How to Be Your Own Publicist in 2015

I┬áregularly get emails from people who would like to learn more about things they can do themselves to help pitch their new video, book, song, or product without hiring a publicist like myself until I’m in their budget (I don’t charge THAT much, I promise!). I’ve put together a list of basics that I think just about any new business (musician, author, entrepreneur) can implement to start getting publicity for themselves and increasing name recognition.

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9 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring a Publicist

Getting publicity through local press interaction┬áis a good start for getting your own publicity, but hiring a professional publicist can often be the next “step” to getting the coverage you’d like to see for your brand.

A professional publicist will help you see your story through a new lens and can help you pitch your story to local press on more occasions than just a new product launch or community outreach event. Publicists help you see the value you can provide to the local press, not just the benefits they can bring to you.

Before hiring a publicist to promote your brand, there are a few questions you need to ask to ensure that your money is being spent in the most efficient way. Remember that higher paid publicists don’t always produce better results.

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What You Need to Get Ready for a Publicity Campaign

I’ve touched on publicity briefly in other articles, but recently I had the chance to sit down with Laura Goldfarb over at Red Boot PR about the ins and outs of a properly executed publicity campaign. Huge thanks to Laura for her contributions! Any questions for Laura or about the article? Leave them below!

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Starting Out, Your Story Means More than the Music

Every month, small bands pour their hearts and souls into having a good record release. The buildup to the record release day looms on the calendar for weeks only to come and go without much attention. The good news is that it isn’t because your music is bad (hopefully), it’s because no one cares. “What?!” you exclaim. “No one cares about MY music?” No, they don’t. The press cares about stories that help them sell magazines and get people to pick up the newspaper off of a rack at the grocery store. You need a compelling story that will drive readership to a particular publication.

Sure, when Iron & Wine comes out with a new album, people are going to pay attention. You recorded an album with your friends in your basement? Big deal.

That’s why in the beginning you need to have a story that goes beyond the music. I know you’ve been told before that you need to have a “story,” but I can’t begin to drill it into your heads enough. The music is important, yes, but it’s your press story that will help you carry that music to a much wider audience.

What Makes You Special?

You’re going to have to get out of the mindset that your only interesting trait is that you make music and that it’s good. Let’s move beyond that. Find things that separate you as a person and your band’s personality from the music you make. You don’t have to get cheesy or over the top with the way you present yourself, you just need to draw a mental picture for readers and press writers to latch onto.

  • What happened during the recording process that made the record interesting?
  • Did you record anywhere noteworthy? Alleyways, abandoned classrooms, deserted hospitals?
  • Did you work with any well known producers?
  • Did your last tour end up in disaster?
  • Do you ascribe to any particular lifestyle traits (vegetarian?)
  • Do you balance your time between music and another passion?
  • Are any of your songs about social issues?

If you make a record with Rick Rubin, you probably don’t need help getting press.

You’ll have to dig deep, and maybe even ask some friends for their help, but try to figure out what makes your band special and what kind of interesting press story you can spin out of it. I’ve never been a big fan of pitching bands purely because they pull crazy PR stunts like Matt and Kim did in NYC when they got naked, but if that works for your ethos and you’re OK spinning your band from that angle, go for it!

Start Small

You’re not going to make it onto the cover of Billboard with your first press story. You have to start local and you have to start small. Brainstorm ideas that pertain to a local audience, such as how you’re helping XYZ coffee shop get a new mural on its walls or that your band is co-sponsoring a music festival to support a local charity. Find things that will appeal to local music writers and build from there.

Once you can convince local music press to write about you, the next time you do something noteworthy, you can pitch it to bigger and bigger publications.

Always Have New Content

When it’s time to release an album, having plenty of content to push is important. You need to have music videos, singles, lyric videos, important shows, and of course an album. All of these releases will give you multiple opportunities to reach out to press outlets without feeling like you’re forever following up.

Release a single, pitch your story, followup.

Release a video, pitch your story, followup.

etc…

The more new content you can send in with a story behind it, the better off you’re going to be when it comes time to actually try and get some press behind your album.

Followup

I briefly mentioned it in the last section, but it’s absolutely critical that you followup with the press. Just because you had Barack Obama sing backup vocals on one of your tracks doesn’t mean that your email was opened by the music editor at the local paper. You may have to send another email and shoot them a phone call to ensure that they know who you are and that they got your story.

Don’t be embarrassed when you pick up the phone! Music writers need content and if you have something worthwhile for them to write about, let them know!

Summary

Find an interesting angle to pitch your band and you’ll see much higher success rates when you approach the press with your music. It’ll take time for people to care about just your music and nothing else. Make an emotional connection with people through a story and THEN show them your music.

-Sunshine