Friday, December 19, 2008

Example of Great Viral Marketing Campaign

Today is one of those days when I need a laugh and I found it in my in-box: A video from a great viral marketing campaign from ... wait, watch the video to uncover the marketer's agenda: http://bewareofthedoghouse.com/videoPage.aspx

The fact that somebody sent this link to me and that I'm posting it here tells you that this campaign will get the desired exposure for its sponsor. The best viral campaigns evoke emotion and show creativity. This one does both -- which is why we'll all be passing it along to our female friends.

(Learn more about viral marketing in the September 2007 issue of Build Book Buzz.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One of the keys to ongoing publicity success is your ability to be opportunistic. There are two great local media exposure opportunities jumping off the front page of most daily newspapers today.

The first is the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges -- clearly, another case of a powerful person who believes the rules don't apply to him.


Local media outlets will be looking for the local angle to this story and will need both local and national expert sources for their coverage. Contact your local media now if you're an ethicist, politician, futurist, a "watchdog," or just plain paranoid about politicians.

The other opportunity comes from news that cancer is expected to overtake heart disease as the world's top killer by 2010. Are you an oncologist, cardiologist, affiliated with the local office of the American Cancer Society, health care provider, hospice worker, author of a book on a related topic, or have some other type of connection to this news? Make something happen with your local media outlets today before this disappears from the front page.




Thursday, December 4, 2008

Publicity Begets Publicity

Cutie pie Alec Greven was on "The Today Show" this morning talking about his popular new book, How to Talk to Girls. How does a 9-year-old get a book deal? The same way I got my first book contract -- through publicity.

Publicity begets publicity and when it begets the right kind of high-profile, major-media exposure, it captures the attention of literary agents and book editors.

This charmer wrote his book as a classroom assignment. His teacher showed it to the principal, who offered it for sale at the school book fair, where it quickly became a best seller. This captured local media attention...which caught the eye of producers at the Ellen DeGeneres show...she had him on the show and introduced him to his publisher...and, well, the boy and his book are a hit.

There's a lesson in here for all of us and it's not "suck up to your teacher so she'll help turn your report into a best-selling book." The lesson is that if you want national exposure -- regardless of what you're publicizing -- don't look down your nose at local media outlets. You can leverage your local exposure to get media hits on a national level. And, doing your interviews locally first helps you get practice and finetune your pitch and messages before you go after media outlets with larger audiences.

Especially if you're a 4th grader.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorite Project: Bailey's Book

Just two days after Bailey Goodman died with four friends in a tragic car accident on June 26, 2007, her parents had to select an organization to receive charitable contributions made in Bailey's memory. They didn't hesitate even a moment before responding, "The asset program."

They were referring to the Fairport, N.Y. school district's developmental assets initiative, a program that promotes healthy children, youths and communities. In some districts, it's referred to as a character-building program. Bailey was active in the district's initiative while in school and felt it had done a lot to prepare her for the challenges of young adulthood.

Months later, the program's administrator assembled a committee of Bailey's friends and family to decide how to spend the money contributed in Bailey's honor. Our brainstorming sessions led to Bailey's Book: A Community Celebrates Its Assets, a book with content generated by district students and the community. Students in all grades are now writing essays and drawing pictures for consideration by the committee, which will publish the book in 2009. All contributions must be based on one of the district's 40 developmental assets.

Content can come from anyone, anywhere, so we hope you'll consider reading the submission guidelines and offering an essay, photo, or drawing for consideration. Please consider making a financial contribution to offset publishing costs, too. We are incredibly fortunate to have the book publishing pros at Windor Media Enterprises guiding us through the process pro bono, but we do need additional funds for the printing expenses.

It's a good time of the year to be thinking about contributions that will help others. Please also consider contributions made in memory of the four other "Fairport angels" we lost that day -- Hannah Congdon, Meredith McClure, Sara Monnat and Katie Shirley. You can find links to their designated charities here.

We are looking forward to creating a book that Bailey's parents, Mike and Sharon, and her beloved brother Spencer, shown here with Bailey, will be proud of.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Make This Common Press Release Mistake

I do a lot of press release makeovers, helping entrepreneurs, authors, and nonprofit organization communicators find and highlight the news in their announcement. More often than not, the biggest problem is that the news release writer puts himself at the center of the news, not the product or service. When this happens, the press release uses a format that goes like this: "I'm doing this, here's why I'm doing this, it's really interesting that I'm doing this, here's my life story."

The format you want to use is more like: "Here is the news. Here's why you care about this news. Here's some information about the person/business/organization behind this news."

When thinking about how you will approach your next news release, focus on what will be of greatest interest to those reading the news (your target audience), not on yourself. Sure, it's cool for you that after retiring from a corporate career you started a consulting firm. But that's common. It's not news. What is news, perhaps, is how your business model is built around the zen practices of Buddhist monks, that your office is in a treehouse, or that you specialize in consulting with military veterans.

In most cases, we are not the news. It's what our company does that makes news. I'll be posting more tips later on how to write a news release that works, so come back soon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Did GM Execs Commit a PR Blunder with Their Corporate Jets?


It's almost too d-u-m-b to be true.

The three auto execs pleading in Washington, D.C., for a bailout traveled there in private jets.

I understand why they did this. They are busy men with huge paychecks and flying commercial is not good use of their time. I get it. But in this case, because they went begging for the public to save their industry, they should have left the private jets behind and flown on a commercial airline as an indication that they were doing their part to be frugal and fiscally responsible.

When it comes to public opinion and public relations, perception is everything. The decision to value their time more than their public image in this case leaves us with the perception that they just don't "get it." And that's a shame, because the jobs of the peple who work for them and their suppliers are at stake.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to Hire a PR Firm

If you've decided that you don't want to do your own publicity and plan to hire a publicist, proceed slowly and with caution. There are a lot of great publicists but there are a lot who are "fabulous" at dazzling you with their fawning demeanor and razzle-dazzle presentations and facilities, but lousy at delivering results.

Here are tips for hiring a PR firm whether you're looking for small business, nonprofit, or book publicity:
  1. Ask around to find out who can deliver.
  2. Talk to those you’re considering, then send them a briefing letter that outlines your goals, needs and expectactions. Request a capabilities letter in return.
  3. Schedule in-person meetings with those firms whose capabilities fit your needs.
  4. Have a frank conversation about expectations. Clients don't always know what can be achieved and are attracted to publicists who agree with their publicity goals rather than giving them a reality check. You want somebody who is realistic and has the business sense to say, "This is not a good fit for Oprah but I'm fairly sure we can get you strong exposure in local markets across the country."
  5. Select an agency for the right reasons – their experience is relevant, their work is good, you feel you can work with the staff, and they’re affordable. Don't select an agency or individual because they are the best schmoozers. You can't afford to spend your budget dollars with anyone who doesn't have the skills and experience to deliver.
  6. Avoid surprises by putting everything in writing – who will do what and when, what it will cost, when they will be paid.
The key is to be realistic about what can be achieved and to find the best possible individual or team to achieve that for you. Get more tips in my posting on pay for placement PR (I am opposed to it).

