Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is Your Online Presence Authentic?

Matt Lauer asked John Grisham about his Facebook page during today's interview to promote Grisham's new book, The Associate. "You've got a Facebook page as part of this book. What have you learned from that?" asked Lauer. Grisham's response was stunning: "I didn't know I had one until yesterday. I didn't set the thing up, OK? I couldn't find it if I had to."

Let's skip the fact that if Lauer was prepped to ask that question, Grisham should have been prepped with a better answer. Duh.

The other lesson here is that those of us with a social networking presence should be authentic. Grisham's Facebook page is anything but. Social networking is all about connecting with people with a common interest. It's about building relationships and establishing trust. You're wasting your time with the whole endeavor if you're not authentic. While it's no surprise to me that Grisham has nothing to do with his Facebook page, most people won't know that he is completely disconnected from this marketing effort. Will it hurt the Grisham brand when they read the post on the page titled, "John Grisham: Not Big on Facebook?" Maybe. But it sure won't help.

So be real. Be you. Be authentic.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Publicity Tips for New Product Launch

Have you seen the new Coach Wooden card collection featuring the inspirational comments of famed basketball coach John Wooden? Designed and produced by a graphic artist with years of experience in the greeting card industry, they have a masculine sensibility that is perfect for the guy who "gets" Coach Wooden's wisdom but hasn't been a greeting card kind of guy -- until now.

This publisher will need to make the most of small business publicity opportunities for this new product launch. Here are some suggestions that focus strictly on publicity -- getting the card line into the news media -- to get the process rolling. I realize that small business owners get overwhelmed when approaching tasks like these that they have never done before, so I'll only offer initial steps right now:
  • Start local. Write and send an announcement to your local media first. Use the USPS so that you can include samples, because these cards are first class and you can't communicate that with a JPG or a link to the Web site. Make sure it's clear in the release that you're a local entrepreneur.
  • Follow up on these mailings by phone or e-mail, offering to do an interview about how you had the opportunity to work with the celebrated Coach Wooden. Learn how to do interviews -- and how not to do interviews -- with these local experiences before you pursue national media outlets.
  • Next, determine the media outlets read, watched, and listened to by the national target market for the cards. For this product, these might include daily newspapers; men's, general interest, sports and business magazines; TV sports networks; TV radio talk shows; bloggers specializing in men's issues, motivation, basketball, sports, etc.; and all UCLA alumni publications. I would include trade magazines on this list, too, to help drive retail distribution.
  • Set up your media list into two tiers: Those that are especially important to your product's success because of their power or influence -- those you're willing to invest in -- and those that are important, but not key influencers.
  • Tweak your announcement press release so it addresses a national, not local, audience and send it to those tier 1 media outlets via USPS with 4 actual cards so these key media gatekeepers can see the quality firsthand. Send the release to the tier 2 outlets electronically.
  • Follow up with all of your tier 1 outlets by e-mail or phone, offering to send JPGs of the card to use as illustrations, to schedule interviews, to answer questions, etc. Be prepared to respond to requests for interviews with Coach Wooden.
  • Once you've done this, start looking for story ideas that will fit your tier 1 media outlets and pitch those stories one by one. Because it's unrealistic to expect a national magazine to profile your company alone, look for companies that have done something similar to what you've done so that your story idea is more likely to get serious consideration. If, for example, this line of cards is being produced by a licensing agreement, find other small businesses that have snagged licensing deals with "big names" and pitch a story offering tips for others who would like to duplicate your success.

I'll stop here but welcome comments on other "entry-level" tactics this small business can use to launch this product line through the news media.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Buzz Kill: How to Make Sure You Never Get Another Call from a Reporter

A journalist friend complained recently that the author of a self-published cookbook said she was "too busy" to schedule an interview for a large feature in a major consumer magazine. (I don't want to tell you the name of the magazine, but I will say that it rhymes with "wealth.")

"I can't," the cookbook queen told my friend. "I'm too busy filling orders." Dumbfounded by the response, my friend gave her one last chance, figuring that perhaps the woman hadn't quite heard the name of the magazine or wasn't making the connection between that magazine's readers and the author's cookbook. It was, in fact, a perfect match, so she reminded the author of this. The woman declined again.

Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say that my friend just caught her on a bad day. Let's also learn from this.

Please don't turn away a journalist who is willing to promote your product, service, or organization in exchange for 15 to 20 minutes of your time on the phone spent talking about what you know best. I realize that sometimes busy people have to be selective about the media outlets they talk to, but I will also say that you'd be surprised at what you can generate from readers/viewers/listeners of offline or online outlets that seem, on the surface, to be off target for you.

This cookbook author won't get a second chance with this particular journalist, who specializes in articles related to the topic of the cookbook. I hope for her sake that this misstep was just a fluke, and not a pattern. I want to see authors thrive -- not just survive -- and this one has me worried.

