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by Silke Hartung

Reaching Out To Media – 40 DOs and DON’Ts

by Silke Hartung

Reaching Out To Media – 40 DOs and DON’Ts

2020 hasn’t been kind to many of us, but being locked down together as a nation has given some the rare luxury of time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Here at NZM we get an almost constant barrage of ‘press releases’ and ‘media alerts’, some good, others decidedly not so. In a bid to find out how best to reach out to NZ music-friendly media in 2021, whether as a paid publicist or independently, Silke Hartung got in touch with a number of music curators from across Aotearoa. Together they have come up with 40 DOs and DON’Ts on how to best share your news, be it a gig, tour, album release, singles/music videos, or right back at stage one, introducing yourself as new artist.

DOs:

  • Know your musical identity, genre and audience. (“It is not just dropping a song or something off at a station or blog and saying, ‘Hey can you publicise this.'” – Sam Smith, Nowhere Bros)
  • Have a clear call to action, tell us what you want (or rather hope you might get) from us. 
  • Add clear key dates. (“We can’t wait half a day for someone to reply because they forgot to put the date of their live event into their press release.” – Chris Cudby, Undertheradar) (“Always mention if you want a press release or review to go live on a specific date.” – Lisa Jones, Muzic.net.nz)
  • A good bio is worth its weight in gold, especially if you’re new.
  • Write a clear press release with all the info journalists might need about whatever it is you’re promoting. (“I can sometimes receive up to 50 emails a day – so the easier to read/clarity of how to listen to the song – and a personalised message is great.” – Charlotte Ryan, RNZ)(“All the best press releases I receive very clearly convey all the information we’d need to put together a news story, without us having to get back to the artist/promoter about any missing details.” – Chris Cudby)
  • Add social media account links. (“And keep your social media updated – and website if you have one. This includes a Bandcamp bio, Spotify bio etc.” – Charlotte Ryan) 
  • Suggest an editorial angle that’s matched to the specific outlet – that can be very persuasive.
  • Do your research about who you’re actually contacting! (“Don’t send music to journalists and DJs unless you know it is their style.” – Charlotte Ryan)
  • Find out in advance the preferred music preview format different media outlets have – or provide links to track-by-track streams like Soundcloud, or downloads from places like Dropbox. (“Asking me to review or write about your new album without offering a free DL copy feels like asking for free publicity. Here, do this for us, but you have to pay to do it – nope, sorry.” – Mike Hollywood, EverythingsGoneGreen)
  • It’s so basic, but be polite! 
  • Almost as basic, a quick spellcheck can go a long way.
  • Make sure your album artwork is readily available online at relatively large size, i.e. via Bandcamp, or posted on social media, if you don’t have your own website. (“I am astonished how hard it is to get decent album cover art from many local artists. It should be a simple matter but in many instances, it isn’t.” – Graham Reid, Elsewhere)
  • Always follow up – but within reason – you don’t want to be spam in anyone’s eyes. (“I have a life too, and other work I need to do to support Elsewhere.” – Graham Reid)
  • Use a unique, clear and concise subject line for your emails. (“It makes it easier to keep track of everything.” – Lisa Jones)
  • “Send your submissions through in the morning, especially if you want it to go live on that day.” – Lisa Jones
  • Make your email look awesome with, for example, Mailchimp.
  • Including your press release in the body of the email works best. Say what you want to say without us having to click anything to find it. (“Not every media website can work with every format” – Lisa Jones)
  • Provide images through a link to a Dropbox folder. (“A great submission includes easily downloadable, appropriately sized images/graphics.” – Veronika McLaughlin, 13th Floor)
  • “Take the opportunity with submissions/press releases to describe your music the way you’d like it to be described.” – Chris Cudby
  • “Listen to other people’s advice. It’s well worth trying not to dismiss people’s suggestions on what might work for you, but also think critically.” – Chris Cudby
  • “Think about creative ways with which you could stand out from the pack” – Chris Cudby
  • If you know there’ll be tickets going spare then invite some media types to your next gig – just not if it’s desperately last minute.
  • Remember that we’re all just normal human beings. Find a way to say thank you if appropriate.

DON’Ts

  • Don’t send a PR email that says you will be sending a PR email later today/tomorrow with some artist news.  Just the one email with the actual news is sufficient, any more is spamming and time-wasting.
  • “Don’t spam/send off automated emails etc. You can tell when something is generic and is just a mass send out. Make sure you personalise your submission and target it to the blog/station you are sending it to.” –  Sam Smith
  • “Don’t send CDs – many people don’t have CD players anymore – and musicians should not be spending money on post and CDs.” – Charlotte Ryan
  • Don’t behave like you’re entitled to anything! (“I dislike and rarely bother with a submission which is one sentence telling me they are a local artist as if that somehow entitles them to coverage or special attention, and nothing more other than a link to their Facebook page or whatever. Some even have the nerve to ask for an interview right off the bat, as if that would come as a matter of course.” – Graham Reid)
  • “Don’t make me traipse through multiple additional links to find the music, and don’t make me subscribe to things.” – Mike Hollywood
  • Don’t write press releases on your phone. It always shows.
  • Don’t send too much information. Especially don’t attach multiple photos, tour posters, write-ups etc. If we want that stuff we can ask for it. 
  • Don’t waffle or oversell. (“A blogpost in itself, usually gushing and over the top. Please don’t tell me what to write. If you have faith in your product, just have faith to put it out there and leave it at that.” – Mike Hollywood)
  • Don’t expect every (any even!) outlet to like your music enough to choose to support it. Of all people, you should expect music journalists to have music opinions.
  • “Avoid typing words entirely in capital letters throughout press releases (unless, for example, your band’s name stands for something). Otherwise, it’s considered to be shouting, and most media organisations will revert any such words back to lower case.” – Lisa Jones
  • Don’t send PDFs – the file size is huge, and it can be tricky or impossible to copy text from them. (“The worst submissions are non-editable PDFs. We definitely do not have time to retype them.”- Veronika McLaughlin.)
  • “Occasionally publicists will send an email with a bunch of information in it and ask us if we can help promote their show/festival. They want us to take the time to write their press release! No way!” – Veronika McLaughlin
  • “Don’t be discouraged or offended if your submission isn’t accepted. Please keep us in the loop, if you’re making amazing music, we want to hear it!” – Chris Cudby
  • “Don’t send stuff out at 3pm on a Friday afternoon when it’s too late to schedule any new stories.” – Chris Cudby
  • Don’t attach or embed large files to emails – give us links to those files instead.
  • Don’t expect something for nothing. Be hopeful of that result by all means, but don’t expect it.
  • Don’t tag us on social media to get our attention for a release. Tagging us is not the same as getting in touch with us. It’s the same for leaving messages on walls or sending us DMs – even worse when those go to our personal profiles. Nothing will replace a good old email.

Big thanks to Veronika Mclaughlin (13th Floor), Graham Reid (Elsewhere), Mike Hollywood (Everythingsgonegreen), Charlotte Ryan (Radio NZ), Lisa Jones (Muzic.net.nz), Sam Smith (Nowhere Bros) and Chris Cudby (UTR)