What's the best tip anybody ever gave you about hiring a consultant like a publicist or a PR firm?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Watch this Fiction Book Trailer

One of my book promotion course students, Travis Heermann, created a book trailer (book video) for his novel, Heart of the Ronin, which will be released in February. I love his use of music, graphics, and sparce text.

Here it is.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Not to Pitch

Because I write on small business topics frequently for newsstand and custom magazines, I received a pitch letter with this opener:

“I have a great new client that i am trying to get some buzz on for a piece, can you please take a look at the pitch below?”

What’s wrong with this opener?

From my perspective…

  • It uses an approach that is too casual for a first-time communication with a stranger.
  • It’s grammatically incorrect.
  • To some of us, “get a buzz on” means getting drunk so this language is distracting.
  • The “i” flags the publicist as young, which equates with inexperienced.

The opener was followed by an article idea and signed with the publicist's initials. Just. His. Initials. No name. No phone number. No nothing else.

I am older than 23, so it’s not a good idea to be this casual when communicating with me for the first time. My assumption – right or wrong – is that this publicist will be a pain in the neck to work with should I decide to interview his client because he comes across as careless. Careless publicists make my job harder, not easier.

If you want to secure publicity:

  • Focus on what the journalist will get from the encounter, not what you will get from it. Do I care that he wants to “get some good buzz” out of this? Not at all.
  • Be professional and act mature -- even if you aren't -- when contacting a journalist. Use complete sentences. Use proper capitalization and punctuation. Avoid slang.
  • Include complete contact information.
  • If you have a PR firm working for you, require them to copy you on pitches so you can identify patterns like this and stop them.

What’s the worst publicist mistake you’ve seen (or done)?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Free Nonprofit Publicity Tips

I've just added more free tips to my nonprofit publicity Web site. Select the article link for "The 4 most deadly nonprofit sins" to learn more about why many well-intended publicity campaigns fail and how to make sure yours succeeds.

This is particularly helpful information for communicators at charities and nonprofits who don't have formal public relations training but are expected to execute flawlessly and with great success. When your job requires you to take on many responsibilities -- PR, marketing, Webmaster, fundraiser -- it helps to get some free advice here and there!

If you think the article is helpful and you'd like to share it with others, feel free to reprint it with proper attribution -- see the author box at the end of the article.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Barack Obama's Infomercial

Barack Obama will talk directly to the American public tonight on the major networks without pundit interference or interpretation.

On the surface, it's a great idea. Whether it's an effective strategy or not will depend on how well Obama (a) communicates his vision and (b) sets the record straight on rumors and misinformation.

I hope he tackles the "socialism" undercurrent that developed after he used the phrase "spread the wealth around." To Republicans, that phrase is the verbal equivalent of hiding the keys to the BMW -- makes 'em crazy. I think it needs clarification.

Many voters believe whatever is fed to them, without challenging or questioning it. Let's hope that those who are so easily influenced will tune in and pay attention. People should make their decision on what to vote for after contemplating the facts, not the innuendo.

Please stop back here tomorrow and offer your communications assessment of Obama's infomercial. Tell us if it was effective.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PRWeb Offers Free Small Business Publicity Webinar

Online press release distribution service PRWeb.com is offering a free small business publicity seminar tomorrow, October 22, 2008, at 2 p.m. The event features Entrepreneur's editor along with the host of Startup BizCast. Other upcoming events will include using online publicity for arts & entertainment organizations and to drive better search engine results.

Learn more and register at http://twurl.cc/68f.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How One Business Got Opportunistic

Whether I'm speaking to a group about how to generate publicity or teaching my book promotion e-course, I always nudge people to capitalize on the day's headlines to create buzz for their charity, business or book.

One of my "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" students did this recently, placing an essay about her book's topic in today's Christian Science Monitor. Meagan Francis, author of Table for Eight: Raising a Large Family in a Small Family World, leveraged the buzz around Sarah Palin's five children and Angelina Jolie's ongoing comments about adding to her family to place Thanks to Angelina Jolie, having lots of kids is hip. It's a well-written piece that tells us more about why Meagan has four children and another on the way -- and one that I shared with my mother, who had seven children in 10 years back when that was more the norm than the exception.

Meagan's high-profile success is just one example of the kind of exposure your company, organization, product or service can enjoy by reacting quickly and effectively to the day's news. Most of us will have the most success by adding a local angle to a national story (a TV station in my area interviewed "local Joe the Plumbers" last week), but we can also score a big one -- as Meagan did today. Great job, Meagan!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

5 Surefire Ways to Promote Fiction


It's harder to promote fiction than non-fiction, which is why some book publicists won't do it. It takes more creativity, thought, and inside-out thinking, but once you get the hang of it, it's both fun and rewarding. Here are five tips to get you thinking about the news value in your novel:

1. Tap into what you learned while writing your novel. Did you learn about colonial America or a specific profession while writing the book? Use this new knowledge as a springboard for publicity -- free media exposure. The author of an historical romance novel set in New York’s Hudson River Valley, for example, can write and distribute a tip sheet on the top romantic and historical attractions in that region or pitch a local newspaper or regional magazine on an article about the area’s most romantic date destinations. The goal of the latter? To get the author quoted as an expert source because this would require using the book title as the author's credential.

2. Find the nonfiction nuggets in your manuscript and use them to create newsworthy material for relevant media outlets. Is your heroine a jilted wife starting over in the workforce as – let’s say – an account executive at a high-flying packaging design firm who finds love with her client, a studly executive at a consumer products company? You’ve got publicity opportunities with the packaging and marketing trade magazines. Is she a radio jock? The female morning drive time personalities would love to interview you by phone.

What about locations, products or services in your novel? A story set in a national park or a convenience store gives you news pegs for exposure in the relevant trade magazines. A character’s obsession with a little known beverage brand could get your book into that company’s employee newsletter, too.

If you’re writing your novel now, work in some nonfiction nuggets you can capitalize on later.

3. Market to “warm.” “Warm” in this case refers to those people who are most likely to buy your book. Is your protagonist a nurse? Target regional and national nursing trade magazines. Is your story set in a real location? The people there will be interested in knowing more about your novel. Do you have a blog with a strong following? Tell them first when your book is available for purchase – they know and like you already and will want to support you (and might even help you spread the word).

4. Think globally but connect locally. Make friends with your local booksellers by offering to do interactive book signings – a presentation about the book-writing process rather than a straight book signing. Don't tell your life story (unless your book is a memoir!). Explain some of your challenges and how you overcame them. Share a few research secrets. Talk about the nuts and bolts of your book – how you named your characters or selected the story’s location.

Talk to local groups at their regular meetings, too, about what you learned while writing your book. Address some of the behind-the-scenes processes. Because most everyone thinks that they, too, could write a book – if only they didn’t have that full-time job that takes all their time or that new baby who doesn’t nap – they will welcome a chance to hear about how you overcame similar obstacles to bring your story to print.

When considering which groups to offer your speaking services to, put a priority on those “warm” audiences – using the examples above, that might be nurses, packaging designers, or radio personalities. Sell books everywhere you speak, of course.

5. Learn from the masters. Who are the gurus in your category? What did they do early in their careers to spread the word about their books? What are they doing now that’s innovative, interesting, successful, attention-getting? When it comes to marketing and promotion, there’s really no such thing as a “new idea” anymore – so take an old idea, put your spin on it, and see where it takes you.

