As my recent "Ask a Publicist" article explained, having a publicist is an essential tool for your band's growth and success. But not every band can afford the spend, depending on where they are in their development. So if you're not signed to a label with in-house PR, relax. You are not S.O.L. There are ways to do your own PR and get some placements on a limited level so you can lay the foundation and make inroads in the media before a trained PR pro, with limitless contacts, steps in and takes over.
1. Make friends with local press, radio, and promoters – BFF-style
If you make your local media (such as print press, web press, and radio) a priority and align yourself with them from the get-go, they'll assume ownership and stick with you. If and when you blow up, they'll be there for life, proud to have boarded the train at the first stop. That support and love must be reciprocated on your end; don't forget where you came from and always foster and nurture that relationship. Plus, you never know where your fellow locals may end up. If they get an upgrade, you'll have a friend in a new, high place.
2. Be persistent, not annoying
This is an art. Use common sense. Don't be a pusher, which will make press and radio not want to take your calls and delete your emails without even opening them. Learn how to toe the line between passionate and pushy. A good template to use: don't call or write someone daily. Once a week should suffice, unless there is some level of time sensitivity, like an immediate show or gig happening.
3. Do something gratis for your local market
Help yourself and your local market thrive by doing something for free, which will pay dividends later. It can be something like playing a show or writing a column. The relationship remains symbiotic that way. They get something out of it, as do you.
4. Attempt a small, national campaign
Know your genre, know who writes about it outside of your regional cocoon, and cast the net accordingly. Send a song or video link digitally when you send a query. Make it original, get to the point fast, and don't ever say, "We play what we feel. We love what we do. What we do comes from the heart." Every band says that, so don't – since it's the equivalent of PR pitch Ambien. Say something new, fresh, and exciting. Give the media member a reason to open your email or package, and spend his or her precious time listening to you and your music.
5. Don't call something "requested material"
This is a personal pet peeve. Don't reach out to a writer or editor and ask to send a package, then when he or she agrees to accept it, write "requested material" on the envelope. That person really didn't request it; he or she responded to your request to send it, so don't be sneaky!
6. Be professional
Yes, this is rock 'n' roll and it's meant to be good times, but don't check your professionalism at the door.
7. Don't rely on your friend or your girlfriend to do the job
If there's a local PR person, partner up in a way that's mutually beneficial. Trade goods and services. If someone in your band does IT, help the PR person with his or her website in exchange for blasting a press release or making some pitches.
These are a handful of things you can do give your PR profile an initial liftoff without getting in over your head. You don't have a full list of media contacts, but you can zero in on the ones within arm's reach.
Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin to Revolver to Bustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.