Nine Ways to Think Like a Publicist

By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

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 coverage. 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 publicists view each facet of their job (and the pitch) and how they garner the media coverage they do.

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:

  1. 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. Journalists focus on “Will this interest my readers?” and if you can work using that objectivity, you’ll gain greater access to media both online and off, than you could have ever imagined.
  2. 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.
  3. Read outside of your market: Reading outside of your market, mostly related to changes affecting other markets, serves a couple of purposes. First off, 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.
  4. Google Alerts: You can’t possibly follow every thread of discussion around your topic, but Google Alerts is a great way to know when and where your topic is being featured. Also important, who’s getting quoted and which media is covering your industry.
  5. Understand the importance of local media: Many times I see clients wanting to overlook local media. It’s not glamorous 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.
  6. 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 publicists are always on the look-out for regional tie-ins, they make for great media!
  7. Media leads: I subscribe to several media leads services and I scan them, not just for existing clients but to note trends nationally. It’s a fantastic way to see what’s piquing the media interest by doing a quick scan of these. 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)
  8. 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 publicists I know spend a lot of time crafting, redrafting, editing, and tweaking them. You should, too.
  9. It’s all about relationships: Once you start getting media coverage, 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 commenting on a story they did or sending 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.

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 takes a while and there are no shortcuts, but if done effectively, these relationships can grow and flourish throughout your career.  Know the rules, honor the rules and perhaps if you’re lucky, the media will beat a path to your door.

Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.

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