1. When a reporter or editor asks for an image or a bio, don’t just send them to your website. Reporters are almost always working on a deadline. So make a point of having your biography and a current photo on your computer ready to go. You can always say, “I have additional information and images on the website, so feel free to download whatever you need.” If you have someone handling your PR, by all means give the reporter their contact info, but take the initiative here, too: “John Smith handles all that for me, but I’ll call him and tell him to email you what you need right away.” This is sometimes the difference between getting a story about you published and not.
Think about it from the reporter’s point of view: if one guitarist answers his email promptly and sends you a photo and a quote, while another takes his time getting back to you and then tells you to go somewhere else for the pic, which, by the way, he doesn’t know if it’s high resolution or not, and your deadline gets closer every minute … which story are you going to write?
2. Don’t lie to reporters or mislead them. I understand that this can be tricky if you’re not ready to talk about something yet. Working sometimes on the marketing side and other times in editorial, I’m well aware that we often have different priorities. But you put the media in a bad situation if you allow them to go public with facts that you know aren’t true. It can come back to bite you.
I was interviewing a bandleader once and asked him about an upcoming change to the band. He looked me in the eye and told me nothing was changing. No one was leaving.
Well I already knew it for a fact. But if I hadn’t heard it firsthand from one of the departing musicians, I might have accepted the bandleader’s word and “put the rumors to rest.” Of course, I would have looked pretty foolish a short time later when the move was announced.
End result? I didn’t run the interview at all. He lost out on free publicity for his band. And now I take anything this guy tells me with a grain of salt.
3. If you tell a writer you’re going to do something, don’t forget about it. Make sure you do it. This is tough because a musician’s job is not just playing music. Often, you’re booking your own gigs and then loading in and tearing down, too. On top of that, you’ve got fans that want your attention; rehearsals, songwriting and maybe you want to see your family sometime.
Somehow though, you’ve got to come to terms with this. So if you say you’re going to send a CD, send it. If you commit to a telephone call, make the call. If you plan a lunch date, follow through with it. Media people play an important part in your success; and if you’ve found a reporter whose work you respect and who gets your music, this is a relationship you want to nurture.
4. Don’t assume a music editor knows about or remembers every show. I’m not suggesting that you inundate the media with reminders about every gig. But, once you’ve met an editor (or reporter or deejay), in particular one with whom you feel a connection, it’s a good idea to send a quick personal email inviting them to the show. If press passes won’t suffice (and they don’t always for bloggers and other Web-based media outlets), leave tickets or names at the door so there’s no charge for admission.
5. Don’t be shy. If you have something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to contact the writer and talk about it. It could be a change to your band; you’re in the studio working on a new CD; you’re writing a song with a new partner; you’re opening for a well known band; or you’d like the music writer to cover your just released CD … Your call might come at just the right moment for a writer who hasn’t figured out his next column yet or a local TV reporter who’s been thinking about highlighting the local music industry or a deejay who’s happy to do an on-air interview with you. If it doesn’t work out this time, your call may have paved the way for something else in the future.
6. Don’t assume that a reporter has kept your information on file unless he or she tells you so. It’s not always a perfect world, and just because you were on the afternoon news once or a music columnist interviewed you during a local festival, your bio and other data may have been deleted. So if you’re fortunate enough to have another story planned about you, just update and resend your information. In fact, even if there isn’t a story about you in the works, send another press kit after a few months. Sometimes it’s enough to jumpstart another interview.
7. Don’t get snarky because an editor hasn’t made time for your interview yet. Just because an editor has agreed to do a story about your music, you can’t always assume it’s going to happen on your schedule. Other time-sensitive stories and last minute assignments can move your story to the back burner. Your interview won’t always be top of mind. Here’s where you need to perfect the art of staying in touch without browbeating them. If you haven’t given them a press kit yet, email your EPK (Electronic Press Kit), send it in the mail or use the excuse to drop it by the office. If you’ve just gotten a new photo, email it with a short note. Remain patient and pleasant and resist the urge to send off a curt email about it.
8. Don’t misrepresent yourself when answering questions or making statements to the media via email. Without tone of voice and facial expression, it’s easy to sound glib or uninterested or even rude . Always include a greeting and sign-off. It’s important that you sound friendly, cooperative and interested in the exchange. Before you hit the send button, reread your email. Is it sarcastic? Could it be interpreted as uninterested or impolite? Consider rewording or adding emoticons. ☺ (Wow, MS Word just made that a smiley face. Okay, you’ll have to decide how you feel about emoticons.)
9. Don’t read a writer’s blog or watch a show only when it’s about you. If you respect the person’s work, make it a point to follow his or her work. You’ll get a big return for a small investment of time.
10. Don’t put media people on your catchall email blast list. Think about it. Do you really think it’s helpful for a writer or broadcast reporter to receive an email that says Thanks to our fans who came out Saturday in Raleigh. We had a blast. And happy day to the Parkers, who just had their 18th anniversary. Kudos, you two! Now multiply that by 25 bands and you know what a music reporter’s inbox looks like on any afternoon. I guarantee emails with messages of substance will be much appreciated!