Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to sell more books on Amazon

Book marketing coach Dana Lynn Smith has just introduced another helpful short book in her "The Savvy Book Marketer" series of how-to guides. How to Sell More Books on Amazon*, a 38-page resource available in PDF or Kindle formats, answers a lot of the common questions I receive from authors on this topic, from how to secure "five-star" reviews to the best ways to increase your book's visibility in Amazon's search results page.

Dana explains that the best way to sell more books on this popular (but mystifying) retail site is to make it as easy as possible for people to purchase. Tell them what they need to know before buying, show them what they'll get, and deliver it in the format they want it in. What I like the most about this and the other books in the series, though, is that she takes you through the process step-by-step so there's no question about what you need to do. I can't underestimate the importance of this. Her instructions are clear and specific, and she includes screen shots to help you find what you're looking for on the page in front of you on your computer. This book tells me what I need to know, then holds my hand through the process.

Whether you're working with a traditional publisher or self-publishing, you'll benefit from this quick read. How to Sell More Books on Amazon helps authors discover how to:
  • Increase the sales appeal of your book page on Amazon.
  • Help shoppers find your book amid the millions of competing books.
  • Give customers a real bookstore experience by letting them sample your book's content.
  • Use reviews to draw customers to your book and persuade them to buy.
  • Profit by selling your content in alternative formats.
  • Enhance your personal profile and author page.
  • Boost your profits with Amazon's affiliate program.
Take the mystery out of getting the most from your Amazon sales page. Get more information here.

What are your tips for selling more books on Amazon.com?

*Affiliate link

Friday, December 10, 2010

Marcia Yudkin talks about Publicity Tactics

I liked marketer Marcia Yudkin's new book, Publicity Tactics: Insights on Creating Lucrative Media Buzz, so much that I provided a back cover blurb and asked her to do a Q&A here. The book distills Marcia's wisdom and years of publicity experience into short chunks of information that are easy to understand, read, and act upon. I think what I like most about it is that Marcia really gets you thinking about how to apply specific publicity tactics to your own business -- whether you're a solo, a small nonprofit, an author, or a small business.

Here's our Q&A. I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to ask questions -- I'm sure Marcia would be happy to answer them.

For those who don't know her, Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, now in its third edition, and 13 other books. She has a knack for engineering public attention for clever ideas. Her publicity clients run the gamut from a urologist selling guaranteed vasectomy reversals to entrepreneurs releasing ingenious new mobile phone apps.

Your new book, Publicity Tactics, helps small businesses, nonprofits, authors, sole practitioners, and others discover the things they can be doing to generate priceless publicity for their endeavors. What's the best starting point for all of them - where should they begin when they start thinking about how to secure publicity?

Start with the word “who” – whose attention are you trying to attract? If you have a local business, the answer might be “people within a 10 mile radius of my bakery.” If you’ve written a romance novel, it would be “people who love reading romance novels.” If you’re an architect, you’d answer “people within 100 miles who want a new or renovated house.” Rarely is the correct answer “everyone.” Once you’re clear on the target market for your publicity, you can identify the media that reach that group. And then you’re on to thinking up a publicity angle.

From your experience, what's the hardest thing for people to do when they're trying to generate publicity? By this I mean, what do they struggle with the most? Why?

Coming up with the publicity angle tends to be hardest for people. They tend to feel, “Who, me? Us? Who would ever pay attention to us?” The truth is that people featured in the media are not necessarily extraordinary. It’s more like this: When light is shined on them in a certain way, they appear interesting. If you know how to step into the light in the proper way, you’ll come off as interesting also. There are so many kinds of light possible to step into, you’re bound to find several of them feasible. That’s actually a major emphasis of my book.

What advice would you offer small businesses and others about identifying what's newsworthy in their businesses?

Think small. Rather than try to imagine what the media would find interesting about your business as a whole, look for little things you are doing or that you know that are new and different or unusual and useful.

For example, I live out in the country, and yesterday I got my hair cut at a new salon in the next town that is struggling to build its clientele to the point that it doesn’t even have a business phone listing yet. We were talking about a problem I’ve been having with my hair that the salon owner said may be attributable to minerals in our well water, and she said she knew a product that specifically counteracted the well water. That was news to me, and I’m certain it would be news to lots of people in my area who get their water from wells. All she has to do is email a local reporter that she can provide information for a story on the effect of well water on hair, and I’m pretty sure that would prompt a story.

If you wrote down the content of every conversation you had with customers in the course of a day, I guarantee there would be at least three or four topics amongst them that have the makings of newsworthy media angles.

What are people not doing to get publicity that they should be doing?

The main thing they’re not doing is simply not trying. Every few years I do a round of my colleagues asking them for new press releases and publicity success stories, and I’m always amazed that even those who have experienced the power of publicity in the past just let things ride for years before trying again. Publicity can cost little or nothing, and the payoff can boost your credibility and visibility for years.

What are some common mistakes organizations or individuals make when it comes to publicity?

One common mistake is turning away publicity by not leaping to take advantage of opportunities. Recently I wanted to feature an artist who’d won a certain kind of grant in my Marketing Minute newsletter, which goes to nearly 12,000 people every week. When I wrote to the email address on his web site, I received a canned reply saying that he was way too busy to reply to every email personally. I wrote again and was simply ignored. Talk to any journalist or broadcast producer and you’ll hear the same experience – a shocking number of people simply don’t understand and take advantage of their good fortune when a chance to get publicity shows up on their doorstep.

Another common mistake is trying to bully the media person into doing things your way. That rarely works and only alienates someone who may move around from one media job to another and never give you another chance.

For example, I’ve seen advice on the Internet that when someone asks you for an interview, you should agree to it only on the condition that the media outlet gives out your contact information during the interview. That’s terrible advice. You shouldn’t set conditions when a media opportunity comes your way. Instead, you can provide an incentive for them to give out your contact information, such as by offering a free report or video especially for the audience of that interview. This works most of the time.

What do you think is the easiest publicity tactic in your book to execute, and why?

If you’re opinionated and like to write, you should write letters to the editor of publications read by your target market. Each one, just two or three paragraphs, takes you half an hour or so to write when you’re fired up about something you’ve read. When I had a letter to the editor published in Inc. magazine, I got one new client immediately and nice notes from several clients who’d seen it.

Interestingly, when I published a column in my newsletter with tips on writing letters to the editor, I received a couple of replies asking me how that counted or worked as publicity. You see, whatever puts you positively into the public eye boosts your credibility and visibility and often brings opportunities that you might never have thought up on your own.

For example, there was once a little piece in the Boston Globe about a book I’d just published. It may or may not have influenced people to buy the book, but more interestingly, it prompted a talent scout from a TV production company south of Boston to contact me about a corporate video opportunity that a few years later turned into a chance to create a demo program for a public TV show.

What's the most important tool in the publicist's toolbox?

Creativity. Think up an angle no one has used before, and it can get people stampeding to give you publicity. Sometimes it’s just a matter of new words. For example, in the days when people thought of car rental companies as having only new cars for customers, a business owner changed his outfit’s name from Bundy Very Used Cars to Rent-a-Wreck, and within days CBS News was there doing a feature on the company.

How can businesses use social media to get publicity?

