Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pay for Placement PR

Monday's Wall Street Journal featured an article on "pay for placement" publicity for small businesses. Just the phrase "pay for placement" makes me cringe. It's soooo incredibly expensive -- outrageously so, in fact, when you compare it to what a competent, credentialed professional might charge on an hourly or retainer basis to get the same results.

Here's why pay for placement is appealing to some biz owners: They've been burned by so-called PR practitioners who just plain aren't good at what they do. The small biz owner in the article refers to one publicist she hired who "talked about her" at local parties. Puh-leeze. That's not publicity. That's gossip. Pay me a few thousand dollars and I'll talk about your company at the next Fairport Girls Basketball Booster Club meeting. Let's see how much good that does for you.

Please don't go the pay for placement route. You can't afford it. A good publicist -- someone with training and a track record -- will use all the same tools that a PfP practitioner will use for the same results, but will charge you a more appropriate fee for the results. I've got an entire chapter on how to select a public relations firm in my how-to publicity book for small business owners, Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement. Let it guide you. Here's the cheat sheet:
  • Ask other business owners who have enjoyed publicity success who they hired. Talk to them about what they do and don't like about their PR firm. Use that input to help you decide if the firm is a good fit for you and how you like to do business.
  • Interview several firms. Ask to meet the individuals who will work on your account. (Larger firms are known for doing a bait and switch -- they wow you with the brains of the business then assign a very junior staffer to your account.)
  • Ask for proof that they can do what you need them to do. This is REAL important.
  • Consider a veteran solo practitioner. You want someone who's been doing this awhile working on your behalf. Contact your local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and ask for the names of a few good solo members.
Better yet, consider doing your own publicity. It's not rocket science. It DOES take an understanding of how the system works and what tools to use, but you can pick up most of it by reading a few books and cultivating relationships with key media gatekeepers. I've seen many small business owners do an amazing job of generating publicity all on their own. And keep coming back here for tips and advice. I'll continue to do my best to give you what you need to know to generate exciting media exposure for your business or organization.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Read the December Issue of Build Book Buzz Now

I've just sent out the December issue of the free Build Book Buzz e-zine. This issue features a Q & A with Steve Weber, author of Plug Your Book. I'll write more about that here on the blog later, but in the meantime, read the December issue by subscribing now at

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Shopping Problems Online

How many of you are having problems shopping online for holiday gifts? I've purchased more online this year than in years past and have encountered hassle after hassle after hassle. I've had orders cancelled with no e-mail notification, promotion codes that were ignored, customer service recordings that say "We'd love to help you with your problem but we're too busy so call back after 6 p.m. Mountain time." (Seriously.)

What does this have to do with generating publicity? It presents opportunities for media exposure for some of you. Please -- PLEASE -- capitalize on my frustration by assuming that I'm not the only one having problems and get yourself interviewed on the subject now, before it's too late for all of us.

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about how you might use this to your advantage:

  • Retail consultants and technology gurus: What are the online buying trends this season -- what's the volume, what's driving traffic, who's offering irresistible deals, are these glitches predictable or universal? Tell us what's happening and why.
  • Nonprofit organizations counseling those in debt: Warn us that we're probably spending too much anyway and tell us how to rein it in.
  • Personal shoppers: If I had let you shop for me, you would have protected me from all these annoying problems, right?
  • Authors of books on cost-cutting, bargain-hunting, gift-giving, retail topics, stress reduction: Why is this happening? How can I relieve the stress this is causing? Is there any good here or should I have done all my shopping in bricks & mortar stores? And what will the exchange process be like -- even worse?
Turn my misery into your media opportunity. I will sleep better knowing some good has come of my "two steps forward, three steps back" online shopping experiences.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Local News Angles Playing Out After Omaha Mall Massacre

Can you help people make sense of the tragic shootings at the Omaha mall? If you can, now's the time to contact the media -- don't wait another minute.

Local media outlets will be all over this story today, talking to local sources about whether or not this could happen "here," whether local shoppers should be concerned about shopping at area malls, how consumers might reassure their children that the malls are safe, the potential impact on local retailers, and so on.

If you can provide expert advice, call the assignment editors at your TV stations and the city editor at your daily newspaper. Explain your credentials briefly -- "I'm a retired city policeman who now owns a security firm that provides guards to Westview Mall and I can comment on how our guards are trained to spot suspicious people or react in this situation" or "Our nonprofit offers safety training to women and we can offer tips for people who might be anxious about safety when they're at the mall" or "I own a retail store in the village and would be happy to talk to you about the impact I think this incident might have on stores like mine that are not based in a mall."

