Nearly every day, someone asks my advice on the best way to promote their business or themselves. I get the question at speaking engagements, at the office and, yes, sometimes at home. I don’t mind at all, because I’ve always got a good answer:
Write a book.
“A book?” some say — with obvious horror. “I’ve never written a book!”
Precisely my point. But let me back up a bit.
When I started EMSI 22 years ago, I soon realized the clients who got the attention of the media most quickly were those who’d written a book. Not just any book, mind you, but one that aligned with what they were promoting. The apple salesmen who wrote about apples were far more successful getting media coverage than those who wrote about oranges – and those who hadn’t written anything at all.
Why? Because yesterday’s business cards are today’s books. They give their authors immediate credibility, establishing them as experts in their fields. Credibility opens the door to journalists, talk show hosts, bloggers and anyone else creating content for hungry audiences. Who will they turn to as an expert source of information when a mysterious apple worm is destroying orchards? Johnny Appleseed, author of Red All Over – The Core of the Apple Industry.
There are some caveats. A poorly conceived, poorly designed, poorly written or poorly promoted book is worse than no book at all. Your book must capably and professionally represent your unique message – and you.
Not a writer? Not a problem. There are thousands of talented freelance writers and editors out there – especially in the wake of all the newspaper layoffs in recent years – who can help. So don’t worry about that just yet. The first step is planning, and that’s up to you whether or not you will actually do the writing.
• Decide on your book’s main idea. The central focus will be what drives the entire project, so it must match the message you want to convey and it must excite you. If you’re bored from the get-go, you’ll likely never see your project through to the end. A great way to test ideas is by running them through these five questions:
1. What message am I enthusiastic about that I want to convey?
2. Who can benefit from it?
3. How will it help them?
4. Why am I the one bringing this idea to them?
5. How can I make my points unique and different from what has already been said on the topic?
• Pay attention to your own reactions as you test-drive your ideas. Which idea makes you smile? Which excites you creatively? Which hits the essence of what you’re about – what you enjoy, think about and create every day? It may be an idea you never even realized inspired such passion in you.
• Consider what you really want to achieve by promoting yourself or your business. Business owners obviously want to grow their business and see it flourish; some people want to build careers as speakers. But often, there’s something deeper driving us and we may not even be aware of it. Taking the time to do some soul-searching to identify your real motivation can help you clarify your message and find your book’s focus.
A real-life example: When I sat down to write Celebritize Yourself, I planned a how-to book on commonly asked publicity questions. But, when I ran that idea through the five-question test, I had trouble with No. 5. So, I asked myself, “What do I most enjoy about my professional life?” The answer was easy: helping people identify and value what’s unique about them and their message. In writing a book about how to get publicity, I realized I needed to explain why everyone has an expertise that should be shared.
It’s never too late to write your book. I know it seems daunting, but remember, the first time you do anything, it’s often a challenge. Remember how hard it was wobbling down the sidewalk on your first bicycle? You may have crashed a few times, skinned your knees and bumped your head, but you got back on and kept trying.
Call on that brave 6-year-old you and start planning your book!
Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. She also co-hosts “The News and Experts Radio Show with Alex and Marsha” on Sirius/XM Channel 131 on Saturdays at 5:00 PM EST.