Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Please Nominate Build Book Buzz as a Top Site for Writers

Writer's Digest is seeking nominations for its "101 Best Websites for Writers" list. If you're familiar with my site at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/ and find the information on it useful, please consider nominating that site for the list.

Here's how:
  1. Send an e-mail to writersdigest@fwmedia.com.
  2. Use "101 Websites" as the subject line.
  3. In the e-mail message, type: http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/.
  4. Submit by the January 1, 2010, deadline.
Thanks so much for considering this!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Get Help Finding Mistakes

I make mistakes, but to make sure I don't take them public too often, I get help. I often ask a colleague to review what I write for typos but also for omissions, because it is very, very easy to exclude important information when you're writing about a topic you know well.

I saw a newspaper ad last week that would have benefited from another pair of eyes checking it over before it ran. The advertisement announcing the grand opening of a cupcake bakery caught my eye even though I can't eat cupcakes because of my medical diet (I am limited to gluten-free bakeries or ... sigh ... baking my own little treats) because a box of pretty and tasty treats can make a nice thank you gift.

The ad included the bakery's hours, telephone number, and Web site URL, but no address. Hmm.... Now they're making it hard for me to stop by and check them out, right? At least they included the URL -- that would help me get the location. But that added another challenge: The store name is not the name used for the Web site, and the Web site URL is one letter different from another Web site. This is so complicated that we need bullet points:
  • The new store name is (I am going generic here so I don't embarrass anybody): XYZ Cupcakery.
  • The new store's URL is xyzcupcake.com, not xyzcupcakery.com.
  • XYZ Cupcakes, a bakery in another state, has its site at xyzcupcakes.com, which is where I landed because my brain goes plural automatically, to "cupcakes," not "cupcake."
I went to a lot of trouble to get the location of this store because I was going to blog about it, but most people simply won't jump through this many hoops. If the store's owner had asked somebody who wasn't connected to the business -- somebody who didn't have all the answers already -- to look at the ad, that person would have said, "It doesn't have your address" and "Hey, why doesn't your URL match your store name? XYZCupcakery.com is available -- you'd better grab it." You have to wonder how much business this new store lost by omitting such an important detail.

It's a reminder to me and a lesson for others: Ask somebody to proofread any written communication that is going to be read by the public. It can save you time and money in the long run.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Learn About Social Media Releases

The current issue of Build Book Buzz, the free e-newsletter for authors, includes a Q&A on social media releases with Todd Defren, principal of Shift Communications. Defren is credited with creating the first social media news release in 2006.

To learn more about social media releases, including how to create and distribute them, sign up for the newsletter at www.buildbookbuzz.com before Wednesday, December 23, 2009. You'll receive the issue by e-mail shortly after you provide your name and e-mail address in the space provided on the Web page.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is This Ethical?

A well-known publisher of public relations information that includes a monthly magazine is requesting submissions for a book on nonprofit communications. Contributors will not be paid for submissions, which will average 1,000 words and must not have appeared anywhere else. And yet, the book will probably sell for the same price as this company's other books: $399. That's right. $399.

Some publishing model, eh? Gather up the free content, format it, print it, and sell it at a price that is 16 times the cover price of a "traditional" book like mine, Publicity for Nonprofits. I don't take issue with the price -- if they can get it from a nonprofit, more power to them. But selling it for that much and not paying contributors a cent for their submissions? That's offensive.

But is it unethical? It is by my standards, but is it unethical by the standards of others, especially those targeted by the publisher? I realize that people won't know how this publisher does business, but if they did, would they think it's wrong? Do you think it's wrong? In my opinion, if you're going to sell a book for $399, the least you can do is pay your contributors a token amount for their intellectual capital -- even $100 each would help eliminate the greedy image I now have of this publisher.

And how ironic is that: A company that makes its living helping companies shape, control, and manage their images is acquiring an image for being greedy. Nice.

So what's your opinion? Is this approach ethical?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Reasons to Hold a Press Conference

The six most dreaded words for a PR person are: "We should hold a press conference!"

Most business people don't realize that unless you're making a significant announcement that's of interest to a large percentage of those in your community, journalists won't attend your press conference.

The problem is that what's big news to us isn't necessarily big news to others, and a press conference requires news that's interesting to a large, wide-ranging audience -- the local rich guy is running for public office, a large employer is announcing the location of its new factory, a college shares news of the largest donation in its history.

In addition, even when you have "real" news to announce, there's a lot of competition for the attention of journalists, many of whom work for news gathering organizations that are cutting back until the economy rebounds more. They have fewer reporters and photojournalists out reporting because they have no choice.

So...your boss announces, "We should hold a press conference!" Ask him or her these questions so that you can both decide if it's an appropriate option for your organization:
  1. Who cares? Seriously, who will care about your announcement outside your company? And if they're in your industry, not your community, perhaps you should hold a press conference -- but at an industry trade show.
  2. Does your news have an impact on the people who read/watch/listen to the media outlets you would invite to your press conference? It needs to.
  3. Who should make the announcement at your press conference, and will that person be available? Sometimes, it's access to an individual who is normally hard to reach that draws a reporter to a press event. If you can make that hard-to-get-at person available, it's a check mark in the plus column.
And here's one strategy to use if you don't really have a good reason to hold a press conference but the boss insists on it anyway: Build your announcement into an event with a larger guest list -- members of your various stakeholder groups -- so that you've got bodies there and it's less obvious that there are no media microphones or cameras.

Did you ever hold a press conference that nobody attended? I did -- and it was for the community's pet charity, too -- the one that everybody is happy to help publicize. What went wrong? We'll save that for another blog posting. But in the meantime, share your story here!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dear Elin: Don't Save Him!

Dear Elin,

Tiger is going to have to talk to the press eventually and while that might be an intimate one-on-one with Matt Lauer in your solarium or on a clubhouse patio, it might also be at a press conference in front of a microphone-covered podium.

Here's some free advice: Do not be "the good wife" who stands by her man at these events, no matter how much money he offers.

Standing next to him will be difficult for you, but it will be challenging for us, too. Women are empathetic creatures; we will feel your pain. And we would like your pain to remain private. We would, however, like your hostess treats-loving husband to take his discomfort public without your support. Let him twist out there in the wind without you there to bring him back down.

This is his problem, not yours. Let him find his way out of it on his own. He didn't need your helping getting into this mess; he doesn't need your help getting out of it.

Your friend,

p.s. Call me when things settle down!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger Woods and Communicating in a Crisis

Whenever there's an awkward celebrity moment making headlines, I go in search of crisis communications expert Jonathan Bernstein's thoughts on the situation. Keeping tabs on Jonathan's perspectives on the crisis of the day -- this time, it's the Tiger Woods fiasco -- helps me learn how to react appropriately and productively in these situations. (It's a skill I hope I never need.)

Jonathan's words of wisdom appear this time in the Toronto Star: "It could be, `I had a fight with my wife. I drove off in a huff and lost control of my car.' If that's what happened, this would be over within 24 hours...."

Just a reminder: I've got some of JB's tips for communicating in a crisis at this link.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Your Special Event Relevant to What You Do?

When I saw the headline on the three-sentence news brief in the daily newspaper -- "Museum hosts wing contest" -- I expected to read about an event at the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum, sponsor of the area's annual high-profile airshow.

