Renaming your business? Why it must pass the ‘telephone test’

Can your company's name pass the telephone test?

By Marcia Yudkin

In 1994, a young investment banker named Jeff Bezos incorporated a company called Cadabra (after “Abracadabra”) to sell books online.

He had second thoughts about the name, however, after talking to his lawyer on the phone one day.

“Cadaver?” repeated the lawyer in astonishment.

Bezos changed the name of his ecommerce company to Amazon, as you have undoubtedly figured out. It’s fun to speculate how ecommerce might have developed differently with a trailblazer that bore a name that sounded like a dead body.

More important, though, is a lesson that’s still being belatedly learned all over the world by entrepreneurs who send their products and companies out into the world with names that flunk what I call the “telephone test”: Can people understand the name when it’s pronounced all by itself on the telephone?

After all, when you publicize your product or company, or even just carry on routine business, you’ll have to say its name to others over the phone – and on the radio, where people may get interviewed by phone. If people misunderstand and either laugh or cringe, or can’t understand the sounds you uttered, you have a big strike against you. And if folks who hear it tend to repeat it wrongly, that likewise puts an obstacle in the way of your success.

Why People Become Confused

Sounds come through less clearly on the telephone, according to Rebecca Shafir, a speech/language pathologist and brain fitness expert who is the author of The Zen of Listening.

“Telephones make speech sound artificial because they filter out sound frequencies under 250 hz,” Shafir says. “Phones also filter out frequencies above 3000 hz, leading listeners to confuse ‘s’ with ‘f’ and ‘b’ with ‘d, ‘t’ and ‘v.’ Accents, room acoustics and background noise may complicate the signal further.”

Factors that can get in the way of a name making sense to the ear include unfamiliar or foreign sequences of sounds. Zion National Park in Utah was originally called Mukuntuweap – its Paiute Indian name. In 1918, the director of the newly established U.S. National Park Service changed its official name to Zion on the grounds that people feel more comfortable visiting a place when they can pronounce its name.

Comprehension suffers when syllables don’t follow English-language patterns – as with Internet startup names like GlibJix, Kazalup and Blaxnort (which I made up, but without exaggerating).

Just how easily our minds jumble up what’s coming into the ear can be seen in the many comic versions of song lyrics, where people hear the Beatles line, “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes,” for example, as “The girl with colitis goes by” or “Gladly the cross I’d bear” from a church hymn as “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.”

Likewise, someone who’s not from California can mishear PG&E, that state’s big utility company, as “Peach Eating.”

How to Test Your New Name

Putting a name to the telephone test is simple. Actually use a phone and tell someone who knows nothing about your business the name you’ve chosen or are considering. Repeat this several times with different people.

If you have to spell the name or explain it to have them understand it, or if they react like Jeff Bezos’s attorney, go back and brainstorm more.

Where to Find Help

Renaming BannerThrough September 10, get $20 off Marcia’s new “Renaming Your Business” online course with this coupon.  This course is perfect for companies and nonprofits that are considering changing their own name or the name of a product, service or event.

Make your pet a celebrity to help promote your small business

Happy Birthday Whoopi

Just as Joan Stewart is The Publicity Hound, I’m tied to my famous cat, Simon Teakettle.

Dubbed “the cat who owns the company” in an article in Business Week and on, his persona has gone through three actual feline incarnations, but the company name, Simon Teakettle Ink, and the website remain constant.

Naming your company and website after a pet can be helpful if you want to avoid the common trap of selecting a name that turns out to be popular with others. Names containing the words dream, communications, writer or any variations of these turn up a vast number of companies and websites in search engines.

Using your own name can be tricky, too. If you Google Barbara Graham, you’ll discover the infamous killer, and only if you use my full name, Barbara Florio Graham, will the sites connected to me show up. But I decided not to use my name for my company or my website for several reasons.

Smart Reasons to Use a Pet’s Name

First, Florio is too easily misspelled. Even when I provide my name to an organization in advance, my badge often turns up with either Floria or Florida.

