By Ed Teja
In part one we looked at developing a theme for your public relations campaign. Now lets look at how you put it into play. One of the most basic tools of PR is the press release. You don’t just write one, but a stream of them. Because this is true, your press releases should:
- Be focused.
- Promote the theme.
- Provide clear and consistent contact information.
- Always have a newsworthy angle.
Making the campaign effective
Suppose for a moment that the theme you’ve hit on is that your band gives back to the community—is, in fact a vital member of the community (not just the music community). Now that does mean you have to say this in the same words in every press release, but when it is not part of the main message, it should underlie that. It is your angle or spin.
So you do a CD and decide that you will donate the money from downloads to say a cancer fund. First you need to do two things—contact the people you will be donating to and see if they will give you permission to use their logo. They might want to hear the CD before they approve you using their image to promote your own.
So if all is well, you want to write a press release that focuses on this specific project and its benefits. Don’t tag the donation part at the bottom of a press release about your CD release. The news here is that you are releasing your new zydeco punk CD to benefit left handed animals, or whatever.
Some organizations even have press people to help you promote the announcement, and might even promote what you are doing.
The point here is that you need news and not: “Yet another CD release party.” Even if you aren’t doing it to promote charitable causes, there is always some kind of hook you can hang your news story on. It can be that the music is seasonal, the lyrics reflect current events, the person who wrote the song or sings it has some human interest angle, any number of things. My advice is to look at news stories about bands in the magazines you read and see what the hook is. Most stories only look at one. In a recent story in ROLLING STONE, for instance, an interview explores Rod Stewart’s “return to his R&B roots.” There is other stuff in it, but we don’t care.
The hook will be important in two places in the press release: the headline and the first paragraph. Both should be right to the point. This is not the place to explain or give background. Suppose you have a band call ARS GRAVITAS (please don’t), and you are providing music for a locally produced video. Then your headline could be
ARS GRAVITAS DOES MUSIC FOR VIDEO
If you live in the mythical town of Littlebit, Missouri, and the video is about that place, then make it
ARS GRAVITAS DOES MUSIC FOR LITTLEBIT VIDEO
For the local and regional papers and magazines, you would then have a lead graph (first paragraph) that goes something like:
Local Zydeco punk band ARS GRAVITAS has been contracted to do the music for an upcoming video on the town of Littlebit, MO. Produced by ZZZZZ the video promises to show the bitter winters, dull afternoons, the silly people, and stupid buildings that make life there nearly impossible.
Which raises the point that you might want several versions of your release targeted at the various publications. Through the wonder of word processing that is simple, and well worth the effort.
Keep in mind that the press release is about the news item. This is not the place to mention that you grew up writing parodies of Lawrence Welk songs. That goes in your band sheet. Keep the press release short—one page is optimum. If there isn’t room for the whole story, that is okay. This is really a teaser. A reporter who wants to do more than a blurb (which is your first paragraph) will contact you.
Which brings me to the most important thing you must do. Put your name and contact information at the top of the release. And then, the last sentence (a separate paragraph) should read: “For more information on ARS GRAVITAS and the whole zydeco punk movement sweeping American (and parts of Eastern Peru), contact Billy Joe Whatshappening at…..”
The Envelope Please
What goes in the envelope with the press release? Most often, nothing at all. If it is a news event, such as talking about the fact that your band played at the opening of the local KFC, send a photo. Don’t send a CD (you can provide links to music samples with the contact info).
I also want to note that CD Baby, always a friend of the indie musician, recently posted their own summary of PR and marketing at http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2009/11/music-publicity-101/
It’s fun to see the different approaches people take.
Now this is how we start. There are many permutations and options, and space precludes getting into them all, but I’d love to hear how you promote your theme, challenges you face in getting your story out, or PR successes that you’d like to share. Next time we will talk about sending materials out—what, where, and how. In the meantime, get creative and get writing.
Written by Ed Teja for Insider Music Business