BEV: How has your career led you to this present time, as a DIY PR Expert?
JULES: I was asked to do PR for a DVD, and I really needed the money, and I was intrigued, as well, to see what it was like. And, I actually found it was quite easy, that there were lots of journalists, and lots of people out there on radio and TV, that really wanted the stories. And so, on the back of that, I set up my PR agency specialising in helping small business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs, and we worked with a few inventors, as well.
Then, when the Global Financial Crisis, I ended up losing some of the clients, because they just literally could not afford to pay three or four grand a month for three to six months, minimum.
And, it was at that moment that I thought, wow, I should just teach people how to go directly to the media themselves, and pitch their stories themselves. They don’t need us to be in the middle. And, from that I launched Handle Your Own PR.
Then, in 2017, I launched a PR platform, or what they call a SaaS platform (Software as a Service) which basically means that you can go onto the platform, build your own media contact list, write your media release in our template, and then send it out to the journalists from your own email address, and do the follow-up all within the same platform. And that’s made a massive difference.
Since then, I’ve created online training programs and in-person programs, where you get to talk with lots of journalists, and brainstorm newsworthy angles.
BEV: How do you help authors with PR?
JULES: I have worked with loads and loads of authors, and as more and more people are publishing. It’s a terrific idea. In fact, I really need to get my own book happening, because it really does position you as being an expert, and it opens a lot of doors. So, I completely understand why people are doing it.
Firstly, authors are in a unique situation to do PR, because they can write. Secondly, every single author I’ve worked with, has got some fantastic information and advice in their book, that they can then use to get out to the media.
However, journalists won’t regard a book in itself as being newsworthy. You’ve got to actually take the content that’s in the book, and use it to help other people in some way, and use your book as a reference point.
I’ve worked with a lot of authors across a lot of different industries, and including Fiori Giovanni, who I know is one of your clients, Bev. My DIY system helped her get some TV and front page newspaper coverage.
Fiori’s book is called ‘Defy Your Destiny’, and the strapline is ‘Make your most painful walk your most triumphant journey’. Fiori’s story is about how she was almost a child bride. She managed to escape from that, and got put into the army, in Eritrea, and then basically walked from Eritrea to Belgium, in a roundabout way, in order to escape and start building a new life for herself. She ended up in Australia in her twenties, I think.
So, already, it was an absolutely incredible human interest story, and the media is always looking for those kinds of things. So we took the main part of the story, and we went out to radio and TV first, because Fiori was very keen to get some TV. She got picked up by the TODAY Show, or weekend TODAY Show, and went on and explained her story there. We went out to a lot of different media, so we were ringing a lot of people. She’s had quite a few radio interviews, as well.
You’ve always got to try and think outside the square, so we sent it out to the Mildura newspaper, Sunraysia Daily. They came back, as you will often find, with, “Where is the local link? We need there to be a link.” Fiori said, “Oh, well my boyfriend was brought up there.” And so, we told them that, and the following week, she was on the front page. She had the full front page story, which was amazing. She’s also written a whole lot of articles around ways to defy your destiny, ways to be resilient, and has put those out in the media. A lot of those have been picked up, as well.
BEV: Articles – yes, that would sit very comfortably with most non-fiction authors.
JULES: When I’m talking with authors, I say, “Look, you’ve spent a lot of time on your content. You normally spend a lot of time also, trying to work out what your chapter headings should be, so that they make sense, and they’re fun or informative.” So, I suggest to authors that you take your chapter heading, turn it into a heading for a media release, and then in 500 words or so, underneath, do a synopsis of what’s in that chapter, and what people can learn from it. And then, at the bottom of the release, you just put a call to action with a contact place.
Most people have got at least 12 chapters in their books, so that means you can do one media release per month, send it out, and get a year’s worth of coverage, which is a great way to position yourself and get started with PR.
BEV: Non-fiction authors need to understand what their overarching higher level message is before they write the book as well. Their message that matters. It’s not about the book. A book is a method, a means.
JULES: I often say to people, without wanting to be rude, it’s not about you, at all. Journalists are not interested in promoting your book. That is of very, very little interest to them, but they love it if you can help people avoid making mistakes, if you can enhance people’s lives, if you can entertain them, and if they can learn from you.
BEV: From the point of view of the media, do they take ‘author of a book’ more seriously than a media release that would say, ‘author of an e-book’?
JULES: No. A hard copy book is nice to send to journalists, but I don’t think that they particularly care whether it comes as a soft copy, or a hard copy, or as audio. A print book may be useful as a giveaway, because a media outlet will promote it, as in, “Do you want to be in the running to win this great book” by so-and-so, about such and such? So, that’s probably where it’s useful. Otherwise, other than that, with the media, it’s all about the content.
I’ll give everyone a little hint: if you’re in Australia, Studio 10, which is a morning TV show on Channel 10, have got 60 people in their audience every single day. Now, if you can give them 60 units of your book, they will promote it for a minute on air, and also put links to your website, and offer promo codes. They’ll be quite commercial about it. So, for any of you that have got a lot of books, or are sitting on a few boxes of them, and you’re happy to give away 60, in return for a minute on air, then you can say, “As seen on Channel 10,” because, with PR, it’s not really all about being published, or being interviewed, so much as what you can do with it afterwards.
You can take that clipping of the promotion that Studio 10 is doing, and push it out in social media. And, there’s a very good chance, if you’re going to give away that much, that they will also get you on for an interview. So, it’s just a way in, if you’re finding it hard.
There is also a brilliant website called Prize Pig, as in www.prizepig.com.au. That’s where media outlets will go and ask for prizes and offer coverage in return. It’s a great way for people to sign up for a couple of months and get some prizes happening, while you’re also trying to get the editorial happening.