Whether it’s blogs, online videos, Twitter or Facebook, social media are a form of publicity in and of themselves, taking you directly to the public without the intervention of the media.

Be mindful of the persona you use in social media – if you engage in name-calling, sarcasm, vindictiveness or any kind of outright dishonesty, this can work to your detriment. I once landed on a blog where a consultant was not only bitingly critical of companies he did not agree with but also nasty to people commenting on his blog who had a different point of view. How in the world was that supposed to help him get clients?

One way to use social media to get traditional publicity is to follow reporters, newscasters or talk show hosts whom you like on Twitter, Facebook or their blogs and to post interesting replies there. This can get you into a follow-up story or into a personal exchange with the media person that leads to a seemingly unrelated publicity opportunity.

Would you like to add anything else?

Just thanks, Sandy, for the chance to talk to your readers! May you each have your 17 ½ minutes (or more) in the spotlight.

Have you got a question for Marcia? Please use "comment" to share it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Study reveals how journalists gather information

A new study from TEKgroup International and Bulldog Reporter reveals trends in how journalists use the Internet and other resources to research, follow and report news and feature material. (TEKgroup creates online newsrooms for companies, but doesn't offer a news release about the survey results in its own newsroom. How ironic.)

It's important reading for anyone who works with the media to generate publicity. Here are a few highlights (which I could have copied and pasted from a press release if one existed ...):
  • Nearly half of all journalists report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a week and more than 84% report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a month. Yet more than half of journalists agree that when they visit organizations’ websites, it’s often difficult to find media contact information or press materials that address their interests.
  • Nearly 3/4 report they read blogs to keep up with the subject they cover.
  • The number of journalists using social media sites to do their job has risen dramatically. (Unfortunately, it doesn't tell us how they use them.)
  • 79% prefer to receive news and information via e-mail.
Read or download a copy of the survey after completing a form at this link.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How can "content" help you promote your business?

"Content marketing" (also known as "information marketing") involves using editorial material -- articles, podcasts, videos, white papers, newsletters, etc. -- to deliver high-quality, relevant, and valuable information to your target audience. It's a common marketing practice. According to Junta42's 2010 Content Marketing Spending Report, 59% of marketers planned to spend more on this strategy in 2010. Junta42 also reports that the average business marketer spends 33 percent of its marketing budget on creating content and getting it out there to customers and prospects.

Why are they spending money on making useful, helpful information available online and elsewhere for free? Here are a few reasons:
  1. It helps position them as the experts in their fields.
  2. Prospects discover that the information source is the best resource for the product or service they're researching (and customers are reminded of this).
  3. It generates Web site traffic because of the impact information has on search engine rankings -- and Web site traffic can lead to sales.
  4. It helps educate.
  5. The online exposure generates publicity when journalists discover that an individual or business shows up consistently in search engine queries
The U.S. Postal Service's free marketing magazine, Deliver, is a great example of how a large organization embraces and implements content marketing (disclaimer: I'm a regular contributor to the magazine and its companion Web site). Deliver educates marketers about the various USPS products and how to use them wisely while providing best practices, case studies, and ideas about how to create successful direct mail campaigns. Wells Fargo does the same thing for small businesses (I've contributed to their content marketing as a writer, too), providing free how-to information designed to encourage trust.

Content marketing is simple and easy. All you do is share what you know. It's a smart strategy that can be easily impletmented by organizations of all sizes. In fact, it's easier for entrepreneurs and others in smaller organizations to do this because there's less of a distance between the person with the information that has to be shared and the person who turns it into shareable content. (In many cases, they're the same!) And with fewer layers and less bureaucracy, it takes less time to approve and share the content, whether it's an article, video, audio interview, booklet, or special report.

Here are a few examples of how I use content marketing for my small business:
There's a lot more I need to know about this topic . . . and when I need to learn something, I find someone to teach me. In this case, you get to learn, too! On November 15, I'm hosting a teleseminar with content marketing expert Stephanie Chandler. She's going to be talking about how this topic relates to book marketing, but her information and concepts can be applied to any type of organization, product, or service. (Learn more here.) I'm looking forward to asking her the questions that will get you the information you need to begin using content marketing. Look online for more information, too -- the companies that provide content marketing services are, of course, good about providing free information about this strategy!

How do you use content or information marketing in your business?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chilean miners get media training...should you?

I love that the Chilean miners received media training while still in the mine. We should all be this prepared before we face the press, right? Anyone who hopes to be interviewed by the media -- whether it's because of a crisis or a whizbang new product launch or the next best-seller -- should get some practice in front of a microphone before heading into the media glare.

How much training you get and who provides it depends on your budget and location. Business people, authors, and nonprofit leaders in major metropolitan areas can work with a local consultant who specializes in preparing people for media interviews. Google "media training" and your city for a list of consultants.

Those in smaller markets usually don't have access to these specialists, but can still do well working with a local public relations (not advertising) firm. Make sure you ask who and how many they've trained before and check references. Also consider hiring a local TV newscaster to moonlight for you. Veteran broadcasters know what questions you'll get asked, how they'll be asked, and what a good answer sounds like. Like consultants, local broadcasters can coach you in how to react and respond, how to speak in sound bites that will make sure your interview gets used, and what to avoid saying.

The miners were smart enough to get help. Learn from their experiences and line up your trainer now.

Have you received professional media training? How did it help you?

Friday, October 15, 2010

5 common Facebook faux pas

Do you make any of these social networking mistakes? We're all guilty of Facebook faux pas from time to time. It's only when we repeat them continually that we run the risk of being unfriended. Here are some of the mistakes I see regularly and why they're a problem:
  • Being ridiculously self-promotional. Several colleagues at a recent meeting said this was their biggest Facebook pet peeve.  I can relate. A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook invitation from someone who included a promotional message with her friend request. I thought that was odd, but gave her the benefit of the doubt and accepted the request. This was followed by a similar advertising message from her on my wall: "I'm glad we're friends. I think you'll be interested in my product X and my service Y." It's not the best way to start a relationship -- in social networks or in face-to-face networks. 
  • Writing "happy birthday!" to someone on your own wall. OK, this is funny when my Mom does it, but when the rest of us do it, it's kind of silly. Here's how to avoid this: Go to your home page. Under "Events" in the upper right, you'll see the names of any Facebook friends with birthdays today. Click on the name; that will take you to the birthday girl's page. Write your message on her wall.
  • Saying something mean on a wall that you wouldn't say to someone's face. AWKward. This gives us too much insight into your true character. Ick.
  • Writing private messages on your friend's Facebook wall. These messages make the rest of us uncomfortable. It's like we're eavesdropping. Use the Facebook e-mail system instead. Here's how: Go to your friend's profile page. Under his picture, you'll see "Send (name) a message." Click on that and you'll get an e-mail window.
  • Sending "you should 'like' this page" messages to all of your friends rather than sending it only to people who might actually be interested in the business or product. If you're in Michigan and the page you "like" is for a local business, don't send the "I like this page and I think you will too" message to your friends in other parts of the country. Keep it local. (This applies even if you're paid to do this for clients.) Most people don't mind occasional irrelevant messages, but when you do it a lot, you're going to lose friends. (And maybe that's not a bad thing.)
I like how Facebook lets us be our own forum moderators. Let's help these people out by taking advantage of our ability to be in control of our own content. When someone writes something on your wall that's better suited to a private conversation, delete it. (Move your mouse to the end of the first sentence. The word "REMOVE" appears. Click it.). Then respond to the question or comment through your Facebook e-mail inbox -- it's a quiet way to suggest the right way to handle sensitive or private topics. Similarly, when someone writes something on your wall that makes you uncomfortable, delete it, because if it bothers you, it will bother someone else, too.

