People will ask me all the time, “Why do I need a publicist?” If you have to ask the question, chances are you probably need one. Why? Because there are too many stories, too many angles, and too many opportunities you might miss by not knowing the rules of the game, so to speak. Authors, speakers, small business owners (turned authors) often launch headlong into their marketing campaign with little or no regard for the steps and the process of getting media. Some authors stumble into success after success, and that’s great, but it’s often not the norm. Why? Because in our zeal to tell the world about our story, we often stumble over our own efforts. We send pitches that are too long, or send them to the wrong person. Or we get a media person on the phone and fumble our elevator pitch. All of these things can rob authors of the chance to get some coverage for their book .
Over the years, a lot has changed in publicity. Players have come and gone, pitching windows have narrowed, and with so many stories vying for airtime, your 15 minutes of fame often seems like 15 seconds. To be successful, not just once but continually, you need to understand how publicity people view each facet of their job (and the pitch) and how they garner the media they do. Generally it’s not one thing, it’s a collection of tasks publicity people do over and over that gets them traction on a story.
Let’s look at some of the things we do on an ongoing basis and how you might be able to apply them to your own marketing efforts:
- Think like a journalist: This is probably the most important and the most difficult. When I say “think like a journalist” what I mean is thinking objectively and not thinking about yourself, your book, or your pitch because those don’t matter. The only thing a journalist cares about is “Will this interest my readers.” If you can work using that objectivity, you’ll gain greater access to media, both online and off, than you could have ever imagined.
- Know the rules: When I say rules, I mean not just the rules of your industry but the rules of pitching. When to pitch, who to pitch, how to pitch. A good publicist knows this, updates her information constantly (because media changes, moves, etc.) and lives and dies by these rules. Why? Get a reporter angry and you’ll see what I mean. Turn in a story late and see how much media coverage you end up getting. A lot of authors think they are special and different, and the rules don’t apply to them. Yes, you are special and different and yes, the rules still apply to you.
- Read outside of your market: They say that, eventually, everything ties into everything. This may or may not be true for all industries, but when it comes to promotion you’d be surprised how much a ripple over there can affect what you’re doing here. Reading outside of your market, mostly related to changes affecting other markets, serves a couple of purposes. First, the importance of creativity when you’re pitching can’t be overstated and sometimes to be creative, you have to look through your world using a different lens. By digging into and outside of your market, you’ll be able to gain access to information that could affect your message long-term, or perhaps give your brain enough juice and insight to bring a new set of ideas that will create some great pitches.
- Google Alerts: You can’t possibly follow every thread of discussion around your topic, or know where and when it’s being covered, but you do need to stay up on all of it; that’s where Google Alerts comes in. Yes, there are more elaborate tracking services, but Google Alerts is a great way to know when and where your topic is being featured. Also important, you’ll see who’s getting quoted and which media is covering your industry.
- Understand the importance of local media: Many times clients want to overlook local media. It’s not as glamourous or as big as national media. Well, that may be true but there’s gold in your back yard. We love local campaigns and local media loves their regional “celebrities.” If you haven’t done a local outreach you should. Additionally, network with local media by going to media events like Press Clubs (which anyone can register for). You never know where this will lead you, and you never know where your local contact may wind up on the media food chain. Years ago I worked with a producer for a local (small) Los Angeles station. We stayed in touch over the years and now she’s one of the head producers at CNN.
- Local vs. National: And speaking of local publicity — local media loves a local angle on a national story. If you can hook your book into something that’s going on nationally, then I suggest you pitch it to your local market. Good publicity people are always on the look-out for regional tie-ins, they make for great media!
- Media leads: I subscribe to several media leads services and I scan them, not just for existing clients, but to note trends nationally. Doing a quick scan of leads is a fantastic way to see what’s piquing the media interest. As you start doing that, you will also find that you’re responding to more and more stories because you’re starting to see tie-ins that you may not have seen previously (which is helped along by #3).
- Realize the importance of a subject line: I know that the topic of subject lines in email pitching has been covered (a lot), but I can’t state enough how important it is or how much time a good publicist can spend agonizing over it. Don’t just willy-nilly point and click your way through your media pitching — subject lines are extremely significant, and most publicity people I know spend a lot of time crafting, redrafting, editing and tweaking them. You should, too.
- It’s all about relationships: Once you start getting media, remember that staying in touch with the person who interviewed you is important. Find them on LinkedIn, thank them for the story they did on you (I still send hand-written thank you notes) and then stay in touch a few times a year. Perhaps you can comment on a story they did or send them a quick update or a copy of your latest book. If you can become a reliable media source for someone, you’ll likely always be in their rolodex even when they move on. Just like the example I gave above, media can move, and if you’re lucky, your information will keep moving with them.
Being a publicist is more than just knowing how to craft a snazzy email, it’s a process and an ongoing effort. If done right, you can really pull in a lot of great mentions, features and even reviews. Building media relationships takes a while, and there are no shortcuts, but if done effectively, these relationships can grow and flourish throughout your career. And remember: Media loves media. The more you get, the more you’ll get. Know the rules, honor the rules and perhaps if you’re lucky, the media will beat a path to your door.