I haven’t seen much to applaud in the current administration or the recent presidential debates. So I thought I’d harken back to the Obama White House PR campaign strategy for some ideas you can apply to your own publicity campaign.
1. Define your image as a thought leader.
While I don’t particularly like the word “image” what I mean by it here is that in creating a consistent character that embodies your deepest principles, people perceive you as “whole” and trustworthy. We align with leaders who are aligned with themselves.
We know instinctively if thought leaders are who they appear to be and if their facial, body and verbal language match.
According to Joel Benenson, the primary pollster for the Obama campaign, Obama’s image was more clearly defined than McCain’s. Benenson said that Obama had an anti-Washington reputation that was characterized by his insistence that he was “going to tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear.”
Barack Obama’s publicity strategy
People perceived Obama as a truth teller, which is something we hunger for. To solidify trust as a thought leader, authority, expert, influencer, or burgeoning personality, define yourself clearly, tell the truth, then follow that up with actions that demonstrate you’re committed to those truths at any cost.
2. Create a strong, positive and consistent message.
Barack Obama had one simple, elegant philosophical approach that was easy to understand and to assimilate. “Voters are looking for the remedy not the replica”.
His strategy was to position his opponent, John McCain, as the replica and himself the remedy. This became the core of his campaign.
Distill your message into one clear sentence that has deep resonance. Then build the rest of your your publicity campaign on that core message.
3. Communicate casually via video. David Plouffe, a campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, did amateurish-looking videos discussing strategies to keep supporters and organizers excited, engaged and involved. These were not slick productions but were kept consciously rough-hewn to connect casually.
These videos are similar to the ones friends might send to each other to keep in touch on Facebook, Youtube or Instagram.
By keeping it casual they became more like chat sessions than formal lectures. Plouffe speaks directly to the camera with maps pinned to the wall and amidst piles of papers.
Barack Obama publicity campaign secrets you can use
Casual videos on your website where you face the camera and look directly into the eyes of viewers, make you approachable and human and add that “I feel like I already know you” sensibility.
Seeing someone in their personal environment also creates an atmosphere of trust and a sense of intimacy. Over time, this proper intimacy encourages loyalty and builds trust so your supporters come to believe in you in a profound way.
As a PR professional, knowing how to dress for media appearances is of utmost importance. There are few departments who represent a company more directly then the PR team themselves. Though preparing yourself for an appearance with the media can be a bit stressful in the beginning, creating your wardrobe is essential. When you prep for your next media appearance, be sure to use the tips below as your guide for PR professional dress.
Embody Your Company
First and foremost, your attire when you step out into the eye of the public should always embody your company. Whether your office wear is business casual or completely casual, onlookers should be able to tell who you work for from your dress. Ask yourself if someone else in your workplace would be comfortable in the same outfit you plan on wearing in front of the media; if the answer is yes, you’re probably on the right track with your look. Remember that you are the direct link between your audience and your company. Allow your audience to get a glimpse of all your business has to offer through the professionalism of your look.
Play it Safe
Going in front of the media is not the time to step out of the box with your attire. While it might be tempting to make a bold outfit choice in order to stand out, playing it safe is always your best option.
Keep your look simple, modest, and clean. Whether you opt for a simple button up shirt or sleek black capris, stay to what’s familiar to you. Most name brands offer in-season looks that will keep you feeling professional and prepared.
Online thrift shops like thredUP even have great names like Madewell to help you save on the perfect top as well as anything else you might need.
Avoid clothing with large pockets as they might tempt you to store clunky items on your person. Bring a small briefcase or purse with you to the appearance to store those extra items you need with you and leave them in the greenroom or wherever it’s safe to store them during your appearance. Being free of pocket items such as your phone and wallet will give you clean lines and leave you feeling more comfortable and less weighed down when you address the public.
Be Color Conscious
The colors you wear can tell a lot about you and about your company. If the branding of your organization revolves around a specific color, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate it into your professional look.
Stay away from bright and bold color choices along with excessive patterns. Opt for safe and simple neutral tones that won’t leave your audience feeling distracted by your look.
Allow the colors you wear to compliment you as it will make your words have more of an impact. A neutral tone of red, like burgundy, is both a subtle and powerful example of a color that will help you feel brave and bold in front of a crowd. Be aware of colors that might show off sweat stains, or end up being see-through. Choose a color that you feel confident in and you’re sure to make a great impression on your listeners.