What's the most common Facebook faux pas you've seen? Tell us!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Author explains how to create sound bites that resonate

resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiencesresonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform AudiencesThe following information is excerpted from a press release I received today. The tips for creating memorable sound bites apply to media interviews, presentations, and written communications materials. This is a topic we've covered here before (see this posting on how to create compelling sound bites) because it's important. Talking to the press is a waste of your time -- and theirs -- if what you say doesn't get used. Here are Nancy Duarte's tips for making sure you offer memorable sound bites:

At a time when people are tweeting, blogging, e-mailing, and more 24/7, the best way to genuinely connect and create change, says author and CEO Nancy Duarte, is via truly human, in-person presentations. She stresses that everyone in every company should know how to present and communicate that company's messages with clarity and passion.

"Great presentations are like magic," says Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, author of the new book Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences.
"It takes a lot of work to breathe life into an idea. Spending energy to understand the audience and carefully crafting a message that resonates with them means committing time and discipline to the process. Think about it this way: You likely spend countless hours collaborating and innovating to put forth really good ideas. You should spend just as much energy ensuring they are delivered in a way that is impactful. The payoff is that learning how to present in a captivating way—be it at a formal event or to a client across the conference room table—can be your competitive edge in a business environment where too many companies are confusing communication with noise."

Just as Duarte's first book, Slide:ology, helped presenters become visual communicators, Resonate helps presenters make a strong connection with their audiences and lead them to purposeful action. The book is simultaneously an explanation, a how-to guide, and a business justification for story-based messaging. It will take you on a journey to a level of presentation literacy that very few have mastered.

So how can you make sure you present information in a way that truly resonates?

"If people can easily recall, repeat, and transfer your message, you did a great job conveying it," says Duarte. "To achieve this, you should have a handful of succinct, clear, and repeatable sound bites planted in your presentation that people can effortlessly remember. A thoroughly considered sound bite can create a 'Something They'll Always Remember (S.T.A.R.)' moment—not only for the people present in the audience but also for the ones who will encounter your presentation through broadcast or social media channels."

To help you get started creating presentations that really stick with your audiences, here are a few tips on how you can incorporate repeatable sound bites: 
  • Create crisp messages. Picture each person you speak to as a little radio tower empowered to repeat your key concepts over and over. "Some of the most innocent-looking people have fifty thousand followers in their social networks," says Duarte. "When one sound bite is sent to their followers, it can get re-sent hundreds of thousands of times."
  • Craft a rally cry. Your rally cry will be a small, repeatable phrase that can become the slogan and rallying cry of the masses trying to promote your idea. President Obama's campaign slogan, "Yes We Can," originated from a speech during the primary elections.
  • Coordinate key phrases with the same language in your press materials. For presentations where the press is present, be sure to repeat critical messages verbatim from your press materials. "Doing so ensures that the press will pick up the right sound bites," explains Duarte. "The same is true for any camera crews who might be filming your presentation. Make sure you have at least a fifteen- to thirty-second message that is so salient it will be obvious to reporters that it should be featured in the broadcasts."
  • Use catchy words. Take time to carefully craft a few messages with catchy words. "For example, Neil Armstrong used the six hours and forty minutes between his moon landing and first step to craft his historic statement," says Duarte. "Phrases that have historical significance or become headlines don't just magically appear in the moment. They are mindfully planned."
  • Make them remember. Once you've crafted the message, there are three ways to ensure the audience remembers it: First, repeating the phrase more than once. Second, punctuating it with a pause that gives the audience time to write down exactly what you said. And finally, projecting the words on a slide so they receive the message visually as well as aurally.
  • Imitate a famous phrase. "Everyone knows the Golden Rule," says Duarte. "'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Well, an imitation of that famous phrase might be 'Never give a presentation you wouldn't want to sit through yourself.'"
 To learn more about the author's work, visit http://www.duarte.com/.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Message development: 6 steps to creating messages that make a difference

Message development is an essential step in your publicity planning process and yet, many of us forget to spend any time being thoughtful and strategic about what we want to say when we're interviewed by the press. You've heard the cliche: "Failing to plan is planning to fail." That's especially true with media interviews. How will you make sure you communicate the key points about your project, mission, product, service, book, organization, whatever if you haven't given careful thought about what you really need to get across in your precious time with that journalist?
If you aren't clear about your messages each time you communicate with the media, your publicity will be less effective. Message development for all types of businesses and organizations involves six steps:
  1. Define the issue. Take into account what your audience knows about the topic and what you bring to the discussion. What makes you different, special, better with regards to the issue or topic? Gather any relevant statistics, too -- you might need them to help make your point.
  2. Create draft messages. Brainstorm possible messages, but remember: You want messages that resonate with your audience, not your staff. That's why knowing your audience -- and what they do and don't know about the topic -- is important.
  3. Test draft messages. Don't test them in the workplace. Try them out on people you want to influence. Listen carefully to their responses and take their input seriously.
  4. Refine the messages. What language seemed to resonate with the people in your test or focus group? What language confused them? Where did they get confused? Take all of this into account...and try again.
  5. Test again. The repeat testing is important because you want to be certain that your key messages are appropriate and can influence the behavior you're looking for.
  6. Adjust again. Keep making changes -- and testing -- until you're confident that you're using language that will generate the reaction you want.
As you work on your messages, make sure they:
  • Contribute to your goals.
  • Resonate with the people you want to influence -- even if this means they don't resonate with you.
  • Get used in interviews in some form. If they don't, work on them some more.
Once your messages are final and you're confident they communicate what you want them to, work them into media interviews, press releases, Web site text, social media communications, marketing materials, etc. You might need to massage them to meet the needs of these different communication vehicles, but stay as true as you can to the language because you know it works.

What's the best message you've seen?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Word of mouse: 10 ways to master nonprofit guerrilla social media

My guest blogger today is colleague Chris Forbes, co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits. Chris and I met in the virtual world several years ago when he reviewed my two publicity books on his blog. I'm now happy to reciprocate, putting a spotlight on his book (I like it so much that I provided a "blurb" that appears on the inside).

