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

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 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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Jill & Kevin's Wedding Dance Goes Viral

Marketers create entire strategies designed to help a video or e-mail message go viral but for newlyweds Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz, it happened organically. At his father-in-law's urging, Kevin posted the couple's, um, "wedding march," on YouTube on Sunday so friends and family who didn't attend the wedding could see it.

As of 2 p.m. Eastern today, it had been viewed more than 1.6 million times. The bride and groom appeared on "The Today Show" this morning; their entire wedding party will recreate the dance on tomorrow morning's program. Why did it become a viral sensation? Just watch. You'll have your answer.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Art of the Sound Bite

My pal Rachel Weingarten talked about the future of Crocs on "The Today Show" this morning and in yesterday's Washington Post and while it was fun to see her on TV, it was more fun reading her comments in the Post:

++ Maybe in a decade nostalgia will set in, said Weingarten, author of "Career and Corporate Cool." Then a pair of hot-pink Crocs dug from the back of the closet might inspire misty-eyed memories: "Remember when we had ugly, Flintstone-looking feet?" ++

Rachel does lots and lots of media interviews and I'm sure that while part of her appeal as a source is that she can provide informed commentary on a wide range of topics, an equally big component is her ability to deliver great sound bites. She can be counted on to say something clever, ironic, funny, or thought-provoking. While someone else might have said to the reporter, "Crocs were a fad whose time has come and gone," Rachel says that in a way that is so much more entertaining. Flintstone feet? It's perfect.

I'm going to twist Rachel's arm to do a Q&A here on how to talk to the media in sound bites -- it doesn't come naturally for everybody -- but in the meantime, how do you approach the process?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

5 Ways to Leverage Media Exposure

You're in the news! Congratulations! Don't let the excitement stop with the clipping, though -- leverage that exposure and extend your credibility as a trusted media source by making sure as many people in your target audience as possible know about this.

Here are five things you can do:
  1. Put a link to the interview or article on your Web site's home page with a short announcement or summary. When Marjorie Ginsburg, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Decisions, was interviewed on NPR, the nonprofit made sure people could access the interview from the CHCD Web site.

  2. Share the news in your marketing e-mails. When O magazine showcased the jeans offered by New York & Company, the women's apparel retailer ballyhooed its good fortune in an e-mail sent to customers.

  3. Run an article in your newsletter. Do you think CHCD's supporters want to know that Ginsburg was interviewed on NPR? You bet they do. It validates their decision to affiliate with the group.

  4. Send a press release. When my author friend and book publicity course student Dara Chadwick was on "The Today Show" talking about her new book, You’d Be So Pretty If…. Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies Even When We Don’t Love Our Own, it had to be big news in her hometown. Let the local media outlets know when you've had national media exposure.

  5. Update your social network status lines. Let your friends and followers get in on the excitement by telling them via your status line on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and any other sites you use.
What do you do to spread the word when you're in the news?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Did Ian Halperin Get a Makeover?

I've seen Ian Halperin, author of the timely Michael Jackson book, Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson, interviewed on TV many times since Jackson's death. Unfortunately, I've been so distracted by his cartoonish appearance -- big sunglasses with bright white frames and a white or brightly colored tie contrasting against a black shirt and jacket -- that I don't remember a thing about what he has said about the King of Pop.

I was surprised, then, to see the result of an obvious transformation on TV this morning. With his "mod" look replaced by a white shirt and typical businessman's tie, Halperin appears less like an eccentric who probably can't be trusted and more like a credible source of information about the Michael Jackson secrets that so many people seem to be interested in. I suspect that his publisher stepped in to give him a more ... how you say ... appropriate ... image now that his book is available and he's on his scheduled book tour.

It's yet another reminder that appearance matters, especially with television. We judge people by their covers, so make sure your cover communicates the correct information. If you want to be seen as a credible source of information, don't dress like a clown. If your topic is sober and serious, dress appropriately. If it's lighthearted and fun, lose the business suit. Most importantly, remember that you are not the news -- your content is the news. Whether you're promoting a book, a different type of product, or your business, keep the focus on the information you're sharing, not on what you look like when you're sharing it. It will help us remember and act on the information you've offered.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to Get a Great Publicity Headshot

If you're seeking publicity, it's important to have a good publicity headshot on file.

