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Is it worth it to hire a publicist?

Evaluating whether to hire a publicist for marketing and promotion

Since I’m a publicist and do a lot of work with authors and publishing companies, I’ll give you my spin on this.

Is it worth it to hire a publicist?

My response: It depends.

I don’t really ascribe to the amount of money invested in the book as a decision factor myself. Lots of my clients have turned books that they write with blood, sweat and tears into financial success using POD. Very simply they write a good book and print on demand in small quantity. Money invested in the book does not have to be considerable. Of course if you have invested a lot of money, then it begins to acquire the characteristics of a publish or perish syndrome. The stakes go up with the investment.

I’ll be honest with you. I see lots of one-book authors try to turn a profit from publishing. I see only a few succeed. I see lots try very hard and fail. So to me, self-publishing is best viewed as a risk venture. There are so many variables. Publicity can jumpstart marketing but there is no guarantee that it will.

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that the owner of some intellectual property can reasonably benefit from using publicity to achieve their goals. To me, publicity is one type of marketing or promotion and it has a cost. And to really understand what we’re talking about, it’s crucial to get on the same page. So here’s my definition of what one typically asks a publicist to do:

PR: the creation and presentation of proposed content to media (publishers or producers) to persuade them to publish or showcase a story or information that is perceived as objectively reported by their audiences, that creates interest, desire and promotes and triggers desired action (sales, votes or social action).

The question is whether the cost you invest can produce the actions you want to achieve whether it be sales, votes, or social action such as human support, financial or material donation, or attendance at a show or an event.

The goal is to have a meaningful communication with the right real people on the receiving end. The message is matters, the medium matters, and the effect matters. The real value to the recipient is what determines whether they in fact are affected to the point of action. You can’t use any communication technology to trigger or motivate action without figuring out the magic words first. Can you do this yourself or do you need to have a professional publicist help you?

The cost of a publicist covers the actions needed to produce the results you want. There are lots of options for someone who needs publicity to consider from doing it yourself all the way to simply hiring someone to do it all for you. The choices range in cost from as low as the cost of acquiring a custom database all the way to hiring a full service PR, firm, or a pay-for-performance firm, all the way to hiring an in-house publicist.

Now I operate a task based service that allows people to select and deploy the simplest and most intelligent actions. For most authors and publishers this is a one-time project that involves identifying the target audience, figuring out how to galvanize them, crafting one or more news releases, creating the right custom media list to present this message to the maximum number of right people, sending them any and all additional materials the media then needs to do their job, and then calling them to persuade media who have not decided to do what you are hoping for to try to persuade them to give you the publicity and media coverage you seek.

Other publicists and PR firms do similar actions and charge more and less to do these things. But there are many different types of fee arrangements by which can acquire publicity services. You should study the differences when you make your decision and do so recognizing specifically what you will get for the money you pay.

Here’s a link to an article I wrote titled “Evaluating the Range of Publicity Tactics and Publicity Options”

http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=41

There’s a second article that talks about how to get the most out of whichever type of publicity service you choose titled “Super Client! Getting the Most Out of Your Publicists and Copywriters”.

http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=42
You can choose to manage your promotions to achieve many different types of results.

There is no simple answer. There are costs (money, time, and material resources for the data needed and the technology needed) to achieve publicity success.

There is also expertise required (copywriting, targeting the right media, utilizing the best technologies, communicating with clients and media, negotiating, reporting, integrating with marketing and other people and publicists who are involved).

These are some of the issues you need to address and factor in to the decision one makes.

The original question asks “is it worth it to hire a publicist?”

The return on investment question can be answered by evaluating the profit one makes per action triggered by your publicity effort. Let’s look at some of the costs and what it means to an author/publisher.

If one makes $5 per book, then it takes 100 books to cover a $500 cost for a single news release publicity project.

You’d have to sell 2,000 books to cover a $10,000 fee for a full service PR firm or personal publicist for some dedicated time or program.

If on the other hand if you are not just an author, but also receive $3000 for a speaking engagement plus travel and per diem, then you can make $2500 or more if you even get one speaking engagement off one $500 news release outreach.

If you worked with the $10,000 PR firm, you’d nearly break even if you got three engagements and you’d make a couple of thousand with four.

Will the $10,000 firm produce more than the $500 outreach effort? This depends on what is really being done to get media coverage. It depends on the message and who gets to receive it.

There are at least five key measurement points you should use to determine your level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of your publicity efforts.

1. The first point is when you transmit a news release or conduct an outreach effort. Do you feel like the costs of performing the publicity outreach are reasonable? Do you feel like the service has been responsive to your needs?

