Useful information for classical music PRs and comms people

This post isn’t all my own work. Not really.

It’s largely inspired by a brilliant post by Ariane Todes on Elbow Music. On that post she has a number of useful pointers for any classical music person doing PR (either their own or for others) including a free template to get you started.

There’s lots of talk about fonts (including the only time you’re allowed to use Comic Sans in a press release), plus some stuff about word length and what to include and what not.

Inevitably (because I’m always doing this – riding on other people’s coat tails instead of generating my own ideas), I had a few other things to throw into the mix.

For the avoidance of any kind of doubt, none of what follows is some kind of passive aggressive statement on how I feel Ariane failed in her originating blog post. I’m not that kind of bloke. We drink wine together (from time to time). I think it’s important to be clear.

I love being emailed – so email me – just make me feel you’re emailing me

It’s true I get a lot of emails. I like that. It makes me feel needed. But the ones that get the response (almost immediately) are the ones that feel personalised. Albion and Wildkat do this well. The reason the Gay Star News went up so quickly last week because a complete stranger made me feel as though he was talking to me. Just be authentic. Keep your press release as a PDF and do the talking in the covering email. 

You don’t need to offer the world on a plate

You don’t need to beg or plead (nobody has actually done this) but the inference is there. Don’t think that me acting on your information is me doing you a favour. You’re favouring me by sharing your news. Including me in the circle is a flattering thing. However …

Don’t think I don’t read other people’s blogs

… if I see something that has appeared on someone else’s blog and then I cross check my inbox and discover you didn’t send that to me, my right eye will start to twitch. 

Why you think I’d be interested is always nice

You wouldn’t go on a date and assume the person will sleep with you.

No. You’d compliment them. You’d show them you’re interested. You might even be actually interested. Offer to pay the bill, perhaps, or give them tickets to a show.

OK. The analogy should end there. My point is, that by showing that you read my blog I’m going to feel connected with you. (Those people with whom I already have a personal connection with need not do this – if you do its going to look a little weird.)

Tempt and seduce, don’t slap it on the table assuming I’ll bite

See the analogy above.

Offer interviews – telephone interviews or Q&As

I like to talk to people. I’m more interested in serendipitous insights than manufactured copy. This isn’t about exclusives its about authenticity.

For God’s sake don’t use exclamation marks

If you’re using exclamation marks or the word ‘excited’ you need to speak to your line manager and negotiate your notice period. 

Pitch ideas as part of your covering email

I’m not going to be insulted if you think you’ve got an idea for how your story could be featured on my blog. Really. It’s collaboration. I’m not one of those stuffy types.

Avoid redundant intimacy

This is about email etiquette plain and simple.

Don’t open an email with, “Hi, hope you’re well?”

I know why people do this. They assume that to go straight in with the purpose of an email is somehow rude. It’s not. Redundant intimacy – asking me a benign question in the belief that it somehow softens the blow – is wasting time. It is the email equivalent of shop assistants asking me ‘how can I help you today?’ the moment I’ve stepped over the threshold.

Let me put it the way I repeatedly put it to PRs at the BBC.

If you insist on asking me whether I’m well or not I will be forced to tell you. And when I’ve told you, you’ll wish you hadn’t asked. 

Also worth noting, I am lovely, charming, and a joy to be in the company of. Just so we’re all clear. Some people get confused on that point.

Don’t assume I won’t be interested

If you send me stuff I feel included. Inclusion is the step. I want to generate content that features the subject I love in the style that suits me. Don’t categorise me as ‘only orchestral’, for example. The more I blog, the more I’m discovering a wider range of repertoire. I’m about musical discoveries. 

Your news-line isn’t necessarily mine

I find press releases with three or four bullet points underneath a bold headline really really useful. It means I don’t have to read the rest of the press release. But I may not necessarily lead on that news-line.

Organisation quotes are a bit cold

I totally understand why its necessary to include a quote from a CEO or a conductor or a sponsor. I suspect hands are tied and people within organisations need to feel as though they’ve been represented. Sometimes I see those quotes and think, “I can’t, in all honesty, use them because I haven’t spoken to those people myself.” So I end up not using them. And then I end up feeling guilty. I have actually had to stop myself three times from emailing a lovely PR and saying “I’m sorry I haven’t used these quotes because …” Which is odd, because that would have been a private exchange, whereas I’m using the anecdote publically here. A dubious move on my part. 

Include assets

Video (pre-produced and B-Roll). Pictures (landscape PLEASE). Audio. Provide a range of stuff. If you really want to be radical about it all, then share materials which I can then edit into a distinctive piece of content – that would be dreamy.

Receiving embargoed content is flattering

Nuff said. 

Remember I’m doing this for free – so the currency is amplifying my tweet/post

Some PR organisations don’t get this. They think that by sharing the content with me and others like me, then they’ve got what they need – coverage. But I’m doing this for free. I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for a retweet. Don’t be offended if I ask for that. Not obliging makes me less inclined to work with you. 

Don’t ask for stats

Asking for stats is like asking what my weight is. It’s personal.

This isn’t a business (there’s little money in content for people like me), it is a pleasure. By asking me about my readership you’re being a bit rude. I may counter by asking you about your bank balance. The resulting judgment hangs in the air like a very bad smell.

Statistics are meaningless. Print publications have dwindling readerships. The people who are asking for statistics (your clients) don’t know what’s good and what isn’t necessarily. Comparing one blog with another is meaningless too (and reductive). If we want a vigorous conversation about the genre then supporting all those who write about it is vital. By doing so you’ll help boost their readers.

Don’t always go to the broadcasters first (Classic FM or Radio 3)

Nuff said.

Don’t invite me to something and then dis-invite me

This has actually happened. Recently.

Don’t offer an interview and then withdraw it or fob me off

This has also happened. Recently.

I may not reply; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up

I’m pathetic (in a way). I want to feel needed. A simple email to tap me up on something is perfectly fine. I don’t always reply (I’m working on a new methodology for that) but will eventually.

Your schedule isn’t my schedule

Your client may demand turn-around on coverage within a particular time-frame. They may expect a press release to be reflected on a blog the day after its released. Sometimes I’m going to wait a few days so that I write a piece from my own angle which might mean that I miss your coverage wrap-up. If my content misses that, it doesn’t mean I’m no longer interested in your press releases.

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