Chris writes here about social media for nonprofits, but his ideas can apply to small businesses, solo-preneurs, authors, and others. Here's what he has to say:

Guerrilla marketers know a good deal when they see one. And social media is a very good deal for guerrillas because they focus on reaching individuals instead merely selling their ideas to markets. With a little time, energy, and imagination, nonprofit guerrillas deepen their relationships with their clients and supporters and increase the frequency of exposure of their message to the people they want to reach by using social media. To get the most out of social media, it is important to make strategic use with a plan. Below are 10 ways your organization can master the use of social media.
  1. Message: In order for your message to have any impact for your cause, it has to contain your message. A funny or interesting video, even if it becomes a very popular online phenomenon, is useless to your nonprofit if it doesn’t get people to take action.
  2. Meme: The message of your viral outreach needs to be easy to grasp without explanation and easy to pass on to others.
  3. Meeting: Find the media that your target audience likes to use and go where the people are. Media researchers estimate 60 percent of adults belong to a social network, but most only belong to one. Spread your virus in a variety of networks.
  4. Manage: Funnel the contacts you make in social media toward your Web site or blog. Make your Web site the second tier of your social media strategy. The third tier is when people register with your site. Mobilize the people who sign up on your site to take action and help spread the message.
  5. Material: Give people the content they need to pass along your viral marketing. Provide assets for your audience to make their own videos, allow them to put their picture in an e-card, do anything that helps to put themselves into the story line and send to their contacts.
  6. Mobilize: Make it easy to pass your content through word-of-mouse. Choose the video tools that allow you to embed your videos directly into Facebook, blogs, etc. Social bookmark tabs need to post you link and teaser copy into other sites.
  7. Medium: Make your content a good match for the medium. Long videos will not be watched as much as shorter ones. Break up paragraphs in articles and write lead sentences remembering they may also serve as the teaser copy for the links when they are visible on other sites.
  8. Marketing: Your content needs to have links back to your sites and copy that promotes your organization. Don’t leave the “More Info” section blank; include good copy using your key words and links.
  9. Metrics: Watch the statistics. Check not only how many people view, forward, or tweet your content, but track how many click through and take the next step with your message, too.
  10. Momentum: Start the ball rolling by forwarding your content to the networks of your intended target. Leave room in tweets for people to “re-tweet” (RT). Prime the commenting by starting the first comment on links and posts you put in other networks. Push your virus into new networks until it takes off on its own.
What's the most effective social media tactic you've used? Why do you think it worked?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to announce your book with an e-mail blast

What’s the best way to announce your book via e-mail?
I’ve received quite a few book announcement e-mails lately, including some that were trying to achieve “Amazon best-seller” status. Sadly, most of the messages were not very compelling. More often than not, they were self-congratulatory (“I’ve achieved my dream!”) or self-serving (“If you buy my book on Amazon at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning, my book might become a best-seller!”). Some were brief: “My new book is out. Here’s a link where you can buy it.” Others were rambling. None of them told me why I’d want to buy the book – what was in it for me, the reader.
I don’t want you to repeat the mistakes I keep seeing in my inbox, so I’m sharing seven tips that will help authors with any level of marketing experience write a book announcement e-mail message that isn’t obnoxious, annoying, offensive, or downright sad :
  1. Start with the text from your back book cover. It should tell us why we will want to buy your book, right? You might need to massage it to make it more personal, since e-mail is such an informal means of communicating.
  2. It’s not about you. It’s about the person you’re writing to. Tell me what your book will do for me. Will it educate, inform, entertain, enlighten? What’s in it for me? How will your book improve my world, help me improve someone else’s world, or help me forget about my world?
  3. Include a link where we can purchase the book. Seriously – you’d be surprised at how many messages omit this.
  4. Forget the “help me make my book an Amazon best-seller” plea. Unless you are my total BFF, I don’t care if your book is a best-seller. All I want to know is whether I’ll like or need your book or whether I know someone else who would like it. If you feel compelled to be focused on that best-seller-for-five-minutes-on-Amazon plan (and my newsletter readers know how I feel about these campaigns), at least share information about your book, too.
  5. Don’t come on too strong. You might suggest that it makes a nice gift, but don’t tell me that I “should” buy it for everybody on my holiday gift list. 
  6. Ask me to share your news with my networks. If I know people who will want to know about your book, I’ll help spread the word. But sometimes I need to be reminded.
  7. Remember that the quality of your announcement reflects the quality of your book, so make it as high-quality as you can. I received one this week that looked like a ransom note, with multiple fonts and sizes. And I know this wasn't what the author intended. You don't need to have a professionally designed, all-HTML'd-up message, but you do want something that reflects the quality of your book.
Send your announcement to as large a list as you can assemble, remembering that some people will be more interested in this news than others. And some are just naturally better at sharing and forwarding. And whatever you do, make this just the starting point for your book launch. There's lots more you could -- and "should" -- be doing.

Have you ever purchased a book based on an e-mail blast announcement? Why?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Be your own book publicist" course for authors runs September 6-October 1, 2010

I teach an e-course called "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" that helps authors learn how to be their own book publicists. It addresses the biggest challenges most authors encounter when they realize they have to handle their own book publicity and promotion. They are often overwhelmed by the prospect of getting the word out because they don't know where to begin and would rather be writing than promoting.

The typical author:
  • Struggles to figure out what to do first to promote or publicize the book.
  • Is uncomfortable with promoting and would rather remain in the background.
  • Doesn't know which activities will have the greatest impact on the book’s visibility.
  • Hesitates to use social networking tactics because they're not sure how to.
  • Doesn't quite understand why and how to schedule a virtual book tour.
  • Isn't sure how to approach and pitch traditional media outlets in the most appropriate way.
  • Might not be clear about the book's target audience or how to reach it through the media.
  • Wants to do as much as possible to publicize a book without spending thousands on a publicist.
  • Hears that getting on radio helps sells books but doesn't know how to do it -- or if it's a good idea for the book.
If any of this describes you, I can help you get over, under, or around all of your obstacles in this interactive and engaging four-week online course running September 6-October 1, 2010. It's taught in an easy-to-use forum where you will learn, practice, implement, and grow. Because you can come and go according to your own schedule -- whenever it's convenient for you, not me -- this option offers you maximum flexibility and learning potential.

Learn more about this very affordable and interactive course here (you can see testimonials from happy students there too); send me a note with questions.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't confuse NewsBasis with ProfNet or HARO

I recently learned about a new service that links journalists with sources. It's in Beta mode now, which allows test users to provide suggestions for making it more useful. I signed up as a journalist to use this service, NewsBasis, because I wanted to see how it worked and how it might differ from other services that are currently available, including ProfNet, a paid service, and HARO, a free one. I was intrigued enough by the site to invite founder Darryl Siry to do a Q&A here and he obliged. Here's our conversation.

What, exactly, is NewsBasis?

NewsBasis is a communications platform for journalists and companies to enable for effective and efficient media relations.

What is your goal for the service?

I'd like to be the standard technology platform for media relations, whether you are a journalist or on the other side of the table. We have a ways to go and lots of features to develop before we get there, but we are off to a good start.

How does a journalist use it?

Journalists can use our service in several ways:
  1. They can search our database for expert sources and company points of view, to find sources or story angles
  2. They can post specific requests to engage users. Users are notified based on their saved keywords or based on how the request matches their profile.
  3. They can use the platform for researching articles using the real time media notification and annotation functionality.
How does a publicist or corporate communicator use the service?

PR folks and company folks can use the service in the following ways:

  1. Embed their points of view in articles so that journalists can discover them when they search
  2. Respond to specific requests from journalists that match their interests or where they can be valuable
  3. Fill out their profiles so that Journalists find them in searches and NewsBasis can automatically route relevant requests to them.
  4. Discover relevant news articles in real time using our media notification service (in the "news" tab)
  5. Use the private annotation and sharing capabilities to collaborate within their teams.
Clearly, this service has more features than others. Why do you offer them – did you survey journalists about their needs, and did they request them?