Have you successfully promoted your fiction? Tell us what works best for you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Should You Use Social Networking Sites to Build Buzz?


I interviewed social networking expert Paul Gillin for the September issue of my Build Book Buzz free e-zine; here's what I learned about using social networking sites to build buzz:
  1. It's essentially a process for building relationships one-by-one. If you're lucky, you might get a little viral action out of it.
  2. Because it's not a great method for reaching a large number of prospects quickly, it will help our businesses and organizations the most if what we're trying to do is establish our credibility as experts. For example, I will probably focus my social networking efforts on showing my expertise in a way that might generate speaking engagements rather than promoting my writing business or selling more books.
  3. Good use of social networking sites and activities will have the greatest impact on businesses that have a very focused target market. That might be based on geography -- your own community, for example -- or a niche that is reachable through special interest networks.
To learn what Gillin had to say, subscribe at www.buildbookbuzz.com and use the link in the subscription confirmation e-mail to read the September 2008 issue on the archive page.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Learn How to Promote Your Book in October Workshop


Want to sell more books to more people who need to read them? Take charge of your book promotion yourself because, quite frankly, nobody is going to do it for you and nobody cares as much as you do.

Learn how to publicize your book in the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways in this fall's "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" e-course offered October 6-31, 2008. Get the details here . . . and don't wait for the next course, because there's a good chance the price will go up. One of my former students called yesterday and commented that he thought the course was grossly underpriced for the value offered, and I've already been thinking the same thing.

Register now, while it's a steal. It will probably cost significantly more after the first of the year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pay Attention to Your Messages

While looking for a parking spot at my doctor's new office space this morning, I noticed that the eight spots closest to the building's entrance were all reserved for the practice's physicians.

What message do you think this sends to patients? I'm sure we all interpret things differently, but my interpretation was "doctors first, customers second." The needs of the physicians are more important than those of their patients.

It's a reminder to all of us that we're sending out messages about our businesses all the time, even when we don't realize it. Take a few minutes to look around your organization and its communications to assess what message you're sending customers with your actions, signage, decor, demeanor, etc. Then compare those messages to those you use in your marketing and promotion campaigns. Do they match? If they don't, which one of them is the most authentic?

Identify the "real" you and integrate it into all of your overt and subtle messaging. If you're the most curmudgeonly accountant in town but are also the best accountant in town, embrace your grumpiness. Make fun of it. At least you'll be honest -- people will know what to expect when they choose to do business with you, either because they like crabby folks or because they want the professional with the most knowledge, regardless of personality.

Our messages are everywhere. It can be a challenge to make them authentic and consistent, especially if we aren't getting feedback or paying attention. What do yours say about you?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When Your Spokesperson Becomes the News


After acknowledging to the media that a preliminary investigation showed the Metrolink engineer ran a red light before crashing into a freight train last week, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell -- who got permission from the organization's chief executive to share that information -- has become part of the story.

Tyrrell, subjected to criticism from Metrolink leaders and others for sharing too much information too soon, resigned. CEO David Solow said he was "wrong" to give her permission to be frank with the press. And yet, companies are urged to tell the truth and tell it soon when there's a crisis. Isn't this what Tyrell did?

What would you have done in her shoes? And why?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Definition of Irony

A recent poster to a service that links journalists with sources wrote that he was looking for suggestions for "eye-popping, mouth-opening, 'nobody in their right mind would ever do this' ideas to help draw attention to (a) ... book on the element of surprise in marketing."

The poster goes on to say that, "a book on this subject MUST be marketed differently, so go ahead...Surprise me!"

Well, color me surprised -- for two reasons -- and I haven't even seen any of the responses.

First, these services position themselves as resources for journalists, not as forums for soliciting free marketing advice for people trying to sell products. I'm surprised that such a blatant request for unpaid consulting services made it to the query list.

More importantly, though, why is the author of a book on the element of surprise in marketing asking others for surprising marketing ideas for his book? Is this the definition of irony or what?

If I were this guy's editor, I would be wondering if I had the right author for this project.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Does Sarah Palin's Nomination Mean to Your Publicity Plan?

Who can leverage Sarah Palin's nomination -- and the weekend announcement about her daughter's pregnancy -- to bring attention to their business, book or cause? There are exciting possibilities here for a wide range of nonprofits, authors and business owners who are willing to be opportunistic and act quickly with their local, specialized or national media.

I'd love to see my "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" student Meagan Francis, who wrote Table for Eight: Raising a Large Family in a Small Family World, run with this.

For starters, Meagan can send Palin an autographed copy of her book and her cell phone number so Palin can call her at any time for help or advice. Meagan should, of course, then send out a press release to her local media announcing that she has pushed aside her own political beliefs and stepped up to help a high-profile mom in need. It's a great local angle on a national news story.

Then I'd like to see Meagan send out a tip sheet (a type of news release that offers advice or tips in a numbered or bulleted format) that gives Palin advice for traveling with that large family on the campaign trail. Meagan can provide solid, helpful bits of advice while having a little fun with it. Using an online media release service such as PRWeb will let Meagan send her advice to daily newspapers and parenting pubs coast-to-coast quickly while also getting it into the inbox of parenting and family bloggers.

Meagan needs to be sharing advice with Palin on her blog, too -- and offering it on the blogs of others, as well. She can become the rallying point for mothers of large families nationwide.

Meagan's not the only one who can capitalize on the buzz created by Palin's candidacy or the latest expanding family revelation, either. If you're finding yourself spouting off about something related to his development, think about how you can get a microphone in front of your mouth when you're doing it -- and watch the impact the media exposure has on your business goals.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Should You Reveal That Another Reporter Interviewed You for the Same Publication?

I used ProfNet and HelpAReporter.com this week to find an anecdote for a short piece for a business magazine.

One of the people who responded was the marketing director of a start-up business; she thought her boss, the founder, would be a great source. She was right. He seemed to have just the experience I needed. He was such a great source, in fact, that his company had been profiled in the section I write for in this month's issue.

This was important for me to know, so I'm glad she told me. Why? Because if I used him as a source for a story running three months later, my editor would cut him from the piece ("We just used him three months ago! Couldn't you find anyone else?") and send me scrambling at the last minute for a replacement. She would be annoyed, I would be annoyed, and the source would be annoyed because we all wasted his time on an interview that wouldn't be used.

I avoided a potential problem because of a casual mention by the marketing director, so I'm still smiling. However, I know many journalists who would be hugely -- HUGELY -- annoyed by this and would assume that the marketing director was an evil, manipulative, spotlight-hugging egomaniacal witch whose personal mission statement reads: "Make life difficult for at least one journalist every day."

Here's how you can protect yourself from this uninformed attitude among many writer types. If you've been interviewed by a reporter for a specific outlet recently:

  1. Don't pitch a different reporter working on a different story for that publication. Your quote/anecdote/whatever will be edited out of the final piece by the editor who knows that you've already been featured, even if the reporter doesn't.
  2. If you're going to ignore that advice, tell the reporter up front that you've been interviewed by that publication recently. Give the topic and the journalist's name and the publication date if you know it.

