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.