2. The second point is immediately after the outreach is conducted and you can identify the number and quality of the media responses to your outreach.

3. The third point is when articles are actually published or when your interviews have been conducted.

4. The fourth point is when you determine whether enough of the right people respond to your message.

5. The fifth and final point is sometime later still, when you are finally able to somehow determine the overall benefits of your outreach effort and experience.

It is only now you can truly ask “Was it worth it?”

Here is an article I wrote titled “Tracking Your Publicity Success and PR Effectiveness” which discusses this aspect of publicity in more detail:

http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=14
What this means of course is that publicity is more valuable when someone has multiple streams of income that can be leveraged and the branding effect triggers interest and sales in many ways. This frees people from strictly focusing solely on their product and allows them to shine again and again by helping people they can help the most in ways that really turn people on. This is how you not only trigger real interest, but trigger trust and action. This is the professional branding effect and when it works, people like what you say so much that they will buy everything you have for sale. This is what you hope for when you hire a publicist.

So is it worth it to hire a publicist?

It depends on whether you can do what needs to be done by yourself or with the right type of help. It depends on the results you achieve when you do these things.

The one thing you really need to realize is that even if one hires a publicist, there’s still no guarantee that publicity will produce sales. All you can do is try.

And like any other marketing tactic you should really evaluate the effectiveness as a business using objective measures. Look at all the factors and make an informed decision.

If it works, do more of it, and if it doesn’t stop and do something else.

The only thing that is certain is that if you do not reach out to people somehow, nothing will happen.

Facebook guidelines regarding online promotions

Facebook issues guidelines regarding online promotions

Fascinating article in the January 2010 issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel by lawyers Gonzalo E. Mon and Christopher M. Loeffler, of the DC law firm Kelley Drye & Warren. The article describes and interprets the detailed promotion guidelines issued by Facebook in November 2009.

Facebook Issues New Guidelines For Running Promotions On Its Platform
http://www.metrocorpcounsel.com/current.php?artType=view&artMonth=January&artYear=2010&EntryNo=10520

If you conduct promotions on Facebook, then you should really read this article and make sure you also take a look at the Facebook guidelines themselves to make sure you don’t go astray of laws and regulations as well as Facebook policies.

Publicity Planner for 2010

Publicity Planner for 2010

Publicity Planner for 2010

Each year I create an annual publicity plan to help people look ahead and map out their ideas for acquiring publicity throughout the year.

This unique publicity planner provides a month-at-a-glance roadmap to holidays throughout the year and identifies the lead time for each holiday.

The special design makes it easy to develop a detailed personalized framework of key dates and events so that you map out your strategy and ideas to promote your book or your writing in 2010.

You can get it along with lots of other free downloads here

Publicity Planner for 2010 – http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-downloads/

Or just click here to download the pdf file stratight away.

http://www.directcontactpr.com/files/files/Publicityplan2010.pdf

Incredible book publicity & promotion innovation demonstrated on the NYC Subway

Incredible book publicity & promotion innovation demonstrated on the NYC Subway

Hats off to The Book Bench and the Book Department at the New Yorker for a great snapshot of a truly innovative approach to book promotion.

Timely topic, Great energy and enthusiasm, and almost free! (cost of a subway token!)

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2009/12/1000-words-diy.html

Do note that they are asking for more picture tells a thousand word book related photo submissions at the web site.

We need to ask for a follow up to see if the author gets a NYC publisher!

Differences between marketing, advertising and PR

Discussion of the differences between marketing, PR and advertising

Great discussion over at Yahoo Small PR Agency Pros

I’ll throw in a little twist here to focus on what a person who works for a living has to do to communicate and accomplish these various and distinctive roles and objectives.

Advertising: paying for the creation and placement of communications so that target audiences of the selected media take the action wanted (which for products and services is usually sales, but for politicians could be votes, or for organizations, could be social action).

Marketing: the creation and management of programs and people and the execution of strategies, tactics and actions to achieve sales and profits of products or services (or votes or social action).

PR: the creation and presentation of proposed content to media (publishers or producers) to persuade them to publish or showcase a story or information that is perceived as objectively reported by their audiences, that creates interest, desire and promotes and triggers desired action (sales, votes or social action).

And btw, if the latter is what you spend a lot of your time doing, my new book Trash Proof News Releases is up on Smashwords – it’s a free download. It’s expressly designed to be an immense help to anyone who even thinks about writing a news release. I basically spend whole chapters of the book trying to explain clarify and communicate the difference between PR, and marketing and advertising, since what I see day in day out is otherwise successful marketing people fail to realize the difference between these distinctive functions, and the different types of MarCom copy required for each.