People shouldn't be worried about shopping at malls now but many will be, so anyone who can help them see that they are safe -- that they're more likely to get in a car accident on the way to the mall than they are to be shot by a lunatic at the mall -- needs to be talking to the press now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tips for Getting Noticed

In my last post, I commented about the lure of Oprah, noting that getting on Oprah might not impress anybody but your mother. That doesn't mean you shouldn't shoot for the big time, though -- however that is defined for your organization. Approach your publicity goal-setting the way ambitious high school seniors approach the college application process: They apply to a mix of schools that include a few they know they'll get into for sure -- their "safety" schools -- and to one or two "reach" schools -- those colleges they'd love to go to, but which might be out of their reach academically.

When it comes to generating publicity, start with your safety media outlets -- those that are local -- before going after your reach options -- the national outlets where there's much more competition. Here are some ways you can do this:
  • Make sure you're doing or offering something newsworthy. If what you've got is ordinary or run-of-the-mill, you're not going to get the media attention you seek. When your product or service alone isn't newsworthy, brainstorm about how you can make it more attention-getting, special or unusual. Sometimes this involves a special event -- if you produce an organic pancake mix, for example, create the world's largest blueberry pancake -- or an extreme act of generosity, such as volunteering to refurbish donated cell phones to distribute to battered women as a safety measure.
  • Start with your local media as a way of getting in front of the national media. Publicity begets publicity, and the national shows get ideas for stories and guests from local media outlets.
  • Use your local TV stations to get the on-camera experience the national TV shows like their guests to have. The high-profile programs want to be sure you can handle yourself professionally on camera.
  • Pay for media training. If you're shooting for the big time, you want to put your best foot forward when you do those local TV interviews that will become your "demo DVD" for the national shows.
  • Once you've had some local media successes and experience, connect with the public relations department of the trade association you belong to. Association PR people receive inquiries from reporters looking for sources, so you want them to know what you're doing and why they will want to refer reporters to you.
  • Leverage everything so that you continue to move up the ladder. Use interviews with local publications to help secure interviews with national outlets. Post links to online clips on your Web site to help position your organization as an expert resource.

And don't forget to plan for your success. Creating a publicity plan helps you set those essential goals and figure out what strategies and tactics will help you reach them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oprah, Schmoprah

I was asked today to advise a small business owner who wanted to be a guest on Oprah. My task was to explain how she could do that.

Does she market a consumer product targeting the women who are watching Oprah? No. She's in a business-to-business field; her customers and prospects are small business owners. You know they're not watching Oprah and I know they're not watching Oprah, but I got the impression that this business owner didn't give a moment's thought to her target audience and Oprah's existing audience.

The Call of Oprah is just too irresistible. Well Oprah, schmoprah. A lot of business owners, experts, authors -- you name it -- want to be on Oprah. But what's the point of spending countless hours and thousands of dollars working to make it to the couch next to the revered talk show host if your target audience isn't watching her?

Here's one of the secrets to generating the kind of publicity that will boost your business: You have to get in front of your target audience to reach them. It's really that simple. What do they read, watch, or listen to? Are they online? Do they watch the morning network news programs? Are they newspaper or magazine readers? Do they shun traditional media? Find out where they're getting their information, then figure out how to become part of that information flow. But don't just set your sights on Oprah because she's so powerful. She has no power with people who tune her out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Uncanny Publicity Idea

Need publicity ideas? Read the newspaper. I saw a great idea in my daily this morning for a publicity generator that "can" be implemented in just about any community.

The article is about a "Canstruction" event -- a competition to create architectural structures with cans of food that will be donated to the local food bank. (Read the "Can-do competition" article.)

While the food bank enjoys increased visibility and the more than 20,000 cans of food used in the event, it's not the only one benefiting from this activity. The site of the competition, an eclectic art gallery, is mentioned in the article as are the businesses that created entries. (It's a safe bet that the TV stations covered this, too.)

