Public Relations, better known as PR. That holy grail of message distribution.
I once had someone tell me, “I don’t believe in PR.” My reply was, “What do you mean, like it’s the tooth fairy?”
Well-done PR can get you massive amounts of interest, YouTube views, interviews, and so much more. Of course, all with the hope of your efforts leading to sales.
Poorly done PR is just frustrating for everyone involved.
As an editor I get loads of news releases and pitches every day in my inbox. Your goal should be to interest me, provide me with well-written information in a format that I can use with almost no editing, and all the assets I need to get your news out there quickly.
If you’re a musician or fledgling publicist that wants to spread the word about your projects, here are some tips for making the most out of your efforts.
1. Make sure your news release is factual…and actually news
News releases are generally written in the third person, so avoid the use of “I” and “we.” They give a run down of the who, what, when, where, why, how and then elaborate in each paragraph, scrolling out a logical progression of facts. Typically editors don’t want to see words like “the best,” “amazing,” “fabulous,” and the like. Leave it to editors to aggrandize about you. You should be factual and fairly humble.
2. Keep it short
If you have so much to say that your release is longer than a page or a page and a half, you are probably going to confuse me. Edit, edit, edit. Make sure you are concise and to the point. Have someone else read your release to confirm that it is easy to understand.
3. Include a photo
I literally cannot publish a story without a photo. If you make me search for a photo online I might a) pick one that you’ve always hated or b) just give up and publish someone else’s news release. Include a low res (but not tiny) photo with your release and a link where I can download a larger version if I want. You can use Dropbox or Google drive for a photo link. You can include several photo options for download, too. DO NOT include a large photo in your email. My mailbox is always overflowing and this makes me a bit crazy.
4. Include a link
You would not believe how many people, even professional publicists, do not include a band or artist website link with the news release. Don’t make me go look for that! Similarly, if you want me to link to somewhere in particular, please include the actual URL in your news release. Do not put GO HERE and have those words be a hotlink. That means that I have to literally click on your link, grab the link and then code it on my site for you. It’s much easier if you just provide me with the link in the first place.
5. Include music
Look, we’re in the music industry. Sometimes I see something and it might be right, but I can’t know until I listen. Plus, it’s so much nicer to post news that’s not just a whole bunch of text. So if you have a video you like, or a Soundcloud link that I can include with the news, that is really great. If you just want me to hear it but not post, you can say so. Editors are used to getting audio and video links for their ears only. It also helps if you just say what kind of music you play somewhere toward the top of the release or in the subhead.
6. Please proof read — and don’t double space!
I’ve seen this happen. You make a mistake in a news release and suddenly that mistake is everywhere! Proof read your copy. Try all of your links. Don’t rely on editors to catch that stuff, although some do. Also, double spacing between sentences went out with the typewriter. When you double space between sentences I have to search and replace that for a single space every time.
7. Have a great subject and headline
The first few words of your subject are the only thing that I see in a preview. Make them count! If something is urgent, say so. If it’s news for today, say Today only! Make your subject concise and indicative of what’s inside. Be careful to not be sensationalist, as sometimes spam filters may filter you out if you are the BEST, MOST AMAZING or it’s the LAST CHANCE! Similarly, keep your headline concise and in Title Case, and your subhead can elaborate.
8. Build your lists
Ah, lists. The real gold here. Every time someone reports about your music or your product, you should be a) sharing it on your socials because every reporter wants as many views as possible of their material, b) keeping track of who posted your news so you can pitch them again in the future, and c) categorizing your data so that when you do reach out you are sending relevant information. I report on acoustic music. Not metal. Sorting through news release that are irrelevant to me is exhausting and gives me less time to find and post the news that matters.
9. Use a mailing service
There are loads of email services that you can use to send really great looking news releases. Companies like myemma, Mail Chimp, iContact and more let you keep track of your mailing lists for a reasonable cost. You can also see who opened your email, whether they clicked on any links, and more. These are great tools for distributing news. And BTW, do not send your news release in a JPEG or PDF format. Make sure it’s text that editors can easily copy and paste. Putting it right into the body of the email is just fine.
10. Target your pitch
And that leads to this. Research journalists that report on the kind of music or products that you produce. Individualize your pitch to their specific needs. Look, editors need content. But they need the right content. If you go to them with something that fits like a glove, it’s a no-brainer. There are several publicists who totally get what I do. I love them. They make my job a pleasure.
11. Follow up
I can’t tell you how many times someone has come to me and asked me to do something, I’ve said yes, and then I never hear from them again. You got me to say YES! You should be the most diligent person on the planet at following up. Also, FYI, editors are crazy busy. Sometimes silence does not mean no. If you really truly believe that what you are doing is a perfect fit, be persistent without being annoying. Find new ways to reach them. Even pick up the phone.
12. Build relationships
This is the real secret to excellent PR. Great publicists know editors personally. They know what they need. They hang out and have drinks. They invite editors to shows. They are easy and fun to work with. When you can build relationships like that with the media then everyone wins. Especially you!
Laura B. Whitmore is the editor of AcousticNation.com and a singer/songwriter based in the Boston metro area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents Peavey, Dean Markley, MusicFirst, SIR Entertainment Services, Guitar World and many more. Laura is the founder of the Women's International Music Network at thewimn.com and the producer of the She Rocks Awards. More at mad-sun.com.