Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: Learn your rights, Appreciate Jane Austen, Take an improv class, and Join a chorus.

While you're resolving to lose 10 pounds, learn Spanish, or spend less in the new year -- oh wait, that's me -- I'd like to encourage something different. Here are four ideas that should stir your interest:

Learn your rights
Nearly every issue debated in daily headlines is related to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Are you really clear on what is guaranteed us in these documents and what is smoke and mirrors proffered by someone trying to win an argument?

While our Founding Fathers' guidelines can be an intimidating or even sluggish read, you can take a fun, crash course by checking out, OurConstitutionalRights.com. Created by Pat Shiplett, of Evanston, the hip, fun, accessible, and interactive site is ideal for older teens, newcomers to this country, frustrated teachers, and others who want to learn more but were too embarrassed to ask. To make it easier, tune into Bill Moller's WGN radio show Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, noon, when Pat will be Bill's guest.

Appreciate Jane Austen
Wondering what the fuss is all about for an author who was born more than 200 years ago, and has hundreds of thousands of fans around the world and on Facebook? Do you wish you could dip your toe into Austen’s world with a guide who can introduce you to timeless characters and Regency gentility, but with a contemporary twist?

Consider Karen Doornebos’ debut novel, “Definitely Not Mr. Darcy.” Doornebos will be interviewed by Rick Kogan, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, 7 a.m., on his WGN-AM "Sunday Papers" radio show. Then at 4 pm. on the same day, Doornebos appears at Women and Children First Bookstore in Andersonville. "Definitely Not Mr. Darcy" is a fun, romantic romp that Austen would have likely approved.

Take an improv class
Are you envious watching Chicago-bred actors on "Saturday Night Live" or other comedy stages? Or, do you simply want to lose your shyness and be quicker on your feet?

Perhaps you’re in business and realize improv lessons could improve sales and presentation skills. Maybe you just want more fun in your life. No matter the reason, you might find what you’re looking for at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre. On Thursday, January 12, 2012, 3:30 pm, Beginner Improv classes start at their satellite site, the Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton Ave. in Logan Square. Check out Annoyance's class list and current shows at www.TheAnnoyance.com. 2012 could be the year you’re finally going to fulfill this resolution.

Join a chorus
Ready to move your vocalizing out of the shower and onto a stage shared by other music lovers? Community choruses are the perfect pick-me-up for winter blues and building self esteem. In some cases, like the 80-member Sing To Live® Community Chorus, where every singer is either a breast cancer survivor, or has a friend or relative with the illness, the gatherings also form an unspoken support group.

Melinda Pollack-Harris, a breast cancer survivor who created Sing To Live, suggests you check out their website, www.singtolive.org, and mark your calendars for their March 3 & 4, 2012 concerts, "Sing For The Cure™ A Proclamation of Hope."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Dozen Tips to Trump Your TV Interview

Congratulations! You’re scheduled to be interviewed on television. Way to go! To help assure your appearance gets raves rather than regrets, heed these dozen tips I’ve gathered for you.

1. Before the big day, ask the TV producer when the show will be aired. This way, you can announce it on your social media pages and gather a ready audience for your spot.

2. Oftimes, the TV station will post your website on their own site. So be prepared. On the back of your business card repeat the address in bold letters. Hand it to the producer when you arrive. He/she will likely appreciate your preparedness.

3. If you have props, practice often prior to the interview. You don’t want to fumble or waste the time slot by trying to figure out how to work something while on camera.

4. Write down and practice key points you want to include in your 15 minutes (likely 3) of fame. Don't lose the opportunity to get your message across.

5. Think of examples that can make your delivery personal. Your audience can better relate to your message if there are stories attached. For example, “when I was working with a client, we had to solve this issue...”

6. Ask a friend to interview you. If you can tape this faux session, all the better. Then you can spot an over abundance of "ums" and "likes" in your delivery.

7. Watch TV interview shows similar to the one you'll be on. Take notes on what works and what flunks.

8. Dress comfortably. This is not the time to wear new shoes or new clothing unless you've tried them on and they allow you to feel like yourself.

9. Get out of your own way. Despite all of the above guidelines, remember to have fun. Don’t overdue the stress level if you can help it.

10. On the big day, make eye contact with your interviewer, not the camera. You need to see her/his reaction to your words.

11. Sit forward in your chair to look like you're engaged. No slumping or sitting rigid.

12. When it's all over, no matter your performance, send a thank you note to the producer and interviewer. Snail mail, rather than e-mail will make a better impression.

Now, knock 'em dead!

Monday, June 20, 2011

United Strands Passengers, Scorns Soloway

Poor United, our hometown airline. It appears you're low in customer satisfaction polls and recently experienced some unfortunate public relations stumbles.