The Society for Design Administration can help you host one of these events in your community, but don't forget to use good media relations strategies to call attention to the event once you get rolling. Here are a few ideas for getting help for this or other events benefiting a nonprofit when you're not sure how to do this yourself:

  • When partnering with the charity to assemble a planning committee, include a representative from a local PR firm willing to publicize the event as a volunteer. Make sure the volunteer is a publicist, not someone who works in advertising. They require different mind and skill sets.
  • Recruit local media personalities as competition judges. They will help you promote it.
  • Ask participating businesses to get their marketing people involved in promoting the event. Pooling resources will expand your reach and impact.

But back to that original thorught about where to find ideas . . . make it a point to read your newspaper -- and those in other cities when you travel -- for publicity ideas you can tweak or duplicate. They don't all have to have the charity connection this one has -- but that nonprofit tie-in sure helps.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Right Way and Wrong Way to Capitalize on Current Events

Robbie Kaplan, author of How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times, knew she could help the friends and families of people affected by this week's tragic wild fires in California, so she used the media to help provide information on how to lend support following a natural disaster. Robbie sent a tip sheet on the topic to the media; it was picked up by a wide range of outlets.

Robbie understands that there's a "right" way and a "wrong" way for small businesses, nonprofits and authors to take advantage of current events. In this situation, your goal is not to advance your business but to provide help or assistance. When a crisis of this magnitude happens, ask yourself, "Is there anything my business can do to help?" If so, let the media know.

I provided counsel this week to a company poised to extend exposure that its product received on "The Today Show" when the product was cited in a segment on "things that will help you survive a crisis." I cautioned the company's marketers to focus on how it could help those suffering in California. Journalists are very good at sniffing out -- and ignoring -- those among us who are in this just for the quick buck, not for the service. This company could do a number of things to help and implemented a media relations plan to communicate that information.

There should be an award for companies that "do good" -- even at their own expense -- in these situations. If you want to start one, let me know. I volunteer to be a judge!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Animal Rescue Organizations: Capitalize on the Ellen Mess!

Dear Animal Rescue Organizations:

I hope you've been wise enough to capitalize on the Ellen DeGeneris/Mutts and Moms/Iggy situation. Your group provides the local angle news organizations coast-to-coast have been looking for.

Have they called you? And have you answered their questions thoughtfully, responsibly, and with an eye toward your own public image? You might want to take a moment to explain that adoption rules serve a necessary and important purpose. And you might also want to comment that while you appreciate the position of the founder of Mutts and Moms -- she is, after all, just trying to keep her animals safe -- there might have been a better way to handle the situation. What do you think might have worked? How else might you have handled this unusual situation?

If you opt to steadfastly stand by the founder, Marina Batkis, in Animal Rescue Solidarity, you might risk alienating supporters. Whether she's right or wrong doesn't matter. People have trouble understanding her heavy-handed, inflexible tactics. And people in your community will have trouble understanding you if your comments are supportive of the California woman. It's all about perception.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Here's a Formula for Instant Bad Publicity

For some strange reason, Ellen DeGeneres's televised meltdown over her dog adoption problems has made national news. It's hard to understand why the major network news programs would spend any precious time on this, but they did. And they're not the only major media outlets that seem fascinated with Ellen's failed pet adoption story.

Some of us are wondering why Ellen allowed herself to open her show with this sobfest, but all of us who are familiar with the story now know the name of a nonprofit organization we've never heard of before: Mutts and Moms. Under different circumstances, this would be a fabulous turn of events for a small, local charity -- national media exposure! Wow! Think of the contributions this could generate! Instead, after hearing Executive Director Marina Batkis's statement to the press about the Ellen DeGeneres Situation, I'm left thinking, "WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?"

And there's the answer: She wasn't thinking. And she wasn't thinking when she yanked the dog out of the home without first exploring if an exception to her rules might be in the best interest of the dog and the animal rescue organization.

Batkis allowed her spokesperson to tell the press: "She doesn't think this is the type of family that should have the dog. She is adamant that she is not going to be bullied around by the Ellen DeGenereses of the world ... They are using their power, position and wealth to try to get what it is they want."

Well, even if they are, is that what you really want to be saying to the national media?

Yes, DeGeneres made a mistake. But considering that she has a national pulpit for her opinions, wouldn't it have been wiser to try to find a reasonable compromise? If this had been handled differently -- if Batkis had managed to make a friend of DeGeneres instead of an enemy -- she'd be listening to the kaching of donations on her Web site instead of taking the site offline because of the backlash that has led to death threats.