Know Your Location & Audience
While your professional dress should always embody your company, it should also take into account the environment of the media appearance. Always consider the location of your appearance and who your audience is. An outdoor conference will more than likely mean you should opt for sensible and simple footwear.
Check the weather outlook for the day to be prepared for the heat, rain, or a cold spell. The more prepared you are, the more professional you’ll look to your audience. Access the age range of your viewers as well to ensure your outfit remains timeless. The more you let your look speak for itself, the more comfortable you’ll feel as you represent your company.
Client Success Story: Mary Sheehan for Giant Eagle Pharmacy
A few years ago (I can hardly believe how much time has passed!) I worked with an extremely talented pharmacist and spokesperson named Mary Sheehan. Mary wanted to build an online presence and train pharmacists on how to help customers more effectively.
She consistently had repeat clients who found her advice and the way she handled their prescriptions helped them get better faster. (Great going Mary!)
Mary and I worked on developing her essential talking points/ sound bites that she could easily incorporate into her work in order to grow her business.
Together we created a webinar, a course, and downloadable documents (booklets) to help other pharmacists.
By using these booklets and carefully paying attention to not only what she said to her patients and colleagues, but how she said it to her patients and colleagues, Mary was able to create a name for herself. It wasn’t long until the entire staff was using her material, and positive calls were coming in from corporate.
Mary’s shining star took off even more when one day, she received an opportunity to be a spokesperson for her company on a national commercial!
See below for details from Mary on how the shoot went, what she learned, and the result.
“From your media training, I was prepared for the long hours, the criticism and the tedium of the shoot. For instance, my hair wouldn’t stay in place because I moved my head too much, my skirt was riding up and I received feedback that I was too robotic. Normally those comments would cause me to become anxious, but I just reminded myself that it wasn’t personal and to maintain a calm, ‘willingness to please’ demeanor.
My marketing department was on scene, so I was sure to speak to them in a way that let them know they had made the right decision in choosing me. I thought about talking from my heart to one person I care about and who needed to hear what I had to say. That was something I really took away from our training.
Media Coaching for CEOs, Executives, Entrepreneurs, Authors, Pitch Deck Presentations
I did calming mental exercises between takes as well as grounding exercises and breathing. For example, when I was scared, I would close my eyes and feel my feet on the ground. That helped me feel gratitude and reminded me that I was prepared for this.
You’d helped through other TV appearances so I remembered that if I could survive that, I could easily nail these lines and relax and be my confident self. Even though I was facing health battles I had a system in place that I fell back on—knowing what to say and how to say it. All totally in line with who I am and who I wanted to be.
The most nerve-wracking part of the day was that they had another actress on set just in case I left the company or totally bombed. It was very intimidating. She did a take. I did a take. I watched her takes and was complimentary to my marketing team, mentioning how good she was and listening when they told me how they’d like me to do what she did.
I truly was prepared for the entire experience, and I cannot thank you enough.
The effect of the commercial on business?
Last year our pharmacy gave 346 shots
This year our pharmacy has already given 446
Technically the “flu season” is not over and this already represents a 23 percent increase.
In our entire district last year the pharmacies gave 9,470 and this year we have already done 12,594 shots for a 25% increase and the season is not over yet.
Oh, and I got a promotion.”
SIDE NOTE: Mary and I discussed taking out the fact that she got a promotion. I thought it was important to leave it in because when you truly embody your message it affects every area of your life – family, friends, business, social situations — not just media appearances. That’s the beauty of one of my favorite sayings from Gandhi, “My life is my message.”
Kudos to Mary who is doing just that.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you have a success story from any of our trainings together? I’d love to shine the spotlight on YOU! Just jet me an email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the sound bite course Mary took go here.
To learn more about one-on-one media coaching go here.
To set up a FREE consult to explore working together go here.
I forgot the mention my favorite Instagram feed. This one always makes me laugh and feel good. So if you’re feeling low, and like everything is just too darn much, head over here for a jolt of joy. Then once uplifted you can move forward.
Still thinking about your New Years’ Resolutions? Some more things to ponder from past years here and here.
Getting media attention – especially the right kind of attention – is something of an art. Whether you’re a celebrity, a business owner, or a politician, it’s all about finding an angle. And not just that – you have to be able to get a reporter’s attention in the first place. This can be easier said than done.