Why? Because you'll burn bridges if you don't. Keep your media relations bridges intact by practicing full disclosure. You'll save everybody and aggravation and you'll save face with your boss.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm Blushing: It's a Love Letter from a Publicist

Dear Publicist,

I received two back-to-back story pitches from you today via e-mail. I don't write articles on your expert's topic but random letters from people like you don't bother me -- I just delete those that don't scratch any of my itches.

This morning's missives from you are still in my inbox, though, because you have really confused me. You see...at first, I thought your letters were mass e-mailed -- most of the off-base letters I get from publicists are.

But both of yours are signed "XOXOX."

Hugs and kisses.

Have we met? Seriously. Have we met? I recognize your name because you're always pitching something or somebody to me, but damn, I don't even remember talking to you! Help me out here. We must be BFFs or closely related -- which one is it? It's got to be one or the other, right? Otherwise, why would you be so affectionate with me in your business correspondence?

Why can't I remember? We are so close, it seems...and yet so far!

Since we're so tight, I'm surprised you didn't send me anything for Christmas. You can make it up, though. My birthday is next month (you know the date, right?) and I really like Frango Mints.

XOXOXO
Sandy

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Get LinkedOut on LinkedIn

A professional communicator I’m connected to on LinkedIn but have never met – I accepted his link request because we share a former employer – used that service to send me a couple of messages promoting his new book. The most recent was annoying enough to use as an example of how not to leverage your social networking connections.

Here’s the text of the message:

"[Book title] is a book that provides new thinking and a practical approach to [book subject] to deliver bottom line results. Take a look at our flyer, and then go to Amazon.com (or your local bookstore) and buy it. [Book title] means business."

The flyer below the text is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The graphics are obtuse, the text refers to the co-authors by last name only (what are they, rock stars?), the abbreviated testimonials scream at me in all caps, the purchase URL is huge and not clickable (use TinyURL, guys, to shorten these – nobody is going to type in 70 plus characters), and it looks like two disparate print ads were visually aligned into one piece.

Major ugh.

So here’s my advice to this LinkedIn promoter and anyone else who wants to use this social networking site to promote or sell products or services:

  • Use the site to build relationships before hitting folks up with a sales pitch. Don’t link to me and immediately begin sending me commands to buy anything.
  • Don’t abuse your network by sending multiple promotional messages.
  • If you’re going to try to market something to me, tell me right up front what’s in it for me. The introductory text in this message could have told me that the information in this book will help me keep my job, get me a raise, make me more marketable, whatever. But it didn’t. So I lost interest very quickly.
  • Don’t boss me around. I don’t care what you’re taught in Copywriting 101, saying to me in an e-mail “Take a look at our flyer, and then go to Amazon and buy it” just plain annoys me. You Are Not The Boss Of Me. Use your words to warm me up, not piss me off. I would respond more positively if this message were worded more like, “Because we’re connected on LinkedIn, I thought you might be interested in information about my new book (title). It’s about (subject). I promise you it will help you (benefits to me). The flyer below has more detailed information; you can purchase it quickly and easily at Amazon.com, (tinyurl). Thanks so much for your consideration.”
  • Think real hard before using your network for anything this blatantly promotional.
  • Instead of clubbing people over the head with commands to do something that serves your purpose, use sites like this one to establish yourself as an expert. Respond to queries on your area of expertise. Ask people how you might be able to help them reach their networking goals. If you've got info about your product or service on your profile, they'll find it and will be more inclined to consider a purchase than if you command them to.

Have you used your LinkedIn network to sell a product or service effectively? I'd love to know more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hasbro's Shut Down of Scrabulous = Not So Fabulous for PR


Hasbro forced the shut down of the "Scrabulous" Scrabble Facebook application in the U.S. and Canada. Its partner in crime, Mattel, which owns the rights to the game in other countries, is trying to do the same thing in India.

Hasbro's motivation seems to be protecting its own online version of the game (the game's launch has been delayed while the company works out bugs), but I can't know for sure because the company has no information about this development in its online press room. Worse than that, the links on its press room to information about games, toys, or the corporation are dead.

This lack of information in the obvious place -- Hasbro's press room -- is surprising considering the incredible backlash this development will cause among Scrabulous fans. I would have expected the company to be proactive with information, explaining why it couldn't reach a compromise with the Scrabulous creators -- or why it didn't want to. Of course there are business reasons for this development, and while the Facebook game's users probably don't really care about those reasons, reach out to them anyway and c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e.

The online silence is surprising. I am truly curious about the business rationale.

That aside, do you think that forcing the shutdown of Scrabulous was a good PR move?

Monday, July 21, 2008

June "Build Book Buzz" Features Author Success Story

The June issue of Build Book Buzz, the free book promotion e-zine for authors, features a Q and A with Jen Miller, an author who used what she learned in the "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" book publicity course to generate lots and lots of impressive media exposure for her book, The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May.

Learn how she did it by subscribing to the newsletter and using the link you receive in the e-mail I'll send after you subscribe to access the current issue in the archives.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sound Bite of the Week


Some people are better at others than creating soundbites.

Here's my favorite from this week's news stories, a snippet from a Wall Street Journal article about Steve and Barry's retail woes.

Referring to a practice where mall owners use anchor stores like Steve and Barry's as "loss leaders" to attract shoppers, the source said the retailer's terms were "absurd."

"Leasing to them would have been like bringing prositutes to a party to look popular," he says. "They might look good, but you're paying for it."












Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Calling All Relationship Experts


If you're a divorce or relationship expert, take advantage of all the media hoopla surrounding the current celebrity divorce dramas. Those with a national platform should be contacting the national media outlets to provide expert commentary and advice while those looking to generate local publicity should be doing the same with their local media outlets, particularly TV news departments.

Here's how to get started:
  • Create a brief narrative biography (not a resume) that summarizes your credentials and answers the question: Why are you the best person for us to interview on this subject?
  • E-mail or fax that bio to appropriate media contacts (see next point) with a note or cover letter offering your services as an expert commentator on these high-profile divorces. In your note, tell the media gatekeeper what advice you would offer in an interview -- tips for protecting the children in a divorce, insight into why the current situations are playing out the way they are, advice for making sure your marriage doesn't end in divorce court, how to resolve relationship conflicts peacefully -- the tips should be relevant to your particular expertise. The point is: Show that you have valuable information to contribute.
  • For national TV shows, use media directories, available at most library reference desks, to figure out which producers to contact (I like Bacon's) -- but do it NOW. This story will fade soon.
  • For local media outlets, contact the news assignment editors at TV stations, the morning and afternoon radio drive time show producers to get on the air during high-listener commute periods, and the relationship reporter at the daily newspaper. Your local angle is: What can the rest of us ordinary people learn from these high-profile cases?
  • Remember: Publicity begets publicity. One interview that's available online can be found by reporters and producers using search engines to uncover qualified resources. (And, of course, make sure you have a media friendly Web site.)
  • Subscribe to Help A Reporter so you can respond to any reporter queries on the topic.

Have you been interviewed lately about the Christie Brinkley or Madonna marriage dramas? Tell us how it happened.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

High-Profile Authors Struggle to Sell Books Just Like Everyone Else

It's encouraging in a twisted kind of way to discover that well-known entrepreneurs who have written books have just as much trouble as the rest of us selling books.

