The title of this post makes no sense, right? Perhaps in and of itself. But hear me out.
I’d been wanting to write a post like this for a while but I saw something on another PR person’s site that inspired me to go ahead and do this. The post was incredibly misguided and unprofessional, not to mention the fact that it broke a number of rules about what PR really should be about; common sense rules.
If we focus on relationships in this business, results will follow. The “R” goes before the “P” in reality. So really, what does this mean?
Yeah everyone wants to make a living and survive and with a bit of luck, like what we do. I’m extremely blessed that I can say I love what I do and I’m grateful to be able to survive from it. But this isn’t about me and this isn’t about being “transactional”. It reminds me of something Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society said; “These are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life, but poetry, love romance.. these are things we stay alive for”.
So then the question becomes, “How do we put the R before the P in our professional lives”. Answer? It’s really simple, actually….
By treating people the way we want to be treated ourselves. Business shouldn’t be like the stereotypical “business” transaction… cold, clinical and transactional. You have to think of the end-user perspective both in business and in regular day-to-day life. A person walking into a shop might have enough money in their pocket for a product, but they could also have families, debt, other obligations – life outside that business transaction.
NOW before I go further, this is not an opportunity to put myself on a soapbox or whatever. But hear me out. I’m just using examples.
When I conduct business, I try my hardest to make it personal, not simply transactional. It’s not just about me “taking” by getting results from the media outlets or DJs. People running blogs, zines, sites… they have lives outside of their writing. They have families, debt, responsibilities, stress, a flooded Inbox from other PR people. Step outside the box and think about this. If I know one of my writers is going through a rough time…. death in the family, they just got out of the hospital, they are having personal or financial problems, they just lost a pet etc.. I’ll check on them. “Results” will hopefully come later. But for the moment, this is a human being going through a stressful time and they need to know someone understands. This isn’t about “oh look what I do”. This is about treating someone like a human being.
If they lost someone to cancer, make a donation to the American Cancer Society in that person’s honor. If they lost a pet, make a donation to the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. Did they get Covid? Call and see if they are feeling better. Is it something less stressful like they lack a skill and need some help? Post and ask the community. There was enough division in the world the past couple of years. Tell people you give a shit.
Anytime I send a friend request or ask a DJ if they want to be in my DJ promo pool, I take 20 seconds or less and send them a DM. Before I go any further with that, let me tell you about this post that I saw tonight.
NOW onto the post that triggered this…
Another PR person posted (almost sounding proud) that they had to create pretty much a standard form response because apparently they frequently get inquiries from artists. That’s their first mistake.. sending a form email any time they get an inquiry from an artist. There’s no harm in taking a minute (find the time… even if you have more than one job… this is someone’s art) and listening to their music.. why they came to you in the first place.
The post went on RIGHT ON to say they had a flat “monthly” fee and took clients for a minimum of two months. So right away, they requested a non-negotiable four figure sum which is only discounted when booking more than two months. Ok… back up a second.
People bring us singles, videos, EPs, LPs and sometimes request a longer term working relationship (There’s the “R” word again). It’s fine to have a price grid. But for God’s sake, don’t put someone’s project in a damn box. Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I’m honorable and not a backbiter. So let me break this down to a general list of things that I believe are “DOs” and “DON’Ts” in this business:
- DON’T come off as arrogant and bring money up right in the VERY beginning. Listen first. Someone put their heart and soul into their music.
- DON’T push someone into feeling obligated to do a longer-term business deal
- DON’T advertise “specials”. (I know some will disagree with me on this but hear me out). If you advertise “specials” for your services like a certain percentage off or whatever, you are making a generic, blanket statement that says, “your project isn’t any different than others.” If you are going to discount, make it exclusively within that relationship with that specific artist.
- DONT be an asshole. Don’t say things like you don’t have time to click on a link if you aren’t receiving money. We all have lives and responsibilities. These artists come to us and deserve to be treated as if they are special. Because, guess what? They are. Sure it’s ok to have standardized procedures but that leads me to the first, “Do”.
- DON’T assume that the artist headspace is the same as that of a business person/strategist. So their approach may not be the same as ours. Sometimes artists have both mindsets (business and artist) but just don’t have extra time. Example: I couldn’t write a song anymore to save my life. But I could help artists with promotion and business direction. In other words, read Number 4 again.
- DO be flexible. If someone is a referral, give them a discount after you reached an agreement. Consider payment arrangements (within reason of course.} We can be flexible and not have clients take advantage. It’s a mutual respect thing.
- DO see how they are doing outside of providing business updates. They, too are human and have other things in their lives outside of music and business
- DO be transparent to clients and potential clients, honest but not an A-hole.
- DO tell a potential client at least a couple of things that you appreciate about their music if you approach them. It’s not cool to come off like you are only there for money. You’re establishing these things called “relationships”, remember? Plus if you can’t appreciate something as a fan, how can you “sell” it?
So that’s all I can think of for now. As I said, the people that know me, know my work ethic and they know I don’t backbite or act arrogant.
I’m just a PR guy. I’m not the best by ANY stretch of the imagination. I just try to make tomorrow better for business and my clients as possible… whether it’s researching new services or doing behind the scenes organization, reaching out to new DJs.
I’m very blessed to be in the position that I’m in. But it’s not just about being transactional. Be transformational and build relationships regardless of how long they last. In business and in life, treat people with respect. It goes a LONG way to clients and for your legacy.
Relationships first… Publicity will follow.