On June 17, a network connectivity issue left thousands of United Airlines customers stranded at airports across the country. Passengers complained of long lines at service counters, insufficient personnel on hand, frustration in getting their luggage, and other nightmares.

And less seriously, but certainly worth kvetching about, is an episode that occurred between this blogger and the prominent airline:

On May 31, I flew Virgin America to Los Angeles (adorable toddler and teen grandson) and on June 4, I returned on United.

Both trips were quite satisfactory. So when I got an invitation to participate in a survey regarding my United experience -- and gain a $5 Amazon gift card-- I was eager to give thumbs up to United.

Alas, the first question in the survey was Age. I truthfully hit the "over 70" option because I'm not shy about revealing it. Slap came the response, "you are screened out of the survey."

I could live without the fin, but I wasn't so cool with their obvious step into Ageism. What? Do folks over 70 not fly? Consider all those far-flung grandchildren awaiting Bubbie's cheek pinching. Are we a burden on board? Do airline decision makers imagine our presumed wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and gripes?

As for this frequent flier (there's a grandchild on the East Coast, too) my only on board requests are for an aisle seat and a tall, sympathetic passenger to hoist my suitcase to the overhead.

Does United believe us in the Over 70 set are unable or unwilling to use the Internet to book travels, and that's why they've erased our demographic? Speaking for myself, I am typing this on my iPad, which has just recently joined it's iPhone and Mac relatives. Does that sound like a doddering Luddite to you?

You get the picture. Despite advances in medicine that have us living longer and better, many companies still believe that once you hit 70, it's downhill - rather than up, up and away - for our upcoming journeys

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Loved and Shared

I regret delivering this news, but I will no longer be commenting “Loved and Shared” on your Facebook status updates. It appears that two young women, who resemble me, have confessed they roll their eyes and giggle whenever this particular comment appears.

That doesn’t mean I will no longer be Sharing your link, for I believe the ability to pass your news and link on to my Facebook friends is one of the beauties of the social media site.

Now, I must admit the reason I previously added “Loved and Shared” was to assure you’d know the solid I performed for you. But I’ve learned there’s another way to alert to this type of generosity so I can avoid that heartfelt, but now derided, Comment.

Here’s how: After hitting the Share option on your friend’s post and link, you’ll have an opportunity to add a comment to their link. Put the @ symbol in the box, start typing your friend’s name. A list will pop up. When you see your friend’s name appear, click on it and it will turn into hot link. Your Share should also appear on your friend’s page so he or she will have a chance to thank you. (If you don’t receive their thanks, you know whose status updates or links you won’t be again Sharing.)

Perhaps it means more to me than those aforementioned gigglers for I am at heart, and by profession, a marketer. Thus, I am eager to spread the word about my exploits and my links, as well as those of my many Facebook friends. (Snob alert: I typically add links to New York Times’ articles in my status updates.)

Sorry to segue (you’ve always wanted to learn how to spell that; admit it), but here’s another hint I’d like to um, share, about Facebook. While many mock the accumulation of Friends, in my marketer’s mind, I think it’s a great idea.

Certainly I don’t really know a majority of my 800 plus buddies; wouldn’t recognize them on the street if they happened to pass by. But, I’ve come to adore them all, and have even made best friends of several. Many Friends – who I’ve never met in the flesh --comment on my quips, status updates, or links. And that’s the idea: get Elaine Soloway, who happens to manage a public relations business, in front of the eyes of as many people as possible. (Callous? If you don’t have the chutzpah to promote, gently of course, your marketing credentials are suspect.)

Thus, if you want to publicize a client, or if you are a writer wishing to hype your book or blog, or are a member of a non-profit that is hosting an event, gather your Friends while you may. Your status update will now appear on their News Feeds where their Friends can also view your noteworthy info.

Perhaps there are those that say my views are a corruption of the idea of social media, that Friends should really be Friends. If that’s your belief, you are welcome to keep to your tight circle of confidents. But, if you resemble me, or my ambitions, heed the above advice. Just don’t add “Loved and Shared” or a duo of killjoys will be on your case.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marketing Tips for Authors

Congratulations! You’ve finished the book you’ve always dreamed of writing. Perhaps you were fortunate enough to woo a traditional publisher (they pay you an advance), or, like me, you self-published (you pay them). No matter, take the time to savor your accomplishment.

Time’s up! Now, roll up your sleeves and get the word out. If your publisher granted you a publicist, lucky you. But lately, even the big names have cut back and are sending authors out with minimal publicity support. So, whether self-published, or abandoned by your traditional publisher, summon some chutzpah and do the marketing yourself. Or, if you have the dough, hire a freelance publicist.

