I spoke last week with Ryan Holiday, author of "Trust Me, I'm Lying," a book with which I took issue as I do with many of Holiday's clients. However, though we addressed some of those issue when we talked, we focused on his advice for artists seeking media attention which is basically his advice for anyone seeking such attention. The short version: give the press an interesting story that they can use and they'll give you publicity.
In my experience the best ideas are typically the simplest but it's often quite difficult to recognize them because of their simplicity. In "Trust Me, I'm Lying," Ryan Holiday shared a few of his secrets for identifying the most polarizing attributes of his clients, feeding those to web media and encouraging haters to do the heavy lifting involved with spreading the word as widely as possible.
It's a potentially dangerous game and an element of Holiday's work that caused me to write somewhat negatively about his book. However I took issue primarily with the pseudo-redemptive narrative of "Trust Me, I'm Lying" and Holiday's embrace of clients who approach the world in what I consider a sleazy and manipulative manner. The reality is that his use of polarization and media manipulation is quite effective.
Chase Jarvis LIVE: Ryan Holiday - Trust Me, I'm Lying
Jarvis' extended interview above is connected to a course on "Smart PR for Artists, Entrepreneurs and Small Business" featuring Holiday for creativeLIVE. Interesting enough, the course was free when aired and now costs $199 but the above video and short print interview contain the core concepts musicians need to know.
My chat with Holiday left me with three key points for musicians seeking media attention:
1) Media is a seller's market with an infinite amount of opportunities to attain press coverage and attention.
2) Musicians should move beyond "here's me and my music" and focus on the needs of the press when publicizing themselves.
3) The media needs interesting stories that are relevant to their audiences so give them interesting stories that are relevant to their audiences.
Sounds simple, right? Yet the majority of both musicians and publicists who contact me for coverage haven't yet figured out how to do that.
Holiday noted that since everybody is giving away music for free, giving away music for free is not especially compelling. You have to be able to tell the media something interesting in order to catch their attention.
However, Holiday's advice is not to manufacture interesting stories but to find what's actually interesting about you and your music.
Note that just as he advises people not to seek press coverage for their products when they're not yet ready for attention, I assume he might advise musicians to wait until they have become interesting people to reach out to the press.
Unfortunately I didn't ask him that but he did point out that media is a sellers' market and believe me, he's right. I spend a lot of time filtering email and news every day to find stories that both interest me and that I believe would interest Hypebot's readership.
So if you want coverage by the media you need to give us stories in a form that doesn't require us to do the heavy lifting of figuring out why we should cover you. You may think that's our job but it only becomes our job by default.
What makes a story interesting varies from Hypebot to Pitchfork to MTV Hive. So, yes, you have to put in some work to figure it out but it's not all that difficult. Every one of these publications has a consistent range of topics and a week's worth of posts and articles should be enough to clue you in to what that range encompasses.
For those musicians that just want to focus on making great music, Holiday did say that's one of two things you need to do. The other is to tell interesting stories.
If you have trouble figuring out or articulating what makes you interesting, find someone who can do that for you. It can be hard for anybody to recognize what's truly interesting about themselves and how best to tell that story so there's nothing wrong with seeking help.
Like I said, it's really simple. The problem is that simple can be really hard to do.
- "Social Media Is Bullshit" & Blogging Is Evil: Books For The Social Media Hater
- From Obscurity to Internet Sensation — How Creatives Can Win the PR Game with Ryan Holiday
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at All World Dance: Videos and maintains Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.