Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
The proliferation of publicists in the music industry initially produced good results for artistes who were learning for the first time about the business of marketing.
In a Gleaner article a few weeks ago, at least one manager pointed to the unprofessional nature of those purporting to represent artistes.
Now two others from the belly of the music industry are voicing agreement.
The claim is that 'robot' publicists are collecting huge sums of money while promising publicity. However, some rarely fulfil those promises.
According to Stampede Lammie, a record producer and promoter of much acclaim because of his street charts, it is unwise to trust someone who proclaims to be a publicist and has no experience or street connections.
"I am a man who deals with people all over the world and from what I know, artistes want people to know them so they contact some so-called publicist and dem just tek weh dem money. Some artistes call mi a ask mi fi contact so they can get back their money, but some a dem PR deh not even me neva hear 'bout dem," he continued.
"As an artiste, you have to get legitimate PR personnel to represent you, but then again we have so much artistes out here, so because some artistes want to get personal attention and have their material out faster they end up putting their trust in an unprofessional publicist. Some time artiste don't waah pay the right money suh dem put dem trust inna some hurry-come-up publicist and get robbed," Stampede said.
The promoter believes the business is saturated with clueless publicists and says it's damaging to the industry.
"Too many persons coming from nowhere saying they are PR and dat nuh good fi di business. Some a dem weh seh dem a PR, mi nuh see weh dem rise up from. They are like robot taxis and nuff a dem a put out stuff weh nuh real. Artiste gone a foreign pon personal business and them publish seh artiste gone pon tour and artiste perform for 15 persons overseas and them publish seh the concert was sold out. Artistes, unnu need fi work with legitimate people with foundation names, some a unnu too short hand," Stampede said.
Reggae artiste G mac represents himself by choice. The artiste says he learnt from the mistakes of other artistes.
"I represent myself because I am capable. I try to meet the media and DJs on my own behalf. Some of these PR people are not reliable and they charge the artiste more than what is needed. I have seen so many artistes make the same mistake. You have professional PRs who don't have any degree in the field, but they know their work based on street knowledge. But artistes just need to test the person before they trust them with their money," G mac said.
Young journalist and PR practitioner, Patrique Goodall, shares the view that the profession is being compromised by publicists without relevant training.
"The profession of public relations is definitely being cheapened, as any profession would if it is being flooded by persons not qualified or trained in that field. There are many media practitioners who have no formal training but years of experience have given them extensive knowledge in that field. Having been trained for several years and now working in PR, there are times when the papers are flooded with shoddy press releases that would have one contemplate if a GSAT student were writing for the news," she continued."There are clear impacts having unprofessional PR practitioners flooding the market because, like journalists, persons who write for the media also help to set the agenda and control the messages in the public. There are certain principles, ethics and codes that trained PR professionals have to adhere to, and persons with no knowledge of these cannot write accordingly," Goodall said.
Lecturer at the University of the West Indies' Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), Charmaine Henry, holds the opinion that public relations has been misunderstood.
"Unfortunately, many individuals assume that public relations is about publicity, press agentry or wide media coverage. Whereas public relations does include these functions, it is fundamentally a management function which seeks to ensure mutual understanding between an organisation/individual and its public," said Henry.
According to Henry, some publicists are not generally fully prepared to handle the rigours of the entertainment industry.
"The irony of the entire situation is that managing the image of entertainers is more challenging than managing that of CEOs and government ministers. Many journalists are oftentimes jolted into a rude awakening after working for some time as PR practitioners or publicists in the entertainment industry. This is due to the fact that many entertainers tend to be unpredictable, undisciplined, egocentric and problematic. Any attempt to put some form of structure and routine in their professional lives may be met with animosity," she continued.
"Lastly, a PR practitioner cannot afford to be a prima donna who happens to be working for another … young professionals must begin from the position of a 'student' ready to learn all the skills and operations in the marketplace. Gather much more than social media technical skills that are now popular communication tools. Study people, understand people and make oneself versed in dealing with people from all walks of life," she said.
G mac is currently promoting new collaborations such as Holding Firm with Sizzla and Love in Your Eyes with veteran musician Ken Boothe. Stampede Lammie is handling PR duties for five reggae artistes whom he plans to market as the Five Reggae Rebels.