Monday, March 31, 2008

Perception Rules in the Court of Public Opinion

My area's two-year state-funded school, Monroe Community College, needs a president. The school's board of trustees gave guidelines to two search committees -- one appointed by the school's board, and the other, a standing faculty committee. Both committees recommended the same two men who are currently presidents at similar institutions elsewhere. The board accepted those names but then added two of their own -- a lawyer who is a former local politician and an entrepreneur who owns several restaurants. The two noneducators, who applied for the position, were interviewed by the committees but not recommended as finalists.

The noneducators are Republicans; nearly all of the members of the Board of Trustees are Republicans.

People have been going crazy the past couple of weeks, charging the board with political cronyism.

And the Board of Trustees is not saying a thing.

The college's foundation, charged with essential fundraising, sent the board a letter asking that it adhere to the committees' recommendations because, as the local business journal reported on Friday, "Community perceptions of county Republican influence on the search for a new president of Monroe Community College could affect efforts to raise private funds for the school."

And still, the board is not speaking out. (But it has postponed candidate interviews.)

Because of that silence, public perceptions of political monkeybusiness continue. And perception counts in the court of public opinion. Reality barely matters. This school's stakeholders -- students, faculty, leaders, funders, potential students, their parents -- etc., etc. -- have the perception that the Board of Trustees is Hell-bent on doing what's best for the Republican party, not what's best for the school. And it doesn't matter if that's not the truth. It is the only message people are hearing because those who don't want the noneducators added to the candidate list are the only ones speaking out. Theirs is the only perspective being heard.

Where are the school's PR people in all this mess? Why aren't they advising the head of the board to say anything more than, "The board wants to consider local candidates?" It's possible they are urging the board to be more forthcoming but don't have the power to make that happen. Organizations can have wise and skilled PR people working to guide them and still stumble when they don't follow that sage advice.

Regardless, when you're a public institution funded by taxpayer dollars, you can't hide -- literally -- in an ivory tower, assuming that you know more than the people you were put in place to serve -- even if you do. When controversy generates daily headlines, speak up. Educate us. Tell us why your approach is the best. C-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e. As long as you act like you're hiding something, your constituents will think you are.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who's Watching Your Book Trailer on YouTube? Now You Can Find Out

YouTube has announced a new free tool, YouTube Insight, that will let people who upload videos -- including book trailers -- to the video-sharing site see detailed information about who is viewing the video, where and when. The reports (think of Google Analytics) will be available only to the individual or organization uploading the video.

This means that authors who post their book videos on YouTube will have access to valuable information they can use to refine or adjust their book promotion plans. If you've got a video on YouTube, here's how you use this tool now: Click under the "About this Video" button under "My account > Videos, Favorites, Playlists > Manage my Videos." Once you do this, come back and tell us what you learned by using the "comments" feature here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book Publicity Podcast

Elizabeth Gordon, co-host of "The Publicity Show," invited me to be a guest on the program after reading my how-to guide for small businesses, Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement.

We chatted about book publicity and other topics with co-host Lee Kantor for about 30 minutes yesterday; listen to the podcast or download it as an MP3 file to listen to later. I thoroughly enjoyed myself because the hosts understood the topic, did some research on my background before interviewing me, and asked appropriate and thoughtful questions. I hope our conversation will get you thinking about your own publicity opportunities.

And an interview is always more fun and engaging when the interviewers are interesting, too -- and these two are. Elizabeth is the author of The Chic Entrepreneur , which will be released in May, and Lee co-hosts a second radio show, "Dr. Fitness and the Fat Guy."

Perhaps you would be a great guest for either radio show. You can find contact information at The Publicity Show site.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sample Book Trailers

The current issue of the free book publicity e-zine, Build Book Buzz, includes an article about book trailers (also known as book videos). I asked readers to send links to their videos; here are some of them. Grab some popcorn, put up your feet, and enjoy these coming attractions!

To get the current issue of Build Book Buzz, go to and enter your name and address on the form. You'll also get a free special report, Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Beware the Publicist Scam

This is the kind of thing that gives PR people a bad name.

ProfNet (also known by the name of its reseller, PR Leads) is a pricey subscription service that helps journalists find expert sources and others for their news stories and articles. Journalists send their queries through the ProfNet system at no charge; the publicists who receive them throughout the day pay a yearly subscription fee for access to these queries. The PR people try to match the queries with their client base or the resources in their organization.

I've noticed that some publicists are repositioning these random source inquiries from journalists with their clients so that the client thinks the publicist has this fabulous -- fabulous! -- network of media contacts who think so much of the publicist that they are always calling and saying, "Hey, I'm working on a story about XXX and I know you'll know just the perfect person to talk to."

The deceit is one thing. But what really gets me is how these supposedly well-connected publicists then turn the journalist's query over to the expert to respond to directly. So let's're paying your publicist a hefty monthly retainer to copy and paste an inquiry from a newsletter (not a reporter buddy) into an e-mail message that you -- not the publicist -- has to find the time to respond to. What's wrong with this picture? Especially when you can get these queries from journalists directly and cut out the middle man.

Now if that middle man is doing lots of great work for you besides passing along these inquiries that's another thing. But if you're paying a monthly fee to a publicist who does nothing but e-mail ProfNet/PR Leads queries (and isn't honest about where they're coming from), you've got other options. While the full ProfNet service is only available to PR people, individuals can subscribe via PR Leads to get only those queries that match their expertise. It costs about $100 a month. If your publicist is scamming you, this might be one way to maintain this passive PR campaign without paying any more than you have to.

