While sending out press releases and media kits is an important phase of your public relations campaign, following up with these contacts is absolutely critical to success. Authors who follow up with the media have more success publicizing their books than those who fail to do so.
Follow-up calls from editors and reporters might come immediately or as long as three weeks after the distribution of a publicity piece, but you can never predict when or if you'll even receive the calls. Again, practice your conversation by anticipating and preparing answers to sample questions. If the caller requests a review copy, send it right away, then follow up within a week to see if he or she has additional questions or would like to schedule an interview.
Editors and reporters might follow up with you after receiving your release or kit, but more often than not, you will need to follow up with them. Again, time your call to match the media outlet's schedule. Be pleasant and direct as you work your way through the phone system to the individual you need to speak with.
When you reach the editor or reporter, DO NOT ask whether he or she received your news release. This question is a waste of the individual's time. Instead, tell the editor who you are and that you sent them a news release related to your book. Explain how you are calling to offer your assistance to them in crafting a story about the piece, writing a review, or scheduling an interview. You also can remind the editor that you will happily send him or her a free review copy of your book. If you've scheduled an appearance, book signing, or other event subsequent to sending the release, you can mention that as well.
Again, be pleasant, direct, and willing to answer questions. If the reporter brushes you off, remain pleasant, say good-bye, and move on to the next contact. Keep your head held high and continue forging a working relationship with the rest of the contacts on your media list.
If you do land an interview, congratulations! Interviews can be powerful publicity machines for promoting your book. Talking to members of the media can seem overwhelming, especially when you're in the beginning stages of your public relations efforts, but the important thing to remember is that the interview is designed to gather information about things you know well, such as your book and your background. With preparation and practice, you can learn to gain the most from media interviews.
When you put together your media kit, you probably created a sample question-and-answer sheet. The items you recorded there will give you a strong head start in preparing to handle media interviews. Here are some subjects you should prepare to discuss in your interview:
- Your background and other interests, ideas, or expertise evolved into the writing of your book- How you came up with the idea for your book - Some of the more interesting ways you researched or learned of the information used when writing the book- How your book connects with local interests- Authors or books that have inspired or influenced you and your work
Again, research is a critical key to this phase of preparation. Read, watch, and listen to interviews with the media outlets you're contacting.
Familiarize yourself with the interview format, common interview questions, and the length of time allotted for responses. Learn which issues associated with your book are most likely to resonate with the media outlet's audience. Practice answering those questions. Interview yourself. Sit in a chair before a large mirror and run through your interview questions and answers. Once you're comfortable with these self-interviews, enlist the aid of a friend, relative, or your spouse as a partner in practice interviews. Give your partner your list of interview questions, but tell them to feel free to improvise as well.
Most interviews are arranged in advance. If the interview is conducted over the phone, be sure to take the call in a quiet place where you won't be distracted or interrupted. Also, be sure to have practiced your interviews in this environment so you feel more prepared and comfortable during the actual call.
Listen to the question, carefully think through the appropriate response, then clearly, and carefully, relay your response to the interviewer. While you need to be concise and efficient, don't rush. Take your time, remember your talking points, and answer questions in a way that presents you and your book in the most positive and interesting light for the outlet's audience. With practice, you'll also learn to relax during interviews, which will also help make you more effective.
The more often you practice responding to questions about your book, the better able you'll be to say the things you really want to say. And that's an important point; don't say ANYTHING to an interviewer that you don't want broadcast to the public. Even if the interviewer assures you repeatedly that your comment is "off the record," it won't be. If you say it to a reporter, it's public knowledge-period. So think carefully before you respond to questions.
If you feel yourself becoming shaken and nervous, take a deep breath and give yourself a few seconds to collect your thoughts. If you are asked a question that you don't know the answer to, tell the reporter that you'll have to consider the question and get back to them. You'll be less nervous as you gain more experience; again, practice is the key.
Finally, remember that the best way to avoid mistakes is to be honest. Don't exaggerate or spout overblown hype about your book. Don't stress over mistakes either. Everyone slips up at times, and you'll improve with experience.
Within a day or two of the interview, call or e-mail the reporter, editor, or producer who interviewed you, just to be certain no further information is needed to complete the piece. They may have developed more questions in the course of preparing the story or broadcast, or they may need more information on one of the interview points.
Last but not least, never forget to thank the interviewer for his or her time and hard work. It only takes a second but can make a world of difference.
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