What a sorry mess. The lesson? Some say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I'll bet Marina Batkis would argue with that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NYC Area Nonprofits: Enter NYT Awards Program Now

November 30 is the deadline for the 2008 New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Awards. The awards, presented by The New York Times Community Affairs Department, the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, and the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers, recognize excellence in nonprofit organizational management. There will be four winners from the metro New York city area. Learn more at the awards site. It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase your excellent work; good luck!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Make Your Web Site Media Friendly -- Please!

How easy is it for a journalist to find a media contact person on your Web site?If your site is like most of those I clicked around this week while gathering information for a magazine article assignment, you're making it harder than it should (or needs) to be. As soon as you make a journalist's job harder, you're increasing the odds that you won't get that valuable free media exposure known as publicity. Try these simple changes to increase the chances that you'll help a journalist do his or her job in a way that leads to free exposure for your business or organization:

  • Add a "media contact" name, e-mail address, and phone number to your "Contact" page. This is the person who is authorized to answer or faciliate media inquiries. When the organization is too small to have a public relations professional on staff, this is often the marketing director or, at a nonprofit, the development director.
  • Include a contact name, phone number and e-mail address on all of the press releases in your press room. It's surprising how many organizations large and small don't do this.
  • Get rid of the fill-in-the-box template for inquiries. At least give us an e-mail address. It doesn't matter how frequently you're checking the messages we type into those annoying templates -- we think they're a black hole and we don't trust them.

When I can't find the right person to contact quickly when I need answers, I give up and go to the competition's Web site. If they've done a better job of making their contact information available to me, that's who I call. And that's who gets the free exposure.

So...with just a few simple changes, you're not only helping me do my job more quickly and easily (and I will like you for that!), you're also helping your business reach its target audience through the press. There's nothing wrong with both of us coming out of this as winners.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Know Your Audience

I attended a networking lunch meeting today because the speaker's topic appealed to me. I came away from it with a reminder for those of us who speak in public to promote our products or services: Know your audience.

The speaker works for one of those brand name financial services firms. He is a long-time member of this group of small business owners who meet monthly to network and learn from a guest speaker. The fact that he's a long-time member is important -- it means that he knows this group -- or should know this group -- really, really well. He should know that they own carpet cleaning and janitorial companies, are Realtors, sell jewelry through home parties, or create Web sites for other small businesses. This information should tell him not to wear a suit when addressing an audience that only wears suits to funerals! All he needed to do was take off the jacket and tie and open his collar. Yeah, yeah, they all wear suits in his office. But he wasn't presenting to the people in his office. He was presenting to a casually dressed group of women and men.

I can forgive him for not making the effort to use his apparel to connect with the audience. But there's no excuse for using the stereotype of the shrewish wife as an anecdote -- twice -- when speaking to an audience dominated by women business owners. I was rather dumbfounded by his chauvinism, as was the woman sitting next to me. How many others in the room feel that his example showed, at best, that he didn't know his audience, or, at worst, that he is sexist? It doesn't matter if he is or isn't -- it's the perception that counts here.

It's likely that the underlying reason for his presentation was to help people get to know him and what he's capable of professionally. Those who like an ultra-conservative financial advisor with a wife who probably doesn't work outside the home might want to retain his services.

My takeaway, though, was that while I always want to look professional and successful when speaking to a group, I want to be dressed in a way that shows that I am familiar with their world. Sure, if they're all wearing nurses uniforms, I'm not going to wear a nurse's uniform. But you can bet I won't be wearing a designer suit and heels. And I'll make sure my anecdotes cause them to nod in agreement, not cross their arms over their chests and murmur "tsk tsk."

Do the research needed to know your audience. Then prepare accordingly. It will help you be certain that the buzz you've generated through your presentation is the kind of buzz you want.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Corporate Social Responsibility Awards Deadline is November 16

November 16, 2007 is the deadline for PR News' CSR (corporate social responsibility) awards program. Enter in one of 17 categories, from environmental stewardship to human rights communications. Winners will demonstrate that "goodwill, philanthropy and employee commitment to 'do good' can go a long way toward making an impact on a community and on a company's bottom line." Get the details at the PR News site. (I keep waiting for an awards program for the most socially irresponsible PR campaign but haven't seen an announcment yet....)

