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Getting your name 'out there'

(September 21, 2016)

Do you contact the media - online, broadcast or published - directly or do you rely on a professional public relations company or consultant to get your message across? For those artists that employ the services of such professional communicators here are a few points that you may wish to consider. 

There’s little more likely to ensure that a press release goes straight in our physical or electronic waste bin than one that begins with anything similar to the following: ‘Yo there dude’‘Heeeey Yoooo’‘How’s it hanging?’ ‘Wotcher!’ or any other faintly similar greeting. Usually, and somewhat strangely, in most cases the people that use these salutations are those that we don’t know from a hole in the ground. Equally, the same waste recycling destination usually applies to so-called ‘snappy copy’ emails chock full of made up, trendy words and supposed friendly hype-drenched banter. It’s not amusing, interesting or even mildly engaging. 

Another source of immediate ‘in the bin’ material are releases from PRs who believe that bombarding us with a tedious barrage of multiple daily copies of the same release but with a slightly different introduction, will elicit a better response.  If we didn’t pick it up after a couple of attempts what on earth makes them think that dozens more will hit the spot? Whatever happened to a sensible communication followed by a useful, informative release – sent once? When your PR person, that you presumably pay for their services on your behalf, joins the ranks of the ‘incessant emailers’ and lays a barrage of messages at our door will only guarantee that their address will join the ‘blocked’ file and your message will never reach us.

To be fair we get many hundreds of sound letters and releases from artists and from outstanding, helpful, professional PR agencies. Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency among those that do not fall under that banner to resort to ‘trying too hard’. By that I mean dressing up the release with pointless, supposedly eye-catching phrases rather than letting the content do the work. It is genuinely pointless telling people that their lives will remain incomplete unless they review such and such an artist. I cannot speak for anyone else but my life is pretty good and I find such approaches annoying.

The other irritating trend that’s definitely on the increase is the blanket email. There is a limited amount of audience selection going on here. Just because the recipients breathe an oxygen-nitrogen mix and happen to belong to the genus homo-sapiens doesn’t mean they are remotely interested in your release. Try at least to visit the site and check what they write about. The give-away clue is in the name FolkWords ... alright folk in most interpretations, and in ours, is a pretty broad church but it doesn’t include rap, hip, experimental jazz, heavy metal, etc. etc. So please don’t waste your client’s time and money.

There’s also the misunderstanding of the word ‘new’ ... it’s a good word, useful word. Meaning: “... of recent origin, production, purchase; having lately come or been brought into being; existing or appearing for the first time; novel; unfamiliar or strange; a new object, quality, condition.” That’s a slightly curtailed dictionary definition of ‘new’ - and interestingly enough that’s pretty much what reviewers prefer.

So don’t submit ‘new’ material that was released months and months ago for review. I suppose the premise is that if an album is reviewed one more time it will gain an extended lease of life.  Not likely. If it’s old, be honest and perhaps explain why you think it’s possibly worth another review. There could be a case for the ‘best of’ or even the ‘memoirs of’ but if it’s not new ... it’s not news. So if you’re touting an album that’s already circulated the block once or thrice, don’t just whack it in the post because you’ve found a new review source ... we will check. And if you do, don’t be surprised if nothing happens.

And don’t forget to give your PR agency the same message (if anything they should know better but some don’t and will still take your money). Many PRs cover their responsibilities to the artists they represent fairly, sensibly and honestly, however some get by trying to slip ‘old material dressed as new’ under the review radar. Some even craft an enticingly worded press release around the old material and most reviewers see straight through such subterfuge. And please don’t let them write the review and send it out for publication ... most reviewers will make up their own minds. Remember the mantra: “People want ‘new-news’ not ‘old-news’.”

So in an effort to cut down the detritus that hammers through my in-box (and doubtless hundreds of other reviewers) on a daily basis here’s a simple primer.

  1. Try to understand that imagined witty and overtly-friendly salutations or introductions often irritate rather than engage. It doesn’t give us a ‘warm and fuzzy’ because you’re so overtly familiar and use ‘hip’ phrases - it makes us puke.
  2. Take a little time (it’s a small request) and check out the media that you’re contacting. Sending releases from rap artists and jazz bands to a folk music website is not likely to generate a review – the reverse is also true.
  3. Sending the same release out repeatedly, sometimes three times a day (even with a snappy new headline) does not mean that you will batter us down or persuade us that we should run it. If we don’t react in a timely manner to the first one - we’re not going to.
  4. We make some pretty straightforward statements about the type of material we review, as do most media sites ... so an email extolling the virtues of ‘their latest single and accompanying video’ are not on our list.
  5. News is by definition new ... not six months old or more because your PR agent happens to stumble over us on an internet search ... so news please, not history.

Not that difficult to understand ... although sometimes I wonder.

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