Back in the 1960s, there was a popular saying, If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem. A decade later, this saying got reversed and negated into an imperative, Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution. In the 1980s, when rehab centers started popping up across the USA for all the drug addicts the 60s and 70s had spawned, the popular saying in everyday life became The first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one.
Finally, in the 1990s, when the "self-help" seminars became a staple in business management training across US industry, the saying was turned again by Stephen R. Covey (my personal favorite self-help guru) into something that was more useful here. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. That was Habit 5 of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey went on to note:
We're in such a hurry to rush in and fix things up, we often fail to take the time first to really diagnose the problem. How can we possibly expect to fully-solve a problem we haven't fully-understood?
Rather than simply disgorging solutions, let's take the time to fully-dissect the problem we Indie Authors have with advertising and see why publicity is or can be the solution. Click through the jump-break to learn more.
The Advertising Problem
Advertising is one-sided, all about the Brand telling the customers what the Brand wants them to hear. Advertising is biased, usually describing why the Brand is so great and omitting any mention of flaws or drawbacks. Advertising is self-oriented and rarely considers what the consumer actually needs or wants. Because of these problems, Advertising lacks the ability to give the Brand credibility. No matter how creative the advertisement is, there's no way around the issue of credibility when advertising is the medium.
Creative people who sell advertising design services will often justify attention-getting advertisements saying that they will make the Brand famous. In reality, what becomes famous is the advertisement, not the Brand, so in essence, the Brand or its product made the advertisement famous, not the other way around. The cause and effect have been reversed by advertising.
The Credibility Solution
Publicity is all about the consumers doing the talking--it's practically gossip behind the Brand's back. Publicity is presumed impartial and unbiased because the Brand is not involved in composing the remarks. The consumers come up with the opinions themselves. Publicity is other-oriented, consumers discussing how a Brand or product fulfills their needs or wants--or fails to do so! Whether PR endorses or disclaims, it's assumed to be credible because the consumers believe themselves more than they do the advertisers. In part, it's just the "everybody knows" rule at work. See Immutable Law of Marketing (for Indie Authors) Law of Perception, or Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) Law of Credentials for more on this "everyone knows" phenomenon. You can also read more about it in Chapter 4 of my marketing book (available in eBook or paperback formats).
Because "everyone knows" already, most consumers don't even pay attention to half the advertisements they see. The ad folks go to great lengths to attract a consumer's attention, using gimmicks and flash-and-pizzazz visuals but the message is still not coming from a trusted source. It's still "just another advertisement" and dismissed as "noise" when it's from an unknown Brand. After all, if this were a Brand I should trust, I'd have heard of them! That's the power of the "everyone knows" effect at work.
The problem with advertising is the lack of credibility and authenticity due to its source, not its message. For a new Brand, credibility has to be built and that takes time. There is simply no short cut to building a reputation.
The Obscurity Problem
That brings us to the problem of an advertisement coming from a Brand no one knows. Due to the Brand's obscurity, the advertisement won't resonate with consumers. What consumer even remembers ads from new and unknown Brands? None. People remember ads from Brands they're already familiar with and already trust. Oh, look, my favorite dishwash soap maker has a new look. Better remember that next time I'm at the store and want to buy dishwash soap.
Either a Brand is famous or it's not. Your Brand will go from obscure to famous "overnight" even though it takes months of hard work for that "night" to be over. If you're launching a new Brand or have already and need to find a better way to get the word out about your Brand's existence, advertising is not your solution. It's a problem that will make readers tune you out even more. Instead, you need to seek out publicity opportunities.
The Publicity Solution
So the problem becomes how to get from the obscure end of the spectrum to the famous end. Publicity--other people talking about your Brand, not you promoting yourself--is definitely the solution. Don't do it yourself; endless bouts of "Shameless Shelf Promotions" will kill your Brand's potential to launch. Even knowing this, I confess to having fallen prey to the allure of doing it on Goodreads. It proves itself to be a fatal choice. Everytime!
Instead, you need to enlist others to start the buzz about your Brand. On Goodreads, rather than posting self-promotional link to your book or "advertisement" asking people to buy your wares, make yourself (your Brand Name) known -- and make yourself known "for" something. Be your brand whenever you talk to anyone anywhere, especially on a site like Goodreads with 10 million potential customers (readers).
What else can you do to get others talking about you? Sign up to be interviewed by others, join blog tours, join author networks. These avenues are already saturated by more members seeking publicity than there are opportunities to provide it but sign up anyway. Maybe your Brand will be the one to attract attention. If you don't sign up and try, I can guarantee no one will know about you. There are groups on Goodreads where book bloggers are actually seeking authors to interview, soliciting content for their blogs. You can be that new author.
If your blog tours and author interviews and author retweets aren't getting you anywhere or you've reached a plateau, try sending out actual press releases. Yes, to announcