In part 1 of this series, Music PR specialist Emma Bartholomew took us through 5 key considerations for building your PR strategy. In part 2 she looks at when to hire a PR, what to expect from a PR campaign, and specific advice for running sync-specific PR campaigns.
When to Hire a PR
As a general rule, if you get to the point where you’re so busy with writing, recording, rehearsing and performing, and earning some money from what you’re doing, that’s the time to think about investing in some professional PR support. When you reach that moment, set a budget and try to stick to it.
What to Look for in a Good PR
There are plenty of pretenders and sharks who will claim they can do all sorts of things to elevate your career; in my experience, these tend to be the ones to avoid like the plague! Never believe anyone who makes huge promises without backing them up. If you put the feelers out to PR consultants or agencies, having done your research on their existing client list to make sure they work in the right field but don’t represent anyone who’d be a conflict of interest, make sure they’ve actually listened to your music when you meet with them. If they say they like your stuff, ask them which tracks and where they think it fits. You need to work with someone who you have a good connection with, who you trust and who can demonstrate a genuine passion for what you do as that’s what they’ll need to share with the press on your behalf.
Mutually agreed deliverables
Always ensure anyone you employ to represent your PR needs is accountable with mutually agreed deliverables ahead of each month or each campaign, depending on the way you’re working with them. Be realistic in your goals and get them to explain anything you don’t understand. Asking the right questions doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look interested in your career and the process that’s going to get your material out there. Request regular reports or simple updates from them so you know who they’re contacting on your behalf, what the response has been, (if any, as realistically in the early stages of press outreach there will be a lot of chasing with few returns), and what the follow up or resulting coverage will be.
The right level of experience and area of expertise
Consider the balance between going for a freelancer who might work more closely with you or a bigger agency who may represent bigger names, which could be great in terms of their access to higher profile press, but it could also mean you get a bit lost on their roster. You need someone well-connected, experienced and dedicated, wherever or whoever they work for.
Different PRs specialise in different areas of press. Some cover everything, or claim to. Make sure you ask for some examples of successful campaigns they’ve carried out before if they claim this. Others will work across either digital/online press or “traditional” or print media; some do both. Some will include radio plugging in their packages, but this would normally be a separate specialist. Work out what you need to focus on and find a PR who can deliver this for you.
What You Should Expect from a PR Campaign
As I said, you do need to be realistic. Unless you’ve just been signed to a major, are collaborating with someone high profile, or are nominated for an award, for example, you’re not necessarily going to pull in a load of coverage when you first go out to press. Never believe a PR who promises you a guaranteed amount of coverage, and never demand it. One thing that can never be guaranteed is what else is going to be happening in the music world when you go to press with your big release or gig announcement. If big news suddenly breaks, journalists will put all their focus into that and you will get forgotten, until they have time and interest. But don’t lose faith; working with press is all about building long-term, sustainable relationships with journalists who become passionate about your music and follow your progress. If your PR representative is targeting the right press outlets and your material or news is engaging enough, it’s worth persisting.
It also really depends on what your campaign is for in terms of what you should expect from it. If you’re releasing a single or EP, you need to make sure you’re speaking to PRs a good few months ahead of the planned release date so they can factor in a decent amount of lead time to build up to the release. You may then be able to secure online premieres, exclusive plays, etc., in order to build a buzz.
As with so many things in life, employ common sense when setting the objectives of any campaign. Ask around amongst artists or industry professionals you trust for recommendations of great PRs who might be within your budget and then discuss with a short list of consultants or agencies what your focus is; it will be the responsibility of the PR to suggest a strategy to meet your needs and, if they’re good at their job, they will use the most important tool in communication – they will listen to you. If there is mutual respect between you, they will be honest with you about your expectations and you will respect their experience, skill and pedigree, and trust them to do their job.
Tactics for PR in Sync
Work with a sync agent
Getting your material in front of sync agents is a good first step in terms of using sync in two ways – great PR for your music as well as a revenue stream. Covers are massive in sync for obvious reasons. It can be useful to have a few well executed covers with high quality audio and video online so that sync agents can find you. This will lead them to either find a cover they like directly, which may be of interest for sync, or, more interestingly, could lead them to discover your original material. There are specialist catalogues who offer quality covers tailored for sync like Coversion, so working with companies like that can help you get in front of bigger sync opportunities.
Obviously, signing up with a sync agent and/or having a publisher representing your material will increase your chances of getting sync opportunities. Being signed is also good PR – you can use it in your press releases as news in itself. Once your music starts to get synced or you start to get tracks included in curated playlists on streaming platforms, etc. (which is actually another great PR trick for getting picked up for sync), the best way to gain exposure from a win is to get your PR to work in collaboration with your sync agent/publisher. If it’s a considerable sync placement they will be able to share it with press and prolong the exposure. If it’s a smaller sync you can still shout about it on social media.
Ensure your PR and sync/publishing team are working together
A good PR will work closely with your sync or publishing team, and sometimes the brand that the sync has been for, to make the most of the win and also to ensure that anything spoken about publicly is authorised by the brand and the publisher. When a brand is involved, it’s really important to make sure the message that goes out publicly about any sync is aligned with their messaging and appropriate for all parties. If syncs are mentioned in a way that’s acceptable to a brand on social media, there’s more chance they will share the content across their audience which will typically be much bigger than the artist’s. This can obviously be brilliant for building awareness and a fan base.
PR can seem scary and like a foreign language, but generally, if you just pause and think about how you want to be perceived publicly, and how you might receive that message as an audience member, you understand more than you think about what’s often considered a “dark art”. Take the mystery out of it and it’s actually all about common sense and determination.
About the author:
Emma Bartholomew runs a PR, Brand Strategy & Events agency for the Entertainment Industry. Her organisation works with clients in the entertainment industry and organisations who wish to use music and entertainment in activations to drive brand strategy.