The upperhand in PR

Notice how so many personnel changes “unannounce” the departure of the old guy by simply announcing his replacement? Look at the Jeremy Lile press release from Daywind. Unless I missed something, this is the first official mention of a replacement at the bass spot for BFA, and there is simply no reference to Keith Plott. It’s as if he doesn’t and never did exist. Keith who? Plott? Nope. No Plott here. Wrong number. And this happens all the time.

At best, this kind of unannouncment may include a very brief line toward the end of the sort that the Kingsmen used in their recent changes:

Bryan has most recently been with the Blackwood Gospel Quartet and will be replacing Tony Peace, who left the group to pursue other interests.

Apparently it doesn’t go without saying that the unannouncement of a member’s departure is a pretty crummy way to handle things. It’s wildly disrespectful of the person who’s leaving, under no matter what kind of circumstances (if you’re going to engage in PR play-pretend anyway, you can just as easily pretend the old guy left on good terms as you can pretend he simply dissolved into thin air).

And it’s more than a little condescending to the rest of the world. Unannouncing one half of a big personnel change assumes either A) no one cares, or; B)your fans already know the story through unofficial channels (which these days includes the blogs that so some artists like to self-righteously disparage), which groups seem to interpret as a license to avoid fully acknowledging or taking responsibility for their decisions.

Note to departing artists: Get out in front of your own PR. If you leave a group, nothing’s stopping you from releasing your own statement describing your departure. You don’t have to get into gory details if you don’t want (though see here for what happens if you do). You don’t have to burn bridges. You can even just say that you’re going to spend more time with your family etc. But the key is that YOU’RE SAYING IT.

The first lesson of PR is that you always want to define the terms of the discussion before your opponent does. Yeah yeah, I know, Christians are all brothers and sisters in Christ, not opponents in a PR battle. And God checked all the egos at the door of the Nashville Homecoming too.

But back on earth, artists who let their departures from groups (such as BFA, the Kingsmen, Florida Boys, or whomever) be “unannounced” by the press release trumpeting their replacement are needlessly letting a fat slow pitch glide across the sweet spot without swinging at it (How’d I do with that sports metaphor? I’m not so good at them, alas).

So whoever ends up being the next Keith Plott or Tony Peace (that’s you Gene McDonald), beat your former boss to the punch and release your own statement announcing you’re leaving – and then you’ll be doing so with the upper hand, which may be the only severance package you get.

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  1. Matthew Moore wrote:

    Didn’t Loren Harris put something in SN? Seems I remember reading that he was leaving the Perry’s. I don’t think he beat Stuffle to the punch though.

  2. Ron F wrote:

    What if that person has been doing some things that go against SG Group policies? I am not talking about Gene McDonald, I think he is on the up and up. But some are not. Ron F

  3. GC wrote:

    Now that you have thrown that out there, you need to follow up. Was he on crack,stealing money,not sanctified by the AGM, hit on a group members wife? Refused to wear the BFA loyalty pin? People assume the worst. You think Gene is on the up and up? why are you not sure?

  4. thom wrote:

    it is interesting how some guys just seem to evaporate when leaving a group. most of time with no explanations, etc, just gone. And how many groups have you heard say that “so-and-so” wanted to spend more time at home with his family and then within 90 days that guy is back on the road with another group. Did he decide that hanging out with his family was not all that great after all and that he’d rather be on the road? Or maybe, spending a few weeks at home was enough to keep him going for a few more years. (grin) not thinking of anyone in particular, just having some fun here.

  5. thom wrote:

    GC: I don’t think Ron F. was casting any dispersions toward Plott, only making a generalization.

  6. Bubba wrote:

    C’mon people! Just how many ways can there be to say “he wanted to spend more time with the family”? ;-)

  7. fan of EHSSQ wrote:

    I also think that it is funny how everytime a group changes members the group owners always say (they wanted to be with their families) Come on People,Wake up ….I find that hard to beleive… I think that is what alot of the groups want us to beleive… I think that most of these groups are not what they say they are and we as Christian people should be able to see right through alot of the gargage that is out there right now….

