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:

My friend Sue Sampson has a really cool Web site for her custom window treatment business, 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 -- -- 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

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, 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

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, 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!