That brings me to this tip.

Bobbi badgeWhen you’re representing someone else, as the publicity point person, create a badge with your name in large, sans serif type, and the company name below and take it with you everywhere you go. You can often use a company business card that includes their name and logo in a larger badge holder, and place a card behind that with your name, so it shows above the company card.

The second reason why I didn’t want to use my own name for my company was the possibility that I might marry. My partner would want to be considered an equal, not part of Barbara Florio Graham and Associates.

Having a company name also lends credibility, especially to a sole proprietor who may be seen as a lightweight. You want to be taken seriously by the audiences you address, whether in person at an event where you’re handling publicity or serving as the spokesperson. That goes for emails, press releases and other communications too.

Don’t Dilute Your Brand

We’ve all heard about the importance of branding. I see too many entrepreneurs who have adopted different names and websites for different products, books and enterprises, diluting their impact. It’s important to be consistent across your entire platform.

Naming my company Simon Teakettle Ink was the result of my cat being featured on CBC radio so frequently, and on so many network programs that I worried that someone would steal his unique name. Registering it as a company name offered protection, but also allowed me to remain anonymous and let the cat communicate without revealing the name of The Lady Who Shares His Office.

I learned quickly that the radio audience remembered Simon Teakettle more than anyone else who contributed to the programs. One host I hadn’t contacted before even remarked how pleased she was to finally receive a letter from Simon Teakettle.

Human fans are often ignored, but pets are a different story.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…

Any pet can help you widen the reach of your communications. It could be a cat, dog, parrot, ferret or horse. There’s an obvious advantage to using a pet you own now, or a previous pet if you have a large variety of photos. Pet pics can be used in social media posts, but also in other ways you may not have considered.

Simon Teakettle, for example, sends greeting cards to the media. Media personalities can be turned off by cards sent by humans, but when it’s a pet that’s the spokesperson for a company, it’s not only acceptable but memorable.

That’s one way Simon became so well known. We knew we were reaching our target when Simon  received a signed photo from Whoopi Goldberg after sending her the homemade birthday card you see above.

I’ve taken promotion related to Simon Teakettle even further. He has a blog and a fan club, both of which have allowed me to provide links to colleagues, as well as to organizations I support, such as the Great Canadian Theatre Company, where  he even has a seat in the theater, and NEXUS percussion.

Simon Teakettle Ink has his name on the theater wall listing patrons, and sends a new poster each month to the box office to post on their bulletin board. That means theater patrons as well as staff are exposed to Simon’s name and image.

He became so popular with subscribers that the theater company asked him to pose for their 2013 Christmas card. The back of the card credited me with the photo, and gave the website address. It was sent to all of the theater’s contacts, including its board of directors, program advertisers, subscribers and local politicians.

We’re also a patron of the Orpheus Musical Society, where the company name appears in all the programs.  

Tips for Promoting  Your Pet

marketing materialsIf you want to do this, set up link exchanges with those who can cross-promote, and find a common topic you share which will allow you to comment on their Facebook posts or blogs.

Your pet can have its own Facebook page. A Pinterest account is a great way to post photos, each captioned with something you want to promote.

Simon Teakettle has had a calendar since 2011. These are sold, but can also be used as promotional tools. We have laminated bookmarks for Mewsings/Musings, which list the website. Many people will keep a sturdy  bookmark featuring a pet but might discard a flimsy one promoting some other type of book.  

I continue to extend his reach beyond North America.

A friend who writes for several German magazines asked me for an article about Simon’s MEWSical Society and Fan Club to translate and send to a German pet magazine. I was also able to place my award-winning article, Training Your Cat Like a Dog, with the largest pet magazine in India,

His virtual MEWSical Society has members from nine countries, and the exploding fan club has photos of more than 200 cats, 100 dogs, and 18 other species, from 21 countries on five continents. All this drives traffic to the website because we provide reciprocal links.