  8. GC wrote:

    e were talking about two bass singers leaving and Ron F. said he thought Gene was on the up and up? what did I miss?
    That is why I love Ernie and Sig. Sound.
    They are very spiritual and ministry oriented!

  9. bp wrote:

    How about if they say their family needed them to make more than $250 per week?

  10. KB wrote:

    I guess it could be worse….remember when William Golden was booted from the Oaks in ‘87??

  11. dkd wrote:

    GC wrote, EH & Sigsound..very spiritual and ministry oriented..Lol. That really gave me a Chuckle!

  12. DM wrote:

    Whatever happened to Parker Jonathan? A press release said Joe Issac came off the road because of his health. You know we all believe that. No one ever says the exact truth. Some people can sing, but they are losers.

  13. dkd wrote: are correct in that many of these group members don’t make enough money to groceries! It puts a lot of stress on the guys who are married with families especially if they have children. The time spent away from their families is not worth the whoppping $400 or $500 per week that so many of them make! Very few of these groups make much more than that. A few might make $750 to $1000 but they are in the minority. Some groups do pay a percentage of the gross sales, and a few pay a perdiem for the weekend, again, not many of them do this either. Is it any wonder that they move from one group to the other until they finally just burn out!

  14. SH wrote:

    Been reading your blog for awhile now. First time I have commented. Couldn’t resist on the subject of “unannouncments” in personnel changes. I agree with your conclusions and want to add that the way the Stamps seemingly treated Ed Hill and his departure due to health reasons seemed in very poor taste. Here is what I would consider and icon of sorts in SGM an at least what I read on their (Stamps) website at the time was real crappy, even refering to him as “Edwin Hill” and really not so much as a thank you or tribute of any kind. Maybe it wasn’t amicable but…

    Anyway, enjoy the site and your opinions, even if I don’t always agree.

  15. Jack Amber wrote:

    Based on the number of folks who say they leave groups to spend more time with their family, group managers can ensure folks don’t leave by simply hiring people who:

    a) Can and like to sing gospel music.
    b) Can and like to spend less time with their family.

  16. ellsanto wrote:

    It seems to me the phrase “spending more time with the family” is used when those in the public eye(sgm artists, ccm artists, church leaders, parachurch leaders, politicians, etc.) don’t want to reveal the true reason for stepping down or moving on. I know those in “ministry” would never want to admit the weekly paycheck is the reason for joining a new group. The question is why? We out here all know what it takes to keep bread on the table. I wouldn’t balk at leaving a job for a better environment and paycheck. I also wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it, nor would I chastise others for doing it. Maybe the masses are clamouring for a little more honesty and sincerity from those in the spotlight.

    Love the blog avery. Debate is healthy, heated debate is even better…All in love of course.

  17. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Most full-time, singers are on the road for four days or more every week. They don’t make a great living from singing, so many of them have second jobs to help make ends meet.

    Of course, leaving to “spend more time with family” is a tired and greatly over-used phrase, but in most cases, I imagine it’s just the honest truth.

  18. WA wrote:

    I wonder if many sg fans have ever given any thought to how life would be if they spent 4 days and nights a week on either a 40 or 45 by 8 foot wide bus? Just think of 8-9 of your co-workers, and imagine how fun it would be after a while. Believe me - there are few secrets after 3 months. Folks that seem nice to the general public can be pretty rough to live with! Changes in group personnel is no mystery to anyone who’s lived the life. The glamor goes away in a real hurry. Yep, you get the applause a few nights a week, and then come home to the same difficulties that everyone is facing. And all of this, for $450 a week?! (How does anyone live on that?!) Man. So, when it’s time to say goodbye, it’s also no wonder why the tried and true “He wants to spend more time with his family” is used over and over. The levels of hard feelings - on both sides - makes that “kind” excuse the only thing that can be said. It’s basic human dynamics, nothing more or less. It makes you respect the ones who stay together for many years that much more. They’re the ones who are genuinely called to sing, and who have mastered the art of inter-
    personal relationships in pretty tough circumstances at times.

