Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fire This Publicist!

Here's the last line of a press release I just received: "Editor’s Note: Permission to publish this release online is granted on the condition that a live link to (URL, which I've deleted here to spare the online retailer embarrassment) is included."

Well, gee, online retailer publicist, you've pretty much guaranteed that the release won't get picked up by legitimate media outlets because, quite simply, this isn't how the publicist-news media relationship works.

Journalists and other media gatekeepers do not take direction from publicists, whether they're arrogant and ignorant as this one is, or whether they are helpful and smart. Publicists simply aren't in control.

But wait! There's more!

Sadly for the retailer employing this goof, that usage command wasn't the only mistake. The release didn't identify anything in its content as news. The release, which was promoting a line of exotic pasta, leads with a quote from someone who has never tasted the pasta, but seems to want to. It is followed by comments from two other people who would like to taste it, too, but haven't.

The not-quite-testimonials are followed by a photo of the pasta over which is super-imposed, "Enter to win 5 lbs of (product name)." I never look at photos imbedded into the middle of press releases because I'm more interested in the news, not the pictures, so I didn't even notice the photos the first time -- I scrolled right past them to learn that the comments were submitted as part of a contest to win pasta. Oh. Like I care. But I knew this was blog fodder, so I kept reading, but still didn't find anything I would call "news" or even a call to action that says, "Hey you, go to this URL and enter the contest so you can win free pasta!" Nothing.

And, to make it worse, instead of actually encouraging people to enter the contest by saying how easy it is to enter or encouraging them to enter now by offering a deadline, the "press release" actually says, "While this sounds easy, many of those visiting the blog have written that the task is harder than it at first appears."

OMG. Stop. You're killing me.

It wraps up with two paragraphs that mention three companies, followed by the "rules" statement referenced above.

Let's learn from this

This is a lesson waiting to be taught.... Here's what we can learn from this:
  1. Do not impose rules. Journalists don't respond well to publicists who give them orders. Especially orders that show the publicist doesn't know how things work.
  2. Make sure you're offering news in your press release. Otherwise, what's the point? Before you sit down to write, be clear on what you want as the end result. It will help you find the right words.
  3. Put your news in the 1st or 2nd paragraph. The news in this release might have been that there was an online contest to win pasta, but I'm not even sure about that. And if that was the news, I would have had to go to the Web site for more information before I could report on it, and I would have had to start from scratch with my reporting.
  4. Write your press release using a style that you see in the newspaper or online. Nobody in the media -- not even citizen journalists -- writes like this guy, which means his stuff is just plain harder to use.
What's the worst example of a press release you've seen lately? Share the highlights here!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Please Take Book Publicity Survey

I publish a free book publicity e-zine, teach an e-course on the topic, and publish a publicity action guide/workbook for authors. To make sure I always provide content and educational opportunities that are as relevant as possible, I've posted a short survey online. I hope you’ll take just five minutes to complete it so we can both benefit from your input. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/d37nfn.

And…as an incentive, everybody who completes the survey will be entered into a drawing to receive a free copy of my workbook, “Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.” This is a $97 value – and it will only cost you five minutes of your time!

Thank you so much for your help!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New SONY Gadget Scores Huge Exposure on ONN

Here's an entertaining report on The Onion News Network about a new SONY electronic gadget. Although I laughed at the entire report -- especially the crawl at the bottom of the screen -- as a former publicist, I especially appreciate the classic spokesperson language: "We listened hard to what our customers said they wanted the most out of their home entertainment systems...." It's straight from the consumer products press release 101 manual.

Here's the report, but don't play it if you're offended by the f-bomb.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why You Need Expert Positioning

I read an article by Joan Price recently that outlined some of her book promotion experiences (to receive a copy of the article, e-mail Joan). She noted that her publisher’s goal for the launch of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty was to position her as an expert on senior sexuality. This caught my attention because it’s what I teach in my book publicity e-course, but it’s a concept that many of my students struggle to grasp. They don’t see themselves as experts.

I interviewed Joan about what the expert positioning did for her book promotion and what she learned about the experience. Here's her story:

Q. How easy or difficult was it for you to accept that you were an expert on your book’s topic? Please tell me a little bit about how you reacted or what you thought of the suggestion.

I loved it! I was eager to talk out loud about senior sexuality, a subject that was pretty much under the covers before my book came out. I wanted to promote my book, and I wanted to get this subject out into the open. This advice to position myself as the go-to media resource on this topic turned out to be just right.

Q. What has this expert positioning done for your book’s marketing efforts? Can you offer an example or two where that strategy paid off?

Three years after publication, when most nonfiction books have crawled back into obscurity, I am still sought for media interviews – in fact, three in the past month dealing with senior dating. Sometimes I’m quoted on peripheral subjects by reporters who remember interviewing me previously and want to get the “senior sex” viewpoint on a topic, for example pole dancing (New York Times).

The biggest coup was when ABC-TV's "Nightline" was looking for an expert on senior sexual health to talk about dating seniors using or not using condoms and being at risk for HIV and other STDs. The producer Googled the topic and my blog came up. I had blogged about safer sex for seniors, and had received many comments from readers who didn’t think they needed to take precautions. The producer contacted me immediately to set up a “chat,” which I knew was my interview audition. After much back-and-forth, a crew came to Sebastopol, Calif., and filmed me for a full day. I ended up with four and a half minutes on national television – you can’t buy that!

By the way, the publisher had sent that show a review copy of my book when it first came out, but it wasn’t relevant to them at the time. Continuing to stay current on your topic and keeping your views in public view turns out to be more important for long-term promotion than sending unsolicited, fresh-off-the-press review copies.

Q. Do you reinforce your positioning by continuing to study your book’s topic even though the book is out and selling?

Of course! This topic is my passion.

Q. Do you take any specific steps to further bolster your expert positioning – do you blog on your book’s topic, speak, conduct workshops, etc.?

All of the above. My blog is actively talking about senior sex, dating, aging, spicing up long-term relationships, communication between partners, and sex in general. I blog book reviews, which lets me alert my readers to other books they’d enjoy, and has the added benefit of creating mutual promotion with other authors. My husband (my lover in the book, whom I married afterwards) died last August, and I sometimes blog about the grieving journey, because loving in later life also means losing that love at some point.

Besides my blog, I speak about senior sex as well as fitness and I hold workshops at women-friendly sex shops and other venues on sex after fifty, both for women only and for women and men.

Q. What do you think is the most important thing you’ve done to promote your book?

I continued to promote with gusto, regardless of how long the book has been out. The hardest part is getting publicity momentum going. Once it has started, it’s essential to keep it going and keep it interesting to readers.