As for me, I had 25 years of public relations experience to help market my memoir, “The Division Street Princess” (Syren Books, 2006). Through that journey, I compiled suggestions you might find useful:

While you book is being printed, make a list of media targets. If your publisher can provide galleys (proofs) several months before publication, you’ll want a pile to send to book reviewers at print, electronic (TV and radio), and Internet outlets. Because most reviewers disdain books once they’re published and on library or bookstore shelves, it’s important to have your list ready so you can take action as soon as the galleys are available. (In Chicago, an excellent source for these lists is the 2011 Getting on Air, Online @ Into Print compiled by Community Media Workshop.)

Along with sending galleys to the usual media, think ethnic, special interest, and alumni publications. Who is the likely reader of your book? Consider age group, profession, gender, shared experiences. Then, along with media, make a list of matching organizations that might welcome you and your book for their regularly scheduled membership programs.

Book signings are great publicity and sales opportunities. Publicists typically arrange these. But if you’re on your own, and can convince bookstores you can attract an audience, you’ve still got a shot. While your books are being printed, identify the person who produces programs at local bookstores. Draft a pitch letter so you’ll be set to mail once the galleys arrive. If you're successful in scheduling a signing, send a simple press release announcing the event to calendar editors.

Be creative when pleading for a bookstore signing. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, when I launched my memoir at Women and Children First, I enlisted my family to join me. Also, each of them wore a grocery store apron with the words, "Irv's Finer Foods" printed on the front. Our group reading and props made for a fun evening for the 100 or so who attended. (A plea: try independent bookstores before chains. They need our support.)

Be prepared to give away books. Sending complimentary copies to friends who will supply a positive review on Amazon (if they can't swoon, tell them to keep their opinions to themselves), spread the word to buddies, or blog about your book, is a savvy investment.

If your book hasn’t garnered a review, you still have opportunities for publicity. When reading your daily newspaper (promise me you still do that), watching TV, listening to the radio, or surfing the Internet, be on the lookout for journalists who write/talk about your topic. Point that out in your pitch letter.

Because many book clubs welcome an opportunity to meet an author in person, search the Internet for local clubs. Ask friends if they belong to one. Send a query via your Facebook status update. (If you don’t have a Facebook page, stop reading now, and sign up. This social media site can help attract readers.)

Consider venues other than bookstores for readings an signings. If you’ve self-published, you can purchase copies of your book at discount. Profits from sales go directly to you. Perhaps a kitchen supply store for a cookbook? A toy store for a children’s book? Art supply store for a graphic novel? You get the idea.

Finally, look for fairs or craft shows that welcome authors. You may wind up sitting in the sun for several hours, or smiling at browsers who pick up your book then walk on, but you’ll likely sell a few and make new friends.

Once again, congratulations! You've done it! Now, get busy and get the word out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boost the Odds of Landing Your Pitch

Ring, ring, ring. Imagine that sound throughout the day. Or not. The journalist or producer who owns that constantly buzzing phone has likely turned off the ring to avoid its non-stopping racket.

Alas, news folks tell me they dodge the phone in order to quell the barrage of pitches hourly thrown their way. For those of us in the PR business, anxious on the pitcher’s mound, this shunning makes the job of selling a feature story* that much more difficult.

What’s a PR person to do when faced with this sound barrier? Here are some suggestions:

1) Instead of phoning, write a great pitch letter and email it to your target. Heed the words “great” and “target” because they're key to landing a placement.

2) Select one journalist or producer to be the target of your pitch. Prepare a list of targets, but try one at a time. If your ideal turns you down, or you don’t hear from her or him within a week, go to next in line.

3) Before preparing your pitch, read that writer’s columns or watch the producer’s programs. Learn what topics they typically cover and what piques their curiosity.

4) Find your hook. Decide what is different about your client that will make it stand out from its competitors or peers. At the same time, think universal. Is this a topic that will appeal to a large group? Can others relate to your theme?

5) Identify someone who is affected by your client’s services or business. With their permission, use his or her name and story as your pitch’s lead. If you read the daily New York Times (You do, don’t you? In my view, one can’t aspire to being a PR person without reading newspapers. Certainly, your local papers are in your stack, but New York Times’ writers’ are skilled at pulling readers in. And, they usually begin with a personal story.)

6) Write a one-page pitch letter with several short paragraphs. DO NOT send it yet. Let it simmer for a day, then re-read and edit the following day. Give it a third review. When you believe it can’t be improved upon, and you’ve obeyed suggestions 1-5, send it via email to the reporter or producer’s work address. (Avoid using private messages on social media sites.)

7) If you’re successful and you gain a placement, send a thank-you note. Sure, it’s their jobs to find topics, but they don’t have to select your idea. A timely message of gratitude is courteous and welcome.

*A feature story differs from a news article or calendar listing. While a news article reports something that just happened and a calendar listing announces an upcoming event, a feature story is a longer piece that explores a subject in depth.