Nope. The news item announced a Buffalo-style chicken wing competition at a county historical society museum. Huh? What does this museum in Lyons, N.Y. (a community probably best known as the hometown of Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse University men's basketball coach) have to do with chicken wings?


I'd be less confused, of course, if the organization hosting the chicken wing contest was based in Buffalo, N.Y., home of the Anchor Bar, where chicken wings were first served to patrons. Or at an airplane museum. (But maybe not at a bird sanctuary . . . .)

Special events can do a lot to raise awareness or funds, but they need to be relevant to your purpose or mission so that they help connect your nonprofit or business with the messages you're working hard to communicate. So a costume museum might host a fashion show, an art museum could sponsor a student art contest, and a flour museum (yes, they exist) can consider a baking event.

Before approving your next event, whether you run a museum or a hair salon, ask yourself: What does this have to do with what I want people to know about this organization? It could make the difference between an event that makes a difference and one that just makes a dent.

What's the most relevant special event you've seen?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Current Issue of Build Book Buzz Explains How to Find Journalists on Twitter

The November 25, 2009 issue of Build Book Buzz, the free e-newsletter for authors, explains how (and why) to find journalists on Twitter. Subscribe to the free bi-weekly newsletter at www.buildbookbuzz.com before December 9, 2009 and you'll receive the current issue with the Twitter information via e-mail.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Let Everyone Else Hog the Swine Flu Spotlight

The only good news coming out of the H1N1/swine flu situation is that some small businesses and nonprofit groups have been able to use the ongoing news story to bring attention to their organizations.

Take churches, for example. The Wall Street Journal ran a story on how those offering communion have to approach that ritual differently now that so many in congregations worry about being exposed to the disease through practices that were considered safe and acceptable before. Small businesses are gaining exposure in their local media by talking about how fear of spreading the disease is changing everything from the trinkets they hand out at trade shows to the number of in-person meetings they require, as this article, "Companies limit personal contact," illustrates.

What is your organization doing because of concerns about the spread of the swine flu? Have you made internal changes, conducted educational seminars, provided shots to employees, or do you provide support services to those giving or receiving the shots? The hospital lobby I visited recently replaced its usual wrapped hard candy with complimentary bottles of hand disinfectant at the registration desk, for example.

If you've made changes or provide support to those working to keep the public healthy, contact your local media and let them know what you're going. Better yet, find out what a few other organizations in your area are doing, too, and present the story to reporters with a full package of interview sources. Here's who to contact locally:
  • Daily newspapers: Small business reporter, health reporter
  • Weekly newspaper: The reporter covering your community
  • TV stations: Assignment editor or health reporter
Do it, and do it now. Perhaps your example will encourage others in your community to make the same changes to help prevent the spread of the disease among employees, customers, and others.

What have you seen about how companies are coping in your local media?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is One-one-One Contact with a Journalist Ever Appropriate?

While listening in on a Webinar this week about how to use online press releases, I was surprised to hear one of the two speakers say that there's no place for one-on-one contact with journalists when trying to get publicity. Instead, this author of a book on using press releases online said if you've got news, it belongs in a news release sent to as many media outlets as possible.

I realize that the event was sponsored by online press release distribution company PRWeb International, but, um, this answer is just plain wrong. Fortunately, the other speaker on the Webinar, a publicist, did a little backpeddling on behalf of the author (who is not a publicist), noting that there are times when you have a story that's perfect for just one media outlet and when that happens, you focus on that outlet.

With that as the backdrop, here are four more situations when it's appropriate to contact a journalist individually:
  1. You have identified the six to 10 journalists who have the power to influence your success and you want to begin establishing a relationship with each one of them individually. Start the conversation. Relationships matter -- work on them.
  2. You want to pitch a story, not news. They're not necessarily the same thing. "Stories" don't always lend themselves to many, many media outlets.
  3. You're handcrafting a small media list to manage in-house and want to confirm a journalist's area of interest, responsibilities, or preferences for how or when to receive news and information from you. This is particularly relevant when you're seeking local, not national, publicity or when you're in a specific niche targeting a small number of trade publications or blogs.
  4. You have uncovered information that will help the journalist do his job better. Maybe it's an article from a national publication that you think the daily newspaper newspaper reporter on your "most important media" list will want to turn into a local story. It could be the opposite -- there's a feature in your local paper that's relevant to the work of an editor or writer at a national magazine that you'd like to have on your side.
Mass distribution of press releases might have a place in your publicity plan, but if you rely completely on that tactic and do nothing else to develop media exposure, you'll miss many opportunities to make headlines with your business, cause, product, or service. Those opportunities often come as the result of carefully and patiently cultivated relationships with journalists -- relationships that develop through one-on-one contact.

When you have contacted a single reporter directly and received publicity as a result?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PR Firm Seeks Executive Vice President

The folks at Cone, a public relations firm in Boston, have asked me to share news of an opening for executive vice president of cause branding. Cone has a long-standing reputation for leadership in cause marketing, so anyone qualified for the position probably knows about the company already.

Here's a link to the job posting, but I have to warn you that it doesn't meet my expectations for prose written by professional communicators. There's all that random capitalization of phrases such as "corporate responsibility" and "executive leadership team" that is usually generated by those who don't write for a living and who have spent so much time in the corporate "space" (ha-ha) that they don't realize that members of the "Knowledge Leadership team" are just people like you and me. It also uses depressing buzz words and phrases like "impactful" and "market facing."

It gives the impression that this shop is more corporate than creative, so keep that in mind as you mull over whether this is a good fit for you. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the job description was probably written by the HR guy but this is the face the company is putting out there to job-seekers, so I have to think that it's an "approved" face.)

But let's put aside my discomfort with writing that isn't straightforward or uses that kind of incorrect random capitalization found on the advertising side of the business. This is a great job for somebody who wants to help corporations become better citizens. To do that, you sometimes need to fit into the corporate environment. My point here is that I wouldn't expect a creative agency to be as corporate as the client.

With that in mind, I am now officially applying for the job of editing the agency's recruiting materials so they better reflect the company's ability to communicate effectively and clearly with all of its audiences. Cone: You know where to find me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Avoid These Common Online Press Room Mistakes

Does your company have an online press room -- a repository of news and background information -- for the media on your Web site? If you're looking for media exposure, you have to be (a) found online and (b) offer appropriate information to journalists. They aren't looking for sales literature and hype. They're seeking news, facts, details, background information, and graphics.

Here are the most common online press room mistakes and how you can prevent them on your Web site so that you maximize its value and impact:
  • There is no online press room. Every business that isn't trying to dodge the media needs one.
  • Press materials are available only in PDF format. You want journalists to copy and paste your press releases, fact sheets, backgrounders, executive bios, etc. As soon as you make them available only as PDF files, you've seriously inhibited this process. And anytime you make it harder, you risk losing the media opportunity because none of us wants to work any harder than we have to. Don't put up roadblocks and force us to give exposure to your competitors instead. Make all of your press materials available in a format that lets people copy and paste easily.
  • Press releases aren't dated. I've found some news on your site -- but is it really news? Did you post the press release last week, last month, or last year? I can't use it if I don't know when you released it.
  • There is no media contact listed. Let's say an Oprah producer discovers your Web site and wants to talk to your CEO about appearing in a segment related to your business, but you have no media contact listed and the only contact information on your site at all is a generic fill-in-the-blanks Web inquiry form. No names, no phone numbers, no e-mail addresses, and no media contact name and information. Do you think you might miss out on that opportunity to appear on Oprah? Possibly.
  • There are no media graphics. Include photos in your press room -- executive head shots, product shots, application photos, your logo, etc. -- and include both high- and low-resolution versions.

