SC: Dianna, why is it important for authors to seek media attention?
DB: Most authors don’t have direct access to enough readers to put them on a bestsellers list without help from the media. The media opens the door to a bigger audience. Media means leverage. But publicity in and of itself doesn’t necessarily translate to book sales or speaking engagements. The key is getting the RIGHT kind of publicity to reach the appropriate audience for your book or speech. And then the real payoff comes in knowing what to do with that publicity once you get it—in knowing how to leverage the publicity to dollars.
SC: You’ve been very successful in getting in lots of different publications and appearing on national news programs. To what do you attribute your positive publicity?
DB: A broad topic of universal appeal. Communication is my area of expertise, and everybody has to communicate well. As far as getting on national news programs, that can also be explained fairly easily: There’s always some politician, pro athlete, or rock star putting his or her foot in the old mouth! Some talk-show hosts want communication experts for their analysis of how those with foot-in-mouth disease can clean up the mess—apologize, give the bad news, respond graciously, or “set the record straight” with a clean slate.
SC: Your new book deals in part with that topic. In terms of publicity, what steps are you taking this time around that you may not have done on your first or second book?
DB: The Voice of Authority: 10 Communication Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know was just released by McGraw-Hill. One thing that I’ve done differently with this book is to think more about positioning BEFORE it came out. Let me explain: An earlier book that I did, which I’m often told has become a classic in the field, was Communicate with Confidence, also by McGraw-Hill. With that book, I aimed at every business professional and evidently hit the middle of the marketplace. It has sold exceptionally well—but just by accident, not through any great marketing or positioning plan. But with Voice of Authority, the publisher has positioned it “one level above” every professional. That is, they still wanted the book to present practical tips, but for leaders in an organization—managers, team leaders, and so forth. So that meant cover design, sales copy, PR, everything had to be different to position the book for that reader.
SC: Have you had any interviews that didn’t go so well? What did you learn?
SC: Have you had any interviews that didn’t go so well? What did you learn?
DB: The first time I was on a national talk show—Good Morning America—I was shocked to learn the morning I arrived in the studio that they didn’t intend to show the book jacket on the screen. They were interviewing me on tips from the book—Get a Life: How to Find Time for the Really Important Things in Life Without Sacrificing Your Career. So I just assumed they’d show the book jacket and flash the title on the screen under my name. Not so. When I said something about that, the segment producer said, “We’re not planning to.” I said, “What do you mean—you’re not planning to?” It never entered my mind that they didn’t intend to show the book. She responded, “Your publicist didn’t make that a condition of your doing the show. Are you saying you won’t go on?” I was floored. I had no idea that was all decided beforehand and should be part of the discussion with the booking agent. I assumed it was all just a “given.” But not anymore! I assume nothing.
SC: That's a good lesson for us all to take to heart. Tell us about the most embarrassing/funniest/memorable thing that’s happened to you.
DB: The most difficult interview I remember doing was a international one—I think the radio station was one from the Bahamas or Jamaica. My publisher had placed an ad in Radio and TV Report, and a producer called in from that ad and scheduled the segment. We didn’t check out the show very well other than to check the Internet and discover that it was a large station. The topic was the communication gap between men and women. It was one of those morning talk shows with two hosts in a playful mood. The first question or two went okay, but soon things started to get suggestive. Their questions started to focus on me personally—my photo on the website. That sort of thing. When I tried to bring things back to a more business-like discussion, one of the hosts began to attack me for being “uptight” and asking “why was I so uncomfortable with my sexuality” and it got worse from there. I just hung up. And then five minutes later, I get a call on my home phone number from this guy, trying to further the very vulgar, suggestive discussion. (They had my home phone number as a back-up number in case of technical difficulties on this early-morning call before office hours.) He continued to harass me at home. Long story a little shorter, I called the PR firm to let them know about this station so they could put this station on their “do not schedule” list.
SC: I applaud you for hanging up. On the other hand, a step you take that endears you to reporters is that you write thank you notes. How important is it to establish a relationship with journalists?
DB: Extremely important. The same journalists call me book after book to do interviews because of a relationship. And they call for quotes, tips, or comments when they’re assigned stories because my name is top of mind on the topic of communication. Anything extra that you can do to stand out makes a huge difference.
SC: Do you use different strategies for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and Internet coverage?
DB: Yes and no. The fundamentals are the same: Build relationships. Keep your name top of mind. Keep good records. Stay in touch. Help them do their job. Make it easy for them to use your stuff. But you do approach them differently when you have a new book. For example, the lead time when scheduling interviews is different with each type. The method of reaching each is different. The frequency of contact for each is different. What they want to see is different.
SC: Do you practice to develop good sound bites?
DB: Again, the answer is yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I’ve been practicing all my professional life as a speaker. So I practice delivery every week as I deliver speeches and workshops. But no, I don’t practice doing interview sound bites. What I DO to prepare, however, is to pull together sound bites on paper. I always have my assistant to ask the reporter what the interview will cover so that I can pull my thoughts together before the actual interview.
And when a new book comes out, I actually go through the book and pull out sound bites or key points that I want to make in each interview and write those on cards, ready to deliver at every opportunity.
SC: What advice would you give to people to leverage a little media coverage into bigger markets?
DB: Always let your clients know where you’ve been covered, reviewed, interviewed, featured. Even if they didn’t read it or see it directly, they’ll be impressed just to KNOW or HEAR that you were featured in your industry’s top journal. Then when you step up to appear on Fox & Friends newscast or CNN’s Larry King Live about X or Y or get interviewed by Harvard Business Review or Investor’s Business Daily about Z, let clients know. Second-hand, pass-on announcements about such coverage get almost the same bang for the buck as the first time around.
SC: Sometimes you use press releases to establish yourself as an expert. You’re not necessarily selling a book, but definitely building credibility and reputation.
DB: We do this about twice a year for big events—when we complete major surveys or research surveys. Another thing that warrants a press release is when we sign global, enterprise-wide contracts with training clients for our communication courses. Sometimes our clients do it for us—that’s the very best. For example, when Lockheed Martin won the huge $288 billion Joint Strike Fighter contract with the Department of Defense, the company sent out a press release and mentioned us as the training firm who coached the senior executives in giving briefings. That’s nice.
SC: You do a great job of explaining the media in your Get Your Book Published workshop that you hold once or twice a year. How essential is it that authors think of the media angle as they begin a book?
DB: Considering the media and marketing angles from the get-go is paramount. In fact, you will absolutely not sell a book today if your book proposal does not include an exceptionally strong marketing and media section. Selling books is all about the author’s platform. That’s why in Get Your Book Published we spend a great deal of time making sure would-be and experienced authors understand how to convey to agents and editors what they plan to do to market their books and get media attention. The media opens the door to everything else.
SC: Dianna, thanks so much for your wisdom and insight! I'd like to encourage everyone to sign up for your monthly Communication Tip and to read your blog. We'll also be looking for you on TV!