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So You Want To Be A...

So you want to be a…freelance publicist

Regular, unfiltered access to celebrity, being able to boss people around, and being privy to the inner workings of the industry; it’s no secret why being a freelance publicist is a highly coveted position.

But being a publicist is much more than the sum of its parts. Freelance publicist is one of the very few careers left that is inherently freeform; the only thing stopping you from bringing big ideas to life is, well, your own limitations.

But this isn’t a role for the faint of heart. It’s more than sending press releases via Mailchimp and following them up. It’s a role based in communication, troubleshooting and thanklessness. After all, if a publicist does their job right, people won’t be sure they’ve done anything at all.

To learn more about the elusive life of a freelance publicist, and to give our readers a useable resource to hunt down this career path, we spoke with Dallas Does PR founder Janine Morcos.

In the industry, Janine is what we call a ‘one namer’ – Madonna, Prince, Janine. Janine has worked publicity campaigns for the likes of Paramore, Parkway Drive, Slipknot, Nickelback, The Amity Affliction, Bring Me The Horizon and just so many more. As such, we’re grateful for her insight.

How did you get your start in the music industry?

I get asked this question a lot and my story is a little different to others. I was a pretty proactive person when I was studying my music business degree at JMC Music Academy in Sydney. I was actively booking and managing bands as well as learning all aspects of the business. Halfway through my second year of study, I was asked to apply for a receptionist job with a promoter and booking agency which I got. It also meant never completing my degree. I was only 18 years of age and it was my first real job in the industry. I worked with this company for three years and had moved from a receptionist to a contracts manager role before making the move to Melbourne. I picked up a job with Sony Music Australia as a merchandiser and then 10 months later I started working with Roadrunner Records as a publicity coordinator and that’s where my publicity career began.

What does your day-to-day job involve?

My day-to-day job involves many tasks. My day starts off by clearing out the inbox and catching up on information that has been sent across from international partners and replying to client enquiries. It involves listening to new music, putting together press plans and roll outs for campaigns, writing press releases, sending out singles for radio play and pitching new music to radio, pitching interview interest and album reviews, setting up and connecting interviews. It also requires quite a bit of admin work such as setting up and sending music to media, monitoring media coverage and putting together publicity reports for clients.

What have been the highlights of your job?

There are many highlights of my job and way too many to list. Some of my highlights are working on album campaigns which result in #1 ARIA chart debuts or top 10 ARIA positions. I have been fortunate to work on many of these. Receiving radio support, press covers and coverage and watching developing artists grow into world-wide domination. Being a part of the Good Things Festival team is also up there are one of the biggest highlights.

Can you describe some of the more trying times you’ve experienced in this job?

While there’s many highlights, there are also a lot of trying times and the past six months have been some of the most trying times in my career due to this global pandemic. Touring is on hold, album releases have been moved or put on hold, budgets are shrinking, people are working at a reduced capacity and resources aren’t there. This has meant that we have had to tweak the way we work and be a lot more proactive and creative with content, coverage and our communication.

Though there are many tertiary education courses that cover parts of the role, it seems the true talent of a publicist comes from experience. What would you say are some of the key skills a person needs to possess to be an effective publicist?

As a publicist who doesn’t have real tertiary education behind me, I strongly believe it does come down to hands on experience. You can study as long as you want, but you need to have strong communication skills, be able to multi-task, be prepared for the long hours, have tough skin and prepare yourself for a lot of no’s, have strong attention to detail skills, be organised and have the right attitude. It’s not a 9-5 job where you can switch off and at the end of the day, you need to be passionate, determined and dedicated. The ride is worth it.

“Nothing worse than sending an email to Sam and calling him James.”

At what point in an artist’s career do you think they need to tag in a publicist, and what should they take into consideration before picking their publicity team?

A lot of artists are under the impression they must engage a publicist’s services early on, which is not the case. Bands need to do some of the groundwork. Have their social media platforms set up, set up their DSP platforms, Bandcamp account and Unearthed page. Upload their own music and do their research on the appropriate media outlets and platforms that support and promote their style of music. We have so many wonderful and extremely supportive media outlets and community radio stations. Artists should do their groundwork before they are ready to bring in a publicist to take their campaign further.

What pointers do you have for any budding publicists reading this before embarking on their first campaign?

Do Your Research – Research each media outlet whether it be radio, print or online and see what they are covering. See if they are reporting news pieces, reviewing a record or featuring interviews. Make sure they cover the niche of the artist you are representing before you pitch or approach to them. There is nothing more embarrassing than pitching a punk artist to a hip-hop outlet. This also damages your relationship with the music director or editor.

Build A Relationship With Media – Relationships between a publicist and a media outlet are extremely important. Having that trust and communication is what’s key to having your email responded to.

Personalise Your Pitching – Make your pitches personal and send them out individually. DO NOT SEND OUT BLANKET EMAILS for interview interest. I can’t stress this enough. This is lazy and simply not cool. A publicist’s role relies heavily on your relationship with the media outlet; therefore, you want to ensure you have spent that time ensuring it’s personal. If you are going to cut and paste the template, make sure you attention the email to the right person. Nothing worse than sending an email to Sam and calling him James.

Space Out Your Press Release Distribution – Freelance publicists work on many campaigns at all times. Ensure you space out the timing of your press releases. Don’t distribute 5 press releases within a 2-hour time frame. You are simply spamming media and are most likely to be ignored and not covered.

Plan And Be Strategic – Don’t throw all your eggs in the basket all at once. Think of the long-term goal and how you will achieve building that artist’s profile long-term. Space out the media you want to target and cover.

Be Creative – Don’t leave it up to the media outlet to provide you with some ideas on coverage. Be sure to give them some ideas to bounce off and what you know your artist is prepared to do.

Manage Client Expectations – Don’t over promise and under deliver. Your client will ask you questions on why you haven’t met their expectations. Anything more is always a bonus.

And lastly do all the research you can on the artist you work with. Understand what their history is, what is achievable and where they are placed within the media landscape.

Tell BLUNT one thing about your job that most people would never guess.

A publicist is also like a babysitter, haha.

Who has been your favourite artist to work with and why?

Ha! I can’t just list one favourite artist as there’s just way too many. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with so many intelligent, hardworking and dedicated artists domestically and internationally in the past 14 years. It’s impossible to narrow it down and I also don’t want to brag!