In October of 2011, my friend Christelle Du Toit and I launched an ebook entitled "How To Get Quoted In The Media." We co-wrote and published the ebook through my media company, Damaria Senne Media.
The ebook was the second book to come out through the company, so we had no track record to stand on.
We also felt that our media campaign had to demonstrate the knowledge and skills that we were passing along through the ebook.
It would have been very odd if a book on how to get quoted in the media failed to garner media attention, don't you think?
Here are some of the issues we had to consider when launching the media campaign:
Did we have a story - Right from the beginning, we acknowledged that the launch of the ebook was not a traditional news story. .
The harsh truth was that two "not famous" authors were self-publishing an ebook on Amazon. No one was dead or bleeding. There were no multimillion dollar contracts or famous business people involved in the enterprise. And there was not even a hint of corruption or scandal associated with the book.
Even in terms of book news we still rated a bit on the potentially dull side: this was not a book by Donald Trump or another celebrity businessperson. We were not promising that anyone would make millions from following the book.
The book was not being published by a well-known publisher like Macmillan or Penguin, after offering the authors millions in advances. This was no sequel to a bestseller.
What we did offer- Christelle and I we were offering to share something that journalists rarely bother to communicate to people who are asking for publicity. Usually they just ignore you if your pitch doesn't hit the mark. But we knew journalists are always desperate for stories; we just had to find the ones who thought our little tale was relevant and then present it in a way that would pique their interest.
Our joint work experience also included working as communications people for large organisations, non-profit organisations and small companies. So we understood the issues from both sides.
I also have a fairly decent reputation as a communications specialist in the national non-profit sector, so there was no doubt that they would be interested in what I had to say.
Why should I care? Years ago, Christelle and I used to sit next to each other in a newsroom, and we used to have heated discussions about whether something was a story or not, to help each other brainstorm our story ideas. And that was on story pitches that we had already identified as having potential, with press releases and fact sheets attached.
What we needed to establish through this process was, did this event/product/service offer our readers something new that could potentially affect the way they do business? Could it improve their lives in any way?
Most of the time, new products/services being launched fell under what Christelle liked to call, "much of a muchness" meaning, the new, supposedly innovative whatsit was so similar to what's already in the market that it was difficult to distinguish between them.
In terms of How to get quoted in the media, we were trully offering people information that was not available elsewhere? Honestly? No. Hire a good media relations person and they'll tell you what we say in the ebook. You could also buy a print cover book that covers media relations.
What was different about us was the way we framed the information: short and to the point. And we were blatantly anti-press releases, though we did show readers how to do it if they must/if it works for their particular scenario.
We also asked ourselves why each journalist we approached would care about our story and what we were offering. What angle would work best for them? The aim was to do as much of the initial thinking for them as possible, so they see the fit right from the start and just say "yes" or "no" if we missed.
Communicating with the media - Instead of sending a press release, we did an individual email pitch to every journo who we thought might be interested in the story.
As a business journalist who has ignored too many press releases, and complained/listened to fellow-journalists complain about press releases cluttering their inboxes, sending one was unthinkable. [And yes, there are instances where a press release is appropriate. This was not one of those times].
In our pitch, we:
- Explained what the ebook was about and why their readers would be interested in it
- Explained who we are and our credentials
- Attached a free copy of the ebook so they see exactly what we are selling
- Offered 5 free copies of the ebook as give-aways to listeners/readers.
We also explained that this was a one-time communique and we were not going to bug them about it. We knew from experience that it can be irritating to receive calls from people asking if you received their press release, and if so, if you've had time to consider running their story.
One of my very grumpy former colleagues used to say that if your press release offered anything interesting, she would have been banging on your door already, begging you to tell her more. The reason you hadn't heard from her was because a) she saw your press release but the heading was so dull she didn't even bother to open your email, or b) she opened your email and didn't like the story. Either way, she was not interested.
The majority of the journos we contacted asked us to send them more information about the ebook,the launch and the book's availability. This resulted in a number of short telephonic radio interviews, some short news articles mentioning the ebook and one studio interview (radio).
The campaign was successful in that we:
1. Managed to get positive coverage in national media ( radio, print and online)
2. Listeners and readers phoned us/emailed us to place orders for the book or to ask for more information
3. We sold ebooks on Amazon and through Paypal
4. We landed a client who preferred that we do the media relations work for him instead buying the book and doing it himself
5. We used the ebook to land clients who needed training in media relations
6. Several journos reviewed the book in their media (newsletters, online publications)
In my experience, print, radio and TV campaign does not easily translate into ebook sales ( while we sold some books, we did not set the world on fire)
For example, the person may be listening to you on radio speak about your ebook while she's driving to a meeting. How is she then supposed to note the name of your book, your contact details and/your website details? And if she tried to commit them to memory while she drives, when is she going to write them down? Just before her meeting?
So while we were able to use these media to demonstrate some of the lessons we were teaching in the ebook, I would be hesitant to attempt a similar campaign for one of my children's books, also published through Amazon.
Instead, the majority of my media campaign would focus on online media, which allows people to easily click through to buy the book, or to bookmark the site, with a print, radio and TV being used to just raise my author profile.
In closing, here is Christelle chatting about the South African Broadcasting Corporation's use of online and social media to expand on news covered by radio and TV. In future, I would also contact this department, and others like it, to pitch my story.