  19. KB wrote:

    I must say, I have talked several times with an individual who has worked with a well-known group for over two decades (and has seen quite a bit of turnaround in his time with this group). I have heard on several occassions, “If he emptied his closet, packed his bunk, and walked off the bus right now, I would not care in the least.” [paraphrased, aka “The Message” version].

    The reality….no one gets along with everyone. And when you’re an employee put together with another employee, you have NO say in the matter other than whether you chose to stay or go. Group owners can say, “Okay, I don’t like you for such-and-such a reason, you’re out.” Payroll employees can sing, sleep, and avoid those they can’t get along with.

    Come to think of it, I wonder if anyone has heard this…. “Dude, this just isn’t working out. Why don’t go you spend some more time with your family?”

  20. bp wrote:

    WA wrote, “The levels of hard feelings - on both sides - makes that “kind” excuse the only thing that can be said. It’s basic human dynamics, nothing more or less.”

    It seems that this would be a good place to start when it comes to the “revival” that is needed within SGM as stated in another post on the main page.

  21. GC wrote:

    Put anybody you know on a bus for four days a week for 48 weeks. No matter how close they are somebody or something will cause a major disturbance..most likely a fight.
    Now put 5 guys with large egos, no money and total self consumption on a bus and you got a murder waiting to happen.
    That would be a great description of Sig Sound but they got money…..

  22. judi wrote:

    Aside from the realities of trying to get along in close quarters with folks you may not be compatible with and all for little money, getting back to Avery’s main point about more clarity and honesty in these communications: he is absolutely right about telling your own story before you are “unannounced” or “disappeared” by others. In PR we sometimes call this action “taking charge of your own bad information” since the truth is usually less scandalous or controversial than the rumors would be if others tell the story for you. Telling it your way–honestly–makes the flames die down (and probably gives bloggers less to talk about.) But that means that you have to say something substantive. “I’m leaving because I need to do something else for a while/recharge my spiritual batteries,” or “I want to explore other directions for ministry” or, as someone suggested,”This has been a great ride but it’s not working any more” would be preferable to the “more time with the family” since that’s obvious. Everyone who travels, who has a family, probably wishes s/he could spend more time at home. When I traveled in a job I had once, I quit so I could have more time at home but I also quit because it turned out not to be the work I felt called to do or fulfilled in doing. It ought to be a simple and clear as that.

  23. Montana Man wrote:

    3 things to say, and I don’t mean to ruffle anybody. 1. Maybe Joe Isaacs’ “health reasons” were that his wife was sick of what he was doing. 2. Ed Hill. On SoGospelNews he wrote, reflecting on the second coming of the Prophets, that he started that group in 1959, started singing with the Stamps in ‘73 or so, and he said he got saved in 1978. Huh? He said it. And that this time around the Prophets will be better because he’s saved. 3. I was just wondering, if a home-schooled kid gets expelled, is he/she then homeless? It’s hard to be serious tonight.

  24. Big Ken 54 wrote:

    It would have been tough for Joe Isaacs to use “spend more time with family” as his reason for leaving, since he traveled with them all the time. I actually heard that he was having some problems with his back and had to come off the road.

  25. GC wrote:

    I would assume that there are many people in ministry that are not saved…In all aspects of ministry….So what do you want the guy to say that steals product money? goes to a strip joint on the bus? Totally disregards the owners rules?

    Here’s a thread—If your homosexual and singing in Christian music, are you saved? How would you make that announcement? Should you be ministering?

  26. DM wrote:

    You are right about Joe Isaacs. Even the Bluegrass singers didn’t want him. Ralph Stanley thought he was wrong. To have such a good family and do what he did. Some people with bad children would give anything to have children like his.

  27. Stormy wrote:

    WA said “And all of this, for $450 a week?! (How does anyone live on that?!)”