Bear in mind that reporters and media journalists are solicited hundreds of times a day. Their email inboxes are virtually overflowing. So if you want their attention, you need to go about it in the right way. You need to stand out from the crowd – even if that means taking an unconventional approach.
Google is an amazing resource to unearth useful information about the reporter, what they cover, and how they like to be approached.
A good place to start your ‘Googleathon’ is social media. See how they interact with others online, and whether they regularly interact with others pitching them ideas. You can also look to their work bio to see if they specify preferences.
There are different schools of thought on the best way to approach a reporter with an idea for a story. They may prefer email, Twitter, or a good old-fashioned phone call. In the unlikely event that they aren’t present on social media, you can defer to phone or email.
HOT TIP: look out for any pet peeves they regularly complain about. Take note as well of the current issues that they’re tweeting or retweeting. See if there’s any common ground you can use to help build a connection. Maybe you have a product that might help? Or maybe you feel the same way about a social issue?
Ultimately, if you already have a feel for the reporter and what s/he likes and dislikes, you have a better chance of reaching out to them successfully.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that attempting to reach out and get the attention of a reporter is much like modern dating. Thanks to online dating, we often have a chance to find out about someone before we decide to approach them. When we do decide to make a move, the opening line is critical.
Tinder lines can be hilariously terrible. They can also be downright dull. Mastering the art of a good opener is paramount if you’re serious about looking for love online. And if you’re serious about getting your story picked up by the media, then it’s equally crucial.
‘Hey, how are you?’ is a great way to get ignored by a journalist. It does nothing to spark their curiosity. It lacks creativity and fails to disclose your reason for getting in touch.
Powerful subject lines for an opening email are:
Remember, your pitch must immediately rouse the reporter’s interest. An effective subject line really is half the challenge. Check out these top 10 email subject line formulas for inspiration. You may be surprised to learn that in some cases, “profanity f*cking works”.
Journalists also love data — so put your best foot forwards and give them some awesome data for free. Running an ecommerce business? Why not send out some surveys to your customers via social media and email to find out more about their habits? From family life and holidays, to food habits and leisure — there are plenty of useful insights and stories lurking out there.
Play it cool
Yep – the online dating metaphor still stands. When you’re building a relationship with a reporter, timing is important. Journalists are busy people with full schedules, and your clinginess will not be appealing to them.
Be respectful of what the reporter already has on their plate. Realize that when you send them a pitch, they’re probably not going to be able to respond right away – unless you’re very lucky and caught them at exactly the right moment. Give them at least a few days to respond before following up.
If the story is especially time-sensitive, then you need to make this clear when you reach out to them first time around. Conveying urgency is another great way to get a reporter’s attention.
weird ways to get a reporter’s attention. source: pexels
Send them a video
Video is changing how we create and consume news. Journalists know it, and if you can help them source quality video content, then they’re going to be very happy with you indeed. Here in 2017, video content represents 74% of all internet traffic (Source).
So if you want to give your story a boost and make it more likely to hit the headlines, consider sending a video along with your pitch. 4X as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it – and the same goes for news stories. News publications love video because it encourages readers to stay on the page for longer.
Making a vaguely professional-looking video doesn’t have to be hard. There are lots of great apps out there for making videos, including iMovie, PowerDirector, and LumaFusion.
Be willing to let it go
With time stacked against them, most reporters will probably require a follow-up a few days after you’ve pitched them your story. In most instances, they’ll probably appreciate the reminder — always with added ‘new’ information that’s of value to them — not, “Did you get my email about…”.
However, if you’ve already chased them a couple of times and received nothing but stony silence in return, you might need to try a different approach, angle, or twist on the topic. You can also ask if your pitch might be a better fit with someone else at their organization.
The risk is that you may not necessarily get the answer you’re looking for. But by putting it out there in a gentle way, such as “seems like this wasn’t a perfect fit for you – unless I hear otherwise, I will run a different idea by you soon.
If you are looking to promote something time-sensitive like a product launch or a new ecommerce venture, you are going to have to plan ahead and be mindful of editorial deadlines you can tell them that you’re offering it to them first. And if they pass you can move on to the next top person on your media list. Whether you build a store from the ground up, or invest in a readymade one, make sure that your branding and content is on-point enough to appeal to busy journos. A good pitch from a badly formulated brand may go to waste — so make sure you cover all bases.