Large companies usually do it the right way; visit the Xerox newsroom to see an effective example.

What's the best online press room you've seen? I'd like to compile a list of good examples.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sarah Palin's BOGO Book Tour

No matter how you feel about Sarah Palin, you have to admit that the book tour schedule for her Going Rogue: An American Life is pretty darn clever.

Palin's publisher is skipping big cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Philadephia, and Los Angeles. Shucks. The durn liberals in those places can't properly appreciate a gal like Mrs. Palin. She's reaching out to "just folks" like me in the smaller cities of Middle America: Noblesville, Ind. Washington, Pa., Grand Rapids, Mich. Even my town, Rochester, N.Y., is on the schedule. Excited locals will greet the former candidate at a Borders on the less upscale side of the city on November 21. (You can bet that selecting that Borders over a Barnes & Noble and another Borders in the county's two most upscale suburbs was a strategic move.)

Her appearance here is guaranteed to generate a media frenzy -- and isn't that what you want at a book signing? Really, it's sheer genius. The TV stations will be hyping it for a few days before the appearance -- "A national celebrity visits Rochester tomorrow! We'll tell you who tonight at 11." -- and the newspaper will turn to politicians and pundits who will comment on whether this book signing campaign is a hint of what's to come in the next presidential election. Or maybe the daily will send a photog to snap pictures of members of Moose for a Safe America picketing outside Borders during Palin's appearance.

It will be a big whoop-dee-doo event here in conservative Western New York and it will not only sell books, it will help Palin connect with the Americans she hopes will elect her to national office -- a politician's equivalent of a BOGO (buy one, get one free).

I admire what her marketing team is doing here. This tour strategy guarantees far more media exposure for both Palin's politics and her book than her team could have generated among the jaded media outlets in big cities. It will be topped off by lots of national media news coverage because her appearances in these lesser-known and harder-to-reach markets is newsworthy for the big dogs, too.

It looks like this time, at least, Sarah Palin is listening to her advisors.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Now on the Spin Cycle: Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Connection"

Associated Press is reporting today that Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is taking over a joint venture between Warren and Reader's Digest because the multimedia project, the "Purpose Driven Connection," has collapsed. The project included a print magazine of the same name sold by subscription; the print edition will fold after its last issue prints this month and the magazine will be available on the project's Web site at no charge.

Warren's explanation for this made me laugh out loud: "The positive response from readers was so overwhelming we didn't want the content to be limited only to Americans who could afford a subscription to a magazine," Warren said.

The translation for people who don't speak PR?

"We didn't get enough subscribers to sustain what is essentially an ego-driven publication, but because of that ego, we can't admit failure. The logical response is to put the publication online to save face," Warren said.

I understand the need to spin a negative situation so it looks like a positive one. I'll even admit that I spent too much time on the spin cycle. But this one is just too . . . well . . . too spun. How about a little more honesty, a tad more authenticity, in the positioning? Why not just say, "We launched this magazine during the worst period in this country's economic history in decades, but we're not ready to give up. We're taking it online to regroup," Warren said. "This approach will also allow us to reach more people with our uplifting messages, which is never a bad thing."

What's the best PR spin you've seen lately?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Social Networking for Authors -- It's Practically Magical!

I've always been interested in Erie Canal lore (and not just because I live across the street from the canal in the lovely village pictured here in a photo by "lilhoosrgrl"), so I was pretty happy when Deborah Williams, the author of The Erie Canal: Exploring New York's Great Canals, registered for my book publicity course. I knew I'd enjoy guiding her through the process.

Because the course includes content on author Web sites, Deborah sent me the link for her new Web site this morning. It was something of a "ta-da!" message. Once on her site, I went straight to the "Canal Music" page because I am still a 3rd grader at heart. You don't grow up in New York State without singing "low bridge, everybody down!" more times than you'll ever remember and more loudly than you ever should.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I tweeted about this page this morning, saying the music made me smile. And my tweet was seen by a journalist, who contacted Williams with some questions, and then wrote this piece showcasing the new Erie Canal book.

Why, it's practically magical!

If you want to learn more about how to get these types of "magical" outcomes by using social networking sites and tools effectively for book promotion and publicity, check out the teleseminar I'm hosting on November 11, 2oo9, "Boost Your Book Sales with Social Networking." You'll get lots of practical tips and advice from my guest, Dana Lynn Smith, author of the e-book, The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Successful Social Marketing.

I promise it will be well worth the small price of admission.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Aha" Moments at the Florida Writer's Conference

I presented two workshops at the Florida Writers Association's conference in Orlando last weekend (this is me being all workshoppy), an annual event that attracted nearly 300 fiction and nonfiction (but mostly fiction) writers from all over the state. One of my sessions was on how to build book buzz; the other was about how to create a brick-solid platform so you can land an agent or a publishing contract.

The audiences for both sessions were remarkable. They stayed awake -- a big deal for my end of the day time slot for both sessions on Friday and Saturday -- and they stayed engaged. Their questions were intelligent, informed, and relevant. It was clear they were there to learn, which worked real well for me, because I was there to teach.

But I was also there to learn -- from the other workshop presenters, from the lovely people who asked me to join them at lunch and dinner, and from the writers in my workshops. I'm particularly interesting in discovering more about a given author's roadblocks (real or imagined) related to book promotion. When I start to see patterns, I'm better able to address these issues in the content I provide to authors interested in discovering how they can generate book buzz.

During both my workshops and in the one-on-one advice sessions I did with authors (the FWA charges a minimal fee for these sessions as a fundraiser to help offset conference costs), I could see the light bulbs going off over heads as participants began looking at things differently. Some of their "aha" moments came when they realized that:
  • You want to get in front of the people who are most likely to buy your books, not in front of anybody and everybody. Target that effort. If your audience isn't using Twitter, don't use it for book promotion. If your audience isn't watching Oprah, stop putting your energy into figuring out how to get on Oprah.
  • You don't have to do everything that might help promote your book. Pick and chose those strategies that you're comfortable with; implement the tactics that you think you can pull off. There will always be more that you can do, but you'll still make great progress if you focus on what you feel capable of doing rather than trying to do it all.
  • A book doesn't have to be new to get media exposure. If you've got a book in print -- even if it's been around for years -- you can still generate publicity for it.
  • Fiction writers can use blogs to get input on a work in progress, test plot or other elements, and establish relationships with people who read the types of books they write. It's all about relationships.
  • There are a number of ways to build a platform. Working with a handful of strategies that work best for your personality is better than doing nothing at all because one of the strategies (public speaking?) takes you so far past your comfort zone that you end up doing nothing at all.

I enjoyed three invigorating days with the Florida writers and I highly recommend the conference to anyone outside the state, too. These people are serious about their craft. Learn more at www.floridawriters.net.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: PR Therapy by Robin Blakely

There are three reasons why I highly recommend Robin Blakely's new book, PR Therapy: Ignite Your Passion for Promoting Your Products, Services, and Even Yourself!. First, it addresses the fears and anxieties that small business owners, authors, speakers, and others have when they realize that they need (and want) to generate publicity for their products or services.

