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Making the most of PR in Publishing

October 27, 2010

We’ve touched on this before at A Brand Day Out – PR in publishing is so often manifested by a feisty PR manager and a clippings folder, distributed round the building once a month. Everyone says “well done” and then gets back to doing their work. Meanwhile the PR process becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of mediocre results which are impossible to measure.

Certainly, in my experience, over the years a close examination of these folders often reveals an utterly disappointing representation  of the books and services being discussed. Quality varies between a simple reference in The Bookseller to the book being published and a long review of the book itself (if you’re really lucky) in The Sunday Times. In between is a plethora of literary tedium which makes you lose the will to live. Reviewers, it would appear, aren’t really interested in books – or at least the majority of them…

OK, that’s harsh. But good PR is not about schmoozing literary editors and pretending to be part of the literati glitterati (albeit this method does have a madness in that it can work). For most publishers, where time is short and money is everything, the pursuit of vanity (and a restaurant bill) in the name of publicity is not an option. Good PR, of course, is about the story. And the story (you know I’m going to say this) depends on the person who can tell it – usually a damned good writer who knows what they’re doing.

Cue this interesting post on PR flaws today from Penny Sansevieri. She outlines four major flaws an author alone can make in conducting PR:

  1. Lack of consistency and commitment
  2. Inability to tune the pitch to the right person
  3. Inconsistent relevance of the PR to the topic in question
  4. Over-promising and under-delivering

Great stuff Penny. And there’s more to PR today which makes it an even more effective tool in the marketing mix – social media. How so? Well reading Seth Godin’s blog today just shows you what doing the right thing can do for you in PR. As he puts it succinctly, “I spread your idea because“. This is the same as the copywriter’s mantra: “which means that…

A good copywriter tests everything he or she says by asking themselves the question “which means that“. For example, “this e-book on Shark Fin Soups of the World comes with a free year’s membership to the Worldwide Fund for Nature – which means that you can absolve your guilt about endangering the world shark population by being part of one of the world’s greatest nature conservancy groups”. Alright, I know that’s cynical – but you get my drift: every statement has to have a reason – and this is especially so in PR.

As Godin implies, messages get spread because of reasons and not by dint simply of being a message. So why are you writing PR? What do you want people to do? Why will they do it? How will you measure it? The days of the pearl-festooned PR manager filing her nails and making the occasional phone call to the press are over (well, in most places at least) – these days PR has become a major part of the marketing mix.

Publishers who get it right will reap the benefits (Godin himself highlights 20 ways your word can spread if done better). Publishers who get it wrong will still be looking at the management accounts in a year’s time and wondering  why the figures are more or less the same. In the age of social media, you can be alive with the buzz or doing what you’ve always done and getting ignored. The choice is yours.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 1:08 pm

    Great post!

    I’ve found you are so right. It’s about pitching the story, and about relevance to the audience. As an author who is greatly involved in the P.R. of her novel, I try to always put myself in the media’s shoes, and ultimately the reader’s shoes. They want to know: What’s in it for me? Why this book? Why now?

    And the answers to these questions shift over time, and with different audiences. The P.R. effort is endless…hence the need for commitment!


    • October 27, 2010 2:12 pm

      Many thanks for your kind words Marie. Yes, the story is everything and belief is all; it is surprising how much this gets whittled away due to pressures of work, budgets and other demands. Keep up the good work!


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