Of course, if all else fails, and you really will stop at nothing to get that reporter’s attention, you can try one the following:
Hire a banana costume and do a little dance outside their office window
Pay a movie theater to play a pre-recorded video of your pitch after the ads at a movie you know they’re going to see (because they posted about it on social media)
Accidentally bump into them on the bus while holding a basket of kittens
Heroically save them from falling into a pond
Disclaimer: These methods are not tried and tested. I hold no responsibility for them going wrong.
We need the attention of reporters for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you’re trying to make a story or piece of content go viral. Perhaps you just bought an online business and you want brand coverage. Possibly you’ve found yourself in the public’s bad books, and you need a bit of good publicity. Whatever the reason, it helps to know how to go about it. Hopefully these suggestions have been useful.
Vicky is a freelance writer and ecommerce marketing consultant. She loves being part of the brand growth hacking process and producing real, measurable results. In her spare time, Vicky shares her knowledge by writing for a variety of digital publications.
I thought, for a bit, that I should really title this post ‘How To Network With Bloggers’ – because, you know, SEO and what not.
But the word ‘networking’ feels intimidating and overwhelming and slightly gross. Eating subpar appetizers while someone shoves their business card in my face and shrieks their elevator pitch? No. Sharing super useful advice/client referrals/traffic/cream cheese wontons with someone who I connect with, like, AS A HUMAN BEING? Yes.
Really? Networking is mostly just making friends. And if you approach it as such (and think about what you can bring to the table, rather than what you can get from an interaction) you’ll be befriending bloggers left, right, and all over Twitter.
If there are any bloggers you’d like to collaborate with/pitch/take to coffee, here are a few things that you should do before you drop into their inbox.
6 ways to befriend bloggers
1. Leave productive, smart, helpful comments on their blog
No matter how big and famous they are, bloggers read their comments and if you’re regularly saying awesome things, they’ll start to remember you. Of course, some blogs and posts engender better commentary – it’s hard to leave a mind-blowing comment on an outfit post. But personal essays, tutorials, or thought-provoking posts are an opportunity to chime in.
Also: make sure that the icon that shows up when you leave a comment matches the headshot on your blog and the icon for your Twitter profile, otherwise it’ll be hard for the blogger to recognize you.
2. Interact with them on social media
Respond to the comments, answer their questions, ask them questions, send them links you think they’d like. Just the same way you’d do with a friend.
My readers know my painfully, awkwardly well. Three different people sent me a link to this inflatable cat unicorn headband and two people sent me links to Macklemore’s Thrift shop song. And I loved it. And I totally remember who sent me those links. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you like and admire with information that you think they’d find helpful.
5. If you’re going to pitch them, triple check that what you’re pitching is a good fit
Do they host guest posts? Do they offer giveaways? What is the monetary value of those giveaways? Do they review products? Do they use c/o items in their outfits posts? It would be a pity to waste your time (and theirs) crafting the perfect pitch email and then sending it to the wrong person or the wrong type of blog.
6. Avoid doing any of these annoying things
Just like in real life, sometimes friendship is about Not Being Annoying. I promise i’ll pay you that money I owe you, I won’t share that secret with So-and-so, and I won’t have four drinks when I promised to be the designated driver.
Here are some things you should avoid doing:
Misspelling their name
Sending them a template email
Asking them about anything you could Google
Asking them to locate a post they wrote
Writing an email that is more than two paragraphs long
I’d love to hear from you, bloggers! How do you like to be treated? How do you network and befriend other bloggers? Small businesses, tell us about your interactions with bloggers!
It’s fair to say that America is a fairly divided place right now, with wildly differing ideas about what’s right and wrong. Whatever your views, our blundering, boastful President does seem to have mastered one thing, and that’s showmanship. As he appoints more than a few questionable characters to office, many of us remain distracted by the latest inflammatory statements he’s made on Twitter, or by what’s going on with Celebrity Apprentice. As intelligent entrepreneurs and business owners, here are 8 lessons we can learn from his strengths and weaknesses when it comes to courting publicity.
PR is rooted in positive relationships
Most CEOs respect PR, or at least understand its function. Whatever their feelings towards it, they accept that in positions of high power or visibility, it is necessary. For better or worse, Trump is not most CEOs.