Authors, in particular, are uncomfortable with what they see as "self-promotion." Because they are so closely aligned with their products, authors fail to see that it's not self-promotion, it's product promotion. This topic came up over the weekend during my "How to Build Book Buzz" workshop at the Florida Writer's Association annual conference. I reminded the person who raised this issue that authors owe it to their readers to let them know their book is available to entertain, educate, or inform. I see it as a public service -- how can you help the people you wrote the book for if you don't tell them about your book? And you're not talking about yourself with the press -- you're talking about your book.

Robin's first two chapters help people better understand what might be getting in the way of their publicity success and offers tactics for dealing with those often self-imposed obstacles. Reading the first few chapters is a bit like having a conversation with your mother ("Of course you can do it! You are brilliant!"), your shrink ("I'm sensing some anxiety about the prospect of incredible success. . . ."), and your best friend ("You go girl!").

Second: It's the only one on this topic that I've seen that helps readers better identify their target audiences. I've written about the importance of knowing your audience well on this blog before, so I was happy to see that Robin spends several chapters on the topic. She helps readers discover how to zero in on the people who are most likely to purchase their products or services.

Third: PR Therapy is loaded with the kind of "here's-how-to-do-it" information that I also provide in my books. People without a PR background need to know the best time of day to call a radio talk show producer and how to craft the perfect pitch. It's all here in any easy to use, follow, and understand format.

Check it out in any local bookseller or on Amazon.com; learn more about the author at www.prtherapy.com.

What's the best publicity book you've read?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reputation Management: Penelope Trunk's Miscarriage Tweet

Penelope Trunk's Twitter post last month -- "I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin." -- has generated a great deal of conversation, with of it related to "TMI" (too much information) and pro-choice/pro-life issues.

Narcissism aside (sooo many social networking posts are remarkably self-absorbed), what's most shocking to me about this revelation -- and the language used -- is that it was directed at a professional audience. Penelope Trunk, who provides career advice as "the brazen careerist," is setting a bad example for the people she wants to help. Let's take the personal shortcomings out of this (if you don't want to get pregnant, don't have unprotected sex) and focus on the example she set:
  • The language: No matter where you work, there are going to be people who are offended by the f-bomb. Smart people don't use it in a professional environment (and when your business involves using social networking tools such as Twitter to provide advice to professionals, you're dealing in a work environment whether you realize it or not).
  • The event: I understand that this is Trunk's style -- casual, freewheeling, counter-intuitive, yada yada -- but a miscarriage for most is a landmark event (good or bad). When you speak about it in a cavalier way, you cause pain to somebody who shared that experience, but felt a profound loss as a result. This means you've alienated many in your network.
  • The attitude: It's clear that this was an unwanted pregnancy. Got it. It's also clear that Trunk would have had an abortion. Whatever. I'm not passing judgment here but guess what: Others are. It's a safe bet that many of her "followers," as they're called on Twitter, are pro-life. This kind of comment had to offend them. It just had to. More followers lost.
In essence, Trunk has damaged her platform by damaging her reputation. If she consults for corporations, she's lost a lot of business. Not only is she a loose cannon -- Fortune 500s are not comfortable with this type of ... how you say ... unpredictability -- but employees at those corporations who have heard about this tweet are not going to be Trunk fans.

In subsequent media interviews, Trunk has tried to spin this into something that supports her business goals. She's talked about how miscarriages happen in the workplace all the time, that women won't be equal until they can talk openly about these issues, and so on. All she's done is dig a deeper hole. Her responses might endear her to some, but her attitude further alienates her from the women of mainstream America.

I have spoken to women's groups for years on the lighter side of gender differences and know firsthand that women have boundaries and you have to know and respect those boundaries. Trunk doesn't seem to get that. She could have recovered more quickly from this incredible faux paus by saying, quite simply, "I realize now that my comment was insensitive and inappropriate. I apologize to those I might have offended." Doing this would have taken the story out of the headlines, which is what most consultants to corporate America need and want. Trunk, however, sees it as a way to keep her name in the media limelight. Like Balloon Boy Falcon Heene's father, she thinks that "all publicity is good publicity."

It's not.

I understand that Penelope Trunk is "just being herself," but when you're in the business world, you sometimes have to put a lid on your personality to protect your reputation.

Do you think her business will suffer because of this?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parody Book Marketing Plan Rings Too True

The New Yorker's book marketing plan parody in this week's issue is very, very funny. Too bad it's also very, very realistic.

The e-mail sent to an author by "Gineen" (pron: Jeannine), an intern who is replacing the promotion department, characterizes the overwhelming paralysis that grips authors of a certain age when they're encouraged to do more than "give a talk" to the women's group at the local country club and do a book signing at the closest Barnes & Noble.

Full of laugh-out-loud instructions regarding promoting books online -- "If you already have a blog, make sure you spray-feed your URL in niblets open-face to the skein." and "Then just Digg your uploads in a viral spiral to your social networks via an FB/MS interlink torrent." -- the parody also skewers the always-out-of-the-office schedule of any publisher's editorial and promotion staffers. (I've heard that this particular aspect of the parody is dead on.)

It is a realistic portrayal of book promotion from the perspective of an "I'm not ready for this!" author, but at the same time, the over-the-top missive from Gineen could actually be a dream come true for the "typical" author. For example, Gineen says, "I’ve attached a list of celebrities we think would be great to blurb your book, so find out their numbers and call them up." The average author would have to -- and does -- generate their own celebrity list (and of course gets nowhere with it, but many Oprah-struck authors don't realize that it's a waste of time).

For most authors, there's no blog help or celebrity list development. They have to identify and contact the best people to write cover blurbs, write their own announcement releases because the staff publicist doesn't have time to do it justice, create their own media lists for review copies, blog/tweet/post, schedule book signings (yawn...), generate story ideas for traditional media, create their own virtual book tour, and on and on.

The parody, funny as it is, is just another indicator that more and more authors will need to start creating and executing their book's marketing plan themselves. Even those who used to get that support can see that Gineen the intern can only do so much for her long list of authors.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Do the New FTC Guidelines Mean for Paid Media Spokespeople?

Much has been said this week about the FTC's new guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose their affiliation with companies giving them products to review or paying them to review or promote them. The guidelines also require celebrity endorsers to "disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media."

I'm wondering if this ruling applies to non-celebrity spokespersons, too -- people like me, who are often hired by consumer products companies to represent their brands in media interviews that require someone with in-depth knowledge of a specific topic. These non-celebrity spokespersons tend to be authors or other experts who are in a position, because of their topic expertise, to help communicate a brand's message in a way that a staff spokesperson can't.

Publicists have been more transparent about these sponsorships when booking interviews for their outside spokespeople so that the producers, reporters, and others scheduling the interviews understand that there is an "agenda" involved. But the media outlets rarely share this information with readers or viewers because the spokespeople are well-trained to present information that is relevant and helpful in a non-promotional way. A spokesperson interview shouldn't be any different from another interview where the source refers to a specific brand, program, or product.

Will this change in light of this new ruling? Will talk show hosts, for example, have to add that the guest is paid to share information? If that happens, it will probably do more harm than good. These articulate and informative spokespeople are an excellent source of content for the press, and are very good at communicating a message without sounding like advertisements. They provide information that audiences need and want. Does the average viewer care that a particular product or company paid to get that information out there? I doubt they care anymore than they care that companies pay movie production companies to work their products into storylines or include them in movie settings. I suspect the consumer response to this type of topic is "Yawn."

