Sunday, July 13, 2008

ICRS: Day 0

Though ICRS formally gets underway Monday morning at 9 AM, the Sunday before the show is always full of important events. For that reason, I left Austin a day early and took a direct flight from Austin to Orlando (thank you JetBlue!) yesterday afternoon. I got into Orlando about 7:30 PM, checked into the hotel, grabbed dinner and watched SportsCenter before drifting off to sleep. Since we have a nine month old at home, I appreciated every minute of sleep that was available to me.

This year I am flying solo--I usually have Stephanie or another member of our team at the event--but since we've been at several events over the past few weeks and we are in the middle of a full campaign schedule, I decided to make the trip on my own this year.

After checking in at the ICRS registration desk, I dropped P&P press kits off in the ICRS media room. Our cover page read "P&P is proud to represent the leading voices in the CBA" and this year we have a number of great books. They include A Tale of Two Sons, by Dr. John MacArthur (Thomas Nelson), Two Wars, by Nate Self (Tyndale), Between Us Girls, by Vicki Courtney (B&H), God in the Marketplace, by Henry & Richard Blackaby (B&H), Trading Places, by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott (Zondervan/HarperCollins), Coming Unglued, by Rebeca Seitz (B&H), Castway Kid, by r.b. mitchell (Tyndale), The Nehemiah Factor, by Dr. Frank Page (New Hope Publishers), Designed for Success, by Dondi Scumaci (Strang), Compelled by Love, by Ed Stetzer & Philip Nation (New Hope Publishers), The Gift of Christmas Cookie, by Dandi Daley Mackall (Zonderkidz), We Believe in Christmas, by Karen Kingsbury (Zonderkidz) & others.

Though ICRS is not near the media event it used to be, it's nice for outlets that are present to be able to see the entire P&P roster in those press kits.

After I dropped the press kits off, I headed to the Alive Communications event at the Peabody Hotel. Alive is one of the best literary agencies in the country and this event was a savvy way to honor their clients and industry contacts before the show got underway.

Rick Christian, who started Alive in 1989, opened the event by thanking attendees and telling a few stories before highlighting three new Alive Communications books featured at the event. One of those books was Two Wars, by Nate Self, and when Rick introduced Nate (after saying a few words about him) the crowd gave Nate a well-deserved standing ovation. Ann Graham Lotz (Billy Graham's daughter) then gave a great presentation before the networking got underway.

It was great to see Lee, Rick, Beth & Joel and a number of our clients at the event. One of the many great things about ICRS is the family atmosphere at events like this.

After the Alive event finished, I headed back to the convention center for the media meet & greet session, which featured a panel discussion moderated by the CBA's media maven, Nancy Guthrie. I always enjoy this event because it puts all the industry publicists in one room before the show gets underway. This year's panel included Kelly Hughes (one of the CBA's most respected publicists), Dan Merchant (who wrote and directed a very interesting documentary titled "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers") and David Kinnaman (author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters).

It was a very progressive panel that brought a refreshing perspective to the table. The main question looming for publicists that represent Christian authors was how can I get top secular media contacts past a) the disdain they have for 'religious' authors and b) the desire to only put Christians on the air to argue a far right-wing perspective in a point/counterpoint debate?

Dan Merchant told an interesting story about his recent Today Show appearance where he had a producer confess "we usually don't do religion because it just makes everyone mad." That same morning The Today Show also covered stories dealing with crime, drugs and other societal ills.

Kelly Hughes closed with some advice that I agree with: publicists have to be honest with their media contacts about the perspective their client is going to bring to the table. If the author is going to rock that producer's notion of what a Christian is (i.e. David Kinnaman), tell them so.

We've always found that the best way to package "CBA" authors for general market exposure is to focus on the mainstream issues that their books deal with (and that they have expertise relating to). FOX News, CNN and other national outlets look to Vicki Courtney as an expert on issues affecting teen and tween girls. CNN Headline News, Nancy Grace and others look to Dr. Les Parrott as an expert on relaitonship issues. The Associated Press, Newsday and others look to Nate Self as a great resource on PTSD and the War on Terror. As with an interview opportunity, an author's focus simply has to shift depending on the market the media outlet is trying to reach.

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Anonymous Beth Jusino said...

Rusty, it was great to see you on Sunday. Thanks for coming, and for being part of Nate's incredible book launch. It's a privilege to have Phenix & Phenix on the team.

July 15, 2008 at 10:39 PM  

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