Donald has yet to realize that at the root of PR is a carefully tended network of positive relationships, built on clear and transparent communication. He mistakenly considers himself an ‘expert’ PR person, despite his total lack of tact, sensitivity, or awareness. Let’s not forget, he appointed a hedge fund manager to run his communications office.
For the life of him, Trump cannot seem to hold on to a PR chief, and the reason is quite simple – no self-respecting, professional PR person wants to work for a boss who thinks he can do better, and who will publicly shame you for trying to do your job.
How to apply: Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People: “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”. In other words, an aggressive approach will get you nowhere. He also says that “Winning friends begins with friendliness” – another simple yet oft forgotten pearl of wisdom. Take a look at this list of the 100 Most Trusted People in America. They are well-liked, charismatic, and many of them are actors. Interestingly, none of them are TV bullies.
Sometimes you need to take an unconventional approach
Some believe that Richard Nixon lost the 1960 presidential race due to his poor TV presence, compared to JFK, who understood the power of the medium. Trump is, of course, no stranger to television, having perhaps more experience with it than any other presidential candidate in history. Throughout his election campaign, he consistently eschewed conventional politics in favor of sensationalism and sound bites, in contrast to Hillary’s more measured approach.
What’s more, while Clinton worked to secure votes across all demographics, Trump lasered in on a specific target audience – white, working class men who had been feeling less represented under the previous Democrat government. In marketing we are often advised to ‘find our niche’, and it seems that the same could be true of politics.
How to apply: There are lots of ways to get unconventional with PR, though it’s no guarantee that just because your campaign is unconventional, it will be a success. From publicity stunts and viral videos, to riding trends and putting out crowdsourcing content, the internet has made it much easier to be imaginative. Check out these Timeless Creative PR Ideas.
If you fake it, you’ll probably get found out
Earlier in Trump’s career, several New York reporters spoke with a John Miller or a John Barron – two supposed PR men who sounded suspiciously like Trump himself. Miller and Barron were particularly insightful, sharing detailed explanations for Trump’s actions and love life, all the while presenting him in the most favorable light possible. You can read the full transcript of one of John Miller’s interviews here.
Of course, these strangely forthcoming sources were none other than Trump himself, and if you read or listen to the interviews, it is startlingly, ridiculously apparent. At one point, he even forgets to speak in the third person. The lesson here? It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: don’t pose as your own publicist and expect to get away with it. Oh – and the tan isn’t real either.
How to apply: It’s fairly straightforward really – just be honest and authentic about who you are and what you do. If you don’t fake it in the first place, you don’t get found out. Lance Armstrong was a celebrated road racing cyclist who many people admired, until the doping scandal came out. Likewise, Tonya Harding was a famous figure skater, whose career was left in tatters after she hired a thug to break her rival’s leg. The public hates a cheater, so keep your record squeaky clean.
You must be willing to listen to advice
PR professionals are much like counselors. Their job is to advise the client on the most effective approach to communications, if they want to achieve certain goals. They are a valuable asset to the team, and a smart client will realize the importance of listening to their advice, even if they end up taking a slightly different course of action. A sensible business owner will involve their PR person in all big-picture discussions.
The thing about Trump is, he really doesn’t want anyone’s advice. He wants to do his own thing and he thinks he’s got PR sussed. When Spicer worked at the White House, he griped about his limited access to the President, yet was still blamed when things went wrong.
How to apply: Benjamin Franklin said that “wise men don’t need advice – fools won’t take it”. If you’re attempting to navigate the choppy waters of publicity, it’s better to do it with a legitimate expert at your side. Part of a PR practitioner’s role is to train their clients to effectively face the media, as well as making their client’s reputation as strong as possible. Ultimately, they help to keep you focused and moving towards your goals – with the force of the media on side.
The celebrity phenomenon
Whether your feelings towards Trump are mild or extreme, it can’t be denied that he is something of a sensation. For better or worse (and likely worse), we’ve never had a figure quite like him on America’s political stage. We now live firmly in a culture of celebrity, and Trump – a longstanding TV star and populist bigmouth – is known by everyone. It shouldn’t really come into the equation when you’re running for President – yet it does.
Why? Because with their deity-like status, we listen to what celebrities have to say. So in 21st century America, should we be surprised that a celebrity has managed to become President? It’s wall-to-wall (pun intended) publicity, be it good or bad. Whether you love or despise Trump, he remains a popular topic of conversation – and that’s just what he wants.
