When & How to Employ a PR Company

By Simon Glacken, Former Director at I Like Press (now director at For The Lost PR)

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As with most parts of the music industry, PR from the outside can seem like a cut throat world, full of intrigue and mystery. And a lot of the time it is, but as with most things, if you dig a little deeper it’s a lot easier to get involved than you think.

Whether you are a solo artist or in a band there’s a good chance that at some point you’re going to want to build your profile, grow your audience and spread the word about your music through getting coverage in magazines, blogs, websites and podcasts. There are so many outlets out there with all sorts of different ways of reaching them, that it can be overwhelming to try and sit down and do it yourself from scratch. Now it’s not to say this isn’t possible as we all have to start somewhere (like we did), but this is where hiring a music PR can come in. While there are no set rules, before you approach anyone it’s probably best to ask yourself a few questions.

 

 

Is it the right time?

If you are going to make the financial commitment to invest in PR then it is important that you are in the right place as an artist. A brand new band, with little to no profile, who haven’t played many shows and only have a couple of songs to their name are probably better spending their time playing together more to develop their sound and identity as well as getting some more shows under their belt. Taking this time also helps to build the story behind your music.

The more music you make and the more shows you play, the more tales you might have to tell as you create your own history.

In the case of the music itself, more often than not, the first songs you wrote a couple of years ago won’t be as great as the tracks you are creating now. Therefore, if you are looking at hiring a PR to take your music out to press, then you want it to be some of your strongest and best material to help make the biggest impact.

If you feel the time isn’t right to hire someone then you could always look to do some PR yourself. You could do this by reaching out to local magazines and newspapers to write about you or hitting up a few select blogs that you feel might be into your music. There is nothing wrong with being proactive.

 

 

What do I want to get out of this?

One thing to keep in mind is that getting reviews and features doesn’t always guarantee sales. At the early stage of your career it’s more about building your profile, creating interest in your band as well as creating  opportunities and ‘opening doors’. Glowing reviews might help you secure better gigs or a slot at a festival. It might help you grow your social media following and it could give you ammunition when it comes to reaching out to booking agents or record labels. So before investing money into PR you want to be clear about what you are looking to get out of it, as financially you might not see much of a monetary return in your investment in the short-term. If you find yourself playing at a major music festival due to a blog piece secured by a PR company, does that hold more value to you personally than being out of pocket financially?

 

 

Who should I approach PR and how?

If you feel that the time is right and you want to hire someone, then the next question you have to ask is whom should you approach? There are a ton of music PR companies, but as with any industry, there are some good ones, and there are some bad ones. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that no matter whom you hire, and how much you pay, coverage and results are never a guarantee.

The best thing you can really do is take the time to do your research. One method is to look at a few artists you would compare yourself to and then see who takes care of their PR. But it’s also important to be realistic, so look at the other artists on their roster to see if they work with smaller/ newer acts, as they may only service large established acts.

You probably already have an idea of the sort of magazines and sites you would like to see writing about your music. Whether it be NME.com, Jazzwise, The Guardian or Metal Hammer, it’s worth looking at a PR company’s website    to better understand what they are securing for their artists. Often they will post the coverage they achieve on their social media outlets also, so if they do not look to  be hitting your desired targets then they might not be the best fit for you.

Now you have decided on which PR you would like to approach, the next thing to consider is how to do it. Email is the best (and most obvious) way to start communication, and the important factor here is to make sure you take the time to personalise this as much as possible. Emails that feel like they have merely been copied, pasted and sent to lots of people will most likely be ignored and deleted. The same goes for copying or blind copying many people into an email when asking if they want to work with you. It looks lazy, unprofessional and impersonal.

Take the time to do the research on who you are emailing, and while this might seem obvious, make sure you address them by their name. You would be surprised by how many times I Like Press receive emails that don’t do this. It is also worth showing that you know a little about the company you are contacting i.e. say that you are getting in touch because you are fans of bands X and Y who they work with, and you feel your band shares some comparisons with them.

In the same email, include a link to at least one new track that you are looking for the PR company to potentially work on, as well as some information on the band and a press shot. In terms of the music you provide, make sure  it is as a link to a streaming site rather than an attachment. You don’t want to clog up the receiver’s inbox with attachments or run the risk of hitting their firewall.

If you don’t receive a response within a week, follow up with a polite email to chase them. Sometimes emails do get missed and a little nudge might result in them checking your original email if they had overlooked it. If you still don’t hear back it might be reasonable to assume that they either aren’t interested in working with your project/music, or don’t have the capacity to take on more clients.

If a PR company does respond positively, and with an interest in working with your music, then attempt to organise a meeting or phone call as soon as possible.

 Firstly, this allows you to discuss ideas and targets around a potential campaign proposal, and decide whether they align with your own hopes. Secondly, it gives you a feel for the company or person you could potentially be working with. After all, you are going to be communicating with them closely for a period of weeks/months after handing over your hard-earned money, so you need to feel comfortable working together, and positive about the relationship.

 

 

I’m working with a PR company. How do I get the most out of it?

Now that you have found a PR company to work with, and they are cracking on with the agreed PR campaign, you want to ensure that you get the most out of it, and planning is definitely a key factor here. For example, if you were looking to release an album then you would want to work with your PR to find the best way of maximising the release. This could include planning dates for potential track releases, video premieres, tour announcements and album streams across the campaign.

Different companies work in different ways, but you should always request regular reports and updates every few weeks. This lets you see who they have approached so far, the feedback they have received, and the coverage they are set to achieve. It also allows you to make suggestions if you think they have potentially missed something that could be ideal for your release. If you haven’t received a report after a few weeks, then ask for one.

You should hope to receive a number of interview requests as part of the campaign, so be prepared to make yourself available for a few hours each week to do phone interviews, face-to-face interviews or email interviews. If there are many of these requests, then delegating them to different band members can be a good idea. This also likely means that each interviewer will receive a slightly different response,  which may be good  for displaying different personalities or creating variety for the consumer. If you are a solo artist then take your time to provide different angles and answers, while maintaining your artistic message.

Regardless of your approach, make sure you respond to interviews quickly and complete them in good time, as fulfilling these late can reflect badly on you and the PR, and could result in a missed opportunity. Remember there are likely many others artists and bands in a similar position to yourself, so if you are not on the ball, future opportunities may go elsewhere. Many publications also work to tight deadlines, so help them by promptly responding with good material.

When positive pieces of coverage  are published, it is beneficial to share these on your social media outlets throughout the PR campaign. The places that write about you like to see artists sharing their coverage too. It also helps increase traffic to the article, which in turn only serves to promote you the artist more.

At the end of the campaign, you should receive a final report. If it has gone well, it should have a reasonable amount of coverage and review quotes that you can use going forward. At this stage, it is worth speaking to your PR to get their thoughts on the success (or lack of) of the campaign. This may offer up some useful insights for future releases, and may help you decide which (if any) PR company to use for future releases.

 

 

From Simon Glacken

Former Director at I Like Press (now director at For The Lost PR) - simonglacken@forthelost.co.uk

By Simon Glacken, Former Director at I Like Press (now director at For The Lost PR)

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As with most parts of the music industry, PR from the outside can seem like a cut throat world, full of intrigue and mystery. And a lot of the time it is, but as with most things, if you dig a little deeper it’s a lot easier to get involved than you think.

Perfect opportunity from the @ASurteesTrust for students and @LCoMAlumni whose work is rooted in, or influenced by,… https://t.co/ZnOnmDxM6Z
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