We’re living in the midst of what you might call a PR nightmare, from those toxic tweets coming out of the White House to chastened and deposed CEOs. What’s clear is that controlling the image is more important than ever — and you certainly can’t call this a fun time in terms of public relations. Yet anyone releasing a product, service, announcement or news needs to get media coverage to succeed. Not only that, it should be positive. To help us master the system, there’s a great new book to show us the ropes without needing to hire a fancy, pricey firm: Fast PR: Give Yourself a Huge Media Boost, by Paul Blanchard.
Cheeky, irreverent, pragmatic and wise, this is an extremely helpful book. It’s designed to be read however you want to: cover to cover or subject by subject. It’s got brightly colored blocks of text and pleasantly short chapters that pack a lot of information into a small space — perfect for today’s short attention spans. Along with Blanchard’s own tactics and guidance from his years running a PR firm, he includes first-hand, real-life stories and advice from many of the veteran PR and media people who appeared on Blanchard’s highly popular podcast, ‘Media Masters.’
The book offers smart and no-nonsense tips from people who made mistakes so we don’t have to. Blanchard and his peers openly share their failures as well as their successes, so we can just emulate their methods and get the same results without having to first log long hours in the trenches. In other words, the title has two meanings: Fast PR as in some very effective ways of getting PR quickly and Fast PR as in a crash course in the subject. While this reviewer hasn’t had the chance to ask Blanchard whether such double meanings are intentional, the wit and wisdom that runs through the book would make one assume that it was.
Blanchard is a Brit: in his author photos he’s dressed London casual, in a tweedy looking sweater, his head tilted up as if to say, “Are you sure that’s your best idea for a marketing campaign?” His colloquialisms are definitely Brit — “When It All Goes Tits Up” is about what to do in a crisis to avert a further PR disaster.
His firm is headquartered in New York as well as London, however, and there’s a certain universal savvy to advice such as “Don’t write crap,” in Part 6 on Press Releases. Following that one is: “Did I mention not to write crap? Here’s how.” This is a professional well-versed in the importance of follow-up. He leaves very little to chance.
The book covers everything you need to know, starting with, “Forget everything you know about PR.” It encourages readers to cultivate a marriage as opposed to a one-night stand with journalists, and to figure out what your story is and then stop trying to pretend it’s interesting — it’s not, Blanchard notes, “So make the best of it.” He provides a handy acronym for getting that story right: T-R-U-T-H, or make it topical, unusual, and relevant, make sure it includes tension, and above all make it human. He also romps through a discussion of Twitter that will demystify it for even the social media-averse, explains the importance of going to industry events, underscores the value of being a thought leader, talks about getting radio and TV and making podcasts, and extols the press-friendly bonus of winning awards.
One thing you should never say? “No comment.” One thing you should never ever do? Give up. Never give up says this PR veteran — and then adds, unless you really, really have to. But if you do, use the time and regroup — and perhaps dive into Blanchard’s 188 pages. This book is the equivalent of a crack PR firm guiding you, encouraging you, and pushing you to get bolder, better, more tenacious, and thicker-skinned — just like a great PR person.
To learn more about Paul Blanchard and Fast PR, visit his website