I recently visited a conference Web site to learn more about the keynote speaker and was stunned -- absolutely stunned -- that this individual being touted as the go-to person on this particular topic was using a really bad, squinting-into-the-sunlight amateur snapshot as her "I'm the keynoter" headshot. It did nothing to build credibility.

A few days later, I followed a link to the blog of a business consultant and was confonted by, again, a large amateur snapshot of the man sitting on a chair in the living room of his home (it wasn't even his home office...) wearing a t-shirt and shorts. This wasn't some 20-something who hasn't figured things out yet. This was a Babyboomer.

Like it or not, packaging matters. If you're selling professional advice to other professionals, look like a professional in your publicity photo (and the photo on your blog counts as a publicity photo). I'll admit that some people use too much smoke and too many mirrors but clearly, others don't use enough.

The current issue of my free Build Book Buzz e-zine features tips on how to get a great publicity headshot. You'll get the issue automatically when you sign up for the newsletter before the next issue goes out on July 22.

What's the worst publicity headshot you've seen? Post the link here!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Did Toxic Fat Kill Michael Jackson? sent this gem to me tonight; it's worth sharing. In its Pitch of the Day feature, Mediabistro's PRNewser section reprinted a media pitch designed to turn Michael Jackson's death into a PR opportunity for the author of a book on toxic fat. What does toxic fat have to do with Michael Jackson's death? Nothing. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. But that doesn't stop the silly publicist from sending out a pitch titled, "DID MICHAEL JACKSON DIE FROM TOXIC FAT?" (Really -- you have to laugh!)

I am always encouraging publicity seekers to find a connection between the day's headlines and their product, service, or organization, but this is so absurd it's funny. It's a great example of what not to do. It's also a reminder that you should always be looking over your publicist's shoulder. Most are smart, sharp, and creative but some are real tools.

Spiderman for President? A Social Media Experiment

Maria Tchijov, one of my blog readers, has recruited me to help campaign for her candidate for president: Spiderman. Maria is participating in the New Organizing Institute's bootcamp, a program that teaches a select group of participants how to run a modern campaign for a candidate or organization. They learn about everything from fundraising to how to use social networking tools during the day . . . in the evening, they put what they learn to use in a campaign.

Maria is on a team that is working ever so diligently to get Spiderman elected as president. Campaign headquarters is Spidey's election Web site featuring a personal message from Peter Parker himself. It's an example of what the bootcamp students are learning about how to get a candidate elected, so study it to see how they're presenting Spiderman's position on the issues, see what social networks he particpates in, and read his blog. And don't forget to view his inspirational video on YouTube.

The election takes place this Friday, July 10, and we want your vote! Mark your calendar to return to the campaign site on Friday to vote for Spiderman!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion, Part 2

Part 2 of my interview on "shameless self promotion" with Leslie Levine on her blog ran today. My interview with the lovely and talented Leslie and a posting I read on a writer's forum this morning made me think that it might be a good opportunity for me to share my philosophy about this topic.

First, a bit about the forum posting: In a discussion about how to use a social networking site for books and authors for book promotion purposes, a member commented about how annoyed he became by a member who continually sent out blatant promotions for her self-published book. Her presence on the site was limited to obvious and persistent book promotion. Of course this was annoying, so he deleted her from his network.

Her loss and her mistake.

Here's my simple philosophy about self-promotion whether it's in the online or the offline world, whether we're talking about networking or media relations: Promote your business, product, or service by sharing what you know. When you share your knowledge, instead of always shouting, "Buy my product! Buy my product!" you're building credibility while helping others. How can you lose? That "Look at me! Look at me!" method that seems to be so prevalent on Twitter and elsewhere alienates people pretty quickly, but nobody gets tired of a friendly voice saying, "Perhaps I can help."

If you know what you're talking about and you're willing to share what you know, you will lose nothing and gain much.

What's your promotion philosophy?