By Marcia Yudkin
When the first edition of my book 6 Steps to Free Publicity appeared in 1994, email was something used by nerds, websites were a curiosity and blogs had not yet been invented.
To celebrate the milestone that this book remains in print 20 years later, in its third edition, I thought I’d list 20 points about publicity from the first edition that are as true today as they were when I first wrote them. Yes, much has changed in these two decades, but as you’ll see, plenty has not.
- Publicity brings you credibility.
Self-made experts abound today even more than 20 years ago. Since media coverage still needs to be earned rather than bought, getting featured on the airwaves, in print or in influential online media remains a powerful way to set yourself apart from empty-headed braggarts whom the media see through in a New York minute.
- Publicity brings you new customers.
Earlier this year, after a client of mine in the health-care business distributed a news release to industry media about their new offering, they received scores of demo requests –their prelude to a sale. This was far more cost-effective and immediate for them than exhibiting at a trade show, and I was excited to see the process working exactly as it always has: Publicity triggers inquiries that you can deftly turn into business.
- Media exposure brings you opportunities.
Besides customers, publishers, literary agents, movie scouts, investors and radio show producers keep their eyes and ears peeled for people with intriguing stories, personas or unusual skills. According to Sophie Lizard, 148 bloggers landed traditional book deals in 2012. Similar deals come unbidden to those who speak out on radio or TV, create viral videos, publish guest blog posts that stir up controversy and so on.
- Creative angles rule.
In 6 Steps I described how I got magazine publicity for my unrevolutionary ideas on procrastination by putting the material into a novel format: a postcard seminar. You can see such indirect approaches at work today in many social media success stories, such as the “Will it blend?” videos that led to an explosive 700 percent increase in sales for Blendtec.
- You need healthy self-esteem to pursue publicity.
When I have face-to-face discussions with people and suggest their interesting concept deserves publicity, I often see a “Who me?” response in their body language. This hasn’t changed a whit in 20 years: Even to get started with publicity, you need to understand that publicity recipients are usually no smarter than you at anything other than how to get publicity.
- Tips are a popular information format.
Whole sites are now devoted to how-to articles or blog posts in tip form, and they remain a staple of newspapers, magazines, TV and other media. For some people with huge followings, their Twitter stream is nothing but tips in 140 characters or less.
- Controversy earns attention.
In the first edition of my book, I quoted Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting, on the dividends of contradicting accepted beliefs. Today, you’d surely generate a storm of commentary if you were an organic chef and announced that there was no need to reject genetically modified food or if you were a suburban guidance counselor and claimed smart high school graduates should enter the trades rather than college.
- Timely pitches get you featured in the news.
By the very nature of news, this strategy can’t go out of date. Whether it’s offering tips in June for safe barbecuing, tying your company story to this fall’s 25th or 250th historical anniversary or offering yourself as an interviewee on flood insurance when a hurricane has ravaged the coast, this strategy gets you in front of the public now, as 20 years ago.
- An event makes an ongoing offering timely.
My neighbor, a psychologist specializing in treating sleep disorders, recently took advantage of this principle when he presented a lecture at a local public library. This provided the excuse for a long, long article in the local paper about him and his work. As I’ve been telling clients for 20 years, the scheduled event answers the question, “Why should we feature this person or company now?”
- A written column earns you an audience.
Although it’s harder now than it used to be to land a regular column in newspapers, these still exist, and many online venues offer a comparable kind of platform. Indeed, being paid in “exposure” when blogging for Huffington Post entered popular culture a couple of years ago when cartoonist Garry Trudeau made that part of the Doonesbury story line.
I welcome your insights and perspectives on publicity constants—and changes—in the Comments! And stay tuned for Part 2 of this post.