pays to be responsible and professional about your band right from the outset. Contracts and statements of work just keep everything out in the open, allowing no miscommunication or misunderstanding to take place. Be safe, always wear a contract!
4. Find out about reporting and communication.
This is one of your key indicators for good PR delivery. Find out, right at the start, how often you can expect to receive reporting and how often will you hear from your account manager. As a rule of thumb you should at least be receiving a monthly report of activity and results, along with any KPI’s. During a campaign at our agency, we’ll usually be in touch with a band every day when the activity is heavy, and during quieter times at least a few times a week. Monthly formal reports, weekly informal reports and clippings should be standard and should all be agreed and scheduled in the above mentioned contract of works.
5. Take a moment to ask straight up front how they plan to work your campaign.
Ask the publicist how they plan to work your campaign. Ideally you are looking for a mix of activity across a range of media, not just an agency who will send out press releases and press kits and leave you hanging in the cold with no follow up. Profile raising and exposure are only a tiny part of the strategy. An agency or publicist that’s about comprehensive, integrated PR (not just publicity) will work with you to ensure that a media and social awareness plan, coupled with kick ass and timely communications will meet the terms you outline and the KPI’s they indicated at the start of the campaign.
Good publicists should be like Wolverine (yes another X-Men reference, sorry), ferocious, tenacious and incredibly hot (ok…made that last point up…just to see if you were still awake!).
Publicists working your campaign should be pitching every day to specific media for your campaign, working one on one with sites and journalists to bring quality content which benefits the band and benefits the site/magazine and DEFINTELY NOT just throwing out the same info to everyone and hoping something sticks. If a publicist doesn’t talk about or want to discuss customisation of your campaign, then look for another publicist. Or call me, I’m not hot but I do have hair like Wolverine in the morning, so that’s kind of the same thing.
6. Are they any good? Ask for references!
Don’t be afraid to ask for references. This is your hard earned money, so ask to speak to a band or seek out a client yourself and get in touch. A reputable PR company will be more than happy to provide you with references, point you in the direction of comments/quotes from previous campaigns or people they’ve worked with or even have case studies to hand.
Ok, we’re about done with this blog, it’s been long overdue and I hope it helps you along the path to finding your dream team. Remember, when you hire a PR team to work with you, they become an extension of your band or brand, not just hired help. They have to walk alongside you, share the vision and dream of your release, tour, video…whatever. Are they excited? Does this sound like ‘just another job’ to them? Are they ferocious like Wolverine? Look for passion, look for excitement, look for a team who want to propel you into the spangly stratosphere of awesomeness. Don’t settle for being just another band at just another PR company who paid some money once for a campaign and didn’t really know what to expect, so in the end got nothing. DON’T BE THAT BAND.
If you are looking for music PR – hit me up here. If you have any questions, either fire them in a comment below and I’ll respond or email me. If I can’t take you on for PR, I will try to recommend a good PR company who will fit your needs. If you want to check my credentials then here are some of my references and here’s my LinkedIn profile (with a myriad of testimonials) so you can see I sometimes do know what I’m talking about (if what I’m talking about is cats, X-Men, Star Trek, Between the Buried and Me or chocolate, I’m fluent in all those things.)
I love chatting to everyone so don’t be afraid to get in touch. Enjoy the blog, thanks for reading, it really does mean a lot to hear from you guys, I’ve had some amazing emails and I’ll be back, probably within the next week or two with part three in this series – WHEN YOU SHOULD ENGAGE A MUSIC PR AGENCY (how to schedule it in with your release schedule or tour plan).
Take care folks,
P.S Don’t forget to check out part one of the series – Does My Band Need Music PR?