    This family DOES NOT bring home anywhere near that. We survive. We may be paying our winter heating bill long into the summer, but we survive.

  28. WA wrote:

    Stormy - my point was not to denigrate the amount. I credit you for living like you do on whatever you bring home. But, many of the singers have commuting time and the cost of miles driven, often have to pay for their own meals at restaurants, and eat up a lot of cell phone minutes just trying to keep up to date with the family at home. On top of that, they must pay their own income and social security taxes, often their own healthcare, etc. My point is that a lot comes out of the $450 (or whatever the amount is) before the family ever gets to enjoy it. It’s a lot of hassle for not a lot of money. I’d bet that the average sg fan probably thinks this life is an easy one, but it isn’t. Far away from the lights and applause, real life exists.
    That’s all that I meant.

  29. GC wrote:

    I wonder what the divorce rate is in SG? It places a severe strain on relationships….

  30. DM wrote:

    Most of the singers have to buy their own meals when they are on the road. That is at least twice a day.They are glad when a church has dinner. Sometimes the owners of the group are so rude. They furnish their families with meals, forget the others. They pull up to a relatives house, go in and eat and forget the employes. Stay on the bus and starve.

  31. Charles Brady wrote:

    I’m not sure that the topic at hand is really a valid one. To suggest that group members who are leaving send out press releases to beat someone to the punch?

    First off who would run them? I know that we only run about a third of the press releases that we get because everything that claims to be news is not news. With that said, if Keith Plott (nice guy as far as I know) sent a press release that he was leaving BFA I wouldn’t run it because Keith is not the spokesperson for the group. On the other hand if Brian Free or Daywind send out a press release then I probably would consider running it.

    So to suggest group members start sending out press releases is probably a total waste of time.

  32. GC wrote:

    why would you stay one day with a group like that?

  33. wc wrote:

    When things get too tense on the bus, there’s always the next cruise to look forward to!
    Since $450/week seems to be the going rate in this discussion, what about family-owned groups? Does anything think that people like Danny Riley and Kim Hopper for example, are traveling around for that amount of money?

  34. KB wrote:

    I wonder what it’s like if everyone has an equal share.

    To go back to my example of the Oaks, I know that at the time Golden was let go, all four were partners (to this day, they run Oak Ridge Boys, Inc.). The other three had to buy out Golden’s share before he could be let go.

    When Duane Allen first joined the group in 1966, he told the story that they offered him a partnership in the group for $1500 and a partnership in their publishing companies for $100. What group does this today?? There is almost always one owner and three employees.

  35. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Now, I can’t believe I took the time to read this whole thing.

  36. William wrote:

    Keith Plott has a statement from him on the SingingNews website.

  37. William wrote:

    Is this Keith in Mercy Way’s photo and on the cd cover already?

  38. SM wrote:

    Looks like Mr. Plott took your advice and sent a press release on his future plans to the Singing News. It’s in the news section of their website, I think.

  39. Montana Man wrote:

    Charles Brady, I don’t know what news organization you’re involved in, but to say that you wouldn’t run a Plott news release “because Keith is not the spokesman for the group…” is absurd. Keith Plott absolutely can be the spokesman for…. Keith Plott, and what he says he’s doing is really more valid than what a “spokesman” may say about him. If you’re curious, my credentials include 20 years as a news executive with newspapers and The Associated Press, lots of years as … “the spokesman” for a billion-dollar company, and finally an adjunct professor in journalism at the college level. Avery’s suggestion about pro-active news releases is exactly the way professionals handle issues. FOR WC, $450 weekly is kind of a settling out, I think there were suggestions of up to $600, and I’ll bet GVB is at least $1,000, and EHSSQ has to much closer to that than $450. Probably Dan Riley and Kim Hopper, too.

  40. Lottie Squires wrote:

    No, that’s not Keith in that picture–it’s Jason Funderburk. That picture is at least 5 or 6 years old. Everything on that page is old! DF & MW released a new CD last year; I don’t know why it isn’t listed…it’s a great project.

