Tag Archive for public relations

Outgoing Writing Students Share Tips for Success

One of the challenges of teaching writing classes to college kids is that they all come in with different levels of interest and experience.

Here are three things I do at American University to help smooth the way.AU outside

1 – Before the semester begins, I send out a short survey. I ask my incoming students how much they’ve written outside the classroom, why they’re taking the class (no penalty if it’s simply to fulfill a requirement), and their toughest writing challenges. I find the kids appreciate being asked and are happy to respond.

2 – On opening night, I pitch like a used car salesman. I know most will not go on to writing or communications careers. I tell them to think of their time with me as cross training for whatever field they eventually choose. I point to studies that show employers place high value in employees who are clear and concise. I warn they will hear a lot from me about precision and clarity.

3 – On finals night, I offer a bonus. Sharing a tip for success with my next students earns two free points. Most remember they were afforded this opportunity thanks to the previous class, and include some lesson learned. I’m always surprised by one or two comments on the tip sheet, which you can find (unedited) here on the class blog.

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Break Out from the Pack at Book Festivals

Engage, don't accost ...

Engage, don’t accost …

When you wrote your book, you probably never thought about working your booth. No surprise; you were worried about plot, pacing and protagonists. But now the book is done and published. You’ve made the transition from creative writing to creative marketing. Trade shows and book festivals are a great way to introduce your work to readers.

One thing you’ll find at your first fair is that not all booths are created equal. Here are some tips to get you off to a running start:

– Engage, don’t accost. You’re selling intrigue and adventure, not brakes and mufflers. The pitch should match the product.

– Put the book aside and find common ground. Notice their outfit, or if they’re pushing a stroller or wearing a Mets cap. If you form a quick personal link before getting into the story, your visitor might actually bring it up first. And you’ll be thinking, Glad you asked! This is when you summon your quick, engaging synopsis.

– Use your space wisely. Booth work usually happens in tight quarters. If you’re talking to a couple and another person walks up, step around, open the circle, and invite them into the conversation.

– Make friends with your rivals. Odds are you won’t be appealing to the same audience as the guy in the next booth or the gal across the way. So spend a few minutes getting to know the neighbors. Trade ideas. Snap pix. And steer folks interested in other genres to your fellow authors.

– Be smart with posters. You can feature your cover, or you can make a cover poster that includes a blurb about the story. The latter is better, as it gives passers-by a taste if you’re busy with another customer. Along these lines, make sure you hide the boxes and coffee cup, and keep the table neat.

– Go for buzz, not bling. Sure, chocolate kisses will draw plenty of visitors, but most will grab a handful and walk off. Instead, find something to give away that relates to your work, like bookmarks about the book. Speaking of food, keep a mirror handy to make sure nothing you ate wound up sticking to your teeth.

Last, make sure someone who can handle a camera is taking plenty of photos. The shot you’re going for is that special moment when perfect strangers begin looking at you as an author with something worthwhile to say. A good assortment of pix from the show also make a nice Pinterest board.

Any other book show tips to share? Please add them below!

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Takeaways from 3 Stunning Social Media Blunders

Make a mistake, we dare you ...

Make a mistake, we dare you …

Technology has put a huge club in the hands of every smart phone owner. Corporate errors become tsunami-sized disasters in minutes, thanks to savvy social media users.

Sometimes it seems like people are waiting for the next mistake. How do you stay safe? And what are the keys to a fast recovery during a crisis? Here are a few stories, plus lessons learned.

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Supermodel Agrees it’s Time to Look Past the Packaging

ModelDo we vote on looks or substance, issues or sound bites? Do we buy what we need or eat what we should based on what makes us happy or healthy, or on what’s hot at the moment?

It’s time to look past the packaging, folks. Check this out.

And please weigh in …






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Spinning the Cruise that was No Carnival

cruise ship

Imagine trying to put some spic-and-span on all you’ve heard about the ill-fated Carnival cruise that wound up adrift off the Yucatan Peninsula.

A dirty job, to be sure, yet someone had to do it. Here’s a look at how Carnival’s CEO handled what could have been a much worse PR disaster.



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Sex Versus Sexy & More!

JenningsWire-Banner1 – How should authors hug the line between sex and sexy? This post offers some ideas.

2 – Where do you get your news, and why? Here’s a piece on why we need to be smarter news consumers.