Get the September "Build Book Buzz" Newsletter

I've sent out the September issue of Build Book Buzz, the free book publicity e-zine. This issue offers tips on viral marketing and invites you to befriend me on Facebook. To receive a copy, subscribe at the Build Book Buzz Web site. You also receive access to back issues when you subscribe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do You Subscribe to The Writer?

Do you subscribe to The Writer Magazine? If so, you can read my book publicity Q&A with columnist Kay Day at

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Social Networking Sites Top Hot Digital List

With Facebook and MySpace topping AdweekMedia's Digital Hot List, social networking appears to be the hot online trend this year. Unless your target customer isn't online, you should be exploring how you can use these popular sites -- including LinkedIn -- to build buzz for your services and products. Nonprofits, in particular, have a lot to gain from these sites, which can help them identify and connect with potential volunteers and donors. Small businesses and authors can use them to build the types of relationships that lead to growth opportunities. They are hot -- and they aren't going away -- so make it a priority to learn more about them and how they can help you reach your goals.
Just remember: These sites are all about relationships. Don't use traditional marketing tactics like mass mailings to reach people on these sites. Spend time finding the people you want to get to know better and connect with each on your list one-by-one. It's time-consuming -- but so is going to a networking meeting. Your time spent getting to know people in these social networking sites -- and working to help them reach their goals -- will be productive if you approach it with a well-thought out strategy.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Honda's SoCal Street Buzz

A 2006 Gallup poll rating 23 occupations for honesty and ethical standards ranked auto salesmen at the bottom. Acknowledging this, Southern California's Honda dealers united to change their image by hiring an advertising agency to implement a marketing campaign combining street tactics with advertisements that suggest that auto salesmen aren't the bad guys you might think they are. (Ironically, ad agencies ranked just above auto salesmen in that poll, which kind of makes you wonder if this was the way to go . . . .)

The campaign involved sending teams of "dealership representatives" in blue Honda shirts to the streets to perform random acts of kindness. Here's my problem with this: With few exceptions, these reps were not auto salesmen. They were people hired by the ad agency, Secret Weapon Marketing, for the project. This campaign would have had a greater impact -- and wonderful grassroots publicity potential -- if the blue-shirted team members were actually auto salesmen rather than actors portraying auto salesmen. Pat Adams, the agency's managing director, told me in an e-mail that the salesmen needed to be in the showrooms selling cars but that in a few situations, dealers did send them out into the field.

Beyond that, changing your image long-term is pretty difficult if you're not changing the behavior that created the image in the first place. Your "new" image has to reflect reality. So what if you have nice-acting guys doing nice things in the name of Honda dealers throughout the region if the real Honda dealers aren't changing their own behaviors in the showroom to reflect the good works commited on the streets? This campaign will fail if the guys who wear the blue shirts in the dealerships every day don't display honesty and integrity. Maybe they do. Maybe they always have. But if they don't, all the costumed actors in Orange County aren't going to make a difference in what happens in the showroom.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Be Outrageous

I watched a glowing profile of Southwest Airlines on a morning news show over the weekend and thought about how nice it would be to have one of those PR jobs where you do no pitching -- you just answer the phone and schedule the interviews, which always result in positive articles or segments.

So that got me thinking...what can the rest of us learn from Southwest that we can use to keep that phone ringing with calls from producers and reporters?

Southwest is a media darling because it is exceptional in many ways. Its business model isn't airline industry cookie cutter and it has a unique personality -- one that flyers love.

If you want to stay in the news as easily and as favorably as Southwest does, be consistently outrageous. Provide outrageously good products, services and support. Be the business that people can't help but talk about. It doesn't matter if you're a sole proprietor or the largest nonprofit in town -- if you are outrageously good at what you do, people will talk because you will stand out. Perhaps you have the largest selection of a certain product category, you deliver checks to vendors personally, or you provide an incredibly generous guarantee on your services.

You've got to be doing something different to stand out -- and different is newsworthy.

How can you be outrageous (in a good way)? What's missing from your industry or field and how can you provide it? Bend the rules a little. Look beyond your accepted boundaries. You'll find a way to stand out in a way that makes customers -- and the media -- love you.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Web Article Offers Small Business Publicity Advice

Matt Alderton recently interviewed me for an interesting article on small business publicity for The Professional Network Small Business Resource Center. The article features the experiences of small business owner Nancy Kirk, who invested in publicity, not advertising, to build and sustain her textile business, the Kirk Collection. Stories like hers really bring the topic to life -- I often learn more from the anecdotes in an article than the tips.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is Your Nonprofit PR Project a Winner?

