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From Live Streams to Podcasts, Publicists’ Ever-Evolving Role Explored at Billboard Live Music Summit

The job of a publicist can be a thankless task. Promoting an artist's endeavors takes a lot of elbow grease, it's a 24/7 job that involves a lot of moving pieces. But, if done correctly, it's a…

The job of a publicist can be a thankless task. Promoting an artist’s endeavors takes a lot of elbow grease and it’s a 24/7 job that involves a lot of moving pieces, but, if done correctly, it’s a crucial element to building a career and packing in an audience at a band’s upcoming show or festival slot.

During the State of PR: How the Evolving Role of Communications Is Driving Change in 2018 panel at the Billboard Live Music Summit at the Montage in Beverly Hills on Wednesday (Nov. 14), a group of public relations vets discussed their ever-changing field and current strategies they’re implementing to help their clients break out. Katie Atkinson, Billboard‘s deputy editor, digital, moderated the discussion, which featured Alexandra Greenberg, senior VP, MSO PR Los Angeles; Catherine Martin, senior VP communications, Ticketmaster; Crissa Requate, founder/CEO, Mason Jar Media; Lisaann Dupont, director of communications, Opry Entertainment Group; and Patrick Confrey, founder, PCPR.


The general consensus was that, overall, one aspect is key: building and forming relationships with members of the media. “That’s one thing that is not ever going to change,” Confrey said. “That is the thing that cuts through the clutter and gets your phone call answered and your email answered. You have those relationships, people are rooting for you and you are successful.”

Requate added that it’s important to do your research on a journalist and tailor a pitch to a specific writer and come up with a unique story angle that will be of interest to their publication. “Help to shape the angle so journalists and editors can cover a festival in a unique way and help a festival or an event stand out,” she said, citing the following as an example: “What is it specifically about a festival that helps you stand out? Is it an extremely niche and all scales of rock music show? A luxury festival?” she said, noting that publicists are crucial in helping a festival find its identity.

Beyond forming relationships with writers, the conversation largely centered on the importance of building outside-the-box campaigns. Martin pointed out that embracing growing trends, such as the boom in popularity of podcasts, is a great way to accomplish this. “You’re able to tackle a topic in a much deeper way with a podcast. People can pause it, come back to it. There are so many opportunities for comms people out there because of podcasts,” she said.


Greenberg agreed, adding that when 311 was announcing an upcoming tour with The Offspring, she took full advantage of this platform. “I had booked the guys on Adam Carolla’s podcast, which is one of the biggest podcasts in entertainment. Management at the same time was talking to Funny or Die about doing a video with them. They were tying in Super Troopers, and next thing you know, they were taking my publicity action with Adam Carolla and integrating the guy’s interview into the Super Troopers Funny or Die video. It was cool how the synergies came together,” she said.

Per Greenberg, in today’s world, everything is “so dialed in now with names and brands,” and thus, attaching those to your clients is key. “As a publicist, that’s part of our job now too: to keep on top of what the trends are and how to integrate that into what we are doing with our events or live shows.”

She added that another way to take advantage of this new social-media-savvy world is to utilize celebrities as a means of promoting your band. “We have to look out to if celebrities want to come to our events, where do you seat them? Do you get them to meet the artist? There is a photo taken, there is a social media put up. The artist has 5 million Instagram followers, they are tagging your venue, they are tagging your event. It’s all relative and you have to think constantly about how to connect the dots all the time,” she said.


Greenberg stressed the importance of embracing changing technology. She noted that while in the past, when doing PR for an event like Coachella, her team would have success with getting journalists to fly from out of town to check out the show. But today, people aren’t traveling due to the costs and the fact that an act performing at an out-of-town festival will likely have a show in the writer’s hometown in the near future. So that’s when you have to get creative. “With the live streaming, I can watch something like Lollapalooza and I don’t have to leave my couch and it sounds and looks fantastic. I think encouraging the writers to sit and watch those performances is key,” she said. She noted that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to snail-mail a writer a package of popcorn and a “please watch this festival” care package as a modern request for coverage.

Greenberg also joked that she didn’t think it was unfathomable for publicists to be sending holograms of their artists to the media in the future, to which Dupont added, “Well, I did host a virtual press tour!”

And while diving into new-age mediums are certainly getting results, Requate said to not underestimate the power of tried-and-true platforms like radio, calling it an area she works in constantly. “I think there is still a large population of people that listen to terrestrial radio and if you work with an event or you have a band that goes and does an in-studio, you have dedicated listeners and new fans that can be turned onto your brand,” she said.

“So the future of PR is radio?” Atkinson asked. “Don’t quote me on that,” Requate laughed.