Category Archives: publicity

The Rise of the Book Sherpa

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My life as a publicist has evolved over the years often being guided and shaped by the unique needs of my clients. For the last year, I’ve had the great fortune to work with a variety of authors and teachers steeped in the new consciousness arena. They are thoughtful, creative, generous people who I am privileged to know and support.

My career has had a strong literary component beginning with earning my bachelor of fine arts degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, MA. I was a story analyst for film companies in Los Angeles, a freelance writer in Austin and always a publicist in some way or another. The thread throughout has been a deep passion for storytelling. Later I was a founding member of Texas Writers Month and was the PR Director for the Texas Book Festival founded and chaired by First Lady Laura Bush.

So when my clients started asking me to help with shaping their book ideas and editing book proposals I found myself being drawn into a new area of business that has quickly become a passion. But what would I call myself? An editor? A ghostwriter? A writing consultant? Nope. My forte is helping authors get to the top of their personal literary summits– helping writers with books that have been climbing for months, sometimes years. Like a sherpa, I come in when you have a concept, ideas, notes and the willingness to do some focused work for two days. So what am I? I am your Book Sherpa. Here’s what you can expect:

– Two days focused on discussing your book idea, reviewing your pages and notes and developing a book outline

– I will interview you based on this outline and your responses will be inputed into dictation software which will become the basis of your first draft

– We will work together to complete a book proposal ready for agents and/or publishers

So, do you have a book in you just waiting to come out? Are you a teacher, an expert, or do you have an extraordinary story to share? Let me help. I’ll be your personal guide to climbing that creative mountain path. Give me two days, and you’ll walk away with the beginning of a new chapter, and the perfect view!

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Pitching Media: Consider the Logical Steps, But Go With Your Gut

diverging-paths-croppedPublicists are strategists. A primary component of their value is the ability to think and act strategically on behalf of clients. We take a lot of things into consideration when making our pitches to the media including:

  • Is the media outlet appropriate?
  • What is the size and scope of the audience?
  • Has someone or something else similar to this client recently been featured? Depending on the situation this might be a good thing, or a bad thing.
  • Is the client ready to be on  camera? Starting with local media could build confidence and experience.
  • Should we focus on TV, radio, print or new media outlets? All of the above, some of the above, etc.? If so, why or why not?
  • Is this the right time? Are we coming into seasonal challenges, or does the client have a stronger story happening a couple of months down the road? Are people overwhelmed with stories like these already?

So, these are typical strategic questions that most PR people will consider before pitching a client. But what about just plain, old-fashioned intuition? Does instinct and gut reactions figure into this? Absolutely. As in any business, sometimes you just need to go with what feels right. More often than not, your gut will tell you to dig someone’s name up from your media lists, or to consider a totally new show or outlet. It’s hard to explain to the client, sometimes, exactly why you’re pitching this show, instead of that. But more often than not, your intuition is guiding the pitching and only later will you realize that it all made perfect sense.

Even if the pitches don’t come through, you might walk away with a clearer understanding of how your pitch does or doesn’t resonate. This information is invaluable and will save you a lot of time and energy and certainly will influence the trajectory of your pitches.

But when they do come through, watch out! You’ve logically considered all of the viable options, but you succeeded in managing to cut through the noise (as well as the noise in your head) and your instincts were right. Maybe your client was dead set against radio because of one bad experience, but you urged them to do just this one show and voila! It was the best interview ever.

So do your homework, but also trust your intuition. Maintaining a balance will yield great results.

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A New Beginning and a New Range of Services… PR, Writing and More

Call me a dreamer, but I really do think I can do everything I need to do and keep up with this blog… really. Why have I been so remiss? Well, my business is changing– has changed quite a but in the last few months. I’ve stopped offering certain services, and gone back to old favorites. Strangely, not so much because of supply and demand, but because of my own personal interests and direction. I figure, if I am passionate about what I am working on, I’ll do a great job. And I do.

One of the reason I was on a mini-hiatus from my blog (not my job, just my blog) is because I have been spending some very productive and happy time on the other side of the fence. I started a new media company called Soul Lab which is both a blog and an internet radio show. This is where I get to share my personal interests, talk to really fascinating people, and keep my journalistic muscles fit and lean. Like most PR people from my generation (30-40), we started out as journalism majors. In fact, there were no real formal degrees in PR when I went to Emerson College. I think I prefer that, because what you need to know about PR comes from being in expert in a field you believe in, and actuallt working as a journalist. So check out Soul Lab Blog and Soul Lab Radio if you are into everything from pop culture to spirituality, from parenting to art. You’ll dig it.

