What Does a Publicist Do? And Do I Really Need One?

These are questions I hear fairly often. Authors will ask me what exactly does a publicist do? Is a publicist really necessary anymore? It’s a fair question. After all, the person asking is busy building networks and a platform, why do they need to hire a publicist to get them media attention and visibility when they can do it on their own?

Good question.

Followed by a good answer. Four of them to be exact.

Time, Skill, Contacts, Credibility.

Time:

Let’s consider time first. Who has enough of it? The good news is that getting media attention isn’t rocket science or brain surgery (thank goodness) but it does require time and effort, persistence and tenacity. Not only to develop the necessary contacts and relationships, but to continue to groom those relationships so that something comes out of it — a story, interview, review or feature. In our world today, relationships are expected more than ever. Gone are the days of cold pitching.

…Well, there are exceptions to every rule. If you have a fabulous idea and you’ve found the exact outlet and person to pitch it to, it can work. They do want a great story, after all. However, in many cases media expects you to be very familiar with their outlet, the kinds of stories they do, and they want to know they can trust you.

For example, if you’re a top tier producer, and you have hundreds of people pitching you every day, who are you going to listen to? –Someone you have never heard of before who just sent you an email, or the publicist you’ve been working with and who has always brought you great guests?

Exactly. Trust is critical.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but having had my publicist firm, McCall Media Group, for twenty one years now has allowed me time to build very solid relationships. There are media folks I can contact and say, “You need to cover this or it’s going to look like you don’t know what’s going on.” This is a very nice position to be in, but it took time. Can an author do this? Yes, of course. Can they do this immediately? Not a chance. It takes time and effort.

Skill:

A publicist has to hone the author’s material into hooks and key  messages that can be heard above the incessant noise that has become our world today. He or she works with the author to create talking points and sound bites that are unique and catchy. This is not an easy thing to do, and it requires skill to create and develop messages that will compel others to want to cover you in some way.

Contacts:

We touched on this under the time category, but suffice it to say that you want a publicist who has contacts with media that would ideally cover your book. If for example, you have a book that has to do with careers, or leadership and management, then you want a publicist who has contacts in these areas. Working with a publicist who specializes in parenting probably couldn’t help you very much. If you have contacts within your network, who have appropriate contacts within their networks, then talk to them and see about making them into JV partners, or simply collaborate with them to bring your book to their groups. Doing this in conjunction with your publicist getting media attention can really give you traction for promoting and selling your books.

Credibility:

Doing interviews and being featured in media that speaks to your target market can give you so much credibility. It also allows you to post logos on your website and a link to the stories you’ve done. Potential buyers of your books, outlets where you want to speak, and joint venture partners will have a very favorable impression of you if you’ve been interviewed. It instantly creates all kinds of credibility simply by having a newsroom or media page on your website. Reviews are also something to secure whether it’s through the industry trades (which your publicist would do for you), or Amazon reviews from your customers. All of this tells others that your book is something they must read.

Key Issues I’d like to mention:

There have been a few who have said that earned media is dying now that digital has come along.

Wrong.

And there are some who say publicity is dead.

Also wrong.

But I have a theory about that (and I think it’s true). Those who say that media is dying are the same ones who wouldn’t stand a chance in h*ll of getting a story written by a trained journalist in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. That said, there have been changes. Lots of changes, and some media didn’t survive. However, many did and they morphed into another version of themselves that is working. Like the record industry, they figured it out. Sometimes it takes a little time, but other industries will figure it out too.

Another tidbit:

Over the past two years many of those same thought leaders who poo pooed needing to have a publicist, who railed against mainstream media and said publishing is dying, have come to me asking for me to be there publicist. I haven’t publicly mentioned this before now, and I don’t want to call anyone out, but it’s very interesting to see the same people who hated media do an about face and really want the coverage these big media brands can give them. The reason is simple. They are in a quandary. Their lists had topped out so that every time they launched a book or other product to build their list size, just as many people opted out as opted in. Their lists were stalled out. They needed more eyeballs to see what they were doing, so in comes the publicist.

Here’s the deal.

As with many industries, there are shakeouts happening. Some need to get out. The good ones…the really good ones will stay and they will be in very high demand. That’s another thing. Make sure your publicist is always out there watching the trends and learning, because you will benefit from this.

One more thing:

A publicist should be your partner and advocate.  She can take you places you just can’t get to on your own by using her time wisely, her skills, solid contacts, and helping you to build credibility and sell books. Time. Skill. Contacts. Credibility.

That’s what a publicist does.

To your success!

Joanne

P.S. I am usually the one booking interviews, but sometimes I get asked to do one. If you want to come and hang out and learn more about getting publicity for your book, then do join us. Here’s the link – click here.