“As I say in my book…”

marketing bookI ran the first Web Promotion SHOCK seminar yesterday and it was poorly attended.

Getting the marketing right is a process that almost always involves risk and failure. I remember a guy who got promoted at Colgate-Palmolive while I was working there. He’d launched a new product into test market. Got the formulation wrong, the packaging wrong and the advertising wrong. But the market research showed why it failed and the company then knew what to do. Risk, failure, knowledge.

In the case of my seminar, I believe I got the proposition wrong and the creative wrong, so I need to go back and do some more testing. I think I’ll do this with AdWords. But where I failed spectacularly was in my attempts to get some PR; promotion that has an editorial component, is unpaid and carries the implicit endorsement of a third party.

I spoke to the Breakfast DJ of a commercial radio station who said he’d be prepared to do an interview. Right demographic and all of that. He asked for an outline, so I sent him some suggested questions and how I would respond. It was light and entertaining stuff about Google and web promotion but I proposed to mention the seminar. He emailed me back saying this: “this is an ad and I will get my ass kicked by management”. He explained that because I was charging for the seminar, company policy deemed the content commercial. Obviously they don’t want to encourage that, given that they’re in the business of charging for advertising. So the interview did not take place.

I had a similar response from the local newspaper. This is commercial; can’t do a story.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Every radio station does interviews with authors. Authors are blatantly promoting their books. Commercially. What is the difference between an author promoting a book and a speaker promoting a talk? The policy that is currently in place gives free publicity to large book publishers many of whom have the capacity to pay for advertising but it withholds free air time from the whole speaking industry; small operators with precious little advertising budget. The clear intent is to make editorial comment unavailable in an effort to extract paid advertising. The listener misses out on good content and the radio network restricts itself to larger advertisers.

Ironically, our public television and radio network, the ABC, have exactly the same approach: free plugs for authors and nobody else. Of course they won’t take your money for commercial advertising. So the effect of our current media structure is to shut the commercial sector out of public discourse.

Society would be positively affected if the public media lightened up about commerce or the commercial media lightened up about editorial. I’m suggesting there is room for another media network; one that preferences good stories and good content, irrespective of commercial content. Create a media channel accessible to professional consultants and businesses. One that does not rule you out of public discourse because you charge money for a product or service.

Here is a problem; here is a solution. It costs money. Get over it.



  1. Inside every journalist beats the heart of an author who wants to get published by a reputable publisher. Self interest is the one horse in the race that is always trying.
    Need I say more?

    Also only 1 in 100 books is published so there is an effective screening process.
    On the other hand the barrier to entry for speakers is very low and to be frank most are awful. Why should a broadcaster or journalist take the risk?

  2. Bret, you are so right, and what an excellent idea. I am a journalist, who now runs a reputation and media consultancy. There is certainly no consistency in media outlets’ arguments. Another area that receives free plugs is entertainment – shows, plays, concerts, performers etc. Again, they are making a profit and getting free promotion. Is it that entertainment is okay, but good educational content is not? I liked the way you analysed the problem, recognised the weaknesses in your approach and come up with a potential solution.

  3. Thanks Chris and Penny. I think it’s less true about the screening now that there is so much self-publishing. Standards are a problem for speaker industry and that is why the National Speakers Association of Australia is pushing accreditation so hard to its members. Hopefully this will help in time.

  4. So what’s stopping you from making a book from the content and speaking about that Bret? 😉 As an author who has been on the radio twice, I do appreciate where you’re coming from and think I’ll stick to speaking about my books on the radio!

  5. Spot on Kathie, that’s where to from here. Mind you, I’d rather create a new media channel…

  6. Hi Bret.
    Firstly, I acknowledge that the huge bias and prejudice demonstrated by the media is a serious issue. Not only is it authors and artists (musicians especially) who seem to get the air time, it is also anyone with the ‘celebrity’ status. Quality content is clearly not the top priority in most cases, and it seems to be a bit like the saying with regards to speaker’s bureaus – they will only start contacting you once you are popular enough to no longer need them. For media, they will appear to only listen if you are either providing great content for free, or have already achieved celebrity status (possibly regardless of content quality).
    The media doesn’t make it easy for people in the phase between charging nothing and no longer needing to charge.
    Shifting things to the constructive side of things, I wonder if your media proposals would have been better received if the request was that the newspaper/radio spokesperson simply made reference to the great free content on your website, or a special free report or tip list that could be downloaded. Your website/report would then become semi-marketing material.
    You have probably already consider that, and it certainly doesn’t solve the issue media prejudice, but something to consider. Actually, no. I think this suggestion just highlights the round about way we need to go about marketing anything that has a value attached to it. Hmm.

  7. Yes, I’m a simple lad. I would like to be able to say, ‘I’m promoting a seminar’ without that being a trigger for rejection.