How to apply: So how can you find ways to keep people interested in you? To enjoy the kind of engagement that Trump gets online and in the media, it’s all about being engaging and having a stance or opinion that people relate to. Today’s consumers are discerning about which brands deserve their time and attention. Don’t be afraid to start discussions, and fan the flames to keep them going. Experiment to find out what resonates with your audience, and mix up your timing, language, and use of imagery.
He tells it like (he thinks) it is
Trump doesn’t speak the political tongue. Everybody knows that – just look at his Twitter feed. Instead, he seems to say whatever comes into his head, without much of a filter to speak of. Agree with him or not, you always get the jist of what he’s saying. Some politicians do themselves a disservice when they speak in political jargon, alienating the less articulate voters.
Honestly counts for something in PR, even – or especially – if that honesty is controversial. Trump’s followers love him for his willingness to tackle any subject, in particular those that more seasoned politicians dance around.
How to apply: We want your perspective on what matters to you and why it’s important to your audience. Your strong opinion about a topic you care about sets you apart from your competitors who may have a different take – and sets you up as a thought leader. News shows are made up of people proffering different opinions on a topic then backing those opinions with facts, research, or other evidence.
Pick an enemy (or several)
Branding experts will often tell you to identify an enemy and position against them. That enemy doesn’t have to be a person, it could be a system, a state of the world, an injustice, or an opinion. The world’s top brands all have distinct enemies – and Trump is a brand too.
At this point, Trump has made many enemies, and he has a habit of calling them out and going after them. Choosing an enemy gives your campaign a focus – it’s the classic scenario of ‘us vs. them’ that galvanizes large groups of people into action. It’s a great tactic for businesses. Is it a good one for politics? It’s certainly been successful at getting Trump into office, but as to the effects on society and the world, it all starts to feel like a dark and dangerous road.
How to apply: So every brand or personality needs an enemy, but that doesn’t have to be a competitor. It could just as easily be an idea. A nutritionist might position processed food corporations as ‘the enemy’. A pro web designer might frame DIY website builders as ‘the enemy’. For an artisan coffee shop, it might be instant coffee. Whether it’s a belief, an assumption, or a rival business, every beloved brand has something to push against and rally behind.
If you don’t have the instinct for it, leave it to the professionals
Anthony Scaramucci has said that Trump has ‘excellent public relations instincts’. So is that true? He certainly represents something different, and something different – especially in politics – is pretty irresistible. But I would argue that overall, Trump’s PR instincts are fumbling at best, and volatile at worst. And they appear to be getting worse. His weeklong assault on his own attorney general in July was apparently ‘all his idea’. Good one.
Trump is used to the selective media exposure granted by his TV lifestyle, but as President, you are on show 24/7. PR decisions are more critical than ever. The best bosses understand their own strengths and weaknesses, but Trump’s inflated view of himself means he won’t listen to others. From a PR perspective, it will be interesting to see where his ego leads him over the course of his time in office.
Trump famously exaggerates, but if you’re looking to implement his tactics into your own business PR campaign, maybe think twice. Exaggeration and dishonesty are no way to do business – and you will be found out eventually. If you’re trying to get more media attention for your business, here are some good guidelines. What we can take away from his success is the importance of picking an enemy, leveraging social channels, being true to yourself, and being memorable. But we can also learn to become better listeners, better bosses, and better people.
Vicky is a freelance writer and ecommerce marketing consultant. She loves following politics and drawing lessons that can be beneficial in other areas. In her spare time, Vicky shares her knowledge by writing for a variety of digital publications.
I’m in a tizzy right now. I have an unknown, itchy red rash under my arm. My stomach is upset and bloated. And my office has a giant pile of clothes on a chair I’ve been meaning to take to the consignment store, but haven’t. When I want to shift something, I clean out. But sometimes, the shift doesn’t come soon enough. And stuff piles up.
While I continue to consult with some amazing and talented clients, at the same time I’m also moving into a new direction with my True Shield: Verbal Self-Defense For Girls. So I have a foot in both worlds — which can sometimes be crazy making. Like worried nights pacing and writing at 3:00 am, searching for that roll of sweet tarts I have in the laundry room cupboard for such emergencies.
For one thing, I didn’t really realize that I was a start-up. But that’s what I am. I have a business with no track record for a new idea.