3 – Is anyone buying the guilt-free Coke? A closer look at how Coke’s marketing department is getting ahead of an on-going debate about obesity.


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Anyone Buying the Guilt-Free Coke?

Overweight man sitting on bench in yellow shirtAll along we’ve been told we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Does the same apply to soda?

Mayor Bloomberg says no way. Ask Coke, though, and you’ll get a different answer.

The rest of the story is here.  And please weigh in. No pun intended.


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TV Reporter Goff Says Persistency Pays

NBC4 Reporter Angie Goff at American U

When trying to catch the attention of the mainstream media, be persistent without being a pest. Do some homework and be creative. Think about what’s hot, what people are talking about, and find a connection to your product or service.

Take Kim Kardashian. Kim may never surface on your daily radar, but if her divorce is trending off the charts on Twitter and you run a dating site (or perhaps have written a novel about a broken marriage), craft a pitch that links the two.

These were some of the tips that popular NBC4 reporter Angie Goff served up this week to students in the communications class I teach at American University in Washington, D.C. When pitching, she said, don’t overlook the hyper-local sites that many mainstream media outlets have created.

Goff also warned about crossing the line from persistence to peskiness, but advised students heading into public relations to err on the side of perseverance. Most of all, she said, don’t come off like you’re only out for some free advertising.

So how would you pitch that novel about the broken marriage? One idea:

Kim K says she married too soon, and the guy she thought she was marrying turned out to be someone else. In my story, Alexis does the same thing and winds up trapped in an abusive relationship. “Caught” is the story of her escape. May I send you a review copy?

 How have you used trending topics – once known as news stories of the day – to pitch your book?



Marketing Thyself

Twitter doesn't let you touch a reader.

We can argue about whether writers choose their craft or if it chooses them. But there’s no debate about paying bills and buying groceries. It’s got to be done. When Twain said, “Write without pay until someone offers to pay,” he was probably already being paid plenty. If you’re going to make it as a writer, you need to be as creative with marketing as you are with words. This includes personal appearances and public speaking, neither of which aligns naturally with the sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful solitude and discipline required to weave words into stories.

Nervousness can spring from several sources. Your book is done. You’re proud but wonder who besides friends and family will come to your reading. Or, you get to the reading and there are 85 people waiting to hear you speak. You start and falter. You turn to a page and stare at words you wrote and rewrote and anguished over a dozen times, and they look absurd. Mae West’s famous line crowds into your skull. “I speak two languages: Body and English.” You suddenly speak none.

The first thing to remember is that anxiety rises from unfamiliar situations and new experiences. Of course you’re going to be nervous. Remember that you know your subject. In fact, you wrote the book.

Second, put together a catchy answer to the most important question you’ll be asked: What’s the book about? You shouldn’t need more than two sentences. While you’re at it, add two more quick points you want to make. Short of a sale, what do you want folks to remember about you and your story when they walk away? When you nail these items, put some time into rehearsal, preferably in front of a mirror. Be brutally honest. Maybe you need to sharpen your pitch some more, as in these examples:

Yawn: Bella is about the journey of a widow who loses her husband under mysterious circumstances in the midst of war in Afghanistan. The military tells her he died in battle, but an anonymous caller says he was accidentally killed by a fellow soldier. Bella enlists the help of a Washington journalist to find the truth. During the investigation, they learn far more than they expected.

Yay: Isabel Moss knew she could lose her husband when he went off to war. When the call came, she was almost ready. What stopped her cold was the second call…

Third, remember you’re a likeable character. If you’re not, don’t forget you’re a writer, so write yourself some good lines. Be enthusiastic and confident; smile and make eye contact; stay focused on your core messages, and, if the occasion arises, toss in a colorful metaphor. John Nance Garner was America’s 32nd vice president. He said once, “The vice-presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.”

That’s worth a smile. Call it up as needed.


Making New Friends at NY Book Expo

Dear Lilly, Ben, Ed, Brad, Jan, Jenn, Twilla, David, and 72 more,

Thank you for coming out to the Book Expo in New York and picking up your copy of Bella during our signing Wednesday afternoon.

It was great to meet you, and I hope you enjoy the story of Isabel Moss and reporter Dan Patragno.

Isabel, you’ll learn, knew she could lose her husband when he went off to war. When the call came, she was almost ready. What stopped her cold was the second call …

More photos from the Expo over here on our Facebook page.