Leigh McGrane runs Against The Grain (ATG) Publicity and is a new dad, which he describes as “the coolest most amazing thing in the whole world”. ATG Publicity has been around for three years and is currently a team of two. Leigh says “we basically get to work on all the cool stuff in Adelaide, from music and arts festivals, touring musicians and bands, and some great leading Adelaide based organisations and companies. If it’s ‘cool’ in Adelaide it’s likely we will be around it!”
Did it take you long to devise your agency name? What was the process in playing with words?
Choosing a business name is one of the most awkward processes. When trying to settle on a name for your business you become so hyper critical about everything, what it means, how it will be represented, how it will represent you, and that’s before you even start on the design process.
‘Against The Grain’ is (hopefully) an obvious fun play on my surname, McGrane, and the ‘Against The Grain’ is a metaphor that I have always lived by – it’s about taking risks, backing yourself and not always following the usual paths in life.
You do a lot of work in music promotion. Does that involve a lot of networking and understanding of the “music scene”?
A good chunk of the work that we do is around South Australian music and arts industries, and local, national and international touring musicians; and like any sector, knowing your industry is crucial to the success of any campaign.
I’m fortunate that my younger years were spent engrossed in these industries, I was always out seeing theatre, playing in bands, and touring with artists, so knowledge of the local and national industry came naturally – although now it does take a bit more work because I don’t get out as much as I used to.
Like any industry, the arts and music sector can be all about who you know – especially when you’re looking to develop more work for your business, but the Adelaide scene is loaded with some of the most amazing people you will ever meet, so I hardly call it work – more like catching up with mates.
Can you tell us about a favourite campaign or project you’ve worked on? What were the results?
I don’t have a favourite and too many great experiences to mention.
Some highlights would include: creating an international day of celebration, World Beard Day, as a PR stunt for an album release, a day still celebrated every year internationally. Meeting some of the most amazing environmental speakers to have graced the planet, including David Suzuki at the 2016 Planet Talks and founder of the UK’s Eden project, Sir Tim Smit. Working at WOMADelaide with some of the biggest bands in the world performing in front of tens of thousands of people, to then working alongside small Adelaide bands and watching their nervousness turn to excitement when people start turning up at their EP Launch.
All the experiences have been amazing, even the bad ones… we just learn from these.
Do you find there’s still value in the one-page media release … or are you more in favour of shorter media pitches?
Shorter, more directed pitches are definitely the most effective, but depending on the campaign you’re running one-pagers are still an essential element.
For example, when we announce a festival line-up I always use the one-pager media release because the ‘scatter gun’ approach is still a viable option for distributing information to large quantities of publications and outlets you know en masse – especially the countless amounts of online portals there are these days. You still need to know who you are sending the release to and ensure that it is something that they will be interested in, you can’t just send it to anybody, but with something like a festival, where there are so many interested outlets, the one-pager is a good method of initial information distribution.
Shorter, more directed pitches are definitely the most effective
Although, this is one of the few times we generally use a large mass send out to media – everything else we do is general dedicated story ideas to outlets and journalists who we know will be interested in what we have to talk about. I think it would be useful to highlight that we still use the one-pager for these dedicated pitches, but only as sources of additional information, not the content of the pitch.
What advice would you give a third-year university student who’s keen to work in PR? Is there specific advice you’d give about the arts sector?
Do what I did and intern everywhere and anywhere you can! When I was going my Public Relation Degree at UniSA I intern everywhere I could, from PR consultancies, Music Festival, high school, I searched out every opportunity I could to gain as much experience as possible. It’s how I got my foot in the door and my first publicity job a WOMADelaide. I started as an intern eight years ago and now I run the national press department.
I suggest getting involved with these projects no matter how big or small
they are and put together a communication plan
Also, don’t be scared to take on a small project of your own! We all know someone who is opening up their own shop, releasing their own clothing label, food range or boutique beer/wine/spirit. I suggest getting involved with these projects no matter how big or small they are and put together a communication plan for these projects and then implement them.
It will not only assist your friend in launching their new business but also it will will allow you to apply your learning in a practical real-world scenario , which can be totally different experience to Uni textbooks. Not only will it build your resume for you, but it’s a perfect opportunity to start networking with other people within the industry, work with local journalists, industry leaders and meet other people in the sector.
You were a producer at Radio Adelaide for more than 8 years – tell us how that came about and what you gained.
I had a great time at Radio Adelaide – I produced and hosted a show called Local Noise, where we would invite local bands on every week to perform live to air and be interviewed. It was a way for me to meet many of the amazing bands we had around Adelaide at the time, and also a way that I could offer local musicians the opportunity to gain a little bit of media experience in a relaxed and chilled out the environment.
Some of my best friends and industry connections today come from that show – it was a blast to run.
It’s still around today, although not in the same format. Radio Adelaide now hosts Local Noise every weekday morning from 9am -12 noon, and still highlights the best in local music, if you love your local music you’ll love the Local Noise.
Time for a fun question: do you – or have you ever tried – play a musical instrument?
I got into the music business because I was a really bad drummer in a really bad metal band that nobody remembers. From there I started putting on shows and organising interviews for local and interstate bands… I haven’t picked up the drum sticks in many years, although I always tell myself I’ll dust off the old kit one day – although having a four month old baby doesn’t lend itself to playing the drums in the house!
Want to get in touch with Leigh?
EMAIL – firstname.lastname@example.org
FACEBOOK – facebook.com/atgpublicityau
INSTAGRAM – instagram.com/atgpublicity
TWITTER – twitter.com/atgpublicity
SPOTIFY – ATG Office Playlist