A year and a half ago, I wrote an article for musicians about approaching the press (professionally and successfully) that was published in a few different places, including on the Musician Coaching website and the Disk Makers Echoes blog. One of my points was that as an artist, you need to be able to share your story in an engaging and personal way in order to compel someone to write about you, listen to your music and then write back to you and begin a real dialogue.
Something interesting and fairly dismaying I’ve noticed as I continue to work with PR firms and the PR reps from different companies is that musicians are not the only ones confused about how to tell a great story: PR firms are getting it wrong quite often now too. Not only are they failing to give me compelling reasons to respond to them, but they are also not doing proper research about me and the work I do (which is quite clearly laid out in the very place they are contacting me) before hitting “send” on what appears to be an impersonal form email being sent to many other journalists, consultants, etc.
I have an example that I will try to keep as generic as possible in an effort to protect the guilty. A few nights ago, I got a series of four emails between 11 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. from a PR firm representative (a total stranger) “confirming” (using slightly different and more urgent language each time) I would be attending a press conference the next morning (less than 12 hours from that moment) for an organization that had little or nothing to do with the work I do. The tone of the email was so insistent that I had communicated with this person previously, and the organization had so little to do with the work I do that I actually thought perhaps it was misdirected, so I completely ignored the first two instances. (Also, I try my best not to respond to emails — especially from strangers — sent that late at night.) Then, I started to lose control over my own patience and decided to respond as politely as possible with the information that 1) I will not be attending this press conference and 2) I would like to be removed from this mailing list, as the work I do regrettably does not relate to the organization’s mission. Even when I’m irritated, I really do want to be helpful.
After receiving no response, I assumed my email had been received and the information in it had been noted and felt relieved (and wildly successful, of course!). The next morning, however, presumably moments after the press conference ended, I got an email from the same person, neither acknowledging the email I had sent, nor apologizing for over-sending. The email was, instead, a break-down of everything that had happened at the press conference (again, related to an organization and its new developments that had nothing to do with any of my professional areas of focus).
This is just one example … and there have been many others in recent months and years. So, both PR companies, musicians and all those in the creative, entrepreneurial world need to get really serious about learning how to a) pitch a story b) SELL that story and c) do research to make sure the story is even close to relevant to the work the person they are pitching does. I am simply amazed by the number of emails I receive each week that miss the mark 100% on all those three points. And I sometimes even end up feeling bad that this person has wasted his/her time on a completely dead end.
That being said, one of the things I love best (and that’s why I’ve mentioned it on my website!) is helping creative people piece together their own exciting narratives. Feel free to revisit my article 5 Tips for Approaching Music Blogs, Writers and Other Music Press (even if you’re not in the music business!). I hope some of it will resonate!