The fifth and final section of our survey was called Improvised Communications because it focuses on the intersection of our own efforts with the work of these jazz writers and editors, but we also asked some general questions about both what they want from publicists and what they get.
Before we talk about that, though, we first asked about the preferred method of receiving information regarding forthcoming recordings and live events. The vast majority (88.2%) chose e-mail.
Somewhat ironically, given the results of yesterday’s questions, the next most popular answer was our interactive PDF one sheets (a version of digital promo service) with 8.8%. One person chose snail mail and another submitted a write-in vote for the telephone.
Clearly these folks like the convenience and level of detachment offered by e-mail, but it’s also worth noting that not one person chose any of the remaining options, which were: our Web site, our blog and its RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter.
Except for two questions where we asked respondents to rate various aspects of our services (we’re extremely proud to report 87.1% rated our reputation as above average), the remainder of this section was fill in the blank.
The first of three questions relevant to this discussion was: “The most important thing I need from a publicist is…”
There was no limit on the answers, so some people picked just one thing and some mentioned a series of issues that are of particular concern to them. Overall, the responses fell into six primary categories.
The most common request was for timely information, followed by quality information and promo service. The other three were understanding (knowing something about them and what they do, giving them time to process information and write reviews, etc.), hi-res photo options and cooperation/response to inquiries.
To briefly recap, according to these results, the jazz press wants nothing more than to get the information they need in plenty of time to write about a project. Getting the music itself came in third, which strongly implies that delivering professional level content in the right time frame should be one’s top priority when courting their attention.
This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how infrequently it happens, or how often we speak to musicians and labels who don’t start thinking about promotion until a record is already out.
The next two questions were related to each other.
The first one was: “The last thing I want from a publicist is…”
Answers were more diverse this time, though a few more people skipped this one. The most popular pet peeve expressed had to do with pushiness and pressure to cover music they had received, especially the unsolicited stuff.
Next on the list was a combination of too much information and too much irrelevant information (too many CDs at once, wordy press releases, bulky press kits with photos, solicitations about projects that don’t fit writers’ focus or taste, etc.).
Other don’ts included phone calls, excessive hyperbole in the promotional materials, bad music, infrequent contact, and, of course, digital promos.
In this question, we learned that showing respect for a writer/editor’s time and intellect is a key concern, and that much of the so-called conventional wisdom about adjective-filled writing and firm follow-up can be faulty when put into practice, especially when these folks are dealing with both on a massive scale.
Finally, we rephrased the question a bit to ask: “The biggest mistake publicists make with me is to…”
Even more people skipped this question, but again the answers fell into a half-dozen categories. Way out in front was issues concerning follow-up, be it getting the hard sell, perceived incompetence (the publicist did something specific that negatively impacted his/her reputation or the project itself) or an unnecessarily high volume of e-mails.
The next most popular mistake involved variations on hyerpbole and/or a lack of key information in pitches and press releases, which was followed by publicists sending music from either the wrong genre or just outside of the writer/publication’s established tastes, coverage areas or expertise.
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to “know” each person you’re contacting, but a few people also gave examples of publicists being too friendly by either not maintaining a professional demeanor or by engaging in clichéd pleasantries before getting down to their inevitable business.
The lesson, it seems, is to remember that underneath it all, media relations is a one-on-one business, and it’s important to remember that what works for some may not work for others. The best we can do is work the fundamentals of our craft, represent our clients with integrity and keep the lines of communication open.
And with that we’ve given you a complete recap of the results of our survey.
We’ve enjoyed reading all the e-mails and comments these posts have generated this week (please keep them coming!), and we hope everyone found at least some part of this survey interesting and useful in their own various musical endeavors.