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.