  41. GC wrote:

    There are groups who have equal ownership.They do very well..They also have no turnover….Think about the groups who have little or no turnover and you know who is making money

  42. Big Ken 54 wrote:

    William: That is Keith in the photo (back center). He was with Mercy’s Way a few years back, prior to Harold Gilley; I talked with him at the NQC when he was with Danny. So, it is an old picture, but it is Keith. (The Plott thickens…)

  43. BKH wrote:

    William wrote:
    Is this Keith in Mercy Way’s photo and on the cd cover already?

    It is Keith Plott … It us not “already”. Keith sang with Danny Funderburke and Mercy’s Way Prior to singing with BF&A

  44. GB wrote:

    Ok folks here it is strait from the SN web site

    Thursday February 22 2007 - 11:24 AM ET
    Future Plans for Keith Plott


    (Press Release) -
    I want to thank B.F.A. for four years of friendship. I was among some of the best singers and musicians in Southern Gospel music and I wish them well. There are many sacrifices a family makes - my wife’s health has been a concern for some time and I will be moving into a solo ministry that I may include my wife and more time together. To keep Southern Gospel quartet music prevalent in my life, I will be traveling once a month with Danny Funderburk and Mercy’s Way which consists of Greg Day and Stan Shuman. I have been blessed to get to know so many wonderful folks down through the years, as we step out in faith depending on God, I ask for your prayers and support as we move into this area of ministry

    I hope to see you soon,

    God Bless You
    Keith Plott
    P.O.Box 5684
    Anderson S.C. 29623

  45. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I totally agree with Charles Brady that all press releases aren’t newsworthy.

    I would extend his point by saying that of the press releases that ARE newsworthy, about 75% of the content found in each one should be snipped out as extraneous information, and the remaining 25% should be re-written to reflect a more objective point of view.

    In SG, most outlets take the easy way out by just printing press releases word for word. It’s a PR person’s heaven.

    Of course, I disagree with Brady on his main point. The moment a group member leaves, his press is no longer being handled by his former employer.

    Sure, the press release might give some thanks for services rendered, but then again, it might not. Often, the departing member is merely “unannounced” when the new replacement is named, as Doug has accurately said. It’s better for an individual to at least release a brief statement indicating their future plans.

  46. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    One more point, and this advice goes out both to current group members as well as members who are so excited to be joining a new top-tier group.

    Closely observe how graciously your departing comrade is treated in the press release, and note what degree of appreciation is expressed for his years of devoted service.

    The same shall be done unto you.

  47. Lottie Squires wrote:

    Please forgive me for a big “blonde moment!” I realized on my way home that it was Greg Day missing from that picture–not Keith. Boy, do I feel dumb!

  48. Charles Brady wrote:

    With the extreme number of turnovers and now mergers in southern gospel (especially in some of the new big entertainment companies) it make me wonder if we should make a group stay together for at least 90 days before we give them any free press…….

    Someday soon these artists are going to have to learn how to get along with each other or we will be hosting the national solo convention……

    I know that that some of the older artists made several changes over a 30 year career but some of these folks are moving so often they probably never unpack their suitcases……

    I guess for me every group change that happens is like reporting that someone has completed their music tracks this week, then they complete their vocal tracks the next, then we get a PR that they’ve sent the master off to have it duplicated….. I’m sorry but it’s just not newsworthy…

    And for Montana Man my credentials are that I own my site…. LOL!!

  49. Chuck Peters wrote:

    I agree totally with DBM.. I edit most all press releases.. always have always will. I did it in secular news reporting too.

    example.. here is my re-write on the Plott press release.. not a big deal.. but a good little story that needed to be included:

    Keith Plott.. bass singer for Brian Free & Assurance.. for the last four years.. announces that he will be starting a new ministry that will allow him more time with his wife. Plott also plans to do some limited traveling with Danny Funderburk and Mercy’s Way.

    Commenting about BF&A.. Plott says: “I was among some of the best singers and musicians in Southern Gospel music and I wish them well.”

