(Article first published in The Huffington Post by Molly Reynolds)
A couple years ago, I was the Chief Marketing Officer for a high-end surgery center in Los Angeles. And at least one day out of the week, my morning went a little something like this:
Hernia Surgeon comes bursting into my office in an angry sweat:
“Do you know who I saw on the news this morning? (My arch nemesis) Dr. So-and-So! I went to school with that guy and he sucks! I am a WAY better surgeon. Why did they choose him?!”
And after offering him seat and a warm croissant, I’d calmly explain. “Well…THAT guy clearly has a good publicist.”
Yep. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, publicists aren’t just for celebrities and authors anymore — even hernia doctors have them. And business owners who know what’s up are following suit.
In this digital age we live in, consumers are absolutely inundated with information and it is easy to get a little ADD. Back in the day, we used to be able to take out a commercial for our business — but since the invention of Tivo, how many viewers are actually recording their shows and fast forwarding through the commercials? In this world of short attention spans, are you going to take out a full-page, sexy, glossy print ad in a national magazine? Unless you’re Coca Cola or Maybelline, you’ll most likely find your marketing dollars at the bottom of a trashcan, alongside that forgotten ad. Publicity can be significantly less expensive than advertising and has a greater impact.
“Every business requires publicity to succeed,” says Ben Cooke, one of the owners of LUCID Public Relations — a firm that specializes in placing start-ups, experts, and businesses in national media. “That could mean word-of-mouth, referrals, involvement in the neighborhood or involvement in community activities. No business can function without relating to the public in some way.”
One of LUCID’s clients is Give Forward, which is a fundraising website like Kickstarter, but for medical bills. Based on that description, are you going to check out their site? Well, maybe you would if you saw MSN’s heartbreaking story of Nolan and Morgan, a couple getting married despite the husband having a terminal illness and how Give Forward helped give them the honeymoon of their lives. Or the numerous features in Yahoo, CNN, and the Associated Press about the work Give Forward has done to raise money for victims of the Boston Bombing. Because of proper publicity, this incredible company is showcased for what it is and has raised tens of millions of dollars during the last eight months for people in need.
Bottom line: you need publicity. And there are effective ways to do it yourself. If that’s the route you are going to go, here are some things you need to be aware of:
Identify your target audience and find out what they are reading and watching the most. For example, if you make nail polish, your target is mostly women between the ages of 14-30. So you’d want to look at platforms like Marie Claire, Glamour, Elle, etc.
Study those platforms. Pay attention to the stories they cover and really watch the style of communication. Make sure the story you are telling is media appropriate for the audience and write your pitch in the style of the platform. For instance, if you’re pitching to CNN, you probably want to refrain from using phrases like “Awesome-sauce!” or “Wicked fresh!” — though those might be totally appropriate for Maxim.
Tell a great story starting with a compelling subject line. The subject line is what gets your email opened, so make it enticing. “I Lost 250 Pounds by Eating at the 99 Cent Store” was an effective conversation opener for media sensation, Papa Joe — who has been featured on Good Morning America, Yahoo, Reuters, and most recently The Rachel Ray Show. One of the reasons he became so widely popular is that so many people could relate to being overweight and his story inspired them.
To sum it up, we all love a great story. And you have a story to tell — you just have to find the best way to mesmerize your audience with it and you’ll be golden.