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5 Myths About Publicity, What It Does, and Who Gets It

Judging from the questions I'm asked by people from every walk of life, misconceptions about publicity - what it can do and who can get it - abound.

By definition, publicity is media coverage you get because you're deemed to be of interest to an audience. If a journalist or talk show host thinks you have something valuable to share, something that will keep their audiences reading, watching or listening, they may interview you for an article, ask you to write something for their publication, or invite you to be a guest on a radio or TV show. (Important note: None of the above should be considered an invitation to hawk a product, company or book.)

The endorsement of traditional media is marketing gold to anyone trying to build a business, sell a product or get their book into more hands. Potential customers have more than ever from which to choose, but that also means more scammers to worry about. What makes one business, product or book more trustworthy and appealing than another? The endorsements of TV and radio shows, newspapers and magazines - and now, bloggers, news websites, and followers on social media, too.

When the media recognizes that you have something important to say, you gain credibility. When you have hundreds or thousands of people following you on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you have a stamp of approval from the general public. Both give others confidence you're as good as you say you are.

So, what can publicity do for you and who can get it? Let's blow up a few myths.

Myth #1: "You have to be a big company, or a rock star, or an elected official to get publicity."

Absolutely not! The media are always looking for people who are accessible and can provide expertise and/or insights on topics in the news. TV personality and motivational speaker Suze Orman started out as an account executive for Merrill Lynch before creating her own financial company. Along the way, she published five financial advice books, which helped her gain the publicity needed to land her own show on CNBC in 2002.

Myth #2: "I'm not an expert on anything!"

Anyone with credentials - be they education, experience, or a book they've written - can become an expert source of information for the media. At EMSI, our clients include professionals such as physicians, financial advisors and educators with obvious expertise. But they also include companies that sell nutritional supplements and other products, political pundits, entertainers, authors and philanthropists ... well, you get the picture.

Myth #3: "My product (or book) isn't newsworthy."

You'd be surprised by the many ways whatever you're promoting can be newsworthy! Knowing today's issues, trends and breaking news can help you make your pitch timely and current. If you manufacture doors and home invasions are in the news, you might suggest an article or talk show segment about the safest types of doors, locks and other home security measures. If you have a novel that involves politics, religion, science or relationships, there will always be something in the news relevant to your theme. The research you did as an author qualifies you to speak to the media - it gives you insights others don't have.

Myth #4: "Small publications and broadcast markets are no help!"

Wrong! Smaller publications often have dedicated readers, whether it's a community newspaper providing hyper-local information or a niche publication devoted to a topic of intense interest for a particular group. Their audiences actually read the publications! Smaller TV and radio markets also have devoted fan bases because listeners have fewer shows from which to choose. So, not only do you talk to a loyal audience, it's also likely your interview will be longer than it would in a larger market. That gives you greater potential for making a strong impression and driving home your points.

Myth #5: "Publicity is a waste if it doesn't result in immediate sales or traffic."

Sales is a two-step process; a good PR campaign is the first step. Publicity raises awareness about you and your company, product or book, and it sets you above the crowd by giving you the implied third-party endorsement of the media. People learn your name and hear your message. They not only discover you, they're also more willing to trust in you because you've earned the confidence of media professionals. The sale is the second step. If you have a message that resonates with your audience and offers something people value, plus a website designed to convert visitors into buyers, the sales will come!

There's an oft-stated truism here at EMSI: Customers can't find you if they don't know you exist.

Publicity puts you on the map - it tells people who you are, where you are, why you're special and what you have to offer them. Without it, no matter how wonderful your business, product, book or service, people are unlikely to come looking.

See you in the news!

Marsha Friedman

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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