Book page to download Trash Proof News Releases Smashwords edition:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/5921

The book can be viewed online or downloaded in ten different formats.

Article comment – Social media marketing sucks… if you do it wrong

Why social media marketing sucks and what to do about it

Why does social media marketing suck and what can you do about it?

Interesting Article at the Kansas City Examiner titled Social Media Marketing Sucks… If You Do It Wrong by Dustin Riedisel

My comments:

Social media are a special type of communication technology and they too, like all other communication technologies (email fax, street mail and even Tweets), have special requirements.

The goal is to have a meaningful communication with a real person on the receiving end. The message is what matters. The real value to the recipient is what matters. You can’t use any communication technology to trigger or motivate action without figuring out the magic words first.

This in fact, is what I call, the miracle of the microcosm, since in this nation of 300 million technology and media indoctrinated people, you can learn what it takes to turn people on anywhere. This is what expert PR and marketing copywriters are really for.

And once you do figure out what you can say that turns people on (no matter where you are) then and only then can you use technology as a force multiplier, to generate the actions you want people to take, wherever they are.

Read more on social media marketing ROI here http://blog.directcontactpr.com/public/category/social-marketing/

Seven Key Types of Attention Grabbing Headlines, Email Subject Lines, and Tweets

Seven Key Types of Attention Grabbing Headlines, Email Subject Lines, and Tweets

I am constantly identifying micro-content that grabs attention. In a world where people have adult ADD (attention deficit disorder), getting their attention is an ever increasing challenge.

What is interesting is that if you study the mini-messages that work, you begin to see that there are special characteristics that fall into a small but important series of categories. Here they are:

1. Problem Identified
2. Problem Warning
3. Problem Solved
4. Someone in Trouble
5. Someone Saved or Rescued
6. Something Bad Happened
7. Something Good Happened

You can look at newspapers or magazines and news search engines and see these categories everywhere.

If you are trying to create galvanizing micro-content, these alternatives make it really easy to identify some ideas for you.

Simplifies things, doesn’t it?

What is a News Release? Really!

What is a News Release? Really!

So much confusion over this simple question. Here’s my definition of a news release:

A written proposal:

– containing a request for media coverage

– and/or an offer to provide media the content needed to achieve that end.

A news release is either sent directly to media decision makers directly (e.g., by fax, email, street mail, etc.) or placed where they can find it and use it (as when it is posted to a news search engine using a news release distribution service).

A news release is not an advertisement. You do not pay for coverage and do not control what the media says. It is a document that persuades media to give you media coverage. Your degree of success is often based on how much of what you give them to do their job is actually used.

You must provide media with information that matches what they are accustomed to publishing (or producing). Usually this means the content must be news, education or entertainment, or opinion or commentary.

If you have a different objective, then perhaps you should not be thinking what you are writing or need to write is a news release at all.

It’s OK to have a different objective. There are other types of marcom (marketing communications) you can choose to achieve a goal. It also means your target audience is not likely to be media people. You will need a different targeted list of people to match your objective.

But if publicity in media is what you want, you write a news release.

Biggest challenge I see about using Twitter

Commentary and analysis of using Twitter for marketing and PR

People are asking lots of questions about using Twitter, particularly as a marketing tool and as a tool for PR.

The biggest challenge I see about using Twitter as a marketing tool is trying to get an answer to the following question:

What ROI am I going to get out using Twitter and why?

The ROI people receive from participating in Twitter is an open question. Some people get lots of tangible ROI and many don’t.

If you are an Oprah or an Ashton Kutcher, you may have a million followers. You can cultivate and perpetuate brand image by being a fun enjoyable person with your tweets.

Each one only follows a handful of people. That’s not conversation, it’s performing.

How much time do you think they really spend Tweeting and looking at other people’s Tweets?

Twitter is seen as a conversational medium and it takes time, effort and care to develop and cultivate relationships.

If the celebrities are using Twitter, is it because it will have a positive effect on their ROI? Look at how that happens.

Can you develop meaningful relationships with people on Twitter? Apparently so. Some people do anyway.

Can these relationships produce ROI?

Maybe. Some people may be able to mine the relationships and produce ROI but for most people that I know, this is not the case.

Is it because no one is really listening? Text message communications not all that easy to make motivational or galvanizing. Headlines in articles, news releases and the subject lines of email messages present many of the same daunting challenges. Look at the latest string of Tweets from anyone and see if what they say impresses you enough to spend lots of time each day keeping up with what they are saying.

