Bill Stoller, Publisher
an ideal world, your business would be overflowing with newsworthy
stories, and the media would be waiting with bated breath for your next
press release, ready to give you front page coverage.
In the real world, however, it's not always so easy to generate real news.
There are only so many hot new products or breakthrough achievements with
which a business can capture a journalist's attention.
what do top publicists do to get news coverage for clients who have no
news to share?
They create opportunities for publicity from thin air. A good publicist
can quite literally invent a story that the news media will eat up. And,
best of all, they're usually stories that can be presented with little or
no adjustment year after year.
Here are a few of the ways you can create a great story from scratch:
Start a Hall of Fame. There are two reasons for you to take a look
-- my very own Public Relations Hall of Fame. First, it's filled
with examples of companies who have created great publicity stories from
thin air (the Pillsbury Bake-Off and the National Discount Broker's Duck
Quack, to name a couple) and second, it's an example of a
time-honored publicity technique -- the Hall of Fame.
It couldn't be easier. For your field, create a Hall of Fame, induct some
of your industry's top luminaries, send out a press release. You don't
need a marble-columned building or bronze plaques. A simple press release
(and maybe a supporting website similar to the Public Relations Hall of
Fame) will do the trick. Each year, induct some more members and send out
another release. Really, it's that simple.
Make a List.
Mr. Blackwell made himself a household name with
a simple "Worst Dressed List." And the "Most Boring People
of the Year" list that gets huge press every year? It's the
creation of a single, very clever publicist from New Jersey. And take a
look at one of the more recent lists to get massive publicity -- the Most
Annoying People of the Year from AmIAnnoying.com http://www.amiannoying.com/2002/mostandleast.aspx.
The media simply devours lists. The best, the worst, the most, the least,
the top 10, the bottom 10, whatever. Is there actual news here? Nope --
it's just entertaining, fluffy and a bit gossipy. In short, lists are the
perfect fodder for an editor seeking to balance out all the horror and
sadness of a typical news day with a bit of levity. Lists such as these
are practically the reason "People" columns in newspapers were
Craft an Index.
Here's a neat variation on the list concept.
Essentially a twist on the government's cost of living index, a publicity
index is a fun way to quantify a trend. Let me give you an example of a
good index that generated strong publicity year after year. Back in my
agency days, one of our clients was the company that imported Moet
Champagne. Somewhere along the line, a very sharp publicist had a
brainstorm, and invented "The Moet Index." It was basically a
list of some luxury items -- such things as a Maine lobster, a jar of
Russian caviar, a diamond bracelet and, of course, a bottle of Moet --
with the total cost of all the items if one were to purchase them. The
number was compared with the amount they would have cost last year, and
the year before and -- voila -- the Moet Index was born. The Index
purported to ask the question "How much more expensive is living the
good life this year as opposed to previous years?" The media loved
it, and Moet had a nice annual story. They simply tallied up the new
numbers each year, distributed a press release, sat back and counted the
Create a Petition.
Is there a hot topic in your industry? A growing
controversy? Something people would like to see happen that's not taking
place? Create a petition! Thanks to the Internet, starting a petition
drive is a breeze. No need to stand outside supermarkets with a
clipboard -- just provide a link for your visitors and you're off and
running! Sites such as PetitionOnline.com (http://www.petitiononline.com/petition.html)
allow anyone to start a petition for free.
Take a look at some of the petitions on the site: "Operation Keep
Vanessa on General Hospital"; "Request to CBS to air the
Lane Bryant Lingerie Show"; "Declare Sept. 11 a National
Holiday"; "Eminem For President In 2004." Whether serious
or lighthearted, a petition that generates lots of signatures is a great
For example, take a closer look at the "Lane Bryant Lingerie
Show" petition. It notes that, because 60% of women in America wear
at least a size 14, CBS should provide a plus-size fashion show as a
counterpart to its airing of the Victoria's Secret show. Now, I don't know
who was behind this petition, but imagine if you ran a website for
plus-size women, and you were the one who started the petition. And let's
say you managed to get 3000 people to sign the petition. Do you think you
might have a pretty good shot at getting coverage in newspapers, women's
magazines and other media outlets? Heck, yeah!
Petitions are an awesome way to create publicity from thin air -- and
hardly anyone is using them for that purpose. Jump on this idea and
keep it to yourselves. This is one just for my Publicity Insiders!
Here are my tips to create a story from thin air:
Keep it light.
Journalists know what you're up to, and they'll play along if it's all
in fun. Think in terms of placing the story in the "People in the
News" column or with a "notes" columnist who specializes
in lighter stories. Don't try to pretend that your "Top 10
List" or online petition is earthshaking news. Keep your tongue
planted in your cheek and you'll have a much better chance of placement.
Keep it positive. Mr. Blackwell is pretty tart in some of
his comments and, I suppose, one of his targets could up and sue him one
of these days. That probably won't happen because he's well-established
and a star who took him to court would end up looking like a bad sport.
Still, for your efforts, try to stay positive and avoid criticizing,
ridiculing or otherwise embarrassing anyone. We live in a
litigious society, and there are folks who wouldn't take kindly to
finding themselves on the "Top 10 Buffoons of the Year" list.
Let others take those chances. While calling people boring, or annoying, or hideously dressed does seem
to generate attention, there are plenty of ways to succeed taking an
opposing approach. What about the most heroic, the most inspiring,
the coolest, the smartest, and so on? Let your list, index,
petition or Hall of Fame celebrate the positive in our society or your
industry, and it will reflect well on your business.
Keep it Relevant. To make it work for you, a created story
needs to fit your business. Mr. Blackwell is a designer, so a
worst-dressed list makes sense. It would do no good, however, for
a car dealership to put out such a list. Keep it relevant. Let your
story support your marketing message (e.g., Moet Index = "Moet is
part of the good life") and it will do more than fill your clipping
book -- it will fill your cash registers, too.
Stoller, the "Publicity Insider," has spent two decades as one
America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine and
newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for
PR-Hungry Businesses http://www.PublicityInsider.com/freepub.asp
he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoring
big publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips and
much, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site:
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