How to contact the media : radio, managers

Media Exposure

"How to craft your message to the media so you get the exposure you deserve

By Bob Baker

Having been involved in the music business for over 12 years, I can tell you without any hesitation that most music marketing communications—be they fliers, bios, cover letters, fact sheets, ads, calendars—are atrocious and ineffective. That is, they don't perform the only function that any music marketing communication should ever do: getting the person receiving it to act. And preferably to act NOW!

It can be a phone call, a fax, a mailed response, coming to see you in person, writing an article or playing your record on the air—as long as you know what it is you want them to do and inspire them to do it (in a firm, yet polite and professional manner).

In other words, simply getting your stuff in the mail is not your ultimate goal. That's where most so-called music marketers go wrong; they throw useless information out into the world and hope it sticks on something. But that's not how you'll be dealing with the media from now on, because now you know that it's your job to send marketing messages that grab attention and motivate the people receiving them to respond right away!

Which means before you contact another media person, you must ask yourself these four questions:

  • Who will be receiving my communication? The type of person getting your marketing materials will determine how you motivate them to act. Music fans are inspired by the music you create, the image you portray and the people they'll hang out with at your gigs. Music industry pros (managers, A&R reps, entertainment lawyers), on the other hand, will be persuaded to act if the potential to make money and earn a better name for themselves is present.

    But media people are a different breed. So what motivates them? What would get a music editor, free-lance writer or radio station program director to get excited enough about you to contact you right away? Which leads us to the next question...

  • How should I persuade them to take action? In a nutshell, media people are mostly motivated by these four things:

    1) What will most entertain and amuse their specific audiences. The first duty for a writer or disc jockey is not to help your band out. It's to do his best job to retain and increase his audience.

    2) The prospect of being the first one in their region to "break" a new, up-and-coming act. When media types earn the reputation of being on the cutting edge, it makes them feel good.

    3) Not wanting to miss the boat on something that is generating a real buzz. While some editors and program directors like being on the leading edge, they still want to play it safe by turning their readers/listeners (and their paying advertisers) on to something that has already proven itself popular.

    4) Something that is witty or creative enough to grab their attention. Many hundreds of acts over the years have inspired media people to take action with either a funny band name, unusual album title or other promotional gimmick. Do you have one?

  • What do I want them to do when they receive it? Most run-of-the-mill music promoters toss literature about themselves to the media and leave it up to the media person to decide what to do next. But you won't do this. Because from now on you will spell out on your mailing piece, in no uncertain terms, what it is you want them to do. Call, write, fax, come to your gig, listen to your tape... whatever it is, ask them politely, yet very specifically, to do it.
  • When do I want them to take action? While writing this report, I received a press kit from a band member who wanted me to write about his band. The accompanying pitch letter went on and on about what his band had done, how much the letter writer thought of himself and that he wanted to appear on the cover of Spotlight. (Note: While you want to be clear about what you want, it's pretty pointless to ask for a "cover story" on your band. That's a decision the editor makes based on what's best for the paper, regardless of who has asked for it.)
  • However, nowhere in this guy's letter did it ask me to do anything or specify what he'd do next to further the process along. In effect, he was saying, "Here's a bunch of stuff about me and my needs, so you figure out what it is I want you to do now to stroke my inflated ego more. It doesn't matter if I hear from you today, next month or next year, and you may or may not hear from me at all. The thing that's important is that I've given you more material to fill your trash cans with!"

This craziness must stop!

If it seems I'm being hard on this guy, it's only to prove a point: Spell out all the things you have to offer the media contact and then kindly give them specific marching orders on what they should do next and what they get from you when they do it! (And no, I'm not refering to payola here.)

Please remember, though, that not all media people are going to do what you want, when you want it. But by keeping their needs in mind and professionally asking for action, you give yourself a competitive edge. And that's what effective music marketing is all about.

In the first part of this article you were made aware of the disastrous methods that most music marketers use when attempting to get free press and radio airplay for themselves. You also learned that before you even think about communicating with the media, you must seriously ponder these questions: Who will be receiving this message? How should I pursuade them to take action? What do I want them to do? When do I want them to do it?

The answers to the first two questions will be unique to each situation, while the answers to the last two are unequivocally "Take action!" and "Now!" To get the best results from your music marketing, you'd do well to soak up the following tips on how to craft the copy in your media message.

First off, let's get our terms straight here: "Copy" is not something you do at Kinko's (at least not in marketing lingo). Copy is the wording that appears on all of your promotional materials, be they fliers, postcards, ads, letters, press releases, etc. Here is the best advice I can give to make your copy sparkle:

Don't use me-centered thinking. Let's get right to the point here: stop talking so much about yourself in "I-Me-My" terms. Most band bios, cover letters and fliers are littered with "I think this... We did that... I am... We want... I, I, I..." Perhaps you're not clear about why this is important to you right now. You may be asking, "How else am I supposed to tell media people about my band or product?"

The answer is this: by focusing on what's in it for the media person! (If you're not sure what that is, review the four points covered last month in part 1 of this article.) The problem with so much of the plentiful "me"-centered copy around is that it is practically void of the most important marketing word of all: "You!"

Let's face it, most people are motivated by some level of greed; they naturally focus on themselves. Experts say it's probably an ancient human survival instinct left over from the caveman era. And it's also what is causing you to be centered on yourself—so don't feel too bad. Just make a solid vow to change it now!

From now on you'll keep in mind that what motivates media people (and all people, for that matter) is what they get out of a certain situation. Whenever you communicate with someone—whether in person, on the phone or in writing—they are either consciously or unconsciously asking, "So what's in this for me, bub?"

Of course, you can react to what I'm saying here by thinking how unfair and manipulative it is, or you can use this knowledge to your advantage to get what you really want out of your music career.

Therefore, don't write something like, "I have a good band. We have gotten airplay in our region. I would love for you to give us some exposure in your state, too. We could really use it." The most common response to this type of marketing is: "So what? Who cares what you could use? Why should I add to my already busy schedule to help you?"

But what if you kept the radio station's needs in mind and tried this approach with your copy:

"You could be the first one in your market to expose the XYZ Band! With college airplay on 15 stations in 7 states, now is the time for you to spread the word to your audience. Your listeners/readers will thank you for sharing us with them—and you'll be glad you did. Call 555-1234 right now to get your own copy of XYZ's new CD and FREE T-shirt. Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Debbie, the XYZ answering machine, is standing by."

Even though the preceding copy has some definite tongue-in-cheek humor to it, hopefully you can see how "you"-oriented it is and how much more effective it would be than the one before it. The same band and the same information, just a better way to present it to get real results.

The former piece of... er, copy, is ego-driven and bland. The latter speaks directly to the media person and what's in it for him—it addresses his needs, not yours. Plus it offers him a playful call to action to get the goodies the band has waiting for him... if only he calls now!

I've taken up more space than I wanted to address these issues, but I think they're important ones. And hopefully you do, too.

Bob Baker is the author of "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook," "Unleash the Artist Within" and "Branding Yourself Online." He also publishes, a web site and e-zine that deliver marketing tips, self-promotion ideas and other empowering messages to music people of all kinds. Get your FREE subscription to Bob's e-zine by visiting today.

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