A recent Wall Street Journal article on the subject revealed that Gary Hirshberg's Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World has sold only 5,000 copies since January. That's actually not a bad number -- it's just that the publisher printed 37,000 copies and expected to sell more in that timeframe because of Hirshberg's reputation. Maybe the author -- and perhaps the other high-profile entrepreneurs mentioned in the story -- should take my online book promotion course, eh? I'd love to show them how to build sustained interest in their books so that others continue to learn from their wisdom and experiences!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Teens Dominate Online Video Usage

If you live with teens, you aren't surprised by this month's Nielsen Online report that teens aged 12-17 spend the most time watching videos online. But even the little kids are spending lots of time doing this -- those in the 2-11 age group spend more time watching online videos than everyone else in the 18+ category. Use this information to shape your media relations plan -- if your target audience falls anywhere in the 2-17 age group, you'll want to consider a YouTube video, which tops the destination list for both the 2-11 and 12-17 groups.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Are Book Trailers Effective?


So, how effective are book trailers (videos) at selling books?

The Wall Street Journal asked that question in a June 7, 2008, article, "Watch This Book." Its conclusion? "There is scant evidence . . . that the average book trailer actually has much impact on book sales."

No kidding.

It is very difficult to find a direct and concrete link between book sales and any form of promotion, whether it's a video on YouTube, a review in a magazine, a blog Q&A with the author, or a radio talk show interview. Collectively? Sure. If you're out there getting the book's name in front of your target audience and the book is selling, it's safe to say that your hard work to promote your book is paying off. But linking sales to one individual tool is a challenge.

Let's say your book trailer on YouTube motivates someone to buy the book. You can't link from your video's YouTube page to your book's Amazon or Barnes & Noble page, which means there is no direct connection between the video and the purchase page. If the video motivates somebody to purchase, they have to leave YouTube and search for your title on a retail site. How could you possibly track this? You can't really connect sales to videos unless you're retailing your book yourself from your own site and are tracking incoming links to your purchase page.

The only way we can know if a book trailer is helping to sell books is if it's the only promotion tool out there working on the book's behalf. Even then, you don't know if other factors are influencing sales as well -- factors that might include strong support among independent retailers known for hand-selling books they like or a viral marketing campaign started not by the publisher or author but by a fan.

Does the WSJ's conclusion mean that authors shouldn't invest in book trailers? No. It's only a reminder that it's just as hard to track the impact of this new promotion tool as it is any other tool. But it's important to remember that you shouldn't create a book trailer just because "everybody else" is doing it. Your decision depends on your book's target audiences and how they get their information. Book videos aren't necessary or appropriate for all titles, but they are worth considering for some, in spite of the lack of hard data showing that they help sell books.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Does Oprah Like You?

As mentioned in a post last year, Oprah Winfrey's talk show is the be-all and end-all for so many individuals and businesses seeking media attention, whether their target audience watches the show or not. A recent Ad Age story evaluates the role advertising and sponsorships play in selecting featured products and spokespersons that appear on the show, and while most of the article's content applies to large corporations with consumer products, there's a message there for small businesses, nonprofits, authors and others, too: If Oprah or her producers like you or your product, you've got the best shot at getting on Oprah's show or mentioned in her popular magazine, O.

So how do you make sure Oprah and crew become fans of your consumer product? Serendipity would help, but you can't make that happen, so you have to explore other options. Here are some ideas:
  1. Hire a PR firm with a strong track record of placing guests and products on "Oprah." It will cost you a lot, so keep reading if the D-I-Y approach is a better budget fit.
  2. Suggest a compelling and appropriate show theme that can incorporate your product through the "Be on the Show" page of the show's Web site.
  3. Get your product, service or cause in front of the right "Oprah" producer. How? It will take work to figure out who might be the most interested. And while you can send your pitch to all of the producers, it's smarter to do some research to figure out which one might be the most receptive. Some ideas: Record the show and write down the names of all the producers. Check for their Facebook or MySpace pages, where they might list their interests. Google them to see if they've posted on any discussion lists that will give you a clue to their hobbies, likes, dislikes. Use the "intelligence" you gather to make an informed decision about who might be the most receptive to your pitch. For example, if your nonprofit is on a mission to educate America about how to create a safe environment for pets, pitch the producer who has pictures of her pets on her Facebook page.
  4. Review several issues of O, the magazine, to determine where your product might best fit into the magazine. Is it "The O List" or do you think it should be a recipe ingredient in the food section? Maybe your executive director is so remarkable that she could be profiled in the magazine. Check the masthead or make a call to find out who edits that section, and send a sample, a press release with product details, and a cover letter explaining why you're sending the product to the appropriate editor.
Finally, should you be lucky enough to get a show or magazine mention, leverage the heck out of it. That should be obvious, right? Nope. In 2002, Oprah declared Graeter's, a Southern Ohio ice cream brand, as her favorite. And yet, I can't find a mention of it on the Graeter's Web site. It should be on every page of that site. Every single page.

Have you been blessed with an Oprah endorsement? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Journalists Offer Tips for Making Sure You Get Media Buzz

Some journalist friends were commenting online recently about the best ways for small businesses, small nonprofit organizations, and others to get that free media attention known as publicity. They gave me permission to share their advice here so that more could benefit from their wisdom:

  • Keep your press releases short and as to the point as possible.
  • Always ask yourself this question: Would YOU read about your press release topic if it featured another business?
  • Watch for trends and use them to pitch stories that will help put a spotlight on your business or organization.
  • Be willing to tell the story of how you coped when things went wrong. Conflict is the crux of a good story.
  • Put the point in the first paragraph of the press release. If you're telling me about your new restaurant, get the opening of a new restaurant in the first graph, don't give me four graphs about the local foodie scene and the chef's mother first.
  • Include complete contact info.
  • Don't send giant photo files.
  • If your press release is in plain text and in the body of the e-mail rather than in an attachment, I already like you better than people who sent attachments.
  • Who needs a press release? Just send the basic facts in a basic format. "Hi. I'm John Smith and I have a story that I think your readers will be interested in."
  • Show that you read the paper. Suggest where your story might fit. If you send it to several editors (and that's OK), you can mention that you did so and we won't hold it against you.
  • Respond quickly when a reporter calls you. They may be looking for sources who are available that day or that week. If you're not ready, they will move on to someone else. I used to do shopping guides, and I was amazed at how many stores refused to answer basic questions, such as hours. So I left them out and moved on to someone else.
  • If you are the business owner yourself, you can call a few times to follow up. If you are a local PR person, you can call once. If you are an out-of-town PR person, don't call.
  • Don't call to find out if your item has been in the paper, don't ask me to help you find it on the Web site and don't ask me to send you a clipping. It shows you don't read the paper, so why would I waste my time putting you in it?

This is all just common sense, but sometimes we need to be reminded.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pool Safety Publicity Opportunity

A scarey segment on The Today Show this morning highlighted the danger of faulty swimming pool drains. (To see the segment, go to http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/3041445/ and select "Keeping pool safety in mind" from the list of videos on the right.) When there's a problem, the suction can trap children on the drain so they drown. (There are other problems, too.)

