by Hannah Roveto
In my other life, not the one where I make PB&Js and play taxi, but my other-other life, I am a national public relations consultant. You probably have shopped at my clients' stores, bought their stuff, seen them on TV or read about them in national magazines or local newspapers.
When PR types sit with a new or potential client, we ask them to explain in their own words what makes them unique or what makes their product better than anyone else's, and of course, what kind of media attention they expect us to deliver. What's fascinating is the number of successful clients who cannot articulate a precise vision of who they are in the marketplace and what kind of response is realistic.
"We're going to make shopping fun." (Mmm. How precisely? Are customers really in need of spa grocery stores?) "We meet the needs of real people." (That's not an answer until you can define real people, what their needs are and again, why they want massages on aisle six.)
"Our paradigm is such that we optimize the experience and deliver results." (Hunh?) "We want you to get us on the front page of the New York Times." (Not with a paradigm nobody understands, you won't.)
Aspirational statements do not sell a story. Producers and editors hear hundreds of pitches a day, people like me calling and emailing them begging for time and attention. Their antennae are finely tuned to select subjects that are clearly defined, offer something truly fresh or a twist on expectations, and that will be presented quickly, efficiently and in an entertaining fashion. Here's the trick: Nobody wants to know why my clients are great. Lots of people sell stuff. What the media want to know is why their audience is going to care enough to perhaps take action.
Before you go anywhere in the public eye -- and for writers that can be as early as looking for an agent, never mind hitting the bookshelves -- you need to know clearly who you are and where you want to go, and be able to explain quickly why your audience -- agents, editors, readers -- should care.
Consider yourself not from within, but from without: What makes you and your story interesting, a little different, enough to pique curiosity (without making them roll their eyes)? What will they connect to emotionally and/or what is the twist? Last, make sure you can explain all this in a sentence or two, in such a way to draw a nod of interest from a total stranger.
Sound bytes. One sentence, two sentences. Lisa Scottoline tells writers to draft their own New York Times bestseller list blurb. Do it for your story and for yourself, too. That way when you meet an agent, a book editor, a television news producer, you'll be ready. Plus, you'll impress the heck out of the marketing team as a bonus!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
by Hannah Roveto