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Kerry McDuling, our resident publicity expert, today takes a look at whether you should focus publicity on your product or service or your personality and expertise. While not always a clear situation, Kerry presents a compelling case especially for experts to focus on their own story rather than the product itself, which as you will see has several advantages.
Here is what Kerry has to say…
These days, I seem to refer to Richard Branson quite a fair bit during meetings with my clients, and it’s not because I am particularly a huge fan of him or his business, but because I think he does business and publicity very, very well. He is one of very few who has built a brand around himself, thereby ensuring that any of his business ventures (be it mobile phones, gyms, insurance, air travel, you name it) immediately gets attention.
The reason I use this example with some of my clients is because this is what I believe that they should be aiming to do. Rather than build publicity around a particular product, they should be building it around themselves. Firstly, they get multiple bites at the cherry, and secondly, because whatever they want to do from that moment forward, if they do a good job with the publicity, their next venture or product will immediately have kudos.
I will use the example of book authors to demonstrate this concept, because this seems to be when I have most often used it.
Many of my clients are authors and approach me to publicise their book. I have worked on books of all topics, including professional services, real estate, safe driving, religion, and business, caring for elderly parents, divorce, suicide, history, pregnancy, and nutrition. There has also been fiction thrown in there, but very quickly I discovered that this was not what I wanted to do, and have been (politely) turning away fiction authors ever since.
I am relatively new to book publicity, having only really started at the beginning of 2009, but really enjoy the journey and have achieved some fantastic success for my clients, including on morning TV, national radio, national magazines, online publicity and newspapers.
I have received not only referrals, but wonderful advice and support from my gorgeous friend, Chelsea McLean, who is without a doubt, the most successful book publicist in Australia. She has a very useful blog called Book Publicity that focuses entirely on the subject with very handy hints for authors, and she has been my rock.
In the early days, there were a lot of phone calls between myself and Chels – we found that we had experienced the same stumbling blocks and challenges. By and large, we both almost always achieved great publicity for our authors, but it was not without a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes multiple goes at finding an angle for the media. Whether or not our results actually matched the expectations of the authors was another matter entirely.
One day, when I was particularly disillusioned by the amount of hard work I had put into promoting the book of one particular author, and to receive his luke- warm reaction to my results (which, by the way, included two appearances on two different morning TV programs, at least six radio interviews, and three newspaper stories) I had enough. I decided I was either going to stop working with authors altogether, or do something different.
This is when it came to me. There was nothing wrong with assisting authors with publicity, but I needed to change my approach. It occurred to me that most of my authors are experts in their given field, and have usually written the book to increase their profile and add to their credentials (highly recommended, by the way). What I needed to do was design a strategy around promoting them as the expert in their industry, which in turn will sell books.
If I were to approach their publicity this way, they would benefit because it would open the doors to whatever else they wanted to do in the future, including writing and publishing another book, plus I get a number of reasons to approach the media. The book is simply a “by the way” and gets publicity almost by default. Genius!
Since I worked this one out, I have been continuing to work with authors and experiencing far wider reaching success.
Take my client, Trudy Williams, for example. Trudy is an award winning Accredited Practising Dietitian, and operates a successful private nutrition consultancy in Brisbane, as well as being Director of FoodTalk and Wesley Nutrition Centre. Trudy contacted me initially to promote her newly published book on portion sizes for kids – a book containing more than 340 life-size full colour photos of food, titled this=that child size. The concept was based on a similar book she had published some years ago, containing portion sizes for adults.
Using the expert status concept, we came up with a number of related discussion points Trudy can talk about, including why kids are fussy eaters, how to pack an exciting lunch box, snacking during school holidays, the psychology around food that kids can pick up from adults, among loads of others. As a result, Trudy has been the source of a number of magazine and newspaper articles, as well as radio interviews, that may not have been achieved had we focussed only on the book itself. Plus, we have longevity now – the story of the book being launched will date, but we can continue to come up with timely angles on kids and food, and mention the book in the process. Trudy’s website is kidsfoodtalk.com.au.
Trudy is only one example that I have had enormous success with while applying this concept. It makes sense to me to build your profile around yourself, because you may not always do what you are doing now, but if you are a high profile person, like Richard Branson, you can move into another area with relative ease (depending on your reputation, of course!).
Furthermore, in this highly technological day and age, people prefer to do business with people, rather than companies. It’s so much more personal. We want to feel like we can really connect with that person – that they are real, like us. This is why I almost always encourage my clients to put their face and personality to their product or service, and to the media. Give it a personal touch. It will make you so much more accessible to both the media and the public.
Obviously, if your personality is too much associated with your brand and company, it may prove difficult to take a step back or sell it altogether, if this is where you want to head in the future. However, it hasn’t proven the downfall of Richard Branson who doesn’t own many of his various companies around the world to this day, and to the almost zero care factor of his clients and the public/media (did you notice how the media interviewed him after the technology debacle that saw flights grounded nationally at the end of last month?)
What are your thoughts? Brand yourself or your product or both?