It's a combination of my personal experiences and feedback from journalists, corporate comms folks and PR agency folks.

Do sources (companies, PR firms, etc.) pay a fee to access the journalist requests and if so, how much?

The service is free during the Beta. Eventually we will announce pricing for corporate and PR users but we expect the price to be very reasonable.

From what I can tell by clicking around the site, it uses a passive system. By that I mean that sources need to come to the site and search for opportunities they can contribute to. In contrast, other journalist-source matching services like ProfNet, HARO, and ReporterConnection push the queries out to the sources through e-mail messages. Tell me more about why you don’t connect your journalist and source users by e-mail. 

We want to focus on relevance above all. If you are a corporate user of NewsBasis, you can set up saved keywords so that any requests that match your saved keywords are routed to you by email. You can scan all requests on the site if you'd like but I think a better approach is to set up various keywords and make sure your profile is complete and very descriptive so you will be notified when something relevant is posted.

The site requires users to install Google Chrome. Why? Are you concerned that requiring that extra step will discourage some users who won’t want to install the software?

It doesn't require that you install Google Chrome - what it was doing was recommending to Internet Explorer users that they install a small program provided by Google called "Chrome Frame" to allow our application to work better in IE. Admittedly, this has caused some confusion for users and we are working right now to make this step unnecessary. Still, we think that everybody should use Chrome or Firefox, since they are far superior to IE and operate on open standards.

What’s the most important thing that publicity seekers need to know about NewsBasis?

That NewsBasis is not HARO or Profnet. It is a very different service that allows you to embed you or your client's point of view directly in articles. This is a powerful way to promote your thought leadership program or get your messages out.

Similarly, what’s the most important thing that journalists should know about it?

That NewsBasis is a resource that will make it easier for them to get their jobs done more easily and effectively.


I can't offer an opinion of the service because I haven't used it yet to find sources, but I'll note that it's more complicated and has far more "layers" than ProfNet, HARO, or ReporterConnection. I think those layers and features will be more appealing initially to very tech-savvy users. Those who are uncomfortable with technology might find the options intimidating and not take advantage of them. To sign up as either a journalist or a communicator hoping to connect with reporters, visit http://www.newsbasis.com/.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Viral "epic nervous breakdown" video helps startup get distribution

Counter to what many think, your business is never too small for major media exposure. That's why I like stories like this one about Vital Energy, an energy drink created by a couple of recent college grads who have been selling it into stores themselves. These guys created one of the funniest product videos I've ever seen and, as hoped, it has gone viral, with more than one million online views. The video is going to be featured on a TruTV cable show and is being considered for MTV's Pranked.

Haven't seen the "epic nervous breakdown" video starring the (poor) mother of one of the founders? (She is a friend of a friend, who tells me the mom is normally pretty calm.) Here it is:

Most of the press surrounding this adventure has been in the trade and local media, which is the ideal mix for the company at this stage. Local media exposure is crucial to getting local distribution, particularly in Wegmans supermarkets. Starting locally helps them get the bugs out of their systems and learn as they do. If the guys can get the drink into their local Wegmans stores, they can probably get it picked up in other Wegmans supermarkets throughout the Northeast.

The trade publication exposure supports their distribution efforts. They don't have much much conventional consumer media exposure yet, but that's OK -- before they get on Good Morning America or Regis & Kelly, they should have much more widespread distribution.

I suspect these guys have a lot to learn yet about product manufacturing, distribution, and marketing, but their product video is sheer genius. Congratulations to them. I hope they enjoy fabulous success and are in a position to mentor other young entrepreneurs in the future.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 6, 2010 is deadline for Nonproft PR Awards

The entry deadline for the Nonprofit PR Awards is August 6, so act quickly to submit your entry in categories ranging from from media relations to crisis management to corporate partnerships. This year's winners will be honored on November 3 at the National Press Club and featured in a special awards issue of PR News.

The awards are open to all associations, nonprofits, government agencies, NGOs and their agency partners.

The awards program is sponsored by PRWeb and presented by PR News. Please take a moment to thank them. Sponsors make the world go around.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How will you communicate with your customers in a crisis?

A denial-of-service attack at an online service I use reminded me of how important it is to have -- and follow -- a plan for communicating with customers during a crisis.

In this particular situation, the Web site providing the service was down for hours. With no explanation from the company about what was going on, frustrated customers like me could only make assumptions about the reason for the outage and when service would be restored. The next day -- a full 24 hours later -- the vendor sent an e-mail explaining the situation. The message noted that during the crisis, the company was posting updates to its Twitter account. Oh, so going forward, I can learn what's going on through your Twitter account? And that account name is . . .? Whoops -- you didn't include it!

It's obvious to me -- and by now, to this company, I hope -- that sending this "Yikes! We've been attacked!" message would have been more helpful to puzzled customers while the company was working to fix the problem. It doesn't need to be long -- two or three sentences is enough -- put it does need to be sent. And that message should inform us that we can stay current on the status of the problem by going to the company's Twitter page -- and giving us that complete, clickable URL.

It's likely that customers weren't informed about the cause of the problem until after the fact because the company wasn't prepared for a crisis. Not smart. Regardless of the size of your company, you're probably going to have a crisis of some sort at some point -- and you're going to have to communicate about it. Even sole practitioners are at risk -- what if you were in an accident and incapacitated or had a death in the family and had to leave town (and your projects) quickly? On the other hand, some companies are well-prepared to deal with the media when there's a crisis, but their crisis communications plan overlooks one of their most important audiences -- their customers. They focus on damage control with the press, assuming that it's okay for their clients to learn about it from the news. It's not.

Take the time to write down the procedures you need to follow during a crisis -- and make sure everyone involved in executing those steps has a copy of the plan. Imagine the various problems that could occur, and prepare accordingly. In the situation I've described here with my vendor, there was no need to communicate with the press, but what if the outage had been caused by an angry employee who not only sabotaged the company's operation but took employees hostage and was threatening violence, too? You'll want the police involved and you'll have no choice but to communicate with the press, as well. Do you know today how you would handle that? And does everyone else in the company?

You can find lots of good information about crisis communication planning on the Web. There are also several helpful books available, including Crisis Leadership Now and Keeping the Wolves at Bay. The size and depth of your plan and the level of detailed involved will depend on the nature of your business, potential problems, the size of your company, and so on. You might be able to write it yourself using common sense and logic. However you do it, just do it. And then run your business in a way that makes sure you'll never need it. Don't we all wish BP had done that?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Want to get on The Today Show? Get in the Wall St. Journal first

As I've noted before, "The Today Show" on NBC gets segment ideas from The Wall Street Journal, so if you want to be on the TV show, get into the newspaper.
Case in point: Yesterday's WSJ ran the article, "Kids Quit the Team for More Family Time," and the morning TV program piggybacked on it for this story today featuring the family in the WSJ. This happens regularly. Publicity begets publicity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Booklets make great publicity generators

I see many entrepreneurs and others creating free and helpful booklets or special reports to drive traffic to their Web site, distribute in stores or at events or trade shows, or to help them build a marketing mailing list. But I don't see many of them using these free booklets to generate publicity for their businesses -- and that's a lost opportunity. Offering a freebie through a press release sent to on- and off-line media outlets is a quick, easy, and cost-effective way to reach people (and potential clients and customers) who wouldn't otherwise find you.

How do you use publicity to extend the reach of your booklet? Here's how.
  1. Make sure your booklet is truly helpful, not just a company brochure disguised as a booklet. The press won't share your offer if it isn't worth sharing. (Don't have a booklet yet? Get advice on how to create one from Paulette Ensign.)

  2. Write a press release announcing that you're offering the free booklet or report. Keep it short and sweet. Announce it, describe what's in it, tell people how to get it.

  3. E-mail the release with a link to your booklet online to your media list. (You can also attach a PDF of the booklet to the message, but many are reluctant to open attachments from people they don't know.)

  4. You're done.
Pretty easy, isn't it? As with all publicity efforts, there's no guarantee that your announcement release will get used and you won't be able to predict or control when it's used. Still, if just one outlet shares your offer with people who could become customers, the minimal effort involved has been well worth it.

If you sent out a press release about a free booklet, could you trace or track the results?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are you sure you want to reject that interview opportunity?

I've been hearing from journalist friends lately about "the one that got away" -- more specifically, the article sources who passed on interview requests because the national publications involved were "too small."

Um, Mr. or Ms. Well-Known Enough to be Considered but Not Exactly Famous Either, are you sure you want to do that? Do you really want to communicate to journalists who write for multiple publications that you are, as my little nephew would say, "specialer" than those who agreed to do interviews? Perhaps you don't know that the journalist you rejected today with the "your publication isn't important enough to me" explanation could be someone in a position to interview you for your dream media outlet next week, next month, or next year. You've burned a few bridges . . . and what did your mother tell you about that?

We all need to be conscious of how we use our time so that we put our energy where it will have the greatest impact on our businesses and careers. But I'm not sure this applies to interview requests from the press. You can find your biggest client through exposure in a small-circulation magazine or newsletter. You can also be discovered by your dream media outlet through interviews in local, regional, or niche publications or outlets. Publicity does beget publicity while arrogance with the press can, quite honestly, keep you from reaching your goals.

Think twice before turning down that next unexpected, "you're not on my target media list" interview opportunity. You won't know what you'll miss out on when you say, "No thanks," but when you respond with, "I'd be happy to talk to you," you'll discover more possibilities than you might imagine.

Did something good happen to you after you did an interview with a media outlet that wasn't on your target list?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Get more publicity by including your competitor in your press releases

It's counter-intuitive, but referring to your competitor in a press release can help boost the pick-up of your news or information. Why? First, it gives the impression that you might actually be objective -- not usually the case with press releases. Second, when your press or news release is built around a list of the "top" this, the "best" that, or the "most popular" something else, it can be hard to leave them out.

How does this work? One of the best ways to get media attention is to offer a "best of" or "most popular" list. A list must include products or services that aren't yours -- otherwise, the list has no credibility. If you chose them carefully for reasons based on retail geography, product features, cost, or something else that's relevant, you can position your brand appropriately while boosting your pick-up by offering to the press what appears to be fairly objective news and information that is actually useful.

Here are a few examples of how this might work:
  • The maker of a product such as BlindWinder, which stores dangerous blind cords, can send a press release on "the most appreciated baby shower gifts." The list could include BlindWinders, the enormously popular What To Expect When You're Expecting book, the new Pampers designer diapers getting lots of publicity right now (and why not piggyback on that?), or anything else the manufacturer uncovers in research on this subject.
  • A private school looking to boost enrollment can offer advice on how to select a private school by focusing on its strengths while comparing itself to competitive schools that stand out in other ways. For example, if your school has no athletic program, emphasize the athletics of a competitor because you're not going to attract the family looking for a top athletics program anyway. If one of your school's strengths is its affordability, make sure the most expensive private school in the area is on the list, with its cost emphasized.
  • The author of a summer grilling book can offer a list of the best new cookbooks for outdoor chefs. The list will include the author's book first, followed by a flattering critique of four others, all selected because they emphasize foods or cooking styles not covered in the author's book.
Be strategic about the other products or services you select to include in your press release that offers advice in a list form -- chose a competitor who doesn't necessarily share your specialty or is on the other side of town and won't draw traffic away from your business. But do include them. You'll enjoy far more success that way.

Have you used this tactic before? What was the outcome?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

6 top TV talk show interview mistakes

It's an exciting moment when you get that call inviting you to be a guest on a TV talk show. It doesn't matter if the show is local or national -- it's a big deal for you and your business. A TV interview seen by the people you want to communicate with can make a big difference in the success of your product, business, or service.

So don't blow it.

Here are the top mistakes I see made by talk show guests on national and local TV shows:
  1. Forgoing media training. Don't appear on national television without at least a few hours of professional media training. When you appear stiff or frightened or your voice is noticeably shaky, we don't absorb your messages because we're distracted by your body language. Professional training will help you relax and be your usual confident self. You know your stuff -- get a little help presenting it in the big time.
  2. Locking your hands together on your lap. Are you afraid they'll run off the set without you? When you're off camera, you use your hands when you talk, so don't tie them up when you're on camera. You can't appear (and feel) natural if you're not using your hands to help you make a point or give your comments emphasis.
  3. Relying on your memory and not your knowledge. Don't memorize what you want to say and then recite your messages like a bad cue card reader. You know your subject better than anyone -- that's why you're on the show.
  4. Not preparing enough. You want to make the most of this opportunity and there are no do-overs with live interviews, so prepare for the event by watching the show so you know what to expect. Give some thought to the questions you'll be asked and practice your answers. Ask a colleague or friend to critique your answers -- too long? short? dull? -- and presentation -- flat? scared? low-key? Which of your anecdotes does the best job of making your point?
  5. Wearing distracting or inappropriate clothing. This is a problem for women, especially. You don't want anything around your face that will distract from what you're saying, so no large earrings, flamboyant scarves, or heavy necklaces, even if they reflect your personal style. We are easily distracted and you want us to focus on your words, not your accessories.
  6. Getting too comfortable. Sit on the edge of the chair with your back straight so you're more energetic and animated during the interview. This is important because an energetic demeanor is more engaging for viewers (and channel surfers) than one that is low-key and relaxed.
Remember, too, to listen to how you're greeted. I've blogged about this knee-jerk "thank you for having me" response no matter how the guest is greeted, and while it's entertaining for people like me who notice these things even if we shouldn't, it's not how you want to start your TV conversation. Listen, respond, listen, respond.

What's your best tip for TV talk show interviews?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How do small businesses use e-mail and social media for marketing?

AWeber Communications just announced results of its e-mail and social marketing survey of more than 2,500 small businesses. The most popular tactics at the moment involve using e-mail and social media options to spread content to additional mediums. More than one-third (36 percent) shared information about their e-mail newsletters on Twitter, while 35 percent delivered blog posts via e-mail.