BEV: What do you see business owners who are authors struggle with the most when they start out with PR?
JULES: They make their media release, or their media pitch, way too commercial. You’ve got to remember, this is not advertising. Your name and your book probably go in the last paragraph on your media release. You need to be offering a whole lot of information, or a whole lot of value, for people, and then at the bottom, you can say, ‘For more information, go to …’ wherever it is.
I think the biggest mistake is that people treat it like it’s of national importance that they’ve written a book, when actually, it’s the content that people want, and if you don’t go out with that, it comes out as too commercial. You will start getting calls from the advertising sales reps, which no one really wants.
BEV: I’ve published two magazines: the first one was called ‘Work From Home’, which started in 1998. Then, from 2006 to 2009, until the GFC, I published ‘Honesty Woman’, which was aimed at mature women who loved magazines, but were just fed up with the commercial reality of the big magazines, full of glossy advertising.
As an editor, if I received media releases that were really blatant advertising, I wasn’t interested. Pay me to print your ad – I am not running a charity. Also if I received a printed press release with a product, it was no help, even if it was good. I wanted it in digital format.
JULES: The next hint, in terms of doing PR, is that you need to write as if you are the journalist, and write a story for the editor. Don’t think that you’re writing to the journalist, going, “Here’s some information, will you write a story around it?” Because, they just don’t have time, these days, to write stories, unless they’re really big stories. So, my suggestion, and what I do when I’m teaching people is, write it as an article that you would read in a magazine or a newspaper, and then the journalist often then will literally cut and paste it, put it in.
You know that I always bang on about the importance of photography, as well, because they’ll need to illustrate that article. So, if you can send them a photo and a terrific article, you will, nine times out of 10, get that published.
BEV: I was doing print magazines 10 years ago, now. Today, there are so many more media outlets hungry for content than then!
JULES: Business websites are always looking, like the Telegraph. All the magazines these days have websites, and it’s not always the same content in both. Also, small business sections of newspapers.
I encourage people to look for niche magazines, because it might only be going out to 6,000 people, but it’s 6,000 people in absolutely your target market. And websites. If you’re parenting, there’s loads of parenting websites, and so on. And don’t forget there are bloggers who are incredibly successful, and they are literally like a media outlet, and they are also wanting to put loads and loads of content, and do giveaways, on their websites and on their blogs.
Podcasters are looking for interviews too. There’s mainstream media, which I help people with, but also, there are so many niche media outlets that you probably can find a few that are focused on your particular area of interest.
BEV: What options do authors have if they want to work with you?
JULES: I’ve got three different options. One is the DIY SaaS platform, as I mentioned. So, if you know how to do PR, and you’ve done PR before, or you’re very clear on your story angles, then you can literally sign up to my PR Engine, and just start sending them out.
The next option is for people who, maybe, want to just do a three-month campaign, and see how they go, which is called my PR Bootcamp. And for that, you get three months on the PR platform, you get some video lessons and an e-book, and you get weekly mentoring from me online, as a group thing.
And then, my penultimate training session, which has, I’m very pleased to say about a 95% success rate, is my PR Accelerator, where people spend two days with me every quarter, and I bring in a whole lot of journalists, and the journalists will sit with you, and help you come up with newsworthy angles, and then edit your media release after it’s done. You come to four of those sessions over the year, and at each one we focus on three months’ worth of PR, write the media releases, edit them for you, build up the media contact lists, and schedule it to go out, so that you’ve kind of done three months’ worth of PR, in two days. You also get a weekly mentoring, and everything from the bootcamp.
They are incredibly reasonably priced so everyone has access to them.
And of course, if you do your own PR, journalists get to know what you specialise in. You build relationships directly with them, as well. And believe me, they will come back to you when they’ve got topics that are relevant to your area of expertise.
BEV: I caution authors to not expect a spike of sales overnight, after media coverage.
JULES: For the average person on the street, and I include myself in that, unless you’ve got something really amazing, then it’s going to be a slow build, and you want to get consistent coverage over a period of time, in order for it to affect your SEO ranking, in order for people to start seeing you as an expert. So, I’m a big believer in not just dipping your toe into PR, but committing for 12 months, and really going hard, because, if you can do that over a 12 month period, it’ll probably stand you in good stead for the next two or three years. And, of course, then you know what you’re doing, and so you can start sending out more regularly. But, it’s about building a presence online. I think that that’s really important.
To be honest, I’ve worked with lots of publishing companies, where they have offered PR as part of the thing, and then often the author is extremely underwhelmed by what’s been done. It’s much better if you can have that control, and know who you are connecting with.
I’m all about finding as many ridiculously small niches, if possible, that you can get. Because, then you’ll find the media that feeds into that, and you can write messages that, immediately, people will get it. You need niche markets, and then you also need to work out what messages are going to go out to those markets, and what you want the PR to achieve.
Of course, one of the things that PR does, is bring speaking opportunities. In fact, I’ve had a couple of authors I’ve worked with, and a couple of business people, who’ve done consistent PR, and have been asked to go and speak overseas.
Three things that are really important:
- Do have a website, or some kind of a web presence that the media can push people to, if you’re going to do PR.
- And it’s very important that you have some kind of photography that illustrates what it is that you do.
- Get content out of your book, put it into 500-600 words, and give it a lovely, snappy headline, and send it out to the media. Pretend you’re the journalist and write an article for that particular magazine or newspaper.
Jules Brooke specialises in DIY public relations, and assists authors and business owners to find their newsworthy message, connect with media and share their story to a larger audience via her own media platform ‘Handle Your Own PR’. Contact Jules at www.handleyourownpr.com.au