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!