Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't Make Us Work So Hard to Get Your News

ProfNet, which is owned by news distribution company PRNewswire, just announced that it is partnering with the more specialized CSRwire (CSR = Corporate Social Responsibility) news distribution system.

How is it partnering? What does it mean to you, the end user? ProfNet's announcement is three sentences long and the third sentence is just a link that says it will take us to a site with "more information." Do we get that information at that site? No. It's a fill-in-the-blanks template that allows the company to capture all of our contact information for marketing purposes before it will tell us about the partnership.

As a user, I'm frustrated. I want information. Please don't make it so hard for me to get it.

I didn't fill in the template. I went instead to CSRwire's site for the story and found it. It appears that ProfNet is creating a special CSRwire feed. I asked CSRwire for more info. and learned that its members, who pay a $100 annual membership feed, may receive these CSR-type media queries for $1,900, making the total cost $2,000. How does that compare to ProfNet's rates? You'll have to call them for that information -- the fees aren't provided on its Web site.

But back to CSRwire...have any of you used the service? Could you share your experiences? Feedback from users is always helpful.

Friday, January 25, 2008

January Book Publicity Newsletter is Now Available

The January issue of the free book publicity e-zine, Build Book Buzz, is now available. This issue includes a great Q & A with book publicist Lauren Cerand and information on helpful and free book promotion information available online. Subscribe at

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Use Easy-to-Digest Facts to Make Your Case with the Media

Want to create a compelling case for your story? Captivate the media with statistics that are easy for the average viewer or reader to digest or absorb.

The Natural Resources Defense Council did a good job of that this morning on a Today Show report (video: kids helping to save trees) about how to ask companies to stop sending you catalogs. During an interview promoting the NRDC's catalog-opt-out site, CatalogChoice, spokesperson Kate Sinding not only offered impressive numbers, she put them in context for viewers:
  • The 19 billion catalogs printed annually use 53 million trees. CONTEXT: That's like clear-cutting 2,000 Central Parks each year.
  • The site has helped 500,000 users opt out of 5 million catalogs. CONTEXT: Those catalogs would fill 225 Olympic-sized swimming pools. They equal the energy used to power 3,500 homes annually or the global warming impact of taking 600,000 cars off the road.
I don't even need to understand what reducing the number of catalogs by 5 million has to do with power generation for those 3,500 homes. As a viewer, I'm stuck on the impressive numbers and how they are translated into mental pictures.

How does this example help the rest of us? If you've got a great story to tell but you're having trouble getting the media interested, it could be in your presentation. In the right situation -- where statistics are available and meaningful -- you can use numbers to help make your case and communicate key information.

Nice job, Kate Sinding!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Major Publisher & University Bringing Authors to Kids

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing and Ball State University have announced they have partnered to bring S&S authors and illustrators into more than 30,000 schools nationwide through live, interactive Web broadcasts. The upcoming "electronic author visits" (EAV) use BSU's electronic field trips program to let students and teachers interact directly with authors and illustrators through live video, discussion forums, and downloadable learning activities.

S&S has formed an exclusive three-year agreement with BSU; it plans to host three EAVs each year. Andrew Clements, author of FRINDLE and NO TALKING, will kick-off the program in March. D. J. MacHale and MargaretPeterson Haddix will also participate.

Well, hey, how cool is this for the handful of authors selected to participate? It is, after all, all about connecting with your target audience. Will other publishers create similar programs as well? Let's expand the concept to high schools and colleges -- my how-to publicity book for small businesses is used as a publicity textbook in several colleges and I'd love an opportunity to hear from students and answer their questions through a Webcast.

But let's pretend we're little kids again. What author do you wish you could have talked to when you were in elementary school? And what would you have asked via a Webcast? I wrote a fan letter to Louisa May Alcott when I was in third grade. Yeah, that's right, she was dead, but what eight-year-old fan of Little Women, Little Men and Rose in Bloom knows that? She would have been my first choice for a chat. Who would you have picked?

Book Promotion Class is February 4-29

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,” my dynamic online course, 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 February 4-29, 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 for the original course and for the self-published class.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Don't Forget Your Constituents

When making a major news announcement, don't forget to inform your constituents.

Yesterday, my high schooler sent me a text informing me that our beloved high school principal (yeah, that's Mr. Paddock in the picture) announced to the 1,800 HS students in grades 10-12 that he would be retiring at the end of the school year.

This is big news for a number of reasons, so because I'm subscribed to the superintendent's e-mail announcement list, I waited yesterday for the "official" word. None came. When my daughter got home in the afternoon, she told me there were reporters at school to cover the story. Well, then, certainly, the superintendent would want to tell his constituents before they saw it on the 6 p.m. TV news, right?