Promoting other pet sites, including breeders, rescue groups, veterinarians and authors of pet titles, is a win/win.

The Pet’s Point of View…

But it’s important to make sure the pet has a consistent point of view. From the beginning, Simon Teakettle has promoted responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering. We were also careful not to tell harsh anti-dog jokes, or anecdotes describing bad behavior.

The pet can be a bit naughty, but never mean or nasty. You aren’t creating a comedy routine, but rather a personality people can relate to and trust.

Terzo, aka Simon Teakettle III, writes about birds as sources of delight that he watches from inside, instead of pursuing and tormenting them. Mice, however, are fair game!

If you feature a dog in your blog, don’t let it talk about chasing cats or running after cars! Never sacrifice integrity to humor.

That trust factor is key.

It has allowed me to build a compelling and popular website, only a small portion of which is cat-related. Whatever I’m currently promoting is on the home page, along with links to Simon’s blog and fan club.

What about you? Do you incorporate  your pet into your business? How? Feel free to share links.

How to find the perfect target market for your book–Free training tonight

Find a book target marektOne of the big mistakes authors make dooms their books to failure even before they’re finished writing.

They have no clear picture of the target market.

They spend months writing, more time editing, rewriting and proofing, and they call me when they’re ready to launch their a publicity campaign.

The first question I ask is, “Who’s the target market for your book?”

Often, I hear silence.

If you don’t know who you are writing for, you can’t possibly know where to find those readers online and offline.

Why You Book Isn’t for “Everybody”

Sometimes, authors tell me their book is written for “everybody.” Those authors are delusional.

If it’s written for everyone, that means it’s written for blue collar, white collar and unemployed workers. You’re trying to attract men and women, gay and straight, young and old, Democrat and Republican, church-goers and atheists, single and married.  

It’s impossible to create a marketing message that tells all those people, “This book is perfect for you.”

Tricks and Tools for Finding Your Target Market

If you don’t have a good idea of your target market, take advantage of free training tonight. Georgia McCabe, a book marketing expert, will be the guest presenter on a webinar we’re hosting on “Ninja Tricks for Finding Your Perfect Target Market for  Your Book.” It’s from 6 to 7:30 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Aug. 20. Register here.

If you attend, you can ask questions. If the time is inconvenient, we’re recording it. I’ll post the video here.

This is the fourth of four free webinars for authors to give you a taste of what we will be teaching on our Publishing at Sea cruise to the eastern Caribbean Jan. 18-15. Book shepherd Judith Briles and book distributor Amy Collins will join Georgia and me to teach authors about the business of publishing a book. We’ll cover everything from how to raise money to pay for your book to what to do if sales stall six months after you’ve launched it. 

More Free Training for You

You can watch replays of the other three webinars on my Publishing at Sea 2015 playlist on YouTube. The titles are:

How to Create Story Ideas for Book Publicity

Book Publishing Costs and Timelines for Authors

How to Get Book Blurbs, Endorsements & Reviews


Book Launch Tip: Gather Blurbs, endorsements long before launch — Free call July 30


Book Blurbs, Endorsements & Reviews Free Training  July 30In marketing-speak, it’s called social proof. Translated, it means, “Buy this product. Right now. Or you’ll be sorry.”

For authors, social proof includes book blurbs, endorsements and testimonials, three important types of marketing copy.

You find them on the inside flap of a book you’re thinking of buying at a bookstore. You also find them on various pieces of marketing copy, and on

But which is which? 

How long before launch do you have to start hunting for them? How do you find them without sounding needy or pestering people?  

Can you use a nice compliment about your book that someone includes in an email without asking their permission? 

Book distributor Amy Collins will answer those questions, and more, during a free webinar at 6 p.m. Eastern Time today. Register for  Register to listen to the replay of  “Book Blurbs, Endorsements & Reviews: How to Collect Them and When to Use Them.” 

