One of the things I am most grateful for in my post-writing-life adventure of running a small but busy literary PR agency is the wonderfully talented team that makes it all possible. Their creativity, insights, storytelling acumen and dedication are a gift to all those who work with them. Today I’m filled with pride and gratitude as I introduce Emily Adams, of my firm, who crafted this post based on her spot-on observations of certain industry trends and is a strong emerging voice in the business-of-writing conversation. Take it away, Emily!
There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to shelling out for a publicist. Don’t get us wrong, we’re firm believers in the power of publicity! But if you hire a good publicist, they will be the first to tell you that there are no guarantees where media attention is concerned. News cycles can change in the blink of an eye, which means that even if you want everyone to be looking at your book, no matter how good it is or how well it is being pitched, the media may have their eyes glued to the president’s latest gaffe, a major celebrity divorce, or what Stephen King just tweeted. Throw a new Ann Patchett novel into the mix and it’s absolute madness.
Because of the relatively high uncertainty factor, we get a bevy of questions from authors who retain our services. Most are new to hiring PR professionals and so, understandably, they look for ways to understand what we’re doing and to gauge and track our progress.
A vast majority of the questions we receive revolve around who we are pitching. This is a sensible question — you can’t get your book into the hands of a reviewer unless that reviewer is pitched. We even hold a call with our authors to determine what their “wish list” is — combing through outlets and contacts they’d like to make sure we include in their press lists.
But there’s one question we rarely hear, and as PR insiders, we think of it as the magic question — the litmus test of whether or not your PR campaign will be as successful as possible:
How and when do you follow up with the press contacts you’ve pitched?
In the world of PR, follow-up is critical. This is true for two major reasons: First, you want to make sure you get a hold of the clips of reviews, interviews and features your campaign generates. Then you can get more mileage out of press coverage and magnify your book’s visibility by posting them to your social media channels. Next, follow-up fosters healthy relationships between your brand and the media. It signals to the media that you and your publicist take your product (i.e., book) seriously, and expect them to do the same.
There are several junctures at which follow-up should ideally happen:
1) After sending press releases and pitching your book, your publicist should follow up with the press:
- By phone with outlets in your local market. I.e., If you’re from Santa Cruz, they should be trying to get someone from the Santa Cruz Sentinel on the line. Phone calls may seem old school, but in certain cases they are highly effective.
- By email with all non-local media who requested copies of the book or author interviews during the initial round of pitching. Ideally, your PR firm will follow up immediately concerning interviews and within 2 weeks of book mailing to keep tabs on the status of upcoming reviews and feature coverage.
- By social media where email isn’t an option. Since some reporters don’t share their email addresses — ever — Twitter and sometimes Facebook or LinkedIn messages can be great ways to get their attention.
2) After the initial round of follow ups, your publicist should:
- Check in at regular intervals (ideally monthly) via email with those who requested review copies, asking after the progress of reviews and features. (If monthly sounds too slow, keep in mind that people will actually be reading your book in addition to writing reviews or feature articles about it, all of which takes time.)
- Follow up ASAP after any interview you complete in order to get a link to the published article or on-air conversation.
All too often, some or even all of these follow up steps slip through the cracks. But a PR campaign without follow up is like trying to start a fire with no spark.
So, is your publicist following up?