But what do you think? Do we need to know if any type of outside spokesperson is paid? Does it make a difference in how you view the information that's offered?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

For the Publicist's Toolkit: The AP Stylebook

If you're new to publicity and aren't certain about the rules used by the media for language capitalization, abbreviations, usage, etc. in your media relations tools that include press releases and tip sheets, then you absolutely need The Associated Press Stylebook.

Here's why: Most print and legitimate online news sites use what is known as the "AP style" when writing and editing text for publication so that all of the content has a consistent look. The "rules" include using abbreviations for states that do not match the USPS appreviations (Kansas is Kan., not KS, for example). You want the information you submit for publication to use this style because it means your content will require less editing. Less editing means less work; less work means your material is more likely to be used. This is good!

While you don't need to read it cover-to-cover, you should scan it and then keep it at your desk. I have been writing for publication for longer than I care to share, and I still pull mine off the shelf every once in awhile to find an answer. You can buy it online and in most bookstores, and it's less than $20, so make this investment in your publicity plan. It will give your content more credibility -- nothing's worse than the random capitalization that shows up in the materials of the novice -- and might keep it from being deleted.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to Create a Book Trailer: A Q&A with Author Megan McMorris

So many authors are scrambling to learn how to create a book trailer (video) for their books that I thought a Q&A with an author who created her own -- and did a fantastic job! -- would be helpful to others.

Megan McMorris is the editor of P.S. What I Didn't Say: A Collection of 36 Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, an anthology that is selling like bread and milk when a blizzard is predicted -- you just have to have it! When I saw Megan's book trailer, I was impressed. When I found out that (a) she did it herself and (b) it was the first one she's created, I was amazed. I asked her to tell us about how she put it together; here's a transcript of our conversation followed by the video.

Sandy: Megan, I love your book trailer for P.S. What I Didn't Say. What will you do with the trailer -- how will you use it to promote your book?

Megan: Well, so far I’ve posted it on various sites like YouTube, my publisher Seal Press’s site, and the Web site I created for the book. I didn’t know a thing about book trailers before I started this, but while researching mine I found it can be a great way to get people engaged and interested in your book in a different way than words on a page can (I mean hey, who doesn’t like watching videos, right?).

Sandy: I know this is the first book trailer or video you've created, and I have to say I'm impressed. Let's talk about how you did it. What software did you use, and was it hard to pull all the pieces together?

Megan: Thanks! I simply looked around on my computer, and sure enough found some programs that were just little icons I’d ignored on my Mac before, like iMovie and Garage Band.

Sandy: I love the photos. Where did you get them? Did you have to pay to use any of them?

Megan: The pictures are either my own or from the contributors to the anthology, so I didn’t have to pay for any of them. I loved what they sent in, and only wished I could have used all of them!

Sandy: Music really sets the tone and you've made some great selections here for your trailer's "mood." Tell us about the music selection process as well as the permissions involved.

Megan: Here’s the story on that. For the main song, I wanted to go with something jazzy and upbeat, so I created a little reggae type of song through Garage Band. Then after I was searching through iTunes for my little ditty that I’d created, I was clicking here and there (see? You can tell I’ve never done this before, ha ha!) and was like “maybe this is it!” and all of a sudden, instead of my jazzy tune, it was this dramatic opera song that my childhood pal Diane sang last year (actually, that’s us in the picture on her wedding day, me helping her with her veil).

Once I clicked and started listening, after answering my question to “what the heck is this?” of course, I knew then that I had to use both songs, to convey both the cheerful and dramatic types of stories that are in this collection. As for permissions, since I created the one song I just asked myself if I could use it (and I agreed!), and simply shot Diane an e-mail to get her permission, so that part was a cinch!

Sandy: What was the easiest part of this whole process for you?

Megan: Creating the song through Garage Band was so incredibly easy that I was shocked. You just click on a type of music you want to play, and then you can play around with the different instruments to create different sounds within that song template. I’m no musician or composer, and they make it super-easy by already having some songs available, all you’re doing is mixing it up a little to suit your taste.

Sandy: And what was the hardest?

Megan: It was incredibly challenging to figure out how to create the actual nuts and bolts of the video. I do the “press every button within vicinity until it does what I want” approach, so that’s how I ended up doing it. But everything, from placing photos in the frames to figuring out the timing of each frame to putting words on there to laying the music down took a lot of time. But I was determined to do it myself!

Sandy: If you could share one tip with someone else creating their first book trailer, what would it be?

Megan: Be patient, you’ll figure it all out—I had never done this before and if I can do it, you can! Also, if I may, I watched a LOT of book trailers while I was researching this, and I like the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously. Have fun with it!

Sandy: Anything else?

Megan: Yes! I want to thank you, Sandy, for always being such a great supporter of book author’s publicity efforts. I really appreciate it and I’ve learned a lot from you since I’ve had the pleasure of taking your class and seeing your advice on the freelance boards!

Here's Megan's video. Let it inspire you!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Editors Are Busy; That's Good News for You

Assigning editors are busy -- so busy, in fact, that they often get story or segment ideas from other media outlets because they don't have time to uncover something "new," "fresh," or "novel."

Local TV stations, for example, rely heavily on the local daily newspaper for stories to air. But it happens just as often on the national level, too. I received an e-mail today from the host of a Web TV program who was quoted in a national business magazine on the popularity of Web TV shows; he asked people on his mailing list to leave a comment about the story on the publication's Web site. Why? He tells us, "If there are enough comments, other news media will pick up on the article, and it's likely to appear in various well known print publications."

He's half right. Well-known print publications will not reprint an article that appeared in a major national business publication. But, comments or not, if an editor at one of those "well known print publications" (or at a not well-known print publication) sees the article and thinks the topic is a good fit for the outlet's target audience, he might assign his own article on the subject and interview some of the sources featured in the first article.

So, as I've mentioned here before, publicity begets publicity. Get that first mention without worrying about whether it's in just the right media outlet. Get out there and get known. You might be surprised at how a small amount of exposure leads to much more down the road.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

P.S. You'd Better Be a Good Guest, Too!

As a follow-up to last week's posting about how to get on radio talk shows, it's worth noting that it's more important than ever to be a good talk show guest. More and more stations are using a device called the Portable People Meter to monitor how listeners respond to programming. The PPM is so precise in its evaluation of listening habits that station programmers can determine what PPM users were listening to when they decided to change the station -- and which station they switched to.

Program directors are, in fact, using the data to decide which guests do and don't get invited back.

The implications for us as radio talk show guests are pretty clear: We had better learn how to be good guests if we want to

  1. be heard
  2. get invited back
  3. enjoy the easy publicity that comes with referrals from one talk show host to another (and that happens)
The solution? Get educated about how to be a good guest and consider getting professional media training. If you don't have access to media trainers, ask a local jock who does a lot of drive time interviews to spend a few hours with you doing practice interviews and critiquing your responses. Feedback is essential -- it helps you identify what listeners will and won't respond to.

Are you a great radio talk show guest? What do you do that gets you invited back?