 It’s the first of four weekly training programs to whet your appetite for the Publishing at Sea cruise that Amy and I will be hosting Jan. 18-25 along with book shepherd Judith Briles and social media expert Georgia McCabe. We’re setting sail from Fort Lauderdale aboard Royal Caribbean’s “Allure of the Seas.”

The four of us, aka The Chicks at Sea, will be teaching on the days when we’re at sea. On the days when we visit the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, you’re free to have fun on your own. 

But more about that tonight.

Not sure you want to join us in January? Register anyway for “Book Blurbs, Endorsements & Reviews: How to Collect Them and When to Use Them.” You’re going to be swamped in the weeks leading up your launch. Attending our free webinar tonight will help you start gathering social proof long before you launch.

And, unlike many other authors, you won’t leave this important task for the last minute.

See you tonight!

Snappy Sassy Salty: A treat for the writer or author in your life

Wise Words for Writers (3)


Every time I’ve spoken at one of book shepherd Judith Briles’ events for authors, I return home with one of her pithy phrases ringing in my ears.

On our Publishing at Sea cruise to the Caribbean last year, she said this about authors who want to do their own editing and design their own covers:


Judith Briles Photo 1--Don't do well


In May, when I spoke at her Author U Extravaganza in Denver, we were discussing authors who aim for too wide an audience and write for the masses. When she hears authors say they think their books should be read “by everybody,” she says:




At another one of her events, we were discussing how difficult publishing becomes as authors get closer to launching their books. She said:




Those are just three pieces of advice she has given to her clients over the years. She has compiled all her sayings—her Judithisms—into Sassy Snappy Salty—Wise Words for Authors and Writers (Mile-High Press, Ltd., $22.95). It’s a fun, upbeat and inspirational read for anyone who writes—or wants to. The sayings are divided into six categories:

  • Author and Writer Juice
  • Inspiration…Joy…and Your Muse
  • Success is a 7-Letter Word
  • Writing Savvy
  • Failure is Not an Obstacle
  • Marketing Moxie

She’s launching the book this week and extending a special offer for readers through this weekend.  Lots of great bonuses specifically for writers. The package includes my special report on “42 Publicity Tips for Authors & Small Publishers.”

Snappy Sassy Salty would make an ideal gift for the author or writer in your life. Grab it! And no, it isn’t too early to think about Christmas.

Sail with Us in January

Judith and I, along with book distributor Amy Collins and social media expert Georgia McCabe, will be setting sale again this January for our second annual Publishing at Sea cruise Jan. 18-25 in the Eastern Caribbean. The four of us—aka The Chicks at Sea–will be teaching authors every aspect of book publishing. Most of the teaching will be when we’re at sea so we have free time when we’re in port in St. Thomas, St. Martin and the Bahamas.

We’re kicking it off next week with the first of four free webinars for authors at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, July 30. Amy will present “Book Blurbs, Testimonials & Reviews: How to Collect Them and When to Use Them.”  We hope you’ll join us!

What to expect from a literary agent — free call tomorrow

Beth Vesel literary agentAuthors who are thinking they might need a literary agent can hear many of their questions answered during a free call tomorrow, July 24, 2014.

Edward Vilga, author of the best-selling novel Downward Dog, will interview his literary agent, Beth Vesl, senior vice president at the Irene Goodman Agency, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Q&A call is on “5 Things You’ve Always Wanted to Ask a Literary Agent.” Register here.

You will learn:

  • Whether authors need an agent.
  • The best way to find one and what you can expect once a contract is signed.
  • How self-publishing differs from the vanity press.
  • The importance of having a platform on social media.
  • How publishing has changed and how that affects authors who are just starting to write.
  • The worst mistake aspiring authors make over and over again.

Full Disclosure: Edward is one of my customers, and I featured a sample chapter from Downward Dog in Quick & Easy Media Kit Templates for Indie Authors, as an example of how to present a sample chapter in a media kit.    

