PR 101: How to understand your publicist

Publicists (aka press agents) have a unique job on their hands, one that’s often hard to understand. Our jobs are to highlight your best “newsworthy” assets, build relationships and interest about your brand in the media, & of course have FUN placing album reviews, interviews, pre- & post-event coverage, and photos in various media outlets. In a nutshell, we’re here to get you in the news, some may say make you famous. Today, we’re talking common misconceptions & clearing up confusing elements of what it means to be a publicist & have PR for your brand. If you understand the process, you’re more likely to have a better working relationship with your PR rep & ultimately the media.

We have big ideas, we believe in your brand, but we’re only one piece of the branding/marketing puzzle. We’re walking advertisements for your brand, literally, because when our 9-to-5 grind is over we’re talking about you at parties, dinners, & happy hours to every writer in sight.

It’s Hard to Measure

Publicity is hard to measure, but it’s invaluable & priceless. You want to get signed to a label or find an agent or gallery to rep you? A publicist can help you garner initial attention from the media, which you can later leverage when pitching yourself to future tours, galleries, agents, booking companies, etc. We can pick out the newsy bits of your life & highlight them in ways that make you seem worth writing about. Having a PR rep means you don’t have to constantly sell yourself, we’re doing it for you.

One way to measure PR efforts is putting together an advertising to editorial value chart, using ad prices & impressions to measure the success of your campaign. PR is often more affordable than a big advertising campaign, so you often get more for your money. PR campaigns work in peaks and valleys. Building media attention & a strong brand presence takes time, so be patient and come up with realistic goals with your rep before the campaign begins. No matter how much we want you in Rolling Stone, you may not be ready for that at this point in your career.

PR Magic

We can’t do everything. With indie musicians and visual artists, we often serve as a manager, booker, event planner, personal assistant & PR team. Sometimes, no matter how much we pitch you to someone, they’re just not interested. Doing PR is like riding a fine line between being aggressive & pleasant to work with.

Hiring a publicist doesn’t mean that you’ll get you nominated for a Grammy immediately, but it could be a future goal for your team. Working closely with your PR rep on story angles, creative event concepts, media outlet goals is the key to success. It’s a two-way street. Successful PR campaigns are a collaborative effort because, after all, we don’t know everything about you! Be open and honest about your story & what you do and don’t want to highlight. Don’t hire a PR rep who blows smoke, hire someone who is going to be realistic about the long road ahead & has the same long-term goals. PR is not a race, it’s a marathon.

We’re Friends With Everyone

Publicists are constantly looking for new connections, whether it’s a new magazine starting, buzzing blog, or writer who just moved to town. After pitching all day, most of us spend our nights networking at events & trying to meet people in person. Some writers get 2,000 emails a day, so we need them to cherry-pick our emails out of their crazy inboxes.

Don’t hire a party animal. Do we take writers to drinks, yes. Do we sometimes shut down the bar with them, yes. A good PR rep maintains a professional demeanor, even if it’s in a casual environment. No matter how close you think you are to a writer, you should be careful of what you say about your client when speaking to them. That being said, just because someone is our close contact, they may still decline coverage if they’re not into your story.

It’s Not All Glitz And Glam

Of course, we get invited to a lot of parties - if we stop getting invites something is wrong! There are a lot of perks while living the PR life like free concert tickets, access to exclusive events & so on…but it’s not all glitz and glam. One of the main reasons why we haven’t hired someone on after their internship (think of it as a trial period) is because they’ve acted entitled & it’s clear to us that they’re not in it to work. We work hard & we play hard, but working hard comes first.

Being a publicist is not a 9-to-5 job, it’s a 24-7 job. If we’re out at your album release party until 2 a.m. mingling with writers, we’re up by 6 a.m. checking our emails to make sure the morning TV interview is still on. Publicists who are on top of things get opportunities that others don’t. I can’t tell you how many times someone’s emailed me with a last minute cancellation because they knew I could make it happen within the hour.

We’re always on, so we need our down time. If you don’t need to talk to us at 12 a.m. wait to text or email us in the morning. Your PR rep should be responsive & proactive, we live and breathe your projects, but no one wants a demanding client. Being a publicist is a lot of work, but if you have a good working relationship with your rep & respect their time your campaign will benefit from it.

See also: 8 Misconceptions About Music Publicity (and Why You Need it Regardless)