If I can tell you anything about gaining media exposure, it’s this: persistence and loyalty pay off big time. Though results likely won’t emerge as a consequence of your initial trial efforts, this should not discourage you. The more a media outlet hears from you, the more likely you are to receive coverage. On the same note, don’t forget to acknowledge the exposure with which you are provided.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with various media outlets will only be to your advantage, and therefore is of the utmost importance. A step in the right direction begins with showing your appreciation for all media coverage, regardless of whether an outlet prints a full-page feature on your act or only mentions your band’s name in reference. Every little bit counts, and therefore should not go unnoticed.
If you still need more convincing, consider this: Canadian Musician (CM), a prestigious industry publication elected my opinions as the viewpoint for Canadian indie acts in regards to signing record deals for a ongoing three month feature. My perspective was represented alongside those of several industry bigwigs including Greg Nori (Treble Charger/Manager of Sum41), Steve Blair (Warner Music Canada), Barb Sedun (EMI Publishing) and Grant Dexter (MapleMusic/Last Gang Records). So I’m sure you can imagine just how much of an honour this was to me.
What most people aren’t aware of is that in order to be provided with such an opportunity, I had to continually hound the editor of Canadian Musician for over six months before I was even granted a response. When provided with this amazing experience, I ask him why he elected me as a spokeperson for Canadian indie acts. He responded with this simple answer, “Because you were extremely persistent, and professional with me on all accounts.” So, trust me on this one, persistence does pay-off, you just need to re-program yourself into appreciating prolonged, instead of immediate, gratification.
Timing and locality are everything
Timeliness is a key factor in terms of getting featured and if you can correspond your media efforts with an upcoming event, tour, or record release, you will likely have better results. Never leave the solicitation of your press release up to the last minute as the media has deadlines to which you need to demonstrate consideration.
Sending out emails or making the necessary phone calls at least two to three weeks in advance works well. However, for larger cities such as New York or Toronto where there is steeper competition, contacting the media a month in advance is recommended.
As well, focusing on the local market to which your event pertains would be in your best interest, as the media produce stories that are not only current, but oriented towards their community. Of course, the internet is able to break some boundaries here with sites that, for example, cover cross-Canada events, but generally speaking targeting your media efforts specifically for each city to which your band tours is a good idea.
Which medium to target
The choice as to whether you solicit media attention from print, radio, or television will largely depend on a) your event’s target market (all ages, 19+, charity orientation etc.) and b) the size of the city to which you are touring.
I personally think that there is no harm in contacting as many media outlets as possible per city as a multitude of coverage will only help with promotions. The more often that people hear about an event, the more likely it’ll peak their interest, and resultantly, they will be driven to seek out more information, if not attend to see what it’s all about. So, when it comes to soliciting media attention, I adopt the popular adage, “go big, or go home.” There is no such thing as too much coverage, but there certainly is such a thing as too little.
The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are touring to foreign territory, it is doubtful that you will be apprized of the media habits of your target market. Therefore, if you contact all outlets, it’s a safer approach as opposed to attempting to guess which ones appeal to your audience.
However, by saying this, I’m not recommending that you bombard every media outlet in each city. You need to ensure that you are only contacting media outlets that provide coverage to artists to whom you are similar in genre, otherwise, you will be wasting your time, and irritating potential contacts.
Have a direct contact
When contacting a media outlet, make sure you do your research and know who it is to whom you should be speaking. Magazine, radio and television outlets have large staffs, and if you send out a generic email through a contact form, your message will either be ignored, or fittingly, you will be provided with an automated response. If you don’t take the time to personalize, why should they? Although writing personalized messages to direct contacts is more time-consuming, it is well worth the effort.
In terms of who you should be contacting for coverage, for magazines, your approach should be directed towards the music editor. Similarly for TV and radio, you should be contacting the station’s music director. Coming across a music editor/director’s email and/or phone number is typically easy given that most media outlets have official websites with staff directories. In this event, this sort of information is not provided online, hey what are phonebooks for? All it takes is one simple call to inquire as to who is in charge of music promotions for your desired media outlet. You’ll find that little bit of research will go a long way.
Please remember that these editors/directors have worked hard to earn their placements in such high profile careers. Thus, a direct approach in which you know their first and last name, and can demonstrate a bit of knowledge in regards to their outlet and the coverage it provides will speak volumes in terms of your level of professionalism and they will be more likely to consider your request for exposure seriously.
Know what you want
Keeping in mind the importance of media research, one should be aware of the different kinds of exposure an outlet offers and what your desired coverage is prior to solicitation. Be clear in your message. If you want to do an interview, say exactly that. Your message should be short and to the point, but detailed enough to grab their interest. Tell them who you are (including a brief list of notable accomplishments), what you want (interview, feature, or review and how it relates to their outlet), how they can contact you, and where they can find out more information on your act if required (links to your official site, Myspace, and/or EPK).
Sending out press kits need to be done in a highly strategic fashion in order to create an impressive, and attractive press kit, it requires a lot of time and effort. Furthermore, mailing them out certainly does not come cheap. So, I advise you to NEVER send out a press kit without previous contact and a direct request from the outlet to do so. It’ll either end up in the trash, or worse, your band could become the victim of a vicious attack.
You will find (if you don’t want to take my word for it) that music editors/directors will often feature unsolicited material in their cd review segments which often proves to be a less than desirable experience. Reviewers are more apt to tear apart bands with who they have had no prior contact because let’s face it, to them, your act is merely just another band to which they will feel no guilt for slamming as a relationship has not been established. Even if a reviewer is not totally keen on your band’s music, you will find their reviews of your cds will be much more positive if, for example, you’ve conducted an interview with this individual.
Another thing to keep in mind is that reviewers are human and thus temperamental. Another reason as to why you could become a victim of a heartless review is because well simply put, they were having a bad day, and you’re music didn’t appeal to their current state of mind. Again, a way to prevent this unfortunate experience from happening is to ensure that any CD review you solicit is accompanied by an interview/feature in which the reviewer is able to put a face and personality to your band.
Remember, media relationship building is important, as citizens turn to the media as a truthful unbiased source of information. It’s called “reputation management,” and not only is press solicitation a great way to garner the attention of new fans, and promote appearances, but it certainly looks good on the resume and attracts industry execs. Just make sure that when you seek out promotional opportunities, you maintain control of the coverage because once you send out unsolicited material, it’s like feeding yourself to the sharks.