What I Learned About PR from Music Festivals

Soundland 2011 presented by the Next Big Nashville kicks off Wednesday in Nashville and it has really got me into the festival spirit. I am a music lover and enthusiast. My IPod holds everything from Mumford & Sons to Kanye West to Sleigh Bells to Coldplay. Music Festivals are an affordable way for people like me to come together hear some of their favorite artists, sample some new ones, and talk about nothing but music for 72 hours straight…Heaven. In June 2011 I went to Bonnarroo for the first time. I was covered in sweat and dust by Sunday afternoon, but I still wanted more which is why I ventured on an eight hour road trip to Chicago in August for Lollapalooza.

When I went to Bonnaroo I was working as a contract account associate for a PR firm in Nashville and my Director told me to go, have fun, but also think about PR while I was up there. Between fun at my tent, the magic mushroom (a water fountain, not what you were thinking), and all of the great shows, I actually did think about PR. Here are a few things I learned or had reconfirmed about PR from my music festival experiences.

1. Social Media is King

Large annual music festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella have social media down packed especially Twitter. Lollapalooza leads the pack with 66,000+ Twitter followers and Bonnaroo comes in a close second with 44,000+. You have to produce the right content to not only gain a following but sustain and grow it. Don’t lecture your followers or rant with tweet after tweet, engage! I follow all three of the aforementioned and I frequently retweet or reply to their tweets.

2. Have a Back Up Plan for Your Back Up Plan

No one can predict the weather, which is why no PR professional can predict the media. Media may confirm they are coming to your event, but on the way they come across a raging fire and your fundraiser is no longer newsworthy. Times like these, you have to have a back-up plan. No new stations, that’s okay we have radio stations. No radio stations, that’s okay we have bloggers here. Sometimes you have to create your own buzz online to provide results for your clients.

3. Networking is Crucial

Want to get back stage or get the best freebies, this can only be done by networking and finding the right people that have that power. At an overnight festival like Bonnaroo, you have to mix and mingle with your neighbors. For me and my friends, we utilized our neighbors to help us pitch our tent. Yes, I was so ashamed; girl power went down the drain. Sometimes, you have to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask one of your contacts for someone’s email address at a company or newspaper. Remember to network online, utilize professional sites like Linkedin, but also join social clubs for your industry like Nashville PR Flacks or NashCocktail.

4.Embrace Change

My first trip to Bonnaroo, I went with two semi- veterans (it was their second time) and they expected things to be EXACTLY the same. They wanted the same camping site, eateries, the whole shibang. I had to hit them with a reality check that nothing will ever be the same and they should embrace this as a new experience and learn how to navigate through it. Social media is going to change, how you pitch will change, and your clients’ needs will change. Just be prepared to change your thinking and approach. Because if you don’t, you will get left behind crying about how things used to be.

5.Know Your Market

Bonnaroo had more pizza and hot dog stands than any other type of food vendor. Why? Because people want to get their food and walk to the shows. They are experienced and know what are hits and what are misses. In PR you have to know who you are pitching to and what they like? Research newspapers and writers and find each of their beats. Sometimes, researching your market may include making a few failed pitches or bad follow-up calls, but it is all the nature of the beast and will help you get better

Remember you can enhance your PR skills anywhere, even by just talking to people on the street. Constant communication and research is key. Always look around for things that affect your world socially. You never know where you may find inspiration.  Hopefully, I can learn something good this week at Soundland, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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