Saturday, May 10, 2014

Headless Woman Found In Topless Bar: Headlines That Sell It!

That was a headline of a famous New York Post story.  What a visual those words generate, right?  As publicists, we can learn from the Post.

Headlines.  That’s how we have to think when pitching the news media.

We underachieve in our success ratio of number of media solicitations-to-bookings for several reasons, but the biggest culprit comes down to the pitch.  Just what is it that we’re asking the media to pay attention to?

The message is not that we have a book or author.  The message is that we have a story and we are here to make that producer or writer’s job easier by outlining all the brilliant angles.

The message is not that we have an expert on finance here to talk about how to manage our money in the new economy.  The message is: “Best-selling author and finance guru tells us with interest rates so low you should put your money under the mattress.”

There, we converted a general story line into a more specific pitch.  We used catchy words and we painted a picture that plays on what ordinary people are thinking but attaching it to this expert.  Of course, we can take it a step further and find something else that we think would be of interest for our client to discuss.  Remember, the book is a tool, a mere resume or business card, not an event in itself that warrants media coverage.  We need to wake the news media up and shout: We have something GOOD.

Whether it’s our message line in e-mails, our phone messages, our pitch sheet headlines – they must have something that forces the media to respond, something that makes a bold statement, or raises a serious question.  Granted, you can’t just offer hype and not have substance to back things up, but now more than ever it’s imperative that we get the attention of a jaded, over-bombarded, overworked, and often bored producer or journalist.

Whatever we say, we must say it like we mean it.  We must own the message, even if someone else could easily say what we say.  For instance, let’s say we’re peddling a diet book.  There are a million of them that make the same claims – but you can choose how to present it.  You can take virtually any idea or feeling you have on the subject of diets and make it your pitch – provided that you are comfortable with it.  Instead of saying a doctor will tell us what foods to avoid if you’re diabetic, say: “Diabetes expert highlights six foods that could kill us.” 

He may talk about a thousand foods to avoid, but you can put an emphasis on some of them.

Remember, as publicists we have to have some showmanship and be more like politicians, using catchy slogans and getting simple but strong messages across in the speed of a sound bite.  Journalists think publicists are, whores and flacks who will say whatever a client pays us to say. 

They have a disdain for us – they don’t’ trust us, they’re jealous because they believe publicists make more money to distort the truth than they do for supposedly reporting it, and they don’t respect what we do.  But they can’t refuse a good story, regardless of the source.  So, the next time you are pitching someone, think in terms of headlines.  The rest will take care of itself.

17 Media Coaching Tips

1.      Don’t mumble and stumble.
2.      Don’t sound boring, tired, hoarse or monotonous.
3.      Thrill us.
4.      Teach us.
5.      Reassure us.
6.      Be passionate.
7.      Inject humor.
8.      Take listens on a journey.
9.      Be honest.
10.  Be funny.
11.  Be nice- but challenge others.
12.  Use your life experiences as a source to refer to.
13.  Share powerful stories.
14.  Speak in a conversational tone.
15.  Describe visuals- be animated.
16.  Be relevant.
17.  Speak in a way people can visualize what you are saying. 

by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Leaders accept and act on the paradox of power: we become most powerful when we give our own power away.  For example, late Major General John Stanford told us “we do not get our power from our stars and our bars.  We get our power from the people we lead.”

If you really want people to feel more powerful (and personally responsible), try these steps:
  • Substantially increase signature authority at all levels.
  • Remove or reduce unnecessary approval steps.
  • Eliminate as many rules as possible.
  • Decrease the amount of routine jobs.
  • Support the exercise of independent judgment.
  • Encourage creative solutions to problems.
  • Define jobs more broadly – as projects, not tasks.
  • Provide more freedom of access, vertically and horizontally, inside and outside.
To stay ahead of the curve, you ought to ask the following questions:
  • How can I give people more control over the resources they need to do their work?
  • How can I make sure people are connected to the information they need?
  • How can I make sure that I personally offer or acquire the support that people need to do very best they can?
"Positive images create positive possibilities."

"Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue." 

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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