The news was on TV last night AND announced in a decent-sized article in this morning's paper. That sent me and my bed head shuffling to my computer to check for an early morning e-mail from the superintendent because of course he wouldn't let his parents see it on TV news one night and in the newspaper the following morning without commenting himself.

OK, you know already... there was no note. Worse, there was nothing on the district Web site, either. An announcement has been added to the Web site since I first checked this morning, but I haven't received it via e-mail.

This is a good example of what not to do in school communications: Don't let your constituents get your news from the media or you will risk undermining your credibility and their trust in you.

Bottom line: As soon as Paddock announced to students in homeroom that he was retiring, the superintendent should have sent an announcement to his e-mail distribution list and posted it on the district Web site. It's OK for Mr. Paddock to tell his students first, but reporters shouldn't be getting the news before parents do. It's really that simple.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Coffee Talk

I'm a huge Starbucks (STBX) fan and I'm a tea drinker -- go figure. I drink tea at home and in restaurants, but will go out of my way for a tall, skinny, extra-hot, vanilla latte any day. I'm a shareholder, too.

So of course I've noticed that STBX is in the news these days and I'm hoping those of you who own independent coffee shops; are nonprofits that benefit from your local STBX community relations programs; or are experts on retailing, beverages, customer service or other related topics are lining up outside the doors of your local media outlets to comment on two related news items that keep popping up:
  1. McDonald's is installing coffee bars with baristas (but I'll bet they won't call them that)
  2. STBX founder Howard Schultz has returned as CEO
This is a great business story, so independent coffee shop owners should be talking now to their local media about why this McDonald's development won't hurt their business -- and talking again when the local McDonald's starts selling lattes, cappuccinos and frappuccinos.

If I were assigned a feature on this topic for my city's business journal, I'd want to talk to a couple of McDonald's franchisees, one or two local hotsy-totsy coffee shops from different parts of the city, the regional STBX manager, an appropriately credentialed professor at one of my area's many colleges and universities, the author of a David vs. Goliath-type business book, one or two McDonald's customers, and one or two STBX customers.

Help your local business journal write this story, using you as an expert source, by identifying some of these sources in your community and pitching the story. Feeling brave? Pitch the TV news assignment editors, too. It's not hard. And the payoff -- the media exposure -- will be worth it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gimme Shelter: Share Your Community Relations

A recent writing assignment introduced me to a touching community relations initiative organized by a local chapter of an automotive trade association. The local members arranged to repair and tune-up the vehicles of women living at the city's shelter for battered women -- at no charge. All parts and labor were donated by participating service centers and parts distributors and retailers. Very cool, very generous, very worthwhile.

I have volunteered at several shelters, so this strikes a chord in my heart. At the same time, though, I have to admit that I find myself thinking, " might the generous souls participating in this annual program let their customers know how much they care about these women and their community?"

So with that in mind, here are just a few suggestions for how each type of business involved here could get the most mileage out of this already worthwhile effort.

The trade association

  • Newsletter article about the event

  • Newsletter article explaining how other chapters can duplicate one city's event

  • News item on Web site (helps show prospects that members give back)

  • News release sent to industry trade magazines

  • Daily newspaper op-ed on the importance of giving back, using this situation as an example
The nonprofit shelter

  • Thank you letter sent to daily newspaper op-ed page

  • Newsletter article

  • News item on Web site

  • Example on Web site of an in-kind contribution to the shelter
The parts distributors and suppliers

  • Op-ed sent to daily newspaper -- "Why we and our customers do these things and why we'd like others to join us"

  • Thank you letter sent to daily newspaper op-ed page thanking participating repair shops

  • Newsletter article

  • News item on Web site

  • News release sent to industry trade magazines

  • Trade magazine article on how to create an event like this in any city

  • Pitch to daily newspaper business section or local business journal about small businesses that give back to the community in big ways

The independent service centers

  • Pitch to daily newspaper business section or local business journal about how to keep employees happy by giving them opportunities to volunteer in a meaningful way

  • Photo collage on poster board on waiting room wall

  • Newsletter article

  • News item on Web site with photos

  • Daily newspaper op-ed about why we give back

There are more ideas, too, of course, but this is a start. Maybe they will get you thinking about how you can let your constituents know that you give back to the community because it is important that they know. I know you won't do so with a "gosh, aren't we swell," tone because most of the businesses I encounter who participate in these programs have more of an "aw shucks, just trying to do my part," attitude. But we consumers want to know that the small businesses serving us have a heart, so remind us!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Retail Publicity Tips

Small, independent retailers continue to face increasing competition from the big box stores. The smart ones are emphasizing what they do better than super stores -- product knowledge, customer service, personal relationships with customers, and so on. But the real smart ones are using publicity to their advantage. I recently offered advice on how to do this on the "Retail Crossing" Web site. Read the article.