Ebook publicity idea: Name fictional characters after your fans–they’ll help you promote

Chris Kennedy sci-fi novels

When sci-fi novelist Chris Kennedy writes an ebook, he names characters in his novels after real people, many of them his fans.

He calls the characters “Redshirts,” a term that originated with the Star Trek TV series. Starfleet security personnel who frequently died during episodes wore red shirts.

“If you want to be in one of my ebooks, tell me something about yourself,” Chris says. “I already have 20 people lined up who will be characters in my sixth ebook.”

One of his fans is Father John Zuhlsdorf, a Catholic priest and Internet personality better known as “Father Z” who has a huge following.

Father Zuhlsdorf wanted to be a Redshirt, and Chris named a fictional chaplain after him.

“He managed to survive the Redshirt process and made it into the next ebook as well,” Chris said.

How Publicity Builds

Father John Zuhlsdorf“Father Z has mentioned the ebooks at least a couple of times in his blog, and I’ve heard many readers tell me they heard about my books from him. He’s also on Facebook.”

All the other people who are named in those ebooks tell their friends, too…and they tell their friends and so on…

“I hate having to come up with new names for characters so it’s a win-win for me,” Chris says.

“Not only do I get people who will give me their names, but I also get free publicity and guaranteed sales for using them!”

More Ebook Publicity Ideas Tomorrow

Naming characters in your ebook after real people is one of the sales tricks I’ll discuss tomorrow—Thursday, July 17, 2014—when I host the paid webinar How to Promote Your Ebooks for Maximum Visibility and Sales. It’s from 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time and I’ll record it. So if you’ve made other plans, register anyway. I’ll send you the video replay and all the bonuses within 72 hours.

Most of my tips apply to both fiction and non-fiction authors. When I asked readers of my ezine this week to share with me their best tips for promoting ebooks, I was inundated with responses! Some of them are incredibly clever, and others so easy! I’ll show you how one ebook author ended up on the cover of a magazine. Register now and make marketing your ebooks a lot easier.

‘Cut and paste’ software eliminates tedious typing, makes marketing easier

5 Way Macro Software Saves Time Marketing500By Barbara Florio Graham

One of the ways I keep a diversified business running smoothly is to have carefully-crafted responses to common questions and news items pre-writtten.

Years ago, this would have meant a series of separate documents on my computer, but now it takes just a few seconds to locate what I want to include in a letter, press release, email or social media post, and paste it in.

Several programs allow you to do this.

Joan Stewart uses Shortkeys, a keyboard macro utility for PC or Mac. She says it takes her less than 30 seconds to create a Shortkey and assign to it copy that she can use over and over again, by typing only a few keystrokes.

Beware of Free Programs

Like most good programs, ShortKeys offers a 30-day free trial before you have to pay for it.

You can also find free macro programs and clipboard extenders, but, like most free software, when I downloaded these they automatically installed other programs I didn’t want. That triggered pop-up ads urging me to buy something. Annoying! They were actually installed, without my permission, into My Programs. I had to manually remove them.

I’m working on a PC, but all these functions also exist on a Mac, although they may be called by a different term.

Why I Love Clipmate

I’ve used a program called ClipMate since it was first launched in 1991. It allows me to highlight anything I choose – a word, phrase, URL, paragraph or entire letter or article – and copy it to ClipMate.

The program sits on my task bar, so all those clips are instantly available. I just highlight the one I want and paste it into a document, web page, email or any social media.

This allows me to fire off a comprehensive reply to a query about any of my services. Or I can offer my bios in whatever length the publication needs, or letters to the editor. I also use it for posts to blogs or other social media that discuss a variety of topics related to writing, publishing, cats, and many other issues that concern me or where I can offer expertise.

For example, my award-winning article, “Training Your Cat Like a Dog,” appeared in publications in the U.S. and Canada. I keep a description in ClipMate to send to any pet publication I hear about in other countries. As I write this blog, I’m waiting to hear back from magazines in Germany and India. Sending these queries took just a few minutes.