Verbal self-defense for girls
I have all the measurements in place, but have yet to have anyone complete the program. Everyone in the schools and organizations who have purchased it is starting in August or September and while it will take me just 3 months or so to get initial statistics and evidence-based results it will take me about 9 months to get a full picture of all the survey results.
That’s almost a year! Panic. Seems like forever and a day.
Starting something new can be a maddening and discouraging process. I want to chat a bit about the three things about the process, which is often hard to love. Failure, faith, and perseverance. We are often told to embrace the journey. While that is a noble thought, the muck during the journey can weigh you down something fierce.
I just heard an interview with Jessi Klein on Terry Gross’ show Fresh Air talking about getting an Emmy while having a three month-old baby and having to pump breast milk during the ceremony which nicely sums up why embracing the journey is necessary to happiness. “…Having a baby is really hard on a marriage. So things with my husband were just – I’ll just say they were very hard ’cause we were just so tired, and it’s so crazy. And I just suddenly felt very much like, oh, I won this Emmy, and tomorrow I’m getting on a plane and I’m going right back into my own little struggles.
And nothing is really different. Like, this was great but now it is over. And I just have to be back in my sort of currently overweight, milk-laden body and waking up at 2 in the morning and 4 in the morning. And it’s hard. And the Emmy is amazing, but all of this will continue. I think it just brought into very stark relief in the moment what would have been the truth no matter what I was doing. But it was very immediate, which is that this doesn’t really mean anything for your actual happiness or your life.”
the journey is the reward even if it doesn’t feel like it
We think when we get to the big award, reward, end game, whether it’s finishing a book, landing a big deal, selling a bunch of stuff, finding love, that suddenly the world will become rosier and all that ails us will fall away. Yet, happiness often comes on the heels of failure — though rarely soon enough, it seems.
You’ve heard the expression “Fail fast.” It’s about trying a bunch of new things and letting go of the ones that don’t work. So first I had to find people to call schools and organizations. I used Upwork and went through about four people before I found the two that consistently got results- i.e. they called the decision makers to set five-minute appointments for me to discuss the program. I failed fast with the callers by starting them all at once on different excel spread sheets for my target markets.
Failure number two. Schools are a hard sell. Most principals, counselors or PE teachers loved the program. Then it had to go to committee. Then through the budgeting process. Guess what? 99% of the schools couldn’t afford my program due to budget cuts or lack of funding. Many said that would have to get independent funding in order to implement the program. So, we moved on to organizations. Organizations totally got the concept and wanted the program. Problem? Funding. They were used to getting most of their programs free as they were mostly funded by other organizations or grants.
So, I started researching how to get grants. Getting a grant is a laborious, time-consuming and confusing process. In short you have to make sure your mission is in absolute synch with the grantor, then you typically have to earmark those who will get the funding. Which meant that I had to start getting commitments in writing about which organizations were really keen on using my program so I could list them in the grant.
Another problem with getting grants to fund the people who wanted the program is there are no guarantees that I’ll even get the grant!
So all that work could be for nothing.
I hired an expert for that to make sure that I was on the right track. But, after talking to many of the grantors, they told me that had hesitations about giving money to an unproven program — even though they loved the idea and said would go to bat for me.
My faith began to flag. Am I really going in the right direction? How many obstacles do I need to go through before I give up? So I turned to my friends. They told me to keep going. They said it was a much needed idea. They said to find a way in. They said hold fast. Today, a man in charge of programing for the Boys & Girls Clubs said he had faith in me and my program and that all girls need it. “Stay in touch. This is a great program.”
One of the things that I recommend to my clients and course participants when they aren’t getting any traction with the media is to tweak. If you send in a pitch or press release and no one is biting, try a twist. Approach your topic from another angle. Switch up the perspective. Go in the back door— a non-obvious angle that isn’t a direct pitch for your business, book, product, service or cause. Think small and get specific.
What seemed to spark real interest in the contacts I was speaking with is this idea of teens and college girls teaching each other. This is my big dream for my program to become self-sustaining in this way. So my business mentor said, “Let’s approach your course from this angle.” So I did.
I got immediate interest from a Boys & Girls Club that serves an at-risk community and already has volunteers that are groomed in community service through their Keystone program. Perfect.
The head of programming for a department of education said that she thinks she could wrangle 20 girls to train that could then be dispatched back to their schools. Fantastic.
Today, I talked to a man who works in five schools where Opioid addiction is rampant. When I told him about my vision he said, “I can’t believe you just said that. We have those girls at the ready and we’ve been wanting to do something like this the up their self-esteem.” Yes.
Keep your focus on the vision.
By focusing on my original vision, the big dream and bigger mission and slightly shifting the approach, I’m now getting a more enthusiastic response — because it directly taps into the organization’s bigger mission as well.
Am I still discouraged, downtrodden, despairing and weepy? Yes. I cried my eyes out last week, and sobbed on my sweetie’s shoulder, and starting thinking about tossing in the towel. Seriously. On other days, after making calls for hours and not reaching anyone who can make a decision or having people tell me that they get a similar program for free, I feel exhausted and hopeless and have the urge to gorge on cookies.
Then I think about all the time, energy, money and inspiration I put into this. And keep going.
I talked to Susan Kennedy yesterday (SARK) about my plight as she’s an expert in keeping a person’s creative spirits high. The advice she gave me was, “When I’m tempted to deflate in this absence, instead I’m going to fill myself with presence. I’m going to remind myself of my vision and certainty.”
Which all requires discipline and managing what I tell myself. After I bemoaned my plight I told Susan that I did believe that I could already feel that my program was instituted far and wide, helping girls all over the world — and that it had already happened and that I just needed to catch up with it. We talked about the fact that we have no idea how this program has touched people and where it will reach — now and in the future.
Does this mean I won’t have days when I feel it’s all hopeless. No. Like Jessi Klein I’ll still be mired in my own daily struggles, but thank God I don’t have to pump breast milk. When I imagine her life I think I may have gotten off easy. Though it doesn’t feel that way. I just have to get through this next patch, I tell myself. I will remember the discipline of keeping to my vision and certainty. And I invoke the question I’ve told you to ask yourself: “What is my next step?” That is my question. I keep following the answers, wherever they lead.
You can’t escape it. The ubiquitous upsell. No sooner have your gotten something for free or bought, there is more. You’ve just gotten something delicious – and now there might be more deliciousness right around the corner.
Of course I train all of my clients to offer an upsell in an online marketing campaign or funnel. We want to engage our followers and fans and then inspire them to invest – in themselves and in us.
And, on the flip side it can go too far. Like those endless sales cycle loops that ask you questions like, “Do you want to have more free time? No thanks.” Which makes you seem like an idiot. Like you made the wrong choice and you may live to regret it.
You can’t get away from the upsell, no matter where you go. We’re here in Bali and went to a little local massage place about an hour’s walk from Ubud (the town that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her book, Eat, Pray, Love). As soon as we sat down in the tiny, bright green reception area to peruse the massage menu the owner was hovering over us pointing to the expensive packages.
Susan Harrow and Clare Barry in Ubud at the Yoga Barn
Enter the ugly upsell.
It was ugly because she had no idea what we wanted – just what she wanted. More money. The package she wanted us to get included a facial (which I can’t stand) and dinner. We were on our way to a restaurant so while we were interested in eating, but having a meal in a spa that was the size of a broom closet and had a bit of a rancid oil smell didn’t appeal. She kept pushing. “You come back and get package.”
A beautiful upsell inquires, engages, entices. It shows you glorious pictures of a place like Clare Barry and Alex Franzen’s upcoming London retreat. (Sign up in the next 2 weeks and get a 10% savings with coupon code Alex10 at checkout for either the Create a Tiny Book workshop or the Reviving Retreat in London next month).
It tells you about all the wonderful feeling you’ll have – exploring yourself or breaking bread with others. A beautiful upsell transports you to your future self. It plants a little flag on where you are now.
Then moves that little flag to a different, imaginable spot — after you partake of our offering here is the transformed you. The happier, lighter, more present you or ___________________________. (Fill in the blank to the promise of your beautiful upsell).
The bottom line…
Upsells do not have to be ugly. They can be uplifting, energizing and quite glorious.
How to do an upsell the right way
This is not an upsell – it’s (hopefully) a beautiful offer:
My Next New Client – You?
Some recent clients have asked me for help to redo their websites, create webinars + speaking topics, media train them for local and national TV + documentaries, create TV segments, and get their book proposal done. If any of this sounds like you — or if you have something else in mind, hop on over here and tell me a bit about yourself. I have space for one new client. I hope it’s you!