PR News sponsors a Nonprofit PR Awards competition; the entry deadline is September 14, 2007. Get the specifics and application at

As a PRSA Silver Anvil and Bronze Anvil judge, I urge you to be realistic about whether your program is award-worthy. Is it truly creative, well-executed, and really, really successful? If it was just average, put your energy into creating and executing a knock-your-socks-off program that will move your organization forward and maybe generate an award next year.

If you think you have a winner, please take the awards application process seriously. This isn't something you pull together in the final minutes before the last Fed Ex pickup to meet the deadline. Award-winning entries need to be thoughtful and thorough. And because they are judged by senior practitioners, don't relegate the entry process to your intern or least-experienced staffer. Get a veteran practitioner involved.

I've been on both sides of the fence -- as a winner and as a judge -- and would be happy to answer questions on the topic. Post a question here or contact me at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Booklets = Buzz

A booklet is a great publicity-generating tool because it:

-- Showcases your topic expertise
-- Gives you an opportunity to contact the media by offering a free booklet to readers/viewers
-- Helps you build a database of prospects interested in your product or service

After creating a booklet that offers tips or advice, send (and post) a press release announcing publication and how people can receive a free copy. The easiest way to make the free booklet available is as a downloadable file on your Web site but if your target audience doesn't use the Internet much, you'll want to make it available by mail, too. If it's downloadable, make sure you use a system that lets you capture contact information before the file is accessible.

For more information about how to create booklets, visit Paulette Ensign's site, and her blog, For guidance on how to use a booklet to build buzz, post a comment here or send me a note at

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to Write an Op-Ed Column or Essay

Op-eds – essays that appear opposite the editorial pages of newspapers – are powerful communications tools for nonprofit organizations or small businesses working to influence public policy or initiate change or for authors with an informed opinion on a current topic in the news. But too many of us miss some of our best opportunities to inform readers through these opinionated essays.

National headline news stories provide the hook our opinion pieces need to catch an editorial page editor’s attention, but most of us don’t always take advantage of this because we can’t react quickly enough to write and place an essay when it’s still timely.

I recommend having at least one op-ed written in advance to use when a news event brings the op-ed’s topic to the public’s attention. When news breaks, customize it for the situation so it appears fresh and timely and send it out quickly so it can be used immediately.

Here are 10 tips for writing effective op-eds you can update according to the news story for immediate publication:

1. Read the publication you’re submitting to. You want to be familiar with its style and tone as well as the types of op-eds it typically runs.

2. Introduce yourself to your newspaper’s op-ed page editor by telephone or e-mail and request the publication’s op-ed guidelines. Then follow them.

3. Determine your goal. What do you want to achieve through your op-ed? Do you want people to behave differently or take a specific action? Keep this goal in mind as you write.

4. Select one message to communicate. Op-eds are short – typically 800 words or less – so you have room to make just one good point.

5. Be controversial. Editors like essays with strong opinions that will spark conversation.

6. Illustrate how the topic or issue affects readers. Put a face on the issue by starting your essay with the story of somebody who has been affected or begin with an attention-getting statistic.

7. Describe the problem and why it exists. This is often where you can address the opposing viewpoint and explain your group’s perspective.

8. Offer your solution to the problem and explain why it’s the best option.

9. Conclude on a strong note by repeating your message or stating a call to action.

10. Add one or two sentences at the end that describe your credentials as they relate to the topic.

When your issue is suddenly making headlines, write an introduction that connects the news to your essay and e-mail it to the editor quickly. You can do this with multiple newspapers in noncompeting markets, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Can a Celebrity Boost Your Book Sales?

The book world is buzzing about how a photo of Victoria Beckham clutching a copy of Skinny Bitch helped send the diet book to the bestsellers list. Last night's "Inside Edition" did a segment on how celebrities including Beckham, Madonna and Matthew McConaughey have helped boost book sales when they've been photographed carrying or reading a book.

That got me thinking about whether you authors are wondering right now how you could get a celebrity on your book buzz team.

It's harder than it looks for those of us without a lot of Hollywood connections. It's not just a matter of tracking down the celeb's agent and sending a copy of the book for the agent to pass along -- although I'd give that a shot if your book is something you think the star would actually want to read. And who do you know who can get close enough to Mr. or Ms. Famous to jam a book into the star's hand just as a People photog is about to snap a pic?