Who knew? Not me. And probably many more. Are you in a position to talk about this threat in a credible way? Then do so. Talk to your local media outlets so they can protect local families. This is a great opportunity to do good while getting some exposure if you're:
  • A pool and spa retailer
  • Consumer safety advocate
  • Nonprofit advocating for child safety
  • Pool and spa manufacturer/dealer association
  • Lifeguard
  • Public pool manager
  • Country club manager
  • Pool drain manufacturer
Take action; save lives.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Book Promotion Class is June 2-27



Got a book coming out you want to hype? Has your publisher’s publicist moved on to other projects? Do you have a book in stores that you know deserves more media attention than it’s getting? Are you a self-published author who needs to tell the world your book is available? Or are you working on a proposal that would benefit from a better understanding of what you can do to promote your book?

"Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” is a dynamic online course that teaches everyone from veteran authors using mainstream publishers to first-time self-published writers how to generate the kind of media and online excitement that sells books.

Offered June 2-27, 2008, the class is taught in a forum format, with lessons and homework assignments posted online in a private, password-protected forum. The highly-interactive course covers:
  • How to create a book publicity blueprint you’ll be excited about
  • The single secret most authors don’t know about generating ongoing media exposure
  • The most effective and cost-efficient publicity tactics
  • How to generate buzz online using virtual book tours and other techniques
  • Radio and TV producer hot buttons
  • How to bring an energizing new level of creativity to your publicity efforts

The course for self-published authors includes content and assignments that help you announce the book to the media and other key influencers.

Registration is limited to 20 students; we still have a few spots open. Learn more at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/book-publicity.htm for the original course and http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/self-published.htm for the self-published class.

Questions? Please post them here so everyone can benefit from the answers or e-mail me at sbATbuildbookbuzz.com.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who Are You Targeting?

Who is your target audience? And how do you figure out who that is?

I ask these questions because when I am providing guidance to individuals publicizing a product, service or organization, it's clear that many don't have a good grasp of who is most likely to need or want what they're promoting.

Here are a few questions to help you determine if you're going after the right customers with your promotional messages:
  1. How would you describe the person who is most likely to be interested in your message? Does gender matter? What about age or ethnicity, profession, income level or location? Write down as much as you know about this person.
  2. What thought-leader influences this person? Who does this person look to for guidance (real or imagined) when making a purchasing decision? Those influencers might be local or national and in some situations, could be celebrities.
  3. Who are your current customers? What can you learn from them? What do they all have in common? How can you find more people just like them? And...do your current customers look a lot like the person you described in point 1?

It's crucial that you know as much as you possibly can about your target customer because it's the only way you'll know how to get your messages in front of the right people.

What targeting successes -- and failures -- have you experienced? We'd like to hear your stories.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Kind of Publicity I Love to See


Media outlets are reporting that one tip-off to possible problems with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel leading to a raid this week by the FBI was a service visit from Geeks on Call, a computer help service that makes office visits. A GOC team visited the Special Counsel's office twice in December to erase data from several computers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that office chief Scott Bloch "bypassed his agency's computer technicians and phoned 1-800-905-GEEKS, the mobile PC-help service. It dispatched a technician in one of its signature PT Crusier wagons."

It went on to note that "The technician completely cleansed Mr. Bloch's computer hard disk using a 'seven-level' wipe: a thorough scrubbing that conforms to Defense Department data-security standards."

Geez, thanks to the WSJ, we now know:
  1. How to recognize Geeks on Call vehicles
  2. The company's tollfree phone number
  3. That the technicians are so good that the U.S. Dept. of Defense can't complain about their work
They got all of this fabulous exposure at no cost -- and, in fact, actually made $1,149 for the tech's time. Imagine what they might have paid for an ad to communicate this information to WSJ readers -- their target customers. There's just no comparison.

How cool is that?

It's just one reason why I love America.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thank You for Having Me

I'll admit that I'm easily entertained. Here's what makes me smile pretty much every morning as I watch the "Today Show" while getting ready for the long commute to my office.

The show's "expert" (vs. ordinary consumer who is on the show because she saw a tornado hit a trailer park or performed a super human act in a time of crisis) nearly always says "Thanks for having me" no matter how he or she is greeted.

Meredith or Matt might say, "Attorney Mike Brown joins us now from the court room in Boston. Mike, those women are actually being sued for looking too tan in February, aren't they?" or "Dr. Smith is an expert on post-surgical polyps and will tell us how we can prevent them," or even "Joe, what the heck were you thinking?!?" And still, the response is, "Thank you for having me."

It makes me laugh even though I understand the reason behind the response. These guests are expecting to be welcomed to the show -- "Thank you, Dr. Smith, for joining us. How can we prevent those post-surgical polyps?" or "Joe, we're glad you could join us, especially under the embarrassing circumstances." In the interview script they've rehearsed over and over in their heads while preparing for this big-time appearance, everybody has good manners: The host welcomes them and they, in turn, thank the host for the welcome.

But because they're nervous about being on the show -- and who wouldn't be? -- they aren't listening to precisely how they're being introduced. They're repeating to themselves, "Smile and say thank you, smile and say thank you, smile and say thank you." So that's what comes out. "Thank you for having me."

And that's when I laugh.

It's not a mean laugh. Really, it's not. It's an empathetic laugh. I've been in their shoes before, so focused on what I want to communicate during my few short minutes on the air that I couldn't even tell you how I got to the studio for the interview.

It's a great way to start every day, but it also reminds me about the importance of truly listening, regardless of the situation. I wonder how many doofus communication mistakes I've made -- in interviews or with friends -- because I haven't listened as well as I should.

Well, anyway, thanks for having me.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

5 Fun Ways to Annoy a Reporter

I know a lot of excellent publicists but I haven't worked with many of them lately. Instead, I've encountered some who either need more training, a hefty dose of common sense, or a brain transplant.

But let's not dwell on whether these people should explore a different career. Let's focus instead on what we can learn from their mistakes so that those of us who need to promote our organizations, products or services but don't have a PR education or training can succeed without making the same mistakes as some of the "pros."

Here are five really fun ways to annoy a journalist:
  1. Pitch her on an interview with your client for a story that needs your client's expertise. After the reporter agrees to an interview, say, "I'll check his availability," then do nothing. When the journalist follows up with "Are we doing this interview?" say, "My expert is passing on this opportunity." And make sure you don't apologize for your silence or the outcome.
  2. Send an article pitch letter claiming that your program is the only one of its kind in the country when a quick Internet search reveals there are several just like it.
  3. Invite a trade magazine to write a case study that involves your client and one of its customers, promising interviews with key individuals in the customer organization. But don't -- and this is real important -- don't tell the American writer assigned to the story that the sources only speak Spanish.
  4. Convince an editor to profile your program by promising to provide contact information for clients who can comment on how they use what they learned from your program in their jobs. Then deliver nobody. Nada. Zip. Make sure you discover you have no customers who will talk to a journalist after you've promised that you do and only after the reporter has done the rest of the interviews for the story, which now can't be completed.
  5. Follow-up with the reporter one week after an interview for a monthly magazine to ask if the article "has appeared yet." When the reporter explains that articles don't appear in magazines for at least three months because of the publication cycle, get all huffy and say, "Of course I know that."
Have you tortured a journalist lately? Writers, what have publicists done to make you want to pull your -- or their! -- hair out? Tell us!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Self-published Author Enjoys Book Promotion Success

One thing I love about teaching my two online book promotion courses is the quality of the students. They are smart and inquisitive. And they are in the course to discover how to get the media exposure their books deserve, so they are quick to implement what they learn in class.