ClipMate has several key advantages. You can create “Collections” and have any number of finely sorted clips available. For example, I have a collection called “Tags” where I store unique URLs for individual pages on my website, my mailing address, book titles and ISBNs, and several different letterhead templates.

I have another called “Responses” where I keep messages answering requests for mentoring, a description of my Canadian Libraries list, ordering information for my books, etc. Another collection contains my credits, in 20-word, 50-word, 100-word and longer versions.

You can modify a clip by just hitting “View” in ClipMate, changing whatever you want, and then closing the clip. Collections can be sorted, items moved or copies from one to the other, and retrieved (if they’ve been accidentally deleted) from the trash bin. Because there is no limit on the number of clips in any of the collections, you never lose a clip unless you deliberately delete it.

Only the trash bin is eventually emptied. In some other programs, items are deleted from the bottom as “fill” the collection.

Use It for Marketing, Publicity, Promotion

Free Publicity Tip 39--Use a Macro Key ProgramClipMate streamlines my marketing and promotion. I can store testimonials and reviews written by others, which I’ve copied from an email or website, without opening a document.

Since my company is named after my cat, I need to keep a great deal of information about Simon Teakettle readily available. He has his own collection in ClipMate, with descriptions of varying lengths, short and long bios, information about his MEWSical Society and Fan Club, and several clips describing his book, including the full Table of Contents.

Once you copy a clip from ClipMate, you can select only the portions you want to use, and then, if you wish, copy just those portions back into ClipMate as separate clips. I often do that when I need the number of a loyalty card (like AirMiles). I have this filed under a ClipMate collection called Data. I’ve sorted this alphabetically, so it’s easy to find any of the loyalty programs or other numbers I need to type into email occasionally. And when I retrieve it, I can copy only the number.

I have a “secret” collection in ClipMate containing my credit card numbers, passwords and other sensitive data. Because I store so much in ClipMate, anyone who might obtain unauthorized access to my ClipMate collections would have to search a long time before finding them.

Take It with You on a Thumb Drive

Like ShortKeys, ClipMate is portable. You can copy the program and your data to a thumb drive and take it with you.

ClipMate allows you to set automatic backups to whatever folder you select. Since since it provides a unique name for each back-up file it creates, you always have a few previous back-ups available, in case you want to retrieve something you mistakenly deleted days or even weeks ago.

But your most recently deleted clips are always available from the trash, or the “virtual” folder, which shows you everything you copied today, this week, this month, or even further back.

ShortKeys also has an automatic back-up feature, the ability to create an unlimited number of files and to sort macros into categories.

You can do all these things by simply creating a “To Copy” folder on your desktop, and creating your own collections. But since ClipMate only costs $35 and ShortKeys $25, you might try them both and see which you like best.

*     *     * 

Barbara Florio GrahamBarbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant. Her website includes free resources for writers and publishers, contract advice, and interesting facts about science, history, food, animals, culture and inventions. Simon Teakettle, the cat that “owns the company,” has his own blog, and offers free information about cat ownership and training.

How to connect with TV news personalities on social media

How to Connect with TV People on Social MediaBy Roshanda E. Pratt

Television personalities, producers, reporters, anchors and news managers are more accessible than previous years past.

During my tenure working in television news eight years ago, the access to broadcasters was almost non-existent. I remember vividly working alongside reporters on stories. I had to field calls from viewers who wanted to chat with their favorite anchor or host to pitch a story.

Most often, those calls were transferred to voicemail.

This was not the media acting arrogant. Could you imagine spending your day on the phone? Television people are constantly trying to manage the clock. If you spent the majority of your time on the phone, you would get little or no work done.

This super-connected world has shrunk the distance between media and the viewer.

They Need Sources

Most local television news stations require their on-air talent to create social media profiles with the purpose of connecting with viewers who could be potential sources for stories.