    Fans may write:
    Keith Plott
    P.O.Box 5684
    Anderson S.C. 29623

  50. KB wrote:

    It seems that the smaller, local groups have less turnaround than the bigger ones. I know one group in our area that has been together for 8 years with one one known change. Three of the original members are still there, and still singing.

    Are they the greatest? No. Are they dedicated? OH YEAH!

  51. FG wrote:

    I just wanted to say that Kieth Plott has antoher press release on So Gospel News. It gives out his e-mail address so you can contact him and his wife. Please, keep in mind that the singers in gospel music have a calling on thier lives, to witness for our Lord Jesus Christ through song. We need to keep them in our prayers.

  52. LE wrote:

    Just for the record, any departing group member whether fired or quitting that puts a release out before the owner of the group does or without consent from the owner is INCREDIBLY disrespectful. If you are the one being fired, who is going to announce that???? That’s just foolish. And if you are leaving and on good terms as several are, why do something to jeopardize the relationship you have with the people in the group. Keith did it the right way….no matter what the circumstances were behind him leaving, he let Brian do what he needed to do and then posted his own announcement. It is just incredibly self-centered to handle it any other way.

  53. KD wrote:

    Doug, funny you should post about this. Just found out that apparently a member of the trio First Love and a member of the McRaes trio no longer exist.

    Both groups have joined together minus a member each, and no mention anywhere as to what happened to them.

    There’s another one for the X-Files.

  54. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Charles Brady wrote: “With the extreme number of turnovers and now mergers in southern gospel (especially in some of the new big entertainment companies) it make me wonder if we should make a group stay together for at least 90 days before we give them any free press…….”

    I’ll try to remember to report on the formation of Spoken4 in 90 days if they’re still together. That’s not a bad idea, actually.

    LE wrote: “Just for the record, any departing group member whether fired or quitting that puts a release out before the owner of the group does or without consent from the owner is INCREDIBLY disrespectful.”

    That works both ways. It’s incredibly disrespectful for a press release to state a new member has been hired without acknowledging the service of the person who left.

    I’d much prefer to see a joint announcement issued first from the group and departing member with a promise that the replacement would be announced soon. If there’s going to be a period of auditions, this could be announced in the same press release.

    If the replacement is already lined up, the second press release announcing their arrival could be released a couple of days later. This way, there should be little or no speculation about possible hard feelings between the group and the departing member, while the new member would get the attention they deserve.

  55. dkd wrote:

    Many times a replacement is already lined up before the current member even knows he will be leaving!

  56. GC wrote:

    I think they should be together a full year before being considered for much of anything in the industry. It would not be fair to the industry if they could not get all the money from these temporary groups before they fold.

  57. Big Ken 54 wrote:

    Gene McDonald has landed in Tennessee, and he apparently can’t get away from those big buses:

  58. Susan E. Weatherford wrote:

    As one who has seen many, many people come and go from a prominent gospel quartet in past years, these are some of the reasons that come to mind why they left:

    1. Not everybody is cut out for the road.

    2. Not everybody has a heart for ministry.

    3 Someone stepped on their ego.

    4. They refuse to jump through hoops for an unreasonable manager anymore. (Boy, could I elaborate on this one)

    5. Not enough money to make it worth being away from their family, no matter how they feel about ministry.

    6. Stealing.

    7. They get a better offer.

    8. Their wife is a trouble maker.

    9. THEY are a trouble maker

    10. They were accused of raping a preacher’s daughter.

    11. The gay thing.

    12. They can’t hear a part to save their life.

    13. Rudeness.

    14. Stupidity.

    15. Flatulence. (No, I am not making this up.)

    16. They pick their nose.

  59. William wrote:

    Crossway Qt. uses video to let the fans know why Chris is leaving.

    Maybe this is a preview of the future in providng info on a member’s leaving. At least it helps eliminate/cut down on rumors.

  60. justafan wrote:

    Maybe the outgoing member’s reason for leaving is nobody’s business.

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