Here are the survey highlights:
  • E-mail marketing continues to bring significant value to businesses with more than 82 percent of respondents planning to increase their e-mail marketing efforts over the next year.
  • The more social media grows in popularity among consumers, the more attention it will receive from marketers. Almost 70 percent of small business marketers are employing some sort of social media tactics and a majority (77 percent) indicate that integrating e-mail marketing and social media is either “very important” or “moderately important.”
  • The most popular tactics at the moment involve spreading content onto additional mediums such as sharing e-mail newsletters on Twitter (36 percent) and delivering blog posts via e-mail (35 percent).
  • Nearly 50 percent of respondents indicated that behavioral targeting (sending specific e-mails to people according to previous messages they've opened or links they've clicked in the messages) increases their conversion rates either significantly or moderately.
  • More than 66 percent of respondents indicate they intend to use behavioral targeting as well as sales tracking in their campaigns over the next 12 months.
  • 54 percent of respondents indicate they intend to use Facebook as a tool to help build their e-mail lists.
  • Nearly 20 percent of respondents indicate that integrating e-mail marketing and social media increased customer loyalty.
  • Almost 12 times as many respondents said that e-mail marketing ROI is more easily measured than social media ROI (61 percent versus 5 percent).

How are you using e-mail and social media marketing to help get the word out about your business?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Personalize your media materials

Follow the lead of college communications offices and boost your success rate with your media relations materials by personalizing them as often as possible. When you make it clear why your news or information is relevant to the outlet's audience, you increase the chance that it will be used and shared.

When colleges announce the names of students selected for the Dean's List each semester, they don't send one release listing all the names to every hometown newspaper. They use technology to create individual press releases for every market with a name on the list. These PR people know that newspaper editors would never comb through a long list looking for the hometowns in their circulation area -- it's just too much work for too little reward.

Similarly, if -- for example -- you're supporting a new product test marketing campaign by sending a press release to local media outlets in the three market cities, change your release title and e-mail subject line for each city from "Acme Beverages tests unique new beverage in three markets" to "Acme Beverage selects Indianapolis for one of three test markets for new beverage." This personalization makes the local connection as clear as possible.

Similarly, a national organization announcing a new intiative to local markets can provide the name, phone number, and e-mail address of a local contact or chapter leader so that the media outlet has someone local to call to uncover specifics about the impact of the initiative on the specific community. Announcing the 25 finalists in a national competition? Personalize the announcements going to the media in each of those finalists' hometowns. Sure, it takes more work to use technology change the headline and first paragraph of each of those announcements -- and then to make sure that each one goes to the correct media outlets -- but the increased pick-up (and resulting exposure) makes it well worth the effort.

Geographic personalization makes the difference between lackluster and exciting results.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Consumers Want to Hear from Nonprofits

Struggling to figure out how much emphasis to put on new versus old media? According to the Cone Trend Tracker, while new media offer powerful ways to reach and engage consumers, nonprofits will have more success communicating messages or calls to action by using traditional media, advertising, and events.

The 2010 Cone Nonprofit Marketing Trend Tracker online survey reports that while word-of-mouth is tops, mobile messaging is last. Here's a ranking of the most effective approaches, according to survey responses; use it to help guide your marketing and promotion strategy and tactics:
  • 81% by word-of-mouth from family or friends
  • 80% through traditional media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, television)
  • 74% in advertising
  • 69% at events
  • 66% in the store, on a package or at the register
  • 64% through standard mail
  • 59% through e-mail
  • 49% through social media channels (e.g., Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Twitter)
  • 29% on mobile devices (via text messaging)

It wouldn't surprise me if this information applied to communication from small businesses and other organizations, too. What has worked best for your nonprofit?

Friday, June 11, 2010

How to Host a Book Contest

Need to know how to put together a book contest? The current issue of Build Book Buzz will tell you how to use this promotional tool to help call attention to your book. Learn the most important steps to follow and see how one author has done it by subscribing to the free e-newsletter at www.buildbookbuzz.com.

You'll receive this issue as soon as you subscribe through June 22, 2010. There is no online archive.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vocus Acquires Shankman's HARO

Press release distribution company Vocus, which owns one of my favorite press release distribution services, PRWeb*, announced today that it has acquired HARO. HARO -- "help a reporter out" -- is publicist Peter Shankman's service that connects journalists with sources. Shankman has done an admirable job of building his ProfNet copycat into an impressive source of income for his business. While financial terms weren't disclosed in the Vocus announcement, we can assume that Shankman did very well.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Vocus will do with the service. I'm sure they're smart enough to keep it free.

*affiliate link

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do You Care About Al and Tipper?

I tweeted yesterday about how the news of the Gore break-up presents authors who are relationship or divorce experts with an opportunity to pitch themselves to the media as talk show guests or article resources. It also provides local therapists and counselors with an opportunity to provide local commentary on a national story with their local media outlets. Publicity is -- like it or not -- all about being opportunistic. Why let your competitor do that noon TV talk show interview about why marriages end after 40 years when you could be doing it? It's a sad situation, but it's a business opportunity for some.

I was surprised, then, when a usually savvy author of books on other topics commented on my Facebook page, "Like who cares? . . . There are a lot more important things to worry about." Well, yeah, of course there are. What to have for lunch today is one of them. But his question made me realize that I care. While other recent high-profile breakups haven't moved me much, this one has left me sad.

Here's why this one bothers me. If those lip-locking love birds can't stay married, who can? I haven't been able to pull it off, but people like the Gores made me feel that is is possible. When I saw all that they've endured and accomplished as a couple, I was reassured that living happily ever after with a spouse is possible.

Oops -- maybe not.

And while some are wondering if Tipper gets half of the Internet, I'm thinking about couples and happiness. Sure, they've grown apart blah blah blah and maybe splitting gives them the opportunity to find happiness with a new soulmate yada yada yada. I get it. But still, I feel like somebody has popped a balloon in front of me. I want to believe that when you stay married that long, you will pick out a long-term care facility together, too. You'll always have somebody watching your back . . . or wiping the drool off your chin.

Where are you on this? Do you care, or, like my author friend, are you completely unmoved by the end of this marriage?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to Promote an Event

The Journalistics blog ran a great piece today about how to use social media to market an event. Let's expand on that topic here and review how to use traditional media to market an event. Most situations benefit from a combination of both. Include as many of these elements or tasks into your planning as possible:
  • Create a plan with a timetable. Events have lots of moving parts and if you don't have a large staff, you'll be distracted by the logistics and forget about publicity components if you don't have it all on paper with a calendar that reminds you when to do what.
  • Incorporate newsworthy elements. Maybe it's the "first" or "world's largest" whatever, a local media personality as your emcee, or a celebrity speaker.
  • Uncover and use all of your pre-event publicity angles. Those elements above are key here -- who cares if you've got newsworthy angles if you aren't using them to get media coverage? I was once responsible for planning and publicizing the first beach snowshoe race, a charity fundraiser sponsored by a beverage alchohol brand. It was covered by national TV media only because I alerted them.
  • Make a pitch for on-site media coverage. It's too late to generate attendance at this point, but the exposure is good for your image, product, cause, or service.
  • Look for ways to get publicity after the event, too. Hire a professional photographer to take candid photos you can send to weekly newspapers and add to your newsletter and Web site. Was it a fundraiser? Send a news release announcing how much money was raised and how it will be used. Did the event break records? Share that information with the press.
You can't afford to overlook either social or traditional media when promoting your event, so make sure your plan incorporates as many tools and tactics from both as possible.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Op-Ed Submission Lists

Op-eds -- opinion pieces that appear on the editorial pages of newspapers and some magazines -- are popular communications vehicles for nonprofits because they allow those organizations to advocate for a cause or help spark change.