Have you ever declined to be interviewed by one of your target media outlets? What happened?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Female Audience Editor: Media Trend?

My daily newspaper, like so many others, is making changes that will allow it to continue publishing. One of them is a new job title for a writer for the "Living" or features section. She is now the "female audience editor."

I noticed the new title in last Monday's paper, a day after the newspaper outlined in the op-ed section the many changes it was implementing and why. This change was not mentioned, which isn't surprising.

But as the author of an out-of-print humor book (WHY CAN'T A MAN BE MORE LIKE A WOMAN?) that addresses gender differences and as a student of media trends that I can share here to help you better publicize your cause, product, etc., I was curious about the new title. I sent an e-mail to the section editor asking her:
  • Why the change?
  • Is there a "male audience editor" and if yes, who?
  • Is this part of a trend among daily newspapers now?
I noted that I'd like to share her responses on this blog.

She responded immediately by saying she was not authorized to comment and that she passed my e-mail "up the ladder" for a response. Well, shucks, that's even better. I'll certainly get a bigger picture overview to share here, right?

I haven't heard a thing from those folks on that ladder, so I'll make up stuff that I think they would tell me and I'll be less careful than they would about how I express it.

The change in job title is most likely a continuation of this paper's efforts to become more relevant to specific audiences. It's a Gannett paper and it already publishes several special interest publications. One of them was Her magazine but since I can't find anything about it on the paper's Web site -- just a link to the "Her" online community -- it's a good guess that the print publication folded and the concept is being executed online. (Gosh, if somebody had responded to my original e-mail, I wouldn't be putting questionable information out here, would I?)

I believe the "male audience editor" exists, but with a different job title: sports editor.

Is this a trend? I'm going to guess "not yet." I think that newspapers nationwide are struggling to find what works today. This new title might suggest that this individual is the editor for the "Her" online content on the paper's Web site, too, and that perhaps we'll see less reporting from her in the daily paper. That's unfortunate for me because I like reading her stories. It's also unfortunate because that section of the paper is using more recycled content from its other products, including "Her," and the recycled content isn't nearly as well-written as the content produced by the staffers. There have been several occasions when I've read an article and thought, "Huh? Who wrote this?" and discovered it was a freelancer.

This strategy might save money but could backfire because recycling lesser-quality content into my daily paper isn't going to keep me hooked. And there's nothing unique about me, so if it doesn't work for me, it probably won't work for others, either. It's going to push me away. My newspaper employs excellent feature writers who know how to report. I'd like to read more of what they have to share with me, not less of it. I'm now scanning the bylines and as soon as I see the piece was written by a freelancer, I don't read it, because it just isn't as well-written as what the staffers produce.

I want my daily newspaper to succeed. I want to continue reading it every morning. There's a place for it in my daily routine, but only if it's relevant to me. For me, relevance comes through quality content that has less to do with my gender and more to do with how I use my time both at work and at play.

What changes are you seeing with your daily? And do you like them?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

7 book publicity questions, 7 answers

Allbusiness.com PR columnist Leslie Levine recently interviewed me about book publicity, running my answers to her seven questions in three consecutive columns. I hope you'll find my answers to her thoughtful questions helpful. Leslie is an author, too, so her questions come from her own knowledge of how the system works.

Part 1: http://tinyurl.com/9l9uay

Part 2: http://tinyurl.com/7hmuzz

Part 3: http://tinyurl.com/9b4saz

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Learn How to Promote Your Book in Affordable E-Course

Authors who know the importance of book publicity but can’t afford a pricey publicist have a very affordable option: my book publicity and promotion e-course offering four weeks of personalized instruction and feedback for under $200. “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz,” is a dynamic online course taught in two versions and running from February 2-27, 2009.

I teach it in a forum format, with lessons and homework assignments posted online in an easy-to-use password-protected forum. The highly-interactive courses – one for traditionally published authors and one for self-published authors – cover how to:

* Create a book publicity blueprint that makes the most of your available resources
* Craft the most compelling media materials needed to generate results
* 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

Students receive instructional materials and resources and complete weekly assignments that help them discover how easy it is to create book buzz. Many tell me that the most valuable component is the one-on-one instructor guidance and feedback designed to take your work to the next level. But you get input from other students, too, as they offer fresh perspectives and new ideas for all participants in response to homework or on the free-for-all Q&A forum. There, students get answers to questions not covered in the course materials, making this a highly-personalized learning experience for nonfiction and fiction authors.

Please note that it's harder to generate publicity for fiction than it is for nonfiction, so this course is an excellent choice for novelists because it gives them the extra hand-holding they need to find the non-fiction nuggets in their stories and use them to capture media buzz.

Registration is $199 and limited to 20 students. Get the scoop on the class for traditionally-published authors at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/book-publicity.htm and the details on the slightly different version for self-published authors at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/self-published.htm. Both pages include comments from past students about how much the course helped them.

Questions? Just send me an e-mail.