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Publicists - What they really bring in the mix

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM
From left: Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at WABC TV in New York with Tracey Washington Bagley of ‘Here & Now’ and Dave Rodney of IMAGES LLC.
Gully Bop

Beyond the Hype

This is the first of a two-part feature; Beyond the Hype, where Gleaner Entertainment looks beyond the noise and breaks it down.

Next: The Reggae Billboard Chart ... A look at the numbers

In the music industry, some artistes, for one reason or another, have chosen to bypass the services of an experienced publicist and instead put together a management/publicity team of friends and relatives, not realising loyalty without knowledge may not be the best decision for their careers.

The Gleaner had a chat with experienced media marketer/publicist Dave Rodney on the importance of a publicist in launching and sustaining an artiste's career.

Rodney, who is the vice-president of New York-based IMAGES LLC, has an intimate knowledge of the social and economic fabric of the media landscape at home and in the diaspora. Over the past 30 years, he has developed and implemented creative strategic solutions to address the public relations and marketing concerns of clients with successful and enviable outcomes.

Rodney began by spelling out the job of a publicist.

"The job of a publicist in the music industry is to generate visibility for the client and to manage that visibility as best as possible in keeping with the overall strategic objectives for development of the talent," he said.

He further said that a regular publicist will tell the story, while a great publicist will create the story.


PR campaigns


"This is true, not only for music, but in all other areas where I have worked - consumer goods, travel, restaurants, events, resorts, money transfer, rums - the principles are always the same."

According to Rodney, campaigns for the most part are "smooth sailings" driven by good news.

"But that is not always the case. I've had to work with clients, especially from the hip-hop genre, who were notoriously difficult. I remember one male artiste checking in eight girls in eight different hotel rooms after a concert one night. Naturally, he arrived on a scheduled movie set two days late, kept MTV waiting all day and nearly ruined a multimillion-dollar movie deal with wayward tardiness. Those dramas become bad news and must be carefully managed by a skillful publicist to avert irreparable ruin and disaster for the artiste," he shared.

Rodney pointed out that the importance of a publicist's job must never be overlooked if that artiste is serious about moving forward with his career.

For him, publicity is critically important to the development of an artiste.

"Think about it - Gully Bop would still be languishing in a gully or still be trying to fix an old electric fan if the news of his astonishing talent was not shared with Jamaica and with the wider world. To have talent is a beautiful thing, but it never helps the cause when it is a secret that only the artiste knows about. Publicists aid and assist in sharing the good news, and sometimes, when applicable, the bad news, too."

Some artistes are of the opinion that they can make it to the top without the services of a publicist. While Rodney agrees that it can be done, he said it is very difficult.

"The artiste would be on the equivalent of life support and the potential would never be fully maximised. Some artistes operate as their own publicists due to budget restraints and for other reasons, but the ideal situation is to be sold to the media by professional experts rather than the sometimes clumsy and amateurish efforts of doing it for oneself," he said.

The advent of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram has certainly had a very big impact when it comes to promotions. Many artistes have been making use of it on their own in trying to take their careers to the next level. Rodney, while acknowledging that it plays an important role, said it's just a part of the package.

"All the team members are important. The manager pilots the career direction and the booking agent generates work. But an artiste is a brand that needs to be developed, polished, packaged and sold. An artiste without a publicist is like a consumer brand without a marketing department," said the man who has been responsible for handling the media marketing and publicity for corporate giants and big players like HBO, Digicel, Grace Foods International, Western Union, Jamaica National, World Cup Cricket, among others.

Rodney currently does overseas marketing for Hedonism II in Negril as well as promotions for Breezes Resort Bahamas All-Inclusive in Nassau (Cable Beach). Recently, while working on the Western Union/ GraceKennedy Town Hall forum in Brooklyn, NY, he engineered a soon-to-be aired one-on-one interview with ABC channel 7, Here & Now with former Prime Minister of Jamaica P.J. Patterson.

He said while the decision ultimately rests with the client on the publicist to use, he advised that a good publicist, like a bee with compound eyes, can envision many possible angles to a story and find the most effective ways of telling that story.

"The best recommendation is always what insiders have to say about the person one is about to hire. If all the feedback is mostly negative, run as quickly as you can and go find someone else. If the feedback is good, that is a positive. The work ethic, media connections, creativity and a passion for the task are important qualities, too," he said.