Wednesday, June 9, 2010

4 Things PR Folks Can Learn From Music Festivals

Lollapalooza. Bonnaroo. Coachella. We’re smack dab in the heart of music festival season, and with the Free Press Summer Fest making its second year even better than the first, we Houstonians are excited about emerging as a city with a legit presence on the scene. FINALLY! And, after spending our weekends donning wristbands among the masses of music lovers and hipsters, the Black Sheep team realized we learned a few things too.

Which obviously means we can write our tickets off as educational expenses. And also networking. Uh huh.

Image via Paul Viscontini at The Loop Scoop

Be prepared and chill out. Music festivals are unpredictable, and we’re not just talking about the paint slides. Extreme heat and cold, torrential rain, wind and tons of mud are pretty par for the course, and if you show up expecting anything else, you’ll be disappointed. Do what you can – wear sunscreen and bring an umbrella, but when things turn south, roll with the punches. Dance in the storm, roll in the mud and wait for a rainbow.

PR is no different. Whether you’re hosting an event or speaking with a journalist, do your research and plan for any possible bump in the road. But, as any experienced PR pro knows, SOMETHING will go wrong. And when it rains, it pours.  Which is sort of the beauty of the industry… the challenge of the daily grind. It’s up to us to kick our shoes off and make the best of a bad situation, console our clients and quickly problem solve.

Keep an open mind. At any given music festival there are tons of bands, and even the most well versed music junkies don’t know all of them. Take the time to listen to the acts you’ve never heard of and do so with the expectation that they just might be good. You never know what gems will pop up next.

This is such an important attitude to have in marketing as well. Can you imagine if a company had said, “Twitter? That doesn’t sound like anything I would want to check out.” It’s like saying the same thing about Lady Gaga! Finding the next best thing could make a difference for your company’s strategy and put you at the forefront of your industry.

Share and compare. One of the most exciting things about music festivals are the stories that come from them. Tales of crowd surfing, paint sliding, crazy people and fantastic performances make for ample conversation that prevails for years to come.

Image via Paul Viscontini at The Loop Scoop

And this is the perfect example of an effective marketing strategy. An event or a performance marketing stunt, even a well written media pitch, can have lasting effects if you connect with your audience on an emotional level. It creates the need for pictures, video, Tweets and countless reenactments of the experience, a priceless method for creating top-of-mind awareness.

Stage presence. Both the headliners at Summer Fest, Girl Talk on Saturday and The Flaming Lips on Sunday, were phenomenal. The crowd was totally into it, jumping, dancing and completely committed to the set. And after seeing them, it’s not hard to figure out why. Sure, their music is great. Yeah, they’ve got a lot of fans. But more than anything, they INTERACT, inviting fans to the stage, walking in a giant bubble on top of the audience, showing provocative imagery and encouraging excitement and participation.

Your company should also be doing these things. Instead of passively throwing yourself on a billboard or buying ad space, PERFORM. Give your audience no other choice but to be captivated and invite them to experience your brand in an up-close and personal way. Convey excitement and offer surprises that keep them guessing and watching. And if it comes down to it, we highly recommend a toilet paper gun.

It’s amazing how everyday encounters can reiterate our marketing and public relations philosophy. Sometimes it’s in a funny t-shirt or a political debate. Other times we find brilliance in mundane places like the grocery store or in a parking lot. And a music festival? Well, when it comes to learning there, it’s totally INTENSE, man.

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