Reporters’ contacts in their address books are a goldmine. For a journalist to create a wide network of sources through social media, it eliminates traditional efforts of making phone calls or meeting over lunch.

Instead, reporters can use social media and other digital services to post queries online and wait for potential sources to respond.

Nowadays, journalists are online, just like the rest of us.

Muck Rack is a great tool which connects journalists, their readers and those who want to get covered. Muck Rack has taken some of the hard work out of connecting by posting a big list of journalists active on Google+. Facebook has launched Journalists on Facebook to help reporters find sources, interact with readers and advance stories.

So what about your local media? I am so glad you asked.

5 Tips for Connecting

  1. Connect with your local personalities on the social media platform where you see they hang out the most. You can find your local media on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Linkedin. You’ll have to do some research to find out which media people use which social media platforms, but it will pay off.
  2. Engage don’t stalk. Say hello and create a relationship before you start pitching. The best way to do that is by commenting on their work. That’s why it’s important that you become familiar with their beats. Believe it or not, they are people too. You can comment by sending a short message to their email address at the station.
  3. Pay attention to what they might be looking for. If  you can honestly help, make yourself available. If not, don’t “pretend” that you can because it can hinder the new relationship. Remember, no one likes a phony.
  4. If you do decide to pitch, don’t be rude or spammy. Nobody likes that. If you are going to send a message through Facebook, for example, remember that you’re not the only one using that feature. My advice: Don’t even bother. You have a better chance sending a message to the email address at their TV station.
  5. Do your homework before connecting. Watch their news reports to become familiar with their work. Go to their websites where  TV stations often have profiles of on-air reporters and anchors. Read the profiles to learn more about them. Also, Google their names to see if they blog. A blog will most likely include many more details about them that you could weave into a pitch, if relevant. See how to find the name of a blogger’s dog, cat or kid in 60 seconds and journalists’ blogs offer valuable clues about how to pitch them.

 Bottom line: Don’t wait for the media to throw you a bone. Instead, make the first move.

Would you dare fact-check a journalist’s article in red pencil and post it online?

In the old days, if a journalist wrote a news article or opinion column that you believed was inaccurate or unfair, you had only three options:

  1. Write a letter to the editor or column responding to it, and hope they print it.
  2. Ask for a face-to-face meeting with an editor and the writer.
  3. Cancel your subscription, an option that does nothing to help your cause. 

Back then, only newspapers, magazines, TV and radio were the media. Today, you are the media too. Your platform might not be as big as theirs, but you have tools to fight back. 

That’s what Walmart demonstrated after Timothy Egan, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote a June 19 opinion column spanking the retailer for low wages, part-time contracts and other sins that have resulted in “public disdain for the company.”

That same day, Walmart responded by fact-checking the entire column in red and posting it on their blog. Here’s part of it:

walmart rebuttal  

Whether you not you agree with the Times column, this is an excellent example of one way to fight back if you feel the media has treated you unfairly. Walmart’s rebuttal had much more reach than the Times column. It was covered by Forbes, Fox News,  Business Insider and a variety of conservative media outlets. 

You Will be Fact-Checked Too

Walmart’s rebuttal was clever and effective. But here’s the danger in a public fact-check. Someone, somewhere, will probably fact-check you, too.  

Mark Gongloff, a columnist for The Huffington Post, responded by Fact-Checking Walmart’s Fact-Check of The New York Times.

And the debate probably won’t stop there.

This is Why You Should be Blogging

If a journalist or blogger treats you unfairly, one of the best places to respond is at your own blog where you have full control of the message. You can then pitch other media outlets and point them to your blog post.

The Walmart-New York Times battle is one more example of why most companies should be blogging. If you want to respond but you don’t have a blog, you’re forced to rely on an expensive press release distribution service.

You can respond on social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, but the message will be lost on those noisy platforms.        

What Would You Do?

Would you publicly fact-check a journalist’s or blogger’s article about you? If not, why not? I’d especially love to hear from PR pros and business owners.