Ask anyone involved in a creative venture or starting up a business if publicity, press or public relations will help or hinder, and you always get the overwhelming response that it’s undoubtedly the cure to their woes.
If you then ask them what it actually is, or how a publicist can help them achieve their specific needs- then the answers offered aren’t so concise.
To shed some light on this, I’ve managed to grab half an hour with Toni Tambourine of TamboPR (and associate partner at Neighbourhood PR) to talk about the role of a publicist.
Everyone in the dance music industry knows Toni as a shoelace- a known face in the contemporary UK dance music landscape. He started off putting on parties in some very respected club land dance halls (The End, Turnmills, The Cross and Bagleys to name literally a few) before working as Head of Press for Defected Records and Listen Up. He’s now setting up his own agency which is how he found his way to 90 Main Yard.
Toni has a very down to earth attitude, very positive and self assured and has a twinge of a southern sounding midlands accent- I like it how he refers to ‘a guy he used to work with’ which turned out to be Roger Sanchez when I ask him about it later.
So, the short definition of a publicist is someone who can act as a liaison between a business or creative professional with the media to communicate a message in a positive way.
He’s quick to draw a line between what publicists provide and a marketer- marketing (advertising & sales to boot) presents a product or a service in a staged way which modern consumers can often see straight through or become numb from the bombardment.
Now we as human beings can’t help but to duplicate things (it’s literally in our genes) and we also crave new stimuli. What’s ironic about this is that while we love absorbing new stuff, psychologically we generally err on the side of a trodden path rather that treading paths unknown as the former consumes way less energy in the brain.
Due to this conflict of interest, often we choose the middle ground; we listen to those we hold in a trusted position, who we feel are being genuine in their opinions, in the formation of our own.
In this context, the real benefit of what a publicist does is directly connect what you’re doing to a specific audience very quickly by getting relevant opinion makers and trendsetters to show a preference or state something about it- this sort of activity is the next best thing to word of mouth.
Obviously journalists are not thick, they know their apples from their oranges and they’ll rate what you’re providing as brilliant, mediocre or they could just pan it. Why then, might you ask, would you want to get something into the limelight for it not to go the way that it deserves?
Essentially it shows that you’re a contender and it associates you with competing with the heavier hitters, plus anything which makes an impression within our digital ocean of rolling 24/7 multimedia feeds on multiple tablet devices can only be a good thing.
Sounds relatively straight forward doesn’t it? Well funnily enough it’s not, you’ve got to…
- Figure out which online and offline publications are most effective for the desired effect- you might love reading Mix Mag and the East End Review but should you be in either of them to begin with?
- Identify and invest in developing relationships with a lot of different journalists- many of whom won’t necessarily want to give you the time of day in the first place
- Compose the content for the different uses in various publications- creative composition is most certainly time consuming and requires a particular knack
- Coordinate its release for your release- what are the lead times for the different publications for the different things you’ve got going on throughout the year?
- Constantly push the right things to get to the right places- publicity shouldn’t be treated ad-hocly, it’s a full time activity of planning, communicating and following up
- Be able to quickly respond to crises- you would you like someone with an immediate plan should things go against you?
So would you prefer to concentrate your time on the skills which earn you a living, or do you fancy picking up a new instrument, with your current work load, and having to learn from scratch?
So I ask again, who needs a publicist?