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The Art of Self-Promotion

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In my industry the number one question I always get from potential clients is, "What can I do to generate publicity?" The truth is, public relations is a fine art. Publicity requires a series of layering media inquires, informing the public, understanding your brand, appreciating reporters and their deadlines, and establishing a variety of businesses relationships.

There is no single "trick" to launching a great publicity campaign. My peers within the industry often take stock in the old adage, "No press is bad press." But times and trends are changing. Bad press often costs clients and their brands. Leaking sex tapes or igniting rumors as a one-pony tactic for shock publicity can, and often does, backfire. Yes, sometimes these strategies do conjure up a lot of press—but in return, the same press gained through controversy generally is the press which dissolves credibility.

Today's vast multimedia society expects transparency. The outdated marketing habit of puffery is quickly becoming extinct. Crafting and understanding a brand, especially for entertainers competing for endorsement deals, is a crucial aspect of any publicity campaign. Well-deserved and unambiguous publicity is starting to appeal more and more to today's reporter. Scandal used to sell headlines. Now reporters out the scandal to ruin the person (or product). The trend of bait-and-switch publicity now results in journalists who use "gotcha reporting" to sell a headline. 

That said, I have put together a list of my top five public relations maneuvers for free, yet effective, publicity. Of course, the value of a hired public relations firm makes all the difference in the world. A good public relations firm has incomparable value. A dignified public relations representative can provide established relationships, placement deals, and co-branding events. I am aware that some small businesses currently do not have the budget to introduce a professional publicity firm. My tips are applicable to anyone, business or entertainer. I will be submitting more social media, writing, and public relationships topics via Blogcritics. If you have a specific topic you want covered, please feel free to contact me at helene@jumpstartink.com

The Top 5 techniques to gain free publicity

#1) Know how to fully utilize social media. The biggest mistake people make when trying to optimize publicity via their social media outlets is not understanding just how sufficient they can be. The best part is that most social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, are free. The R.O.I. with this medium, if used properly, is 100% plus some!

Refrain from using social media to promote yourself by posting "check this out" or any such verbiage on anyone's profiles or Twitter accounts. It is annoying and doesn't get your message out. Turning your social media bios into advertisements for yourself, your product, or your art can kill your credibility. Over-self-promotion will irritate your audience, alienate them from your brand, and possibly turn them against you. Always use concise, yet objective, copy on any and all social media accounts.

Last, but not least, use social media daily to establish relationships with people you would like to do business with. Censor yourself from pitching these potential business contacts right off the bat. Being genuine is the number one rule of any social media. Establish relationships long before asking, not demanding, if they would like to subscribe to your "Newsroom" (see step two). If the contact you ask to subscribe doesn't, don't stop being polite to the contact. Work on growing the relationship to the point where your contact asks to subscribe to your "Newsroom."

#2) Develop your own "Newsroom." Unadulterated publicity feeds cost money. Don't have the funds to invest in a nationally distributed professional news feed? Create your own press releases and put a section entitled "Newsroom" on your website. This simple feature furnishes the impression that you an experienced and polished professional. A "Newsroom" caters to both media and inquiring minds by offering an insight to your services and/or products by the way of a media platform.

The "Newsroom" feature should offer frequent and slightly boastful updates about yourself, services, and products. In addition, if there are any blogs, clippings, or related news content, this is the place to showcase those links. It is also extremely helpful to add a feature to your newsroom, outside of an RSS, for people to subscribe to your updates. A subscribe feature affords direct marketing (and bragging rights) to your customers while pitching any subscribed media.

#3) Give back, get back. Teaming up with a charity is beneficial for several reasons. Find one in your area which your services can benefit. The first benefit of volunteering your time, and talents, to a non-profit is obvious. You are doing something good to help others. Second, charities and non-profit organizations often have established press contacts and events that will offer you a shared media value. Third, validity. Most media, and potential customers and/or investors, are impressed with businesses (and people) who offer their time to a non-profit. If you become involved with a charity you can use the non-profit as a reference and as a badge on your social media sites. In return, the charity will often co-promote your services in related press releases for any events you become involved with. This is a win-win opportunity for all involved.

#4) Meet the local media. Reach out via an in-person visit to your local targeted media. Local reporters are swamped daily with phone calls and email pitches from professional public relations representatives. Chances are someone representing him or herself with a blind email or cold call will get no response. Instead research what local media is appropriate for you. Thus, if you just wrote a book on manners, find the local beat reporters who cover the social scene in your community. This is important. Know who you are pitching. Don't assume if you have the wrong reporter your request will be forwarded to the right reporter. Ten out of ten times your request will be deleted.

Once you are sure which reporters are likely to cover whatever it is you are pitching, visit them. Back to the example: if you did write a book on manners, an in-person visit should go as follows:

Plan a stop to the local publication with a copy of your book and a gift basket worth under $25 (anything over that amount can be construed as a bribe). Tell the reporter you are not looking for a review. Instead, you wanted to meet him or her in person and introduce yourself. Let the reporter know you can be counted on as an "expert" in your field and leave your contact information.

It is important not to come off as pushy in any way when speaking with reporters. Don't mention your product, service, or business as a story idea when first meeting a reporter. Remember, establishing relationships is always key. Politely thank him or her for their time and walk away. The trick is waiting. If you have not heard anything within a month send an email complimenting him or her on the latest column (cite an example of what you liked about it) and ask them to check out your "Newsroom" for the latest updates. Keep at this "you get more bees with honey than vinegar" tactic until you get your chance to shine! Note: Local media clippings are great steppingstones to pitching national media.

#5) Proofreading. Don't ever write, read, and then post (or email) anything on behalf of yourself for marketing or pitching reasons. Despite how well-versed in English you may be, writing on behalf of yourself is often a bad idea. Your tone, your over- or under-promotional tactics, and so forth can all be lost in translation because you are too close to your subject matter. Write your press release, or pitch, and then have someone you trust proofread your copy. Make sure whoever you use as a proofreader is objective.

I can remember a great example where a women entrusted her son to proofread her resume for errors and accuracy. After one month of not getting any leads for work she read over her resume. It was saturated with typos and slang. I have also come across bands who write "We are the next best thing" or "If you don't hire us you are a fool." This might have sounded like a good idea to these bands at the time. In truth, the terms they chose sounded desperate, slightly arrogant, and condescending to whomever they were approaching for potential work. I have had other business clients write pitch letters making claims such as "You'll never use another product like this again" and "Guaranteed to work." These are pitfall phrases. Should one ever find oneself in a position of crisis communication (such as a faulty product) these statements will act as linchpins.

Promotional writing is a fine blend of boastful truth and concise communication. These elements are the basis for writing any promotional copy. Grammar is important but the tone of delivery is too!

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About Helene Vece