Tom O'Malley, author of the self-published Canadian Divorce and Separation Made Easier, was one of my favorite students in the February class because he is so intelligent and so motivated to get the word out about his new book. Tom came to the class prepared -- he had read a lot of books and done some online research, so he knew what he wanted to get from the four-week course. If he had questions that weren't covered in the course materials, he asked them on the Q&A forum so others could learn from the answers, too. He shared information about resources he found helpful. And, most importantly, he did his homework for the class and implemented the feedback so that his end products were as useful as possible.

This is why I'm so pleased with the success this attorney is enjoying as he begins promoting his book. Tom is starting with a local book publicity campaign before expanding to other Canadian markets, discovering what works and what doesn't in a more "forgiving" marketplace. And after securing three local TV interviews and two newspaper articles about his new book, he is beginning to expand his reach. An association for counselors and psychologists -- the people often advising individuals in troubled marriages -- has agreed to include information about Tom's book in its next newsletter, and Tom will follow that with advice articles in the newsletter.

Tom created a solid publicity plan in the class, one that included goals, a strategy for reaching them, specific tactics, and a timeline that guides how and when he implements those tactics. Because he can't devote an eight-hour day to book promotion -- any more than the rest of us can -- he generated a plan that is reasonable and appropriate for the time he has available for this type of work. I have absolutely no doubt that he will stay with the plan for the long term, shifting strategies or tactics as needed over time. Tom will meet his sales goals.

Please visit Tom's Web site to learn more about his book and how he's promoting it and to request his free special report on the "7 Serious Mistakes That Many Spouses Make In Their Separation or Divorce."

The next "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" courses for authors are offered June 2-27, 2008. We have a lot of fun while learning and sharing; I hope you'll join us. Teaching this course and becoming friends with the students -- then watching them succeed -- is one of my most favorite activities! Learn more here. If you have questions about how the course works, feel free to either post them here as comments so others can learn from the answers, or send me a note -- sbATbuildbookbuzz.com.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How to Respond to ProfNet, PRLeads, and Helpareporter.com Queries, Part 2


Yesterday's post addressed the wrong way to respond to ProfNet/PRLeads/Helpareporter.com media queries. Today's commentary is about how to do it right.

The following format certainly isn't the only way to respond to queries, but it's one that helps me decide if a responder is an appropriate source for my needs. It's also one that I use when responding to queries as an author -- one that often generates interviews about my book topics, so I know it has value. It's not the only way to respond, of course, but it can be a good starting point for you.
  • Copy and paste the query title into your e-mail subject line. That's especially helpful for the journalist with more than one query.
  • Start with your credentials. What makes you qualified to contribute to this article or segment?
  • Take one or two sentences to offer your perspective. Maybe it's your opinion, something counter-intuitive, or information that validates the article premise.
  • If I'm looking for an expert, offer advice in three or four bullet points. This will help me see your perspective and determine if you'll be telling me something I haven't gotten from anyone else yet. Note that while I don't quote from these bullet points, many other writers do, so be aware that what you write might appear later in print. I personally prefer to do telephone interviews, but I realize that many just pull comments from the responses of experts without a direct conversation or even acknowledgement that the information will be used.
  • If I'm looking for an anecdote to illustrate a point rather than an expert, and you represent that anecdote, offer it in just a few sentences.
  • If you're an expert, provide a link to an online bio or copy and paste it into the response. If you have a Web site, include the URL.
  • Include contact information I can use to schedule an interview.

Ttry not to ramble and avoid attachments. If you think in terms of what you'd want to know about an expert source for that article, I'm sure you'll respond appropriately.

Finally, let me know how I can help you with this. If you've got questions, ask. Want somebody to look over your response? Send it along. Reach me at sbATsandrabeckwith.com. I'm here to help.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to Respond to ProfNet, PRLeads, and Helpareporter.com Queries, Part 1


An author I was coaching by phone this week mentioned that she was frustrated by the ProfNet query response system. She responds to queries from journalists looking for her particular expertise, but never hears back from the reporters -- not even a "thanks, but no thanks," e-mail. "Is it always like this?" she asked.

I noted that responding to these queries is an art form. It's not enough to be an appropriate resource for a story or segment -- you have to demonstrate your expertise in a pithy response that makes the journalist think, "She's exactly the person I'm looking for." Your answer has to show you understand what the reporter needs but you have to do it in a way that makes a tired, dullwitted or overworked reporter see this quickly and easily, without doing any more work than is absolutely necessary.

The reality is that the typical query posted on a service like ProfNet and its PRLeads reseller, or the new upstart, Helpareporter.com, generates more than enough responses from qualified sources.

So how can you make certain that you respond in a way that gives you a fair shot at being quoted? I'm going to use this afternoon's responses to my latest ProfNet query to help me illustrate what works and what doesn't. Out of respect for the publication I'm writing for, I'm not going to share my query, but I will say that in my request, I stated what the article is about, the industry I'm writing for, and that I was looking for experts to comment on that topic in that industry.

Here's how people actually responded, and how I reacted to each response. I hope this helps you understand the level of detail many of us do -- and don't need -- to help us select the best sources for our articles.

SOURCE 1: "I know some people that will be able to help you with this story. You can give me a ring to discuss this further."

ME: Tell me more. Who are these people? What are their credentials? I don't have time to fish for information on the telephone when I've got several more responses from people who look like good sources.

SOURCE 2: Writes a hasty response full of typos, missing words, and marketing jargon on behalf of her client, someone who doesn't appear to have specific industry experience. Doesn't tell me who her client is, but says, "Let me know if I can connect you." Signs only her first name. No last name. No company name. No phone number.

ME: Eyeroll.

SOURCE 3: "I have a great client that I am not certain is a perfect fit. We represent XXXX - they provide XXX customer service. (XXX's URL) (Descriptive info here that would reveal too much about the company and I don't want to embarrass anybody...) They have a great story that I would love to share with you if it is a fit.

ME: I like her honest approach, but if you're not certain it's a perfect fit, then it most likely isn't. Try to respond only to those where you are positive you can make a valuable contribution. This is the kind of response I'll send a "thanks, not no thanks" e-mail to because while she was off-target, she was at least articulate and honest.

SOURCE 4: "I must speak with you about your article. I have a lot to say on this. (Includes URL)"

ME: I'm not comfortable with the intensity of this response.

SOURCE 5: "We represent a company that's does XXX that has been interviewed before and would be happy to work with you for the article. The company is called XXX. http://www.xxx.com/. If you are interested please let me know."

ME: At least we've got the right industry. That's a good start. But why is this company qualified to address the problem posed in my query? Show me that they can give me good information in an interview. I don't have time to interview somebody who knows the industry, but has nothing to say about my topic.

SOURCE 6: "Check out this article I authored for http://www.biznik.com/, which offers (title somewhat related to my query topic). You can find it at this link: XXX.com. If this serves the article you are writing for your magazine, please feel free to use it for that purpose.

