1. The Definition of Publicity.
First, we are going to start out with the very basics – some definitions of what publicity is exactly, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Publicity – “An act or device designed to attract public interest; specifically: information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support. Also: The dissemination of information or promotional material.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Publicity is exactly these things.
A music publicist is hired as a member of your team to represent you to the media. Media is defined traditionally as editors and writers at newspapers, magazines, college journals, and television. Some publicists may also cover radio for interviews on tour stops. But if you want to get on the radio charts (like CMJ), you will need a radio promoter. More and more publicists also cover Internet PR, like my company. But not all traditional publicists do this, so make sure to ask before you hire.
A publicist’s job is to liaise with the press. They are not hired to get you a booking agent or gig, a label deal, a distribution deal, or any other type of marketing deal. That is what a manager is for. A well-connected publicist may be able to hook you up with all of the above-mentioned things, but it is not in her job description.
2. You Are in the Driver’s Seat.
Remember, as the artist, you are the buyer here, and you are shopping for PR. You are in the driver’s seat. It’s your money and your music that keep publicists in business. Hiring a publicist is like hiring another guitar player for your band. Choose one you like, who fits your vision and your goals. All too many times I’ve heard that a publicist was hired in spite of the artist’s personal opinions. You should like your publicist, and she should be the right one for you.
3. With Publicity, You Pay for Effort – Never for Results.
I have had disgruntled artists call me and say, “I hired a publicist and I only got six articles. That cost me $1,000 per article!” Sadly, this is not how you quantify a PR campaign. How you quantify a PR campaign is by how many albums were sent out and what the responses were, even if they were inconclusive or negative. You pay for the amount of effort the publicist made on your behalf. Of course, you should get some and even many results. Getting nothing is totally unacceptable. But you never know when your publicist’s efforts will show up months, and sometimes years, after your campaign is complete.
4. A PR Campaign Needs to Be Planned Well in Advance.
For long-lead press (that means magazines with national distribution like Spin and Rolling Stone), the editors put their publications to bed three full months before they hit the newsstands. So if your CD is coming out in October, you must have it pressed with full artwork and ready with materials to mail in July. Of course not all PR campaigns focus on national press, but no publicist will take you on with zero lead-time, so you definitely need to prepare lead-time in every case.
Recommended Publicity Campaign Lead Times:
(Placement = article, CD review, calendar listing, TV/radio interview, etc.)
5. The 4 Components of a Press Kit.
I see fewer and fewer actual press kits these days. A great one sheet will suffice in today’s digital world, however a thorough press kit consists of four parts: the bio; the photo; the articles, quotes & CD reviews; the CD.
6. Publicity is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
PR is very different in nature from a radio campaign that has a specific ad date and a chart that you are paying to try to get listed on. There is no top 40 publicity chart. With the sheer number of albums coming out into the marketplace (approx 1,000 per week), it could take months longer than your publicity campaign runs to see results.
7. Online Publicity is Just as Important as Offline Publicity.
I would argue that online PR is more important, because today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s recycling. This of course unless the newspaper also posts the article online (which most are doing now). Online publicity goes up fast, and it can be around for months and sometimes for years.
Current sales figures show that people are reading newspapers less and less with every passing day. More people rely on the Internet as their main news source, and on recommendations from friends, so Internet placements are absolutely wonderful and totally legit, and they can help your Google rankings as well.
8. Publicity Does Not Sell Records.
If you are hiring a publicist to see a spike in your CD sales, I have news for you: There is absolutely no correlation between getting great PR and selling CDs or downloads.
PR is designed to raise awareness of you in the press, to help build a story, and also build up critical acclaim – and, of course, a great article can lead to sales. But overall, if selling albums is your goal, PR is not the only thing you will need to reach it; you will also need to build your loyal fan base and take care of fans with sweet offers.
9. All Publicity is Good Publicity.
I know we have all heard this, but it’s a great thing to really understand. If one of your goals in PR is to get your name out there (and this should be a goal), the truth is that the average person remembers very little of what they read. Only a tiny percentage gets retained. If you really think that readers are going to remember a tepid or a mediocre review of your album, the answer is, they won’t.
And never ever take your own PR seriously. As my favorite artist Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t read your press; weigh it.”