Friday, September 18, 2009

How to Get on Radio Talk Shows

Radio talk show host and producer Mark Kaye shared tips on how to get on radio talk shows last month when he was a guest on a teleseminar that I hosted. I took some notes during the 60-minute call, which was loaded with great information for anybody who wants to get on the radio to promote a product, service, or issue. Here are some of Mark's tips from the call:
  • Mark says that too many guests want to talk about themselves. Radio listeners are not interested in us or our products. They tune in for information and entertainment and if we don't provide that, they'll change the station.
  • Authors hoping to promote a book can send a PDF copy of the book or a PDF file with a chapter or two for the producer to review before making a decision about scheduling the author as a guest. This eliminates the expense of sending the actual book.
  • Talk show producers and hosts like to know that you'll be a good guest, so reassure them by posting audio clips of other interviews you've done -- podcasts are fine -- on your Web site.
  • Make your product, book, service, issue, etc. relevant by linking it to what people are talking about today. Check http://twitter.com for the "Trending Topics" on the right side of the screen to learn what's generating buzz each day.

If your publicity plan involves radio talk show appearances, check out Mark's "Radio Publicity Star" audio program for great information on who to contact at radio stations, how to contact them, how to be a great guest and get referred to other stations, and so on. It's a great program and I'm proud to be affiliated with it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Register Now for Book Publicity E-course (October 5-30, 2009)

Authors who know the importance of book publicity but can’t afford a pricey publicist now have a very affordable option: a book publicity and promotion e-course offering four weeks of personalized instruction and feedback for under $200. My “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz,” e-course is October 5-30, 2009.

The highly-interactive courses – one for traditionally published authors and one for self-published authors – cover how to:
  • Use social networking tools to promote your book
  • Create a book publicity blueprint that makes the most of your available resources
  • Craft the most compelling media materials needed to generate results for your book -- not anyone else's
  • Conduct a virtual book tour with bloggers who can help you build buzz quickly
  • Employ the media relations tools that will take you the farthest fastest
  • Generate high-impact radio interviews
  • Build an author Web site that supports book sales and other goals
  • And plenty more
The course includes:
  • All instruction materials
  • Instructor feedback on all homework assignments and highly-personalized guidance
  • Unlimited question and answer sessions on the forum

The forum format allows students to proceed at their own pace each week, making it the most flexible learning option available. They receive instructional materials and resources and complete weekly assignments that help them discover how easy it is to create book buzz. My guidance and feedback helps take your work to the next level while student interaction on the forum offers fresh perspectives and new ideas for all participants. A free-for-all Q&A corner lets students get answers to questions not covered in the course materials, making this a highly-personalized learning experience for nonfiction and fiction authors.

Registration is $199 and limited to 20 students.

Authors with traditional publishers can register at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/book-publicity.htm. Self-published authors can register at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/self-published.htm. Got a question? Send me a note: sbATbuildbookbuzz.com.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rhetoric Has an Impact

The way the rhetoric is flying around the health care debate, you'd think we were still in the middle of a presidential election.

Politicians know better than anybody that rhetoric has an impact -- just ask Sarah Palin. Her op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, "Obama and the Bureaucratization of Health Care," uses that nasty, nasty phrase "death panel" when referring to the Obama plan.

She knows there was never a plan for a "death panel" just like she knows it's inflammatory language. And, she knows that people hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts, so she uses phrases like this to create support among those who (a) have no common sense and (b) don't do any research or fact-checking of their own.

Now how smart is that? Politicians -- not just Palin -- do an amazingly good job of leveraging peoples' fears and ignorance. Their goal isn't to inform. It's just to convince the population that the opponent's stance is unacceptable -- "Vote for me! I won't (insert awful thing here)!"

It's not a communications tactic that I use or like in my own business, but it's effective. And it's one you can use when working to sway public opinion or to sell products or services. But be careful if you do. You might be mistaken for a politician. Make sure that fits with your business goals.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Are Colleges Sharing Enough with Parents?

My oldest daughter attends a major Northeastern university; the youngest goes to a small private Jesuit college. The parent relations coordinator at the small school is doing an excellent job of keeping us informed about the swine flu situation on campus (100+ confirmed cases already). Her counterpart at the huge school? Not so much.

I'm getting almost daily e-mails from the Jesuit school telling me that they've encouraged kids to go home for the long Labor Day weekend to reduce the number of people on campus or about how they've set up an isolation ward for students who are sick but can't go home to recover. I feel like I'm as on top of this as I can be from such a distance and I appreciate the steady flow of information from the school. Anyone who isn't getting these e-mails can check the school's dedicated H1N1 Web page for daily updates.

To find out what was going on at my other daughter's large school, I used Google. There's a Web page addressing the situation, but it doesn't say if there are any confirmed cases on campus and the last update was a week ago.

This is no surprise. When the horrifying massacre at Virginia Tech dominated headlines a few years ago, I expected an e-mail from the university reassuring me that the school had a plan in place that would help prevent this from occurring there or that it had briefed students on how to react in a similar situation. Did I get such an e-mail? Nope. Thinking that maybe the school just didn't have my e-mail address, I watched my USPS mail for a letter updating me on the school's efforts to keep my daughter safe. Didn't get that, either. My daughter received e-mails from school officials on the topic, which is good, but as her parent and one of the people paying her bills at that school, I don't think it was unreasonable for me to expect to hear from the college then or now.

I'm left wondering: Does big university = bad communication with parents and small university = good communication with parents? Is the difference size or is it attitude? I have no idea, but I'm grateful that at least one of them recognizes that I am concerned about the health and safety of my children.

It's a reminder that we sometimes forget that all of our "stakeholders" are important -- not just some of them. Every time we're in a position to make an announcement or communicate important information, we need to review our list of stakeholders. Are we overlooking any group? It's always better to over communicate than to under communicate.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't Include Known Spam Triggers in Your Press Releases

It's not easy writing press releases that will always make it past spam filters and get to their intended recipients. The list of words and phrases that trigger spam alerts seems to keep growing.

To help people like us, SalesNexus has published a list of more than 300 words or phrases to avoid using in e-mail messages. I'd share some here, but then the people who subscribe to this blog via e-mail might not receive the message. Let's just say that I was surprised by some of them.

SalesNexus, a Web-based contact management company, has also published an e-book with e-mail marketing advice -- some of which might apply to publicists using e-mail to connect with journalists.

Thanks to the folks at SalesNexus for making this list available on the company's site. They're doing a nice job of showing, rather than telling, that the way to win customers is to share information that illustrates that they know what they're doing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Let’s Brainstorm Book Publicity Pitches

While writing in my Build Book Buzz newsletter about Pitch for PR, a new free service that sends story or segment ideas from publicists to journalists who sign up to receive the ideas via e-mail, I offered to help my subscribers develop pitches they can use to get publicity for their books.

I think my newsletter readers understand that they can't just say, "Write about my new book," but for some, especially novelists, coming up with a news hook or a story idea can be a challenge.

So, readers, let's get going. If you'd like help, please post a short description of your book and a sentence or two explaining why you're the most appropriate author for that book. We can all brainstorm the angles you can use to get publicity, whether it's through Pitch for PR or on your own. (This type of collaborative thinking and instruction is representative of the support authors receive from me and other students in the Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz e-course that I teach; the next class is October 5-30, 2009.) I'm looking forward to this!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Bud Light Folks Aren't as Lightweight as They Look

The latest headline surrounding Anheuser-Busch's recent college marketing campaign -- "FTC Criticizes College-Themed Cans in Anheuser-Busch Marketing Efforts" -- makes you wonder which applies here:
  • a. The folks at Anheuser-Busch are beer nuts
  • b. The folks at Anheuser-Busch created the plan to make headlines
The company has introduced Bud Light cans in popular college team colors; the novel cans are for use in bars near those college campuses and elsewhere in the college communities. A-B maintains that this isn't an effort to appeal to the underage drinkers that populate schools and universities. The company says the promotion targets legal age drinkers and is designed to make a warm and fuzzy connection between the brew and the 21+ drinker's favorite local team.