ME: I'm not sure what to do with this. Do you want me to read an article you wrote that might contain information that might be appropriate for the article I'm writing, and quote you from your article in MY article? Or are you using this to show me you'd be a good resource? If you really wanted to be quoted in my article, you'd summarize your thinking in your response.

SOURCE 7: "I received your query request. Attached is an article I wrote about XXX and it applies to all industries. I thought it might help you with your needs – even though it isn’t specific to XXX."

ME: She attached a Word file. See response to Source 6.

SOURCE 8: "We have an expert here, XXX, who blogs and speaks about how to XX, XXX and XXX effectively in the XXX industry, starting with market research and insight. (More text here that shows she understands what I'm looking for.... followed by her client's advice:)
(1) Find out where the opportunities are that align with your products/services
(2) Focus attention on winning the right ones.
(3) Do your homework to position yourself correctly

Here’s XX helping a small XX company via Fortune Small Business (link to an article showing her client in action). Let me know if you want to set something up. We can also look for client who’s in your industry to speak to this."

ME: Bingo! Great response -- especially when compared to the others.

In Part 2 tomorrow, I'm going to offer a formula for responding to queries that works for me as a journalist looking for sources, but also generates interviews for me as a responder to queries when I'm publicizing my books.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to Take Advantage of TV Storylines


Last night's Boston Legal provided those in the end-of-life care movement with a wonderful opportunity for leveraging the drama's discussion about assisted suicide to call attention to their work to improve how we die in America. This Sunday night, "Sweet Nothing in My Ear," the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that explores the little understood deaf culture, gives organizations serving the deaf community a news peg they can use to communicate their important messages to the public through the media.

There are a number of ways nonprofits and others can leverage storylines in TV dramas to their advantage; here are just a few:
  • Pitch the news assignment editor at the local network affiliate that airs the show (ABC for Boston Legal; CBS for this Sunday's Hall of Fame movie) on a local angle to that story by explaining what your organization is doing locally to, for example, make sure individuals' end-of-life care wishes are respected.

  • Write an op-ed to run in your daily or weekly newspaper's editorial page the day after the show airs.

  • Use the show as background information for a reporter you hope to educate about your issues. Invite the reporter to watch the show with you; as the story unfolds, offer your organization's viewpoint on the information, opinions, or controversy in the storyline.
How have you used TV dramas to educate and inform the media or your stakeholders? Please tell us about it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mark Penn's 4 Work-Work Balance Lessons

Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn pissed off some people -- mostly Clinton and the Columbian government -- when he met with the Columbians as CEO of international PR firm Burson-Marsteller to discuss B-M's work advocating for the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade agreement. Clinton is opposed to the agreement.

When the news broke, we all thought, "Duh!" because, well, duh! It's a clear conflict of interest, one Penn might have avoided if he worked one job instead of two, taking a leave of absence from his B-M leadership position to guide Clinton's campaign. But because he thought he could do both jobs -- and so did his bosses, apparently -- the agency has lost the Columbian government as a client. Like we care, right? Of course not. But there are some universal lessons in Penn's experience:
  1. Open it up. When there are multiple issues, responsibilities, or audiences at stake, don't keep your information in silos, assuming that one employer isn't going to learn about what's in the other employer's silo. There are no secrets, especially in politics.
  2. Acknowledge your inner ego. For some reason, Penn thought he could run one of the world's largest PR firms while serving as Clinton's Bestest Thinker Ever. Oh stop. Even when you have the best management in place supporting you, you just can't do two big jobs well. It's amazing what sleep deprivation does to your judgement.
  3. Establish priorities and stick with them. What were Penn's priorities? What was more important -- his agency's integrity and reputation or helping Clinton become the first female president? I have to admit, they're both pretty heady and I'd find it hard to choose one over the other.
  4. You can't do it all. No, you can't. You can do a few things kind of OK but if you want to do something really well, you can't simply can't take on too many big challenges at once.
Lucky for Penn he still has his day job. Leaders of B-M parent company WPP Group have given him their vote of confidence, as they probably should. Let's just hope that he was able to find other assignments for those staffers working on the Columbian account.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

One Man's Life Lessons


Last fall, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Zaslow wrote a piece about Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch's last lecture to his students. Just 46, Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and wouldn't be teaching anymore. Zaslow's column resonated with me for many reasons but I was mostly touched by his message: Follow your dreams. What an important reminder to all of us.

And what an impressive legacy -- one that reminded me of my friend Laura Schmidt, who died of pancreatic cancer just a few years ago. Laura's legacy was a Nightline report chronicling her efforts to make sure her end-of-life care wishes were honored and respected. Laura started writing a book about her experiences; her husband finished the project, A Good Death: A Couple's Journey, after her death.

And while Laura never saw her book published, Randy has -- he and Jeff co-authored The Last Lecture: A Love Story for Your Life, just released this week. (It's already #3 on Amazon.com -- how cool is that? It will absolutely be my high school graduation gift of choice this year.)

Randy will be interviewed by Diane Sawyer Wednesday night, April 9, on ABC-TV at 10 p.m. Eastern. I won't miss this program -- I need to experience and absorb Randy's positive attitude -- and I hope you won't either.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How to Post a Book Trailer or Video on Amazon.com


I like AmazonConnect, the Amazon.com initiative that lets authors connect in a more personal way with their readers, but it's not as easy to use as you might expect. For example, to even find information about the program on Amazon.com, you have to select "help" in the upper right corner, and type "AmazonConnect" into the box in the left column of the page that comes up. That takes you to a page that uses the word "plog" without defining it but does offer links for more information and a brief FAQ.

I still haven't figured out how to reach the page that lets me post to my Amazon blog after logging in to my AmazonConnect account, so I have it bookmarked. (Pssst! It's http://www.amazon.com/gp/daily/post.) Sure, I'm about as bright as a small appliance lightbulb, but aren't these systems supposed to be created for the lowest common denominator?

In any case, today I helped a friend figure out how to post a book trailer on her Amazon book page. This very bright woman needed assistance because the Amazon "help" system doesn't offer the information. Google doesn't offer it either. We did it, though. Here's what we learned:
  1. It's easy to do from the AmazonConnect "Post" page and you can do a little happy dance when you see it up there, but as soon as you add more posts to your blog, your video will get buried. So you have to keep reposting it so it stays near the top. OR:
  2. Your publisher has to work with the folks at Amazon to keep the trailer static and separate from your Amazon blog. Get the trailer/video to the right person at your publisher and then nag, nag, nag until it's on the site.

Back to point 1 -- adding it to your blog. Here's what you do:

  • Sign in to your AmazonConnect account. (If you don't have one, create one. It's easy enough but somebody needs to verify that you are, indeed, the author of the books you're claiming and that will take time.)

  • Go to http://www.amazon.com/gp/daily/post. On that page, select the gold "Post a message" button in the upper right.

  • In the "Post a message to your readers" template, type your title and then select "Video" under the message title.

  • Follow the instructions to upload the file from your computer.

To keep it at the top without help from your publisher, you'll have to keep adding it ... and adding it ... and adding it.

I suspect that it's impossible to find information on how to do this on the Amazon site because it's a relatively new service. If enough authors keep pinging that "contact Amazon" e-mail address with questions, they will probably begin to identify the holes and plug them with instructions. In the meantime, check back here once in awhile for updates or improvements. I'll share what I learn as information becomes available.