There are a lot of really good publicists out there. That's why I'm concerned when I see people working with those who aren't even mediocre.

Friday, March 14, 2008

6 Tips for Publicizing Special Events

I get a lot of questions about how to publicize special events when I do workshops at nonprofit conferences, so I've created a free special report offering ideas and tips specifically for nonprofit organizations.

6 Tips for Generating Publicity for Your Special Event is a free, nine-page report offering foolproof – yet practical – ideas nonprofits can use to get the most publicity for events ranging from fundraising dinners to conferences to walkathons. To download your free copy, go to my nonprofit publicity Web site and enter your name and e-mail address at the bottom of the screen. You'll get an e-mail with a private URL where you can download the PDF file.

Got your own tips? Please share them here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Did Silda Know?

OK. Eliot resigned today. We're over it.

Here's what I'm wondering now: Did Silda know all along? Did she and Eliot reach an agreement long ago -- long enough for him to spend $80,000 on his pricey pretty women -- that would allow him to ... how you say ... satisfy his needs outside the governor's mansion?

And is that why she was pushing him to stay in office rather than resign? I'm wondering if she wasn't quite as stunned as the rest of us.

I'd like to hear relationship experts comment on this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Real Victims of the Spitzer Affair...

. . . are the D.C. hookers. I mean, really. Spitzer had to import a hooker from New York City for his excellent adventure in the nation's capital? Come on. I find it very hard to believe that he couldn't find an equally qualified companion in Washington.

So what's the fallout for D.C. chicks? I can't help but think they must be inferior to NYC talent. If I'm thinking this, others are, too. Beltway ladies of the evening are going to have to do some damage control. Let's hope somebody gives them a voice in this scandal.

Is Silda to Blame?

I choked on my gluten-free granola this morning when I heard Laura Schlessinger announce on The Today Show that Eliot Spitzer enjoyed the company of a prostitute because his wife didn't take good enough care of him. Yes, that's right. If Silda had been more attentive to her husband's needs -- if she had done a better job of making him feel loved and appreciated -- we wouldn't be waiting right now for Spitzer to announce his resignation.


If Dr. Laura can be making news around this brouhaha, so can many of you. The TV stations in my Western NY city are positively gleeful about this big news development. They dispatched reporters to Albany, the state capital, yesterday for the political perspective but are also bringing in many hometown "experts" for commentary. This is happening across the state, and on a lesser level, in other parts of the country, as well. If you're an:
  • ethicist
  • therapist
  • politician
  • accountant
  • philanderer
  • spouse of a philanderer
  • hooker
  • recovering hooker
  • private eye
  • tax lawyer
  • child psychologist
  • author of a book on ethics, relationships, marriage, politics, government, parenting, law, prostitution
you have an opportunity for some media exposure. Figure out what you can say on this topic that is worth hearing and get on the phone with the media to make yourself available for an interview today.

And when you do, please don't blame it on Silda. Eliot is a big boy. He makes his own choices. He created this mess on his own, without any help from his wife.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Memoirists Can Leverage the Consequences of Lying

The publisher of Love and Consequences, the South Central L.A. gangland memoir that turned out to be a novel, said in a New York Times report today that "there was nothing else that he or Sarah McGrath, the book’s editor, could have done to prevent the author from lying."

Of course you can't stop somebody from lying, but to find out if they are lying, you do some basic factchecking. The Times reports, "Ms. McGrath said she did not independently check parts of Ms. Seltzer’s story or perform any kind of background check. She said she relied on Ms. Seltzer to tell the truth."

It appears the publishing industry learned little from James Frey, a founder of the novel-as-memoir genre. Of course you can't -- and shouldn't -- factcheck every detail in a memoir. But when the story seems a little out there, as this one does, you can pick off a few easy specifics to verify. Even Oregon's Register-Guard did this, postponing a story about the book's author after some basic fact checking revealed she didn't graduate from the University of Oregon as the book jacket claims.

It's a pathetic situation, but one that presents opportunities for memoirists whose books are, truly, their life stories. Make yourself available to the journalists covering this story. Talk about the editing process on your book -- was there any factchecking? Did an editor challenge any of the text in your manuscript? Did any relatives? Is it hard to write something accurately 10, 20 or 30 years later? Could that contribute to this rash of fake memoirs? Start by reaching out to your local media, giving them the local angle on this national story, but get the PR department at your publisher on board too. Let them know you're willing to talk about your experiences.

10 Ways to Get Buzz for Your Book

Need some help jumpstarting the book promotion process? Want some ready-made ideas you can tweak for your own needs? Need tips on how to execute these great ideas? I'm offering 10 solid yet easy-to-execute ideas in Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top, a free report available at

I wrote Beyond the Press Release because I wanted to help authors think more broadly about ways to generate excitement for their books. I want it to be a valuable resource, so I was really pleased when writer Nick Daws wrote on his blog that it's "13 pages of excellent advice on promoting your book, including some ideas I'd certainly never thought of myself. "

To receive a free copy, enter your name and e-mail address in the newsletter subscription box at Then, do us all a favor and share your promotion ideas, here, too!