As a former product publicity manager at a distiller, I know a bit about corporate social responsibility in the beverage alcohol industry, so I'm going with choice b.: The marketers at A-B know exactly what they're doing . . . and what they're doing is getting a whole lot of free media attention.

Carol Clark, the brewer's vice president of social responsibility, defends the promotion by saying that because the cans don't bear a school name or logo, there's no harm done. As my friends at the Licensing Resource Group will tell you, the brewer can't use those identifying marks, or the school's mascot, without a licensing agreement with the school and no school is going to provide the requisite permission. Many, in fact, are asking A-B to drop the program in their communities. So this "we have been discreet with the package design" defense is laughable. Their only option was to use "just" the school colors.

In addition, the fact that the promotion was "optional" for A-B's distributors shows that the company knew it would be controversial.

Nobody in the beverage alcohol industry would launch a program like this without being fully aware of the backlash it would create. Instead, it's a reflection of the state of the industry today -- that Anheuser-Busch is so desperate to sell beer that it has to resort to generating controversy to do so.

What do you think? Is the brewer crazy like a fox or is this "brew-haha" much ado about nothing?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Are the People Who Comment on Newspaper Web Sites So Nasty?

I was interviewed this morning by the social services reporter at a large Southwestern daily newspaper for an article about whether "all publicity is good publicity." She was working on a follow-up column to an article she had written about a local charity that had an attention-getting and novel fundraising idea: The group helps dig wells in a Third World nation; volunteers were raising money for their work by refusing to shower until all participants had reached their fundraising goals.

I love this idea. There's a strong (pun intended) incentive here for friends, family, and co-workers to donate to the organization. In addition, the stunt has a direct connection to the cause -- volunteers won't use water to shower until people help them bring water to those who don't have it.

The reporter is writing a follow-up story because of the overwhelming volume of mean and nasty comments to her first article on her newspaper's Web site. Was the negative chatter going to hurt the charity? Is this a backlash? We talked a bit about my opinion but also about why that was happening and why there were so many comments on such a non-controversial topic. I suspect that with an increase in the unemployment rate, there are more unhappy people with enough time on their hands to take out their frustration on a group of Gen Yers who are trying to help make the world a better place. And then there's the anonymity that newspapers give their online commenters. People will say all kinds of things when they are using a fictional persona.

What's your take on this? Why do you think that so many online commenters think that attacking the subjects of a story is appropriate? Do you think they'd say something like "Get your stinking butts back to Seattle" in a face-to-face encounter?

I'm interested in learning more about the reasons for this anti-social behavior, but understanding it won't change my patterns -- I still won't read the comments on my newspaper's site. I rarely learn anything useful from them other than alternative spellings for "imbecile."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Publicist for a Day: HomeDecInASec.com

My friend Sue Sampson has a really cool Web site for her custom window treatment business, HomeDecInASec.com. I think it deserves more media attention than it gets, so I'm offering some tips here that are easy for her to implement. My goal with blogging about it, of course -- instead of just calling Sue and saying, "Hey! Try this!" -- is to give others something to think about, too. Much of what works for one situation will work for another when tweaked a bit.

I am going to call myself Sue's "Publicist for a Day."

What I love about Sue's site -- http://www.homedecinasec.com/ -- is the interactive nature of it. I can pick out the style I like, select a fabric that appeals to me, put the two together, and see the "finished" product displayed against a wall that matches the color of my room. I mean really, how cool is that? You might expect that functionality at the Web site of a huge manufacturer or retailer, but this site is the brainchild of two women -- Sue and her business partner, Ellen -- and I think that makes it extra cool. (Sue and Ellen also create Home Dec in a Sec patterns for McCalls; the Web site is an outgrowth of that business.)

As Sue's Publicist for a Day, I'd:
  • Set up Google alerts for "window treatments" and other key phrases. I'd use them to help me identify quickly who's talking about the topic on blogs or Web sites and to start building a custom media list of journalists and reputable bloggers who appear to write about the topic regularly.
  • Establish tiers of target media -- Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, etc. -- in terms of importance to Sue's business. That helps me prioritize and focus my limited time (1 day!) on what will generate the greatest return on investment in the quickest amount of time.
  • Tap into Sue's intellectual capital to generate a list of tip sheet ideas, then write and distribute the best one to the living sections of daily newspapers nationwide. Tip sheets are press releases that offer tips or advice in a bulleted or numbered format. Sue can offer advice on how to select the right treatment for a window with an unusual shape, tips for sewing your own window treatments, advice on the latest home decorating colors and trends and how they translate to window treatments, or what to look for in a quality product.
  • Develop an angle to pitch to radio station talk shows reaching Sue's target demographic. She should talk about more than window treatments, of course -- the top home decorating myths would be interesting, perhaps -- and her URL is memorable, making radio a good option for getting the word out.
  • Identify the top 6 or so media outlets that reach Sue's targeted audience and review them carefully to become familiar with their content. Then I'd develop a specific article idea for each that could include an interview with Sue or a mention of http://www.homedecinasec.com/.

That's about all I could tackle in one day probably (because I'd like to take a long lunch with Sue, too, maybe having my favorite chopped Americana salad at Champps...).

When thinking about your own publicity activities, especially when you have limited time for this work, always start by focusing on those people who are clearly most likely to be interested in your product or service or who have the greatest impact on sales. For HomeDecInASec.com, that might be professional interior decorators, not homeowners.

Finally, make a plan! As someone once said, failing to plan is planning to fail. A plan will give you structure and accountability.

I'm thinking about being a Publicist for a Day on a regular basis. Want me to be yours? Send a note to me at sbATbuildbookbuzz.com.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nonprofit PR Awards Deadline is September 18, 2009

Getting lots of high fives for a nonprofit PR project this year? See if it's truly a winner by entering it in the PRNews Nonproft PR Awards competition. The deadline for entries is September 18, 2009.

Like most of these national awards programs, this one invites top industry leaders to review entries for innovation, creativity, and excellent outcomes. Competition is tough, so before you take the time, energy, and money to enter, be honest about your project. Is it truly, truly, outstanding, or was the outcome what anyone would have expected under the circumstances? As a past judge of PRSA's Silver and Bronze Anvil Award competitions (and a Silver Anvil winner), I have to say (with disappointment) that lots of people enter material that is average at best.

Make sure yours makes it past the first round of judging by reading the guidelines here and following instructions carefully.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to Use Google Alerts to Get Publicity

Because I just added a free guide to setting up Google and Twitter alerts to my Web site, I'd like to share the tips on using Google alerts to get publicity that I presented in my book publicity newsletter several months ago.

Here they are:

Set up Google alerts for your name, product, and topic. This free online clipping service will send a note and link to your e-mail inbox every time your specified search term shows up on the Web. When the alerts start popping into your mailbox unexpectedly like those last few popcorn kernels that wake up suddenly when you open the microwave bag, capitalize on this online exposure so you extend the mileage and impact.

Here are four things you can do once Google has alerted you that you’re in the news:

1. Link to appropriate online references from your Web site.

Use those glowing product reviews to influence potential buyers by excerpting them on your Web site and linking to the full review. If it’s an article or interview quoting you as an expert, provide a brief summary on your site with a link to the full article.

