Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nine-Year-Old Schools PR Pro

I’ve published over 1100 blog posts about book marketing and publicity—based on my more than two decades of experience in the book publishing and public relations industries—but I was schooled in how to get publicity by my nine-year-old son, Ben.

He’s a go-getter and a media hound. In the past he found his way onto the CBS-TV NYC news, The Journal News, and a few other media outlets for any number of reasons. But on a recent Sunday he out did himself.

He loves to play Monopoly, having only discovered it six months ago. I taught him how to play and fancy myself to be pretty good. He already has beaten me and grew bored of the lack of competition so he decided to start a Monopoly tournament at his elementary school. His principal embraced the idea and Ben created an event that saw nearly three dozen kids register to play. A small entrance fee helped raise money for the school PTA—an added benefit.

He ended up pulling off a terrific tournament. The kids had fun as they learned to be real estate moguls. It really is a wonderful game, teaching you about negotiating, taking risks, strategizing and dealing with the luck of the draw.

Ben won the tournament he created—but it was close. He almost didn’t make it out of the first round. He easily could have lost and it still would be a victory for him. But one thing more was on his mind. He wanted media coverage.

I wrote a family-friendly fluffy press release during the week leading up to the event and sent it with a photo of him by a game board to a few local media outlets. I didn’t get a response.

Though it’s not unusual to hear radio silence when contacting the media, I thought and hoped someone would show interest.

Normally I would follow-up with phone calls but I was just too busy with life to make it a priority. Then Ben said on the morning of the tournament, with his usual persistence, “Can I call News 12?”, our local TV station in Westchester, NY. I said “Sure,” and he dialed the number as soon as I gave it to him. We both agreed having a kid call would be perfect.

He got an assignment producer on the phone and began to state his case. They stopped him midway and said they recalled seeing my press release but didn’t have a crew to send to the school tourney. They offered him a chance to film some video and send it to them, saying they might use it. I had my doubts, but felt encouraged.

As the three-hour elimination tournament went on, I filmed 20-second clips of the kids battling one another for bragging rights of New Rochelle. After the action-packed day was winding down I forwarded several videos to the TV station. I didn’t get a response back to acknowledge they got it.

We watched the news in the 8:00 p.m. hour (it’s on 24-7) and didn’t see a mention of it and figured we didn’t make the cut. He was realistic about it—he knows the event made his world amazing but that to others his feel-good story can’t compete with murders, car crashes, and political controversies.

He went to bed by 8:40 p.m. and I buried myself in some work and then took to reading the newspapers. At 11-something I had News 12 on, thinking maybe he’ll still make it—but with low expectations. Sure enough, at around 11:15 I suddenly heard a teaser about a third-grader playing monopoly for a good cause. I looked up, rewound the clip, and quickly tape-recorded the show.

Several minutes in commercials went by and the next segment came on. There it was—on the news—my son’s tournament and the video I had sent. I was so happy to see not only that he made the cut but that he learned another valuable lesson while reminding me of it: Be persistent and keep trying. You may just end up on the evening news!

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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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