A simple trick for improving your relationships with publicists

Press, Journalism, Interviews

Do you know what I hate? My inbox. Every single day for the last decade my inbox has been flooded with press releases, pitches, and promotional messaging from thousands of contacts around the world. A few artists and artist reps talk to me regularly, a few even daily, but the vast majority only make meaningful contact when they need something.

If you’re a music writer, you can probably relate to this struggle. You want to be someone people turn to with opportunities, but you also want to live life away from your inbox. The tug of war between your personal and professional life blurs the more you work to be diligent with responses, but ultimately you lay in bed at night and wonder whether or not your time is wisely spent.

Now if you think that is bad — imagine how publicists feel. A publicist goes through all the same struggles outlined above; only their experience is 10x worse. They know, nine times out of ten, that an email in their inbox is a request. They don’t know what the person wants or needs, but they know it is something that will add to the list of things they need to accomplish. Even if all they can do is to decline, there is still work to do, and that work never ends.

I tell you this because a surprising number of writers do not appreciate how fortunate they are to receive any response at all from most artists and publicists. Unless you a contributing to one of the top tier entertainment publications the chances your one post is going to make a significant impact on the trajectory of someone’s career in 2018 – without them publicizing it heavily themselves – is minimal. Today’s talent needs a lot of quality coverage, not to mention a lot of different types coverage, from numerous sources. There has to be a strategy to the chaos of promotion, and implementing that strategy requires someone who oversees the madness that is attempting to make people care about someone’s creative output. That responsibility almost always falls on the publicist (or, in their absence, the artist), and it is up to them to figure out how and where and when to push content.

And you know how they keep these jobs? Results. The person responsible for promotion is judged on the results of their work. Did they secure a lot of news coverage? Did the interviews go to sites who had significant influence and/or strong writing talent? Where did the exclusives premiere and why? Were there any opportunities left on the table? If so, why?

To answer the questions above publicists create reports that are regularly updated, which only adds to the workload of these already busy professionals.

This is where you come in.

Every time you write about an artist you need to send the artist’s press contact a link to the published post. Tagging the artist on Twitter or other social media platforms is not enough. Some artists receive hundreds, even thousands of notifications throughout the day. If you want your name and site to get ahead, you need to ensure your work is being seen by the right people, starting with the artist and their representation.

News post? Email.

Review? Email.

Editorial? Email.

Top 10 best hair moments? Email.

Publicists spend a significant amount of time scrolling through Google notifications, and RSS feeds in search of content relevant to their clients. The names and sites that appear through those efforts are hurried into spreadsheets so that another name can be added to the list. You don’t want to be just another name on a list. You want to be known as a writer who gives a damn, and that begins with making sure people know your work exists.

REMEBER: Relationships are everything in music, and you can further yours by helping those around you do their jobs more efficiently. In writing, that means sharing your content with the people who shared that information with you in the first place.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.