2. If your product is reviewed or mentioned on a blog, propose an online interview.

When I received the Google Alert telling me that Chris Forbes of Ministry Marketing Coach included my book Publicity for Nonprofits in his recommended reading list, I sent him a thank you note and asked if he’d like to do a Q&A with me on his blog. He did; we completed the two-posting exchange via e-mail. Chris also suggested I contact his colleague Nedra Weinreich about doing something similar for her Spare Change blog. Thanks to that introduction, I was Nedra’s guest blogger for a week.

3. When the reviewer is a blogger, your product is a book, and the comments are positive, ask the individual to repeat the comments on your book’s Amazon page.

Don’t be shy. When you’ve been alerted that someone has said something nice about your writing, send a note with your version of: “Thank you so much for the kind words about my book on your blog. I would be grateful if you would post your observations on Amazon.com, too, because I’m told that Amazon reviews from influential people like you help others make purchasing decisions. I’d be happy to return the favor by doing a guest Q&A on your blog if you’re interested.”

4. Find and add journalists covering your topic to your publicity media list.

Journalists – whether they are the traditional or “citizen” type – who have written on your topic once might be writing about it again, so put them on your media distribution list once your topic alerts send you links to their stories. Send them tip sheets or news releases, or pitch article or segment ideas. Stay in front of them so they think of you as an expert resource when they need one with your credentials. Add those reviewers mentioned in tip 3 to your list, too.

I hope you find the free guide, "How to set up Google and Twitter alerts," helpful. It won't take much time for you to get on top of who's saying what about your area of expertise.

Have you used alerts to get publicity? Tell us how you did it!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Beer Summit Brewhaha: U.S. Brewers are Crying in their Beer

The nation's brewers have done an excellent job of turning this week's news story about the "Beer Summit" at the White House between President Obama, Harvard professor Henry Gates, and Cambridge police officer James Crowley, into a publicity opportunity.

Gracious host that he is, the President provided his guests with their favorite brewskis. It was one small way to make them feel comfortable and welcome as they discussed a topic that has created tension nationwide -- while they talked about it in an incredibly intimidating environment.

As soon as the favorite brews of participants were revealed, domestic brewers pounced on the opportunity to create headlines by complaining that the selection of imported brands was anti-American. One of them was a company in my own backyard, Genesee Brewery, which issued a whiney statement about how the summit beverages were not American-made.

I love how so many brewers responded so quickly with the same "we've been screwed" comment. It makes me wonder if all of their PR people had a conference call to talk about whether they would get more attention by all whining to the press separately, or by leaving it to an industry group to speak on their behalf. ("You make the comment about how the beers should have been brewed by American workers and you talk about the evils of foreign domination!")

I hope much of the fussing is tongue in cheek, though. The point of this summit was to help open a dialogue. It's hard to get people comfortable enough to do this if you over-orchestrate every detail. These gentlemen were in an awkward position -- let them at least enjoy their favorite brew. If it's not your brand, try to convert them now by delivering a case of your best product to their doors. It's not like you don't know where Gates lives.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Should Buzz Marketing be Authentic?

An article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal about a "stealth marketing" tactic to promote "I Love You Beth Cooper," a movie that flopped , resurrected my discomfort with some of the buzz campaigns I've seen or heard about. They use trickery to fool and hook people. I'm left wondering: What's the role of authenticity in viral marketing?

The WSJ story told how the movie's marketers tried to use a Los Angeles-area high school valedictorian to trick people into thinking that the movie, which opens with a valedictorian confessing his love for a classmate, inspired copycat confessions across the country. The valedictorian -- you guessed it -- confessed her love for a classmate and for this she was paid $1,800 by the marketers. "I love you, Jake Minor!" she proclaimed at the end of her speech. Did she really love Jake Minor? No. She had a small crush on him earlier that year, but had moved on. She was simply a valedictorian who had agreed to accept money to do what the marketers wanted her to do.

Sometimes the deceit is never uncovered -- no harm done, I suppose. But how about when it is? How do people react when they learn they've been tricked by marketers? Are they bothered by the dishonesty or a lack of transparency? Is there any backlash? I don't know the answers but it's a safe bet that I'm not the only one who dislikes dishonesty as a marketing tool. Outright deception -- which is not the same thing as clever marketing -- would cause me to think twice about staying loyal to a brand. From my perspective, any customer loss is a bad thing.

How do you feel when you discover that a marketer has gone over the top with the smoke and mirrors?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to Create Compelling Sound Bites

In "The Art of the Sound Bite" last week, I wrote about how Rachel Weingarten, a noted and quoted trends and marketing expert and author of Career and Corporate Cool, is such a little sound bite queen. Rachel was kind enough to do a Q&A with me about how she does it and what we can learn from her experience. Here's our chat:

Q. You do such a fantastic job of being quotable! Is this something that comes naturally to you, or did you have to work at it?

RcW: Thanks! I think it's a little of both. I've always had pretty strong opinions and was eager to share them. Over time though, I realized that it was less important to comment on everything and more important to make memorable comments on the things most important to you. In addition to being a marketer, I'm also a writer and most appreciate the really tasty and targeted tidbits offered by some people, so I always take that into account when offering my own quotes. I also try to offer a few great sound bites to choose from because what seems most interesting to me, might not be the most useful or on target quip to the writer.

Q. What are some of the qualities of a good sound bite? By that I mean, what makes you say, "What a sound bite!" when you hear one or read it in print?

RcW: Is it quotable? Do you automatically hear it and say, "I have to call my sister/mother/best friend and tell her what I just read." Does it make you think or laugh or say, "That's exactly what I thought."

Q. What elements do most good sound bites have in common?

RcW: I think the fact that they resonate with people. That they make people feel included in some way in the article or feature, that they make you laugh or gasp or nod your head in agreement.

Q. If you were teaching people how to craft sound bites, what would you tell them to do? What instructions would you give them?

RcW: Well, I do teach people about crafting their personal brands and I would advise them to use a lot of their own personality and image when crafting a sound bite as well. While it's easy to identify a quip made by Mark Twain or Dorothy Parker, these days people have so many substitutes speaking for them that it can be harder to know who's real and who has a publicist doing the talking for them. Above all else, I'd say strive for authenticity and conveying your voice, your opinion and your sense of humor in a short, tasty sound bite. It's better to sound slightly rough as yourself, than perfectly polished but indistinguishable from everyone else.

Thanks so much to Rachel for sharing! Discover more about her opinions at http://rachelcw.com/.

Heard or read a good sound bite recently? Please post it here!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learn How to Get on Radio Talk Shows

Need to know how to become a radio talk show guest? I'm hosting a free teleseminar on that topic the evening of August 12, at 7 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Mountain, 4 p.m. Pacific).

My guest is Mark Kaye, a radio talk show host, producer, and personality who is hell-bent on helping people like us discover how easy it is to get on the air. The program, “Get on Radio Talk Shows and Sell More Books!,” is geared to authors, but I've already got a lot of nonprofit leaders and small business owners registered for the free program because the advice Mark will provide applies to anyone seeking the valuable exposure their business will enjoy through radio interviews.

Learn more about the teleseminar and register at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/teleseminar/. I'll send everybody who registers a link to a recording of the call, so even if you're busy that night, go ahead and register. You'll still be able to listen to it later.