PR Basics: The Big Five

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Every once in awhile, it’s good to get back to basics.

As I’ve wandered through websites and listservs lately, I’ve seen alot of worrying about trivia (what to put on a business card, which bookmarks are the best, what is the most effective giveaway, what to say at a booksigning  etc. etc.)

So, this might be a good time to backtrack and think about the bigger concepts.

Before you do anything else, please take a few moments to answer these five questions. They’ll save you bodacious bucks and valuable time.

1. What’s my product?
Boy, this one seems simple to answer — but look closer.
Your product is the thing you’re trying to promote. Is it you? Is it your book? Is it a series? Is it a feeling — a sensation? Is it entertainment? Laughter? Thrills? I think many authors forget to define this at the beginning of their PR efforts — or they get confused — and it affects their success from the get-go.

2. What is its story?
This is called your message. Determine what you really want to say about your product right after you figure out #1. What’s important about your product? What’s fresh? What’s different? Why should anyone in the world care?

Guess what? You can have multiple messages.

3. Who am I trying to reach?
Who do you want to care about your product/message? These people, known as customers, are your audience. Customers don’t always buy your product, but they help you promote; they affect your efforts in a positive, active manner.

Most products have more than one audience. For example, some of the audiences for my Sasha Solomon series are traditional mystery readers, reviewers, booksellers, women’s fiction readers, baby boomer women who like to laugh, New Mexico and SW enthusiasts, people who are curious about NM, reform Jewish lit readers, radio stations, television stations, newspaper features reporters, librarians — and so on.

4. Does my message matter to my audience?
Look at the big picture here.

One of main messages about the Sasha Solomon series is that it presents a different vision of New Mexico — one that goes beyond cowboys & Indians and the weird idea that people here don’t speak English. Okay, that’s great.

But, if I’m trying to sell that message to baby boomer women who like to laugh — they simply won’t care. And it won’t matter how I package that message — on a book mark, a brochure or on custom-printed whipped cream cans; they won’t care. (Okay, maybe they would care with the whipped cream — they might realize that my books have humor with that last approach — but it’d be another message. That’s my point.)

5. Do I need to rethink my message or target audience?
If the answers come hard to questions 3 & 4, you may need to rework something. Better to realize this during the concepting stage than to spend money and effort on ineffective media campaigns, giveaways, events and so forth.

Knowing — What you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and what matters to them,

all goes hand-in-hand. You can start anywhere in the process, but you need to get those three down before you worry about the specifics.

For me, sometimes, it helps to develop a few answers to the WhatWho and What-Matters, formula. That way I can play with possibilities and see which ones are the most fun for me to pursue.

Whatever you do, use the five questions above to guide your thinking.

If you work through this process honestly, you’ll find it easier to set course and navigate your PR and Marketing campaigns.

(Again, note that this PR advice is just as useful for non-author businesspeople, too.)

11 thoughts on “PR Basics: The Big Five

  1. JT Ellison

    Excellent information and advice, Pari. It’s sometimes difficult to see past the idea that the WHAT is a book and the WHO is a reader. It’s much more complex than that, as I learn each and every day.

  2. Pari

    J.T.,I know most people think they know a lot about public relations — and they go whole hog. I hope this simple post helps its readers stop for just a minute to assess before becoming invested — and investing — too much money and time in ineffective efforts.

  3. Pari

    Thanks, Elaine.

    It’s pretty quiet here today; I hope it’s only because people are on vacation or are so stunned by my brilliance . . .

    not that they’ve thought I’ve gone back to the Ice Age with this reminder.

  4. Beatrice Brooks

    It is quiet today, Pari, but I think your PR blog is relevant enough to repeat at some later date — when people RETURN from their vacations. Good advice, as always :)Hugs,Deni

  5. Elaine

    I don’t think it’s so much that it’s’quiet’-but that you’ve given much food for thought and instead of adding a comment – people are rushing back to their own work and marketing plan to see if they’ve met all your points!

  6. Pari

    Ah, shucks, y’all.

    I just got back from a presentation at a bookclub–I was selling my image as much as the books.

    Julia, I wish I was that smart. And, I’ll get that interview to you soon; only 28 more pages on this edit. Whew!

    Sandra,I’m glad you’re smiling. I think I know to what you’re referring.

    Deni,What a kind thing to say. I might just do that in a few months. Next week’s post will probably be about earning my red belt in Tae Kwon Do last Saturday. I’ve got pix, but suspect other people watching have better ones.

    Elaine,Don’t I wish! Some days are just slower than others–that’s how it goes. I know not to take it too personally, well, not beyond wondering if my post was toooooooooooooooooooo basic.

  7. Mary S.

    No, it’s not too basic, Pari. It’s a difficult thing, for me anyway, to get outside of what I’ve been working on, and break it down to the core elements to put in ‘the message,’ for example. It’s helpful to see these points written down so I can try to get my mind around them. How best to invest time and effort are big stunners for me – the whole process freezes me up – so please do write again sometime on any promo topic you like. It helps.

  8. Pari

    Mary,Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’m very glad that this made sense and could help you.

    I will post more about PR and marketing because I think so many people feel just as you do — a sense of being overwhelmed, not knowing where to start.

    I feel the same way when someone asks me, “What’s your hook?” You should have heard the 20 minute explanation I gave about my new series . . . it was embarrassing.


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