It has to happen either more organically -- the celeb reads about your book in her favorite magazine or hears you interviewed on the radio -- or you get the book into the hands of someone in the star's food chain. That could be a stylist, an assistant, a not-so-famous friend. If that person reads and likes your book, she'll recommend it to her friends and colleagues - including the celebrity. If you're lucky enough to have that happen, you have to get even luckier so that the celeb is photographed with the book.

Sure, there are probably West Coast people who can try to make this happen for you -- for a fee. Can you afford that?

Your best bet is to focus on generating widespread exposure for your novel or nonfiction book, praying for a little serendipity, and responding quickly and proactively if you're lucky and the paparazzi are in the right place at the right time.

Has a really and truly famous person been photographed holding your book? Tell us your story by commenting here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Request Free August Book Publicity Newsletter Issue

I've just distributed the free August Build Book Buzz e-zine for authors looking for publicity ideas. This issue offers the skinny on the AmazonConnect program for authors, tips on capitalizing on news stories with staying power, and the story behind one author's trip to the New York Times bestsellers list.

To get your copy, subscribe at

Friday, August 17, 2007

Book Publicity Tips Online

I did a Q&A on book publicity this week with Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell on her blog, “K.C.’s Write for You.” Scroll down to the August 14, 2007, entry titled, “Book Publicity 101.” Maybe there will be a helpful tidbit or two for you there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Toy Store Owners: Take Advantage of Barbie While She's Busted

This week's news about toxic Barbie and her Mattel playmates gives toy store owners great local publicity opportunities. Get on the phone now with your local media outlets offering to comment on the impact of this product recall on your inventory. Help parents by suggesting alternative toys you have in stock and stress how you always have the best interests of children in mind.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Capitalize on Today's Headlines

I shared thoughts about how business owners and others can generate publicity by tapping into the day's headlines with Gwen Moran, a columnist at Entrepreneur. Here's the article:

Make your business relevant to what’s happening in the world.
By Gwen Moran Entrepreneur Magazine - June 2007

When new Transportation Security Administration guidelines banning most airline carry-ons and liquids were announced last September, Adam Gilvar, 33, saw opportunity. His New York City clothing storage company, Garde Robe, already offered luggage-free service that could help travelers bypass luggage restrictions.

"Our first thought was that we have a solution for this," Gilvar says. However, his service hadn't been heavily marketed, so he immediately sent an e-mail reminder to customers. There has since been an upswing in demand among his existing clientele, and he's successfully using luggage-free travel as a hook to land new customers.

Sandra Beckwith, author of Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans, offers these tips to use the news for marketing.

  • Tune in. Read and watch the news to spot stories that relate to your business.
  • Be ready. Prepare lists of the media and your customers so that you can capitalize on an opportunity quickly.
  • Talk it out. Says Beckwith, "When news breaks, use your standard communications vehicles--e-mail, phone, fax, website--to get ahead of your competition and provide your target audience with the news and tips on how to deal with it." For the media, offer to be a local source for a national story or write an op-ed on an issue that affects your business.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Publicity 2-fer

Want to get on "The Today Show?" Get in the Wall Street Journal first.

WSJ "Fashion Journal" columnist Christina Binkley wrote "Plaid Taste: The Return of Preppy" in the July 19 issue; the NBC morning program aired a similar segment this Saturday, August 11. The WSJ article, "Firms Tidy Up Clients' Bad Online Reputations," ran on June 13; the TV counterpart ran yesterday, August 12. The TV version usually airs about a week after the articles appear in the newspaper, though.

This isn't a fluke. It happens regularly and it happens often. So stop contacting "Today Show" producers directly -- impress a WSJ reporter instead so your feature runs there and then gets the morning show's attention. Then be camera-ready when a producer calls.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Need publicity advice?

Authors, nonprofit communicators, small business owners: If you've got a question about how to generate media exposure -- publicity -- post a comment here or send me an e-mail and I'll do my best to help you here on the Build Buzz blog.

Learn more about my credentials for offering publicity guidance at I won the Silver Anvil award -- the Oscar of the PR industry -- from the Public Relations Society of America, another national publicity award, and several regional awards before switching from PR to journalism. Now I help people like you learn how to generate publicity for your products, services, business or self through my writing and workshops. It's much more fun for me than doing the work for you!