I've shared tips for writing an op-ed that will get read here; these apply whether you hope to place your essay with the local paper or with several newspapers around the country.

Once you're satisfied that you've written a clear and compelling essay, e-mail it to the right person at each newspaper. How do you find out who that is? If you're just sending to one newspaper, call and ask. If you're an organization with a national audience and cause, you can pay a distribution service such as Cision to e-mail your essay to an up-to-date list at the papers you select. If you'd rather compile your own e-mail address list, use the resources below that I've found online. I can't promise they're current, but if you get an "undeliverable" bounceback message, go to that newspaper's Web site and find what you need there.

Please note that national newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today require exclusivity. But can you send it to both the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Charlotte Observer? Absolutely. And if you can personalize your essay for each market you're sending it to, you'll have a better shot at acceptance.

Here are links to lists. Google will help you find the information you need for newspapers not on these lists (what a great job for an intern!):


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bestselling YA Author Megan McCafferty Adds Unique Signature Feature to Booksignings

I don't usually post my Build Book Buzz newsletter content on my blog, but this week's Q&A with bestselling YA author Megan McCafferty is such a hit that I'm sharing it here. Thanks for this opportunity go to my daughter Jessie, who met Megan at an event at Syracuse University this spring. As soon as Jessie said, "Mom! She did Barryoke!," I knew I had to investigate.

EXPERT VIEW: Q&A with Bestselling YA Author Megan McCafferty

Our guest expert this week is Megan McCafferty, author of sloppy firsts (Three Rivers, 2001), an ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, an ALA Popular Paperback, and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Its sequel, second helpings (Three Rivers, 2003), was also selected to the NYPL list, and was a Booklist Editor’s Pick for one of the best novels of 2003. charmed thirds (Crown, 2006) was an instant New York Times bestseller and a NYPL pick. fourth comings (Crown, 2007) and perfect fifths (Crown, 2009) also made the New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, Book Sense, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and other national bestseller lists.

I’m completely charmed by Megan’s signature booksigning feature: Barryoke. It’s a unique and clever way to let the real Megan McCafferty shine through and connect with her fans. It also gives the rest of us something to think about: Is it possible for more of us to incorporate signature features into our events, too? Here’s more of the story; I hope it inspires you to think beyond the traditional approach and, like, Megan, have a little fun.

Q. Tell us a little about your booksigning and speaking schedule. You speak frequently on college campuses, right? Why?

I love appearing at colleges because these are the readers who have literally grown up with the Jessica Darling novels. They’re the ones who tell me, “Your books got me through high school.” Or, “I hated to read until I read your books.” They appreciate my series on a profoundly personal level that makes what I do so rewarding.

Q. How many appearances do you make a year on average?

About 10. Every year since 2006, I’ve had a book come out either in hardcover or paperback. For each of those publications I did bookstore signings in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut—convenient locations close to my home in Princeton, N.J. When Perfect Fifths came out last year, I also went to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. I would have loved to travel more, but as the mother of a young son it’s hard for me to spend so much time away from home, especially when all these events are scheduled within a few weeks or even days of each other to maximize the early sales that are necessary for getting on the bestsellers lists.

When not plugging a just-published book, I do appreciate opportunities to travel outside the tri-state area for literary festivals in places like Tucson, Baltimore, and the gorgeous island of Antigua in the Caribbean. My college visits have brought me to UCLA, Wellesley College, and Syracuse University, among others.

I also do “off-the-record” events that aren’t open to the public. I’ve gone back to speak at my high school several times, and I’m giving a speech at the annual conference for New Jersey Association of Library Assistants in June.

Most of my job is spent alone—just me and my laptop. It’s fun for me to get out of my office—and my own head—to connect with all different audiences.

Q. What is Barryoke? Is this a product of your imagination or did you pick it up from somewhere else?

Barryoke is Barry Manilow karaoke. As far as I know, I’m the first person crazy enough to have come up with such a thing.

Q. How (and why) did you introduce Barryoke in Perfect Fifths? What’s the connection to the story?

Barry Manilow’s songs appear in all five books, often during key moments during the on-again-off-again romance between Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie. The climactic scene in Perfect Fifths involves these two characters singing “Can’t Smile Without You” on stage in front of an audience consisting entirely of members of the (fictional) Tri-State Chapter of the Barry Manilow International Fan Club. I didn’t plan for Barry Manilow’s music to serve as the cheesy leitmotif for the series, but I like how it played out.

Q. You now perform Barryoke at your booksignings and speaking engagements. Why? What made you come out of the closet with your singing?

Growing up, there were only two jobs I ever wanted: Writer or singer. Neither of which were the most practical careers, right? I’m lucky the writing worked out.

After 10 years and five books, I knew Perfect Fifths would close out the series. I wanted my events for this book to be more like a celebration, a going-away party of sorts. I took voice lessons for 10 years and was very involved in musical theater as a kid and all throughout high school and college. I sang in a semi-professional a cappella group in my mid-20s, and had a hard time finding another performance outlet after I left it. When it came time to arrange the events for Perfect Fifths, I thought to myself, “Hey. I love to sing. There’s a big signing scene in the book. I have a captive audience. Why not?!”

So I invested in The Official Barry Manilow Chartbusters Karaoke CD and made The Official Barryoke Bag for collecting requests from the audience. I never know what song I’m going to sing until I pull the request out of the bag. I always give a prize to the person behind the winning request—always a copy of Perfect Fifths, but sometimes I’ll throw in a Barry Manilow T-shirt or Barry Manilow International Fan Club pin. It’s totally fun and ridiculous and every time I open my mouth to sing “Mandy” or “Copacabana” I can’t believe that I made up this silly thing called Barryoke and that there are people who actually want me to do it!

Q. How many times have you seen Barry Manilow perform, and why so many?

I’ve lost count. Four, I think. The Showman of Our Time has still has got some pipes on him. It’s been a while since my last show though. The immobility of his face is starting to trouble me.

Q. Does Barry know about your Barryoke?

I don’t think so. I haven’t heard from him or his people.

Q. What’s the audience reaction?

Judging from the looks on their faces, it’s something like this:

“Is she really gonna do this?”
“OMG. She’s totally doing this.”
“Hahahahaha. She did it…and it was AWESOME.”

Q. Perfect Fifths is the last in the Jessica Darling series. What are you working on now?

I just turned in the first draft of BUMPED to my editor. It’s a dystopian YA novel set 25 years in the future in which there’s a global infertility virus and only teenagers can get pregnant. An apocalyptic comedy, I’m calling it a cross between Heathers and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Q. Will you do something equally creative at your signings for this novel?

I have an idea for something I could do, but I’m not sure if I will. It has to feel right, and I won’t know if it feels right until I’m closer to publication.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m not much of a blogger, but interested readers can always keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter. Oh, and if you search for “Megan McCafferty” and “Barryoke” on Youtube, you can see the magic of Barryoke for yourself. (From Sandy: Here’s my favorite!)

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