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Three Common PR Mistakes Bands Must Avoid

Three Common PR Mistakes Bands Must Avoid

By Wade Sutton, Rocket to the Stars

As I was putting the finishing touches on a recent development article, I couldn't help but go back and look over some of the comments from Beaver County Times entertainment editor Scott Tady.  One of the stories he relayed to me struck a chord and it lingered in my mind for several days.

The story I am referring to is Tady's telling of having to track down a photograph of a band he was writing an article about.  The short version is that Scott was writing a piece on a band that was part of an upcoming doubleheader in Pittsburgh.  Scott wrote the story and contacted the band because he needed a photograph for the article.  When the band failed to get back to him, Scott attempted to reach the band's publicist.  The publicist, like the band, also failed to send the photograph.  Scott was left with few choices and ultimately decided to run the story...with a photograph of the other band set to perform in that show.

I'm going to tell you something very disheartening:  This sort of thing happens more often than many of you would believe.  I find it truly amazing that so many bands do not comprehend how quickly inadequate public relations and media representation can ruin their reputation in media circles and how much it can hold them back from advancing in their careers.  I am completely sympathetic of bands that don't have the money to hire the proper representation but, if that is the position you are in, it is vital that you give this part of your music business the attention it deserves.

I am going to tell you three TRUE stories that I had to deal with all during a span of just a few days.  Some involve bands that currently have no public relations or media representation while others are currently under contract with firms.  This is the kind of stuff that goes on behind the scenes...

"STORY #1"

Just a few weeks ago, I reached out to a singer I was interested in covering for one of my in-depth artist interviews.  The artist is very talented and was in the process of wrapping up a tour.  My initial contact with her was via Twitter and she appeared to be genuinely enthusiastic in her responses.  I requested her e-mail address so I could send her a standard form I give all artists prior to one of my interviews.

Understand that the form I send them includes a section explaining that Rocket's long-form interviews are typically conducted via Skype.  I'm not going to go into many specifics here but being able to see the person I am interviewing is an important part of my interview methodology.  A person's mannerisms, body language, and facial expressions are all indicators of when I should increase pressure or ease up during certain lines of questions.  I take the interview process so seriously because doing so leads to the wonderful artist interviews published by Rocket to the Stars.  It is a matter of maintaining a standard with my readers in mind.

Back to the story.  So I sent that form to the e-mail address provided to me by the artist.  Four days later, I received a response from the public relations firm representing the artist.  It said that she had agreed to the terms of the interview and wanted to set up a time to conduct it but, near the end of the e-mail, the public relations representative includes a brief comment informing me that the interview would be done by telephone instead of utilizing Skype.

"Huh?  That isn't how this works," I thought to myself.  I sent a very polite response to the public relations representative explaining that doing the interview on Skype was part of Rocket's policy for conducting and writing our artist interviews.  I also explained the reasons for the process being what it was and even provided them with links to previous artist interviews on our site so they could see what type of article I was aiming to write about their client.  They later responded saying they felt it would be better to do the interview by phone and "suggested" times that would be good for them to conduct the interview.

I went to Twitter and contacted the artist directly in an attempt to figure out what the hell was going on and I asked her if there was a specific reason she didn't want to do the interview on Skype.  She responded to my inquiry and said that she was more than willing to do the interview in that manner and was confused by the e-mails I was receiving from her public relations representative.  I suggested we set up a time and day to do the Skype interview (I wanted to get the interview posted because I had other stories I needed to work on) and she suddenly became very hesitant.  

That was all I needed to know.  I immediately pulled the plug on the interview.  I knew one of two things was happening:  either there was a complete lack of communication between the artist and the public relations representative or the artist, for what ever reason, did not want to do the Skype interview and wasn't being honest with me when we spoke about it.  The interview never happened.

Journalists have more important things to do than waste time trying to sort through this kind of mess.  Getting one story from an artist while their PR crew is saying the exact opposite is unprofessional and makes it very difficult for media to take you seriously.  It also makes us not want to cover you.

"STORY #2"

If you, your public relations representative, or your band's manager decides to contact the media hoping to get coverage for your show, do not send one of those stupid e-mails pretending to be a fan suggesting the media outlet "check out this totally awesome local band".  You think you are being slick but an experienced journalist, even one working in a small town, will sniff that out from a mile away.  Do you want to know why we are so good at detecting that kind of BS?  Because it happens so often.  It happens in music news and it runs rampant in political news coverage.

It was just last week that somebody e-mailed me suggesting I watch a YouTube of some band from New York City.  The author of the e-mail went on to say they thought the band had potential and he just happened to think of Rocket to the Stars (JOY!) and he thought I might be interested in doing an interview with the band.  Of course, he just happened to have links to their YouTube videos and website.

"Seriously?" I groaned.

I immediately responded to the e-mail asking if the author was the band's manager.  Sure enough that ended up being the case.  I received a message from the guy about ten minutes later admitting that he was their manager.

I'm going to give you a pro tip:  If the artist or band in question is NEWSWORTHY, journalists do not care if it is a member of the band, a manager, or a fan contacting us with the tip.  If you are a member of the band, a public relations representative, or a manger pulling double duty, please, just say so from the beginning.  We are going to find out and it will make you look tacky and unprofessional.

And if you do feel you need to pretend to be somebody else, that act probably isn't newsworthy enough for coverage to begin with.  

"STORY #3"

If there is any one lesson artists take from this article, I hope it will be this:  Journalists contacting you for interviews are usually working on some sort of deadline.  I know of several instances in which journalists and entertainment writers decided to drop an interview with an artist because it would take so long for the performer to get back to them.  This problem is not exclusive to the music industry.  It happens in politics, with community events, and several other areas of news coverage.

You have to understand that reporters live and die by their ability to meet deadlines and uncover stories before their competition.  So when a reporter suddenly seems less interested in interviewing you and writing about your band, don't start criticizing and saying nasty things about them on social media.  More often than not those interviews are getting dropped because you have a pattern of waiting three days to respond to the journalist's inquiries.  Once that pattern carries out over the course of three e-mails, the reporter has already blown more than a week trying to set up the interview and get the information he or she needs.  

I had this happen with three different artists...just last week.  Most reporters do not have time to deal with this kind of thing because they have deadlines they have to meet to keep their jobs.  They have editors breathing down their neck to get things done.  I don't have an editor standing over me at Rocket to the Stars but I still maintain self-imposed deadlines to guarantee new content is being posted on a regular basis.   

One more pro tip to close this thing out:  If a reporter is interested in covering you, they are probably watching you on social media.  So when they wait three days for you to respond to an e-mail while seeing you post on Facebook every twenty minutes, well, they are probably going to drop you in favor of covering somebody else.

And the chances of them ever covering you again are slim.

Displaying Wade's Pic.jpg

After spending nearly twenty years as a professional radio journalist, Rocket to the Stars creator Wade Sutton now helps singers and bands all over world advance their music careers.  He offers classes and consultations on everything from how bands can better interact with the media to designing their websites and media kits.  Wade's articles have been read by people in more than twenty countries and have been shared by top music industry officials and voice instructors, marketing experts, radio stations, and artists.  You can learn more about him and his services at


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