In the meantime, check out a handy new range of services:

  • Freelance writing for online/offline publications and blogs
  • Webinars and teleclasses for companies, groups and non-profits on a variety of subjects including PR, media relations, Web 2.0 strategies and more
  • Communications training via phone or 1:1: Preparing people for media interviews or presentations
  • Digital media strategy: Social media and networking to grow your business and online/offline PR
  • Professional Writing: Developing messages to deliver to audiences from 15 to 15,000; press materials
  • Screenplay Doctor: Reviewing your screenplay and writing coverage. I’ve read screenplays and provided coverage for development executives and other decision makers at Tri Star Pictures (Red Wagon Productions), Spelling Films International, Keystone Entertainment and Turner Pictures
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    Filed under blogging, journalism, marketing, media, media relations, Media Training, PR, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, publicity, social media

    “B” is for Blog

    Digital Media Strategist and Writer Nettie Hartsock and I have begun to do free monthly workshops on blogging for those who either do not have the slightest clue about where to start, or they’ve begin and now just don’t “get” the whole social networking thing or how to take their blog global. We are calling our series “B” is for Blog and we are really interested in empowering business owners to take control of this very powerful and ultimately cost effective suite of tools. We want to demystify the process, and make it simple and fun. So far, we’ve had an amazing response…  just incredible. I’m glad that entrepreneurs are getting out there and discovering what it’s like to be a part of a dynamic online community.

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    Not Just a Press Release

    I’m a big advocate for sending out additional media with press releases including images, a video, some audio, or whatever else you have on hand to pump up the content and interest. If you are an individual or CEO trying to boost your personal brand, it’s important to make sure that you have some decent video on hand for producers so they can get a sense of how you might appear on camera. Check out www.bizbuzzvideo.com for very affordable video production by a former CNN videographer with two Emmys under her belt. Oh, and make sure your headshots aren’t from 1991.

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    Filed under marketing communications, media, media relations, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity

    Pay Per Media Hit or Not?

    The answer is a big fat “no.” Whenever I get approached by someone who would like to hire me and propose that I be paid based on what “hits” I get for them during my outreach, I kindly walk way. Why? Because most really savvy clients understand that achieving results is based on forging relationships, developing strategies and discovering a variety of paths to creating awareness above and beyond a mention in the local daily paper. And most people know that getting media hits is considered earned media, not paid media. For as much as someone can put into pitching a client, there are never any guarantees. So it simply would be not be a fair proposition to expect a professional to engage in work with no guarantee that they will ever get paid. It may work for realtors or personal injury lawyers, but not for publicists.

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    THE Most Important Skill for a Publicist

    Writing. Period. The End.

    Just kidding… I have a bit more to say on the topic. Over the years I have counseled dozens of young people interested in pursuing a career in public relations or some form of marketing communications. The number one question I get asked is: “What is the most important skill I need to have in order to get a job?” My answer is always the same: “Can you write?”

    Believe it or not, writing does not come naturally to most people. In fact, some people hate writing so much, they would rather do their neighbors’ tax returns than write an article even on an interesting topic. For me, I have always loved writing. I wrote my first “book” when I was nine years old. It was called “Albert the Blue Alligator” and I still have it– and it’s still pretty good.

    I chose to attend Emerson College in Boston, MA because it is a communications school that puts great emphasis on one’s ability to communicate effectively. In fact, the school motto is ” Expression Necessary to Evolution.” So true.

    So why does a PR person need to know how to write? Don’t they spend most of their time networking, hooking up with journalists, building their contacts lists, going to events and making phone calls? No. That’s some of what a publicist does, but that’s not the whole enchilada.

    A lot of what happens includes developing messages, working with clients on how to communicate what it is they want to say, and writing a variety of written documents for both internal and external use. There are press releases, Q&As, talking points, media advisories, pitch letters, e-mail communications, etc. All of these activities require a person to be an outstanding writer.

    Spending time honing your writing skills lets a potential employer or client know that you can get up to speed on new topics quickly; assimilate complex information and relate that to a general audience; understand a variety of audiences; and can create messages that speak authentically and accurately about your product or business. Being a good writer means you are a good strategist, researcher, and overall great communicator.

    PR people have to understand and apply basic journalistic principles in writing press releases. This tells a journalist that she’s working with a pro– someone who understands the meat of a good story, not just someone interested in hawking a product, service or initiative.

    Some great writers’ resources for PR people include:

    The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.

    The Associated Press Stylebook

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