120 to 140 characters with a snip link and say something of helpful, funny or useful with real value you may get someone to click on the link.

The same one liner may be forwarded.

You won’t sell product or services simply by tweeting three times a day if what you tweet is sales talk and links to your web site.

You may get friends and get followers if you post helpful or valuable information.

Tracking sales from individual tweets is going to be pretty difficult. Tracking traffic from Tweets may be easier.

Will it be worth the time and effort compared to other things that you can do with your time, energy, and money available for marketing?

Maybe. Maybe not. It depends what you do and what you receive from your Twitter efforts as compared to other things you are doing.

You can target using Twitter search and find people who have mentioned a keyword in their Tweets. Is this really a great targeting tool? Are you reaching people who are truly receptive to a direct message from you.

If what you posted had real value and if it helps people, then they may be grateful. They may spread the word to other. They may help you build a reputation for that value. Yes, it may bring new people to your site and you’ll get some ROI.

But is ROI you receive from this attenuated pathway really based on your Twitter post? Or is it because of the value in what you’ve created independent of your Twitter post.

Did you need Twitter to connect with someone to help them? Can you use all sorts of other methods of communication to meaningfully connect with people?

Is Twitter as valuable say as a regular phone call? A web seminar? A detailed post to a forum? An article in a trade publication? An interview on radio or TV? A podcast interview or an interview on Sirius satellite radio?

The answers may depend on who you are, what you do, and what you can give to others, and then of course, in what you have that brings you income that Twitter people will buy.

I believe that if you focus on the creation of real value then you won’t necessarily need to use Twitter at all.

In fact, unless you create something of real value in the first place, it won’t matter no matter what technology you use to communicate with people.

The quality product or service is the most important thing you need to focus on first and foremost.

Of course, if you do create something truly re-markable, other people will do all the talking for you anyway.

There are good reasons why companies need to be on Twitter and follow what people are saying, and even converse once an issue or even a crisis erupts.

But is it worth the time, effort and money it takes to be on Twitter for small businesses?

Maybe. It depends on you, your product, your services, and on the value of the relationships and the quality of the communications you have with the people you need to produce your income.

If you can have meaningful little tiny snippet text communications that relate directly to the mental factors that determine or influence sales decisions in your target audience then maybe Twitter is for you.

If on the other hand little tiny snippet text message communications don’t cut it, then maybe you don’t need to be using Twitter at all.

Media coverage begets media coverage: How to use publicity to get more publicity

Media coverage begets media coverage: How to use publicity to get more publicity

One of my clients Cy Tymony who writes the Sneaky uses of Everyday Objects book series told a story about his appearance on one NPR talk show lead to an invite to write an educational fun article in a teen science magazine which then led him to be invited to be on a Make TV Public Broadcasting System TV show.

His story about how one media leads to another illustrates one of the primary rules of PR.

Media coverage begets media coverage.

We’ve had many similar experiences with lots of other clients.

What turns on one media turns on other media.

Bigger media also pay attention to what other smaller media are covering. They also use them to identify guests of interest and with the right guest capability and qualities they seek for their audience.

This illustrates my ‘miracle of the microcosm theory’.

It doesn’t matter where you are, you can learn what you need to say and do to turn your audience on.

You need to offer up great information that meaningfully connects with the people in the audience.

This is what Cy has developed and learned to do as an author, a media guest and a speaker. This is where Cy Tymony now shines. His tips and demonstrations are dazzling fun examples of the power of the human ingenuity, innovation and creativity. These elements are not only dramatic, educational and entertaining, but they are motivational and inspiring.

To be successful, this is what other authors have to learn how to do. Like Cy, you can create, practice and refine your media pitch and presentations till they turn people on. You can do this wherever you are.

Once you have a communication script — something that reliably turns people on — then you use the targeted technologies that are available as a force multiplier to repeat the message to similar people and the media they read, watch and listen to, and produce the same response actions wherever you get to go.

This is a conscious business decision. You take your proven mar-com – marketing communication and you decide to systematically roll it out and offer it to more media and people.

Bu this also points out one of the challenges of book marketing and promotion. It takes work to do the communicating. It also takes time, energy, and skill. It’s not rocket science. It is active outreach and repeat performance.

This is a choice many people fail to take in spite of the gift that has been handed to them. They sit back passively and wait for more good things to happen, instead of realizing that it takes effort and energy to push the proven message out there where it can be seen and acted upon.