Sunday, May 29, 2005

Radio Publicity: Another Perspective

This following is an email I received from a very good publicist in response to a teleconference interview I did on getting radio publicity:

As you probably noticed, I was present at the teleconference on booking radio. As you offered it to your newsletter subscribers for free, and I have such great respect for you, and there was so much good information in that talk, (and as this is such a big can of worms), I'm reticent to bring up any feedback, but here I go.

It's always a conundrum when someone who is good at what he does has his underpinnings in something rather off-centered, so it's tricky. However, I cannot help but notice the following about your guest:

First, he's not completely honest. Examples include the fact that many big stations in big cities carry big wattages. So to tell your participants that stations the FCC reserves big wattages for little bitty towns that would otherwise not be heard and that if stations in big cities carried big wattages they would "bleed" into each other is simply not true and is very misleading. KGO in San Francisco is a 50,000 watt station and isn't bleedin' on anybody and reaches a whole lot of people up and down the coast. Hello?

[John's comment: High wattage stations can bleed into other nearby stations (on the radio dial, not in physical location). That's why some high wattage stations can only turn on their highest wattage at night when other nearby stations are off air. The other way this can be controlled, of course, is to have no nearby stations on the radio dial, at least within near reach of the 50,000 watts.]

Also, *big* hole in telling people what their options are in getting on radio. He doesn't even mention book publicists!! He mentions public relations firms and then quotes staggering monthly prices. Mon Dieu! For the written record for all of you listening last night (or reading John's blog): book publicists are the work horses of the book marketing world and we do NOT (repeat, NOT) get (or charge) "five to ten thousand dollars a month." Baloney. I WISH! We are more likely to get two at BEST. And while it's all fine to tell people it's "easy" and "you don't need publicists to book radio" (John...), you might. I think your guest suffers from what I myself sometimes suffer from and I know other publicists who suffer from the same thing. We don't GET how what is "easy" for US is "hard" for someone else. We simply do not
get it. And that's why WE are the marketing people. I myself specialize in print media (I'm looking for serious readers), but the publicists who excel at booking radio such as Planned Television Arts, Newman Communications, Kathlene Carney & Associates and Peg Booth are not going to be charging such exaggerated fees, I assure you. They'd be out of business.

[John's Comments: Ah, but many PR firms do charge $5,000 or more a month. I know because I've talked to many of them. And they get it. Phenix & Phenix, for example.]

And this brings up a bigger can of worms for me, which pains me to say, which is the entire movement that tells the masses that it's easy to publish your own book, market your own book, distribute your own book, make those calls. It is not. It might be easy for those few of you who possess the qualities that your guest has, or I have, or John has. But it is NOT easy for the masses. And that's why they are now clamouring for teleconferences like last night because they were duped into thinking they could publish their own book and become, and be good at, oh, let's say TWELVE different professional jobs, and they are now sitting there wondering how in the heck they got into this and NOW WHAT DO THEY DO?

[John's Comments: Personally, I usually discourage people from self-publishing, if they ask me. The first questions I ask most of my clients is: Why are you self-publishing instead of selling the rights to a larger publisher? I think most authors are not cut out for self-publishing. As you say, it's a business, a time-consuming business.]

And you guys are now telling them they "don't need publicists", either?? Shame on you. :)

[John's Comments: I do believe that any author who is self-publishing can do most of the publicity work themselves if they sit down to learn the business and they create their Kremer 100 list and focus on it. They need to build relationships. I tell them that if they don't want to do that, they should hire a publicist who already has those relationships built up.]

No, instead your guest is telling them to leave ONE message to a producer, and then on the next call to simply hit zero and page the poor producer and then (oh, yes) "be succinct". Boy, now I know why 25 years ago I could get producers on the phone and why now I can't. Because some marketing bunny is profiting (bigtime) by telling people who are NOT professionals who have not been trained to call producers in the middle of their work day and have at it. Lordie.

[John's Comments: To be fair, in his course, he does teach people how to be succinct.]

OK, here's my last big big bugaboo with last night, where I'm referring to what people are hinged to, what their real agenda is. Because I'm thinking of all these poor working folks who are driving home in their cars after putting in what, ten hours including commute? And here's Our Expert telling book authors to "create controversy" because that's what radio wants, and that's what sells books. FORGET the effect this has on the commuter. Forget what he might really be needing at that moment, like an intelligent, thought-provoking conversation. No, go for the juglar. Because I profit. And the heck with the effect it's having out there on the roadways where we now have road rage to deal with and erratic and rude behaviours. Just feed the beast. That's the name of the game.

[John's Comments: Oh, my gosh, I never thought that creating controversy meant to upset commuters. I thought it mean to make things interesting. Most amateurs who go on radio are so boring simply because they are afraid to take a stand. I thought he was telling them to take a stand. Be interesting.]

I am a socially responsible publicist. I have maintained for (now moving toward) three decades that that title is NOT an oxymoron. I remain committed to *improving* what I call The Conversation. I promote thoughtful books aimed at raising consciousness, of reawakening people to their own true spiritual roots, to making a difference. And I deplore some of what was taught last night, because it is not good for people's hearts or souls. And as Chris Rock would say, "That ain't right."

[John's Comments: I believe very much in improving people and trying to create a better world. I do know that Alex sometimes pushes the point, but remember that he is often speaking to people who are afraid to stand up for their own point of view. He has to push their buttons sometimes. Most listeners get probably 25% of what he says. Most act on about 10%. As a speaker, I know this to be true for most audiences. They really get only a portion of what you have to offer. If you want them to get more, you often have to be outlandish, push buttons, be dramatic, overstate the case, etc., just so they do something.]

End of email message.

I think book publicists fill a great need. Secondly, few books will benefit from an all-radio publicity campaign. You really need to work print publications as well -- and, in many cases, more so. Personally, my favorite media vehicles are magazines and national newspapers such as USA Today and Wall Street Journal.

With any publicity or other promotions you do, the most important thing is to have fun doing it. If you're not having fun, hire someone who does enjoy it. Because only someone who truly enjoys what they are doing can be effective.
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