  8. Brett, simple answer to a complex question. It all relates to news values. What is news? It is something new. A book is something new – high news value due to scarcity principle – only 300 business books published in Australia a year. it is also tangible – you can touch it, feel it and read it – therefore more credible. A public seminar is not as newsworthy – 3,000 seminars a day happening in Australia at least. It is a service and therfore not tangible or as real. As a professional speaker, author and media person of nearly 30 years, seminars are low news value and common and therfore hard to engage with media. Books are scarce, tangible and require more effort to produce and are therefore of higher news value. Also, how you engage with the media is important. A media release is important and has to be angled, customised and pitched in a certain way. This is a learned skill that I teach in my media writing skills masterclass. regards Tom

  9. Hi Bret and commentators,

    Great discussion… as someone with a fair degree of experience in entertainment journalism, I’d agree that there’s a certain amount of self-interest in some of the content-choices, whether it be that the content adds status to the provider (bands, authors, celebrity etc) or that the provision of content excludes potential revenue (ie. advertising) or that the content competes with paid advertising.

    To borrow from the M.O. of the entertainment industry, but obviously pitching to a different audience, how many comps did you offer to the seminar once you knew the numbers weren’t there? Obviously, journos might not feel they have the time to attend a (free) seminar, but perhaps people in their marketing staff, their online presence manager or somesuch?

    You could then use the comp seminar to directly engage some of the key peoople (if not necessarily the content creators or presenters) in these organisations, giving them an opportunity to see you and your ideas in play.

    Once you are recognised by them as being a credible talking head, references to the following seminars could be deemed (or portrayed as) incidental to your opinion… which you attach to the ‘issue of the day’.

    ie. What role can marketing or online presence management play in revitalising the way people perceive their city (Page: 41 of today’s West) or in relation to the http://www.placesforme.info project.

    Anyway, that could be one approach… but then again, who knows what constitutes hard news or genuine editorial support in this town?

  10. Good point Bret, As a gyn cancer survior and lobbiest for 15 years for gyn health awareness – through this process I assisted a young woman who claimed she was dying of gyn cancer, was found guilty of cheating and frauding people and was sentenced to gaol for this – she was on TV last week for again frauding an organisation for animal welfare. Each time she was given great air play, articles about her in magazines. Almost hero like by the media. Yet someone like me who is in the field of saving womens lives is challenged to be heard. Like you say Bret – go figure how the media work.

  11. Hey man,
    I’m not sure about what kind of promotion you did in other avenues, but the blurb you chucked up on Port 80 seemed to give roughly a day’s worth of notice for the seminar. And when I went on to your site to check it out, I couldn’t exactly figure out which dates there were and if there really was only a day until the next one. Maybe I’m the dummy, but I couldn’t figure out the dates and times easily.

    With a little more warning, and even some perusing of threads, you could hop on something like this thread:http://forums.port80.asn.au/showthread.php?t=13004 and poke your hand in the air and be all “Hey, I do this stuff!” Seems there’s at least a few on there that are ripe for it.

    Bear in mind too, that I’m one of your competitors in this gig, and here I am giving you advice. Doesn’t look like I’ll cackle evilly and plot world domination today… heh.

    Good luck at the next one though mate.

  12. Don’t you hate it when your competitors turn out to be nice guys? Yes, the Port80 post was last minute and could have been clearer on dates. And you’re right about using the forums. Curse you, Dr Horrible.

  13. Bret, The discussion so far represents the fuzziness of the interaction between the 2 sides of decision making. In every decision there are the formal, logical, left brain aspects versus the the informal, emotional, right brain aspects. What you are being fed is the formal logical left brain aspects. Decision making is far more emotionally right brained than we are willing to admit to.

    Put another way, every business has 2 parts; “what business are you in?” (right brained emotional stuff) and “what do you do?” (left brained logical technical stuff). The media are in the entertainment business. What they do is report on the news of the time. I suspect that while they tell you that this is a commercial (logic) they have made the descision that what you want to talk about, or more to the point how you have communicated it, is not entertaining/ newsworthy enough- doesn’t capture people’s attention, excitement, pain, etc effectively enough. You have not made it easy for them to see the connection between the 2 sides.

    I don’t believe that you’ve failed. You’ve found one marketing approach that hasn’t worked.

    I feel that you’re working on the “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” principle. In reality the most common mousetrap we buy today was patented in 1899 by John Mast in the US. Since then over 5000 patents for “better mousetraps” have been granted yet none has surpassed the spring fired trap IN THE MARKET. None of them appeal to the public’s sense of ease of operation, mercy and values in providing a “painless kill”.

    Nobody has yet to build a better mousetrap because it’s the market that determine what is acceptable value, not the inventor’s zeal or perspective on what “should be”.

    Stop being “right” and a martyr. There’s no benefit in that. Find the way that your world class content will appeal to the people who need it.

  14. Would you get many people from a radio interview? I think you could get more interest from doing a free talk at a business breakfast/lunch.

  15. My experience with books discuss on public radio is the ‘interviewer’ tends to steer the speaker to talk about the content, deliver some interesting messages to the listeners. I haven’t noticed huge ‘commercial’ promotion of the individuals book and not one of them have inspired me to go out and purchase their book.

    But that’s my experience.

  16. Yes, the deal seems to be, we’ll mention your name and the name of the book. In some cases we’ll enthuse over the book. But we won’t say it’s $24.99 at Dymocks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.