Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Media Training Tips--Things to Avoid During a Media Campaign

At the start of every publicity campaign we run we bring our clients down to our office in Austin, TX for a full day of media training (we have four authors in the office today for just that reason). Media training is important because it prepares authors to be entertaining and informative on the air--to give a good interview while also promoting their book effectively.

During media training we have workshops on each type of media before we conduct mock interviews. During the mock interviews we play a variety of hosts--from combative to unprepared--to teach authors how to handle those situations.

While media training is a vital step for authors, it is equally important to their publicist because the way authors conduct themselves during the publicity campaign reflects not only on them, but also on the publicist that is representing their work (and recommending them to great contacts). If an author bombs on the air because they are unprepared, the publicist is sure to suffer--either by getting a nasty note from the producer or worse, not hearing anything from that contact as a result. That is why preparation is so important.
In addition to preparing for interviews and giving our authors plenty of "do's," such as DO mention your book title, DO credential yourself early and often, etc. we also go over a list of "don'ts" to remember throughout the publicity campaign. These don'ts are in place to protect both the author and the publicist, ensuring that your media campaign is a solid one.

Here are a few to make sure you remember during your publicity campaign:

1. Don't respond to a bad review. For all the good things that the internet has done for book publicity, one of the negatives is this: the comments section of blogs tempt some authors to leave a nasty reply following a poor review. Bad reviews are part of being an author and if you flame a reviewer online, it is not only going to eliminate opportunities for future reviews, but it makes you, the author, look bad. It is also going to piss off your publicist and publisher, who have developed a relationship over time with that reviewer that just got trashed--who may now think twice about the next review copy that comes their way from your publicist. It is never OK to bash a reviewer online.

2. Don't contact the media directly. You're charming, no one knows your message better than you and you found that phone number online--why not just give that editor a quick call? Your publicist has been working with them on a story idea for weeks, so why not just knock this baby out with one phone call?

Very bad idea. If you happen to get that editor on the phone, you have gone around your publicist (who has given them everything they need to consider the story) and waived the inexperienced author flag. The story may get canned as a result--media members don't like to deal with multiple contacts on a story.

Let your publicist do their job (they've been doing this for years) and spend your time focusing on other marketing efforts.

Exception: thank you notes following coverage. Not only is this a classy way to show your appreciation for a feature story, interview, or book mention, but it sets you apart from the journalist's other sources - and ups your chances that they'll contact you again in the future.

3. Don't ask to see a story before it runs. Few requests are met with as much disdain from journalists as this one. We understand that you want to make sure the story is accurate--that they spelled your title correctly or mentioned the consulting work you've started to do on the side--but this request is never OK, as it violates journalistic ethics.

Journalists never show sources stories for "approval," before the general public got to see it. What you can do, however, is ask to see your direct quotes to make sure you are comfortable with those. Ask the journalist to have the publication's fact-checker call you to review quotes, and they will normally be happy to do so.

4. Don't disparage competitive titles. Your publicity campaign is about building bridges and opening doors for your career--but not at the expense of other authors. When I say never diss other books, that extends beyond live interviews to blogs, conversations at publishing events and other forums. Word gets around quickly in this industry and many authors have hurt their reputations by taking cheap shots at other authors. Take the high road. The cool thing about working with books, whether you're an author, a publisher, or publicist, is that we're all this together: the public is reading books, and that's a good thing.

This list just scratches the surface on dos and don'ts that most publicists will cover at the start of a campaign. Remember that your publicist's main goal is to prevent mistakes that could jeopardize the success of the publicity campaign. There is so much competition out there for authors and their books, so help the media out by respecting the work that they do - and don't give them reasons not to cover you.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a very angry email from an author, once (not one of yours!). It's too long to reprint here, but the closing sentence was such: You are not only an aberration but a self-important prig, a remnant of the 19th century.

Classy! I hadn't even reviewed his book yet -- but perhaps needless to say, now I don't think I ever will.

On a less pertinent note, I noticed that you've got an outdated link for me in your sidebar. I recently moved my blog to my own domain, at http://shereadsbooks.org . Would you mind switching the link to reflect that change?


August 21, 2008 at 5:01 PM  

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