PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
by Joanne McCall, Premier Publicist and Media Training Expert —
Before reaching out to a book publicist there are three things you should handle first.
To say our world is changing quickly is cliché. In fact, quick change is the new norm, so we must be willing to learn new things and change quickly, too. Never has this been truer than when it comes to book publicity and visibility. Before you reach out to a publicist to help you with publicity, it is critical to have these three essential items handled: positioning; hooks and sound bites; and multiple media channels.
Positioning is taking your book and its message into the marketplace and describing it in such a way that it is quickly understood and compels your market-both media and direct readers-to want to review you, talk to you, and/or buy your book. This is the critical first step to any campaign you want to develop.
Positioning is critical because, unless you have something extremely new and different, there are many others writing on your topic. Whether it’s health, wealth, happiness, or any other topic, the world is filled with books on each of these subjects. So how can you stand out?
Ask this question: “What is unique about me and my book?” What are you saying that no one else is saying? What comparisons would you use to describe your book and your key messages? How are you different? Knowing the answer to this question makes you a red sheep.
Wait! What Is a Red Sheep?
Imagine a graphic consisting of lots of white sheep. They all look the same, mostly white with some black. Cute, but boring. And then you notice up there, just to the right of center … why, it’s a red sheep. A red sheep in the midst of all the white ones. It’s different. It’s interesting. It’s compelling. It’s unique. It’s you! I call it the red sheep phenomenon.
You want to be the red sheep. It is extremely easy to stand up in this world. Anyone can put up a website, start a blog, and create social media accounts. Big deal. The trick is, with all the incessant noise, how are you going to stand out? That is what positioning will help you to do. Once you know your positioning in the marketplace, you must be able to generate hooks and sound bites for each of your key messages.
2. Hooks and Sound Bites
A hook is the thing that grabs you. It’s when you hear a new song for the first time and you decide you must purchase it. It’s when you’re looking at article titles online and you decide to click on one above all the others. That is a hook. It grabbed you.
A sound bite is a brief, catchy statement or comment. A sound bite packs a great deal of meaning in just a few words. They stand out from everything else you are saying, and they are memorable. For example, I heard an interview with a relationship expert and, after telling a story, she summed up her message with this statement: “When it comes to relationships, perfection equals pure fiction.” That is a sound bite. Read it aloud to get the full effect.
There is an easy way for me to test how someone is doing regarding hooks and sound bites. All I have to do is ask, “What is your book about?” And then I just let the author respond.
Sometimes I don’t say another word for 15 minutes, and, finally, I have to interrupt them and bring them back to the task at hand.
How they answer that simple question immediately tells me how much help they need. Their response reflects if they have any experience or skill at being succinct, the use of sound bites, and if they know anything about positioning.
You very well may be the expert in your profession, but when it comes to positioning the book and talking about it in a compelling way, there is a learning curve. This simply must be addressed in today’s multimedia world. Too often authors go to a publicist expecting them to work magic and land all kinds of media, but unless you’re interesting and positioned correctly, it isn’t going to happen. Here are some elements that must be present:
You must have energy.
Whether you want to do podcasts, radio, television, Zoom, Skype interviews, or even print interviews, you must have energy. You need to come across with enthusiasm for your topic. This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of people who have no clue how to do this. Perhaps they’re nervous or worry they’ll sound over the top and too excited, but whatever the reason, the energy and enthusiasm must come through if your interview is to see the light of day.
(One caveat: If your topic is tied into tragic news or is sad by its very nature, such as grief or disease, too much enthusiasm will work against you. You still need to have energy when you discuss it, however, so you must know how to be passionate, empathic, and yet have energy. There is a bit of an art to this.)
You must be unique.
Say something new, and if it’s really true that there is nothing new under the sun, then say it differently.
For example, if you’re a financial advisor, one of your tips might be that everyone should save 15-20 percent of their earnings. OK. But that is a yawner. We all know that, so how can you say this and make it compelling, or what other tips do you have that we haven’t heard over and over again?
If you’re a career expert and you’re telling people to make sure there are no typos on your resume, that, too, is obvious. We’ve heard it many times. What little secret do you have that is new? That’s the kind of thing that will hook a reader or an interviewer.
Remember: When reporters have a beat, they’ve pretty much heard it all before. What you present has to be new, different, compelling, or simply said in a new and compelling way. You need a new spin on it. You must find a way to stand out to capture their attention.
3. Media Channels
A media channel is all the different ways news and information comes to us. Back in the day, print, radio, and television was the way to reach your audience. Now, however, we still have those media channels, but we have many more to consider, including influencers, podcasts, online journalists, bloggers, video media, social media, etc. If we break social media into its separate channels (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.), we have many more, so ask yourself the following: Where does your audience hang out? What do you like to do?
Of course, to identify where your audience hangs out, you have to know exactly who your audience is. (Hint: If you say your audience is “everyone,” then you don’t have it yet.)
There are those “experts” who say you have to be visible in all the various media channels, but that is simply not true. Of course, they are very busy making sure they and their clients have a presence everywhere, but all I find is that people end up feeling overwhelmed, under-impressed, and wondering what kind of ROI they’re getting for all their blood, sweat, and tears.
I disagree with this philosophy, and because you don’t have to be everywhere all the time, then pay attention to what you really like to do … and do that. You don’t have to tweet out every hour to have a presence on Twitter. Do you love doing radio interviews and podcasts? Do you love video? Do you love to write? Do what you love to do.
If you do what you love, position yourself correctly, create key messages, hooks and sound bites, and direct them at the right people, you are going to be successful. You will be the red sheep. As we all know, the world is constantly changing. The best of us learn this truth, continue learning, and adapt that learning into our books and our work in the world.
Joanne McCall works with authors to help them become media darlings. Check out her website at joannemccall.com.
To learn more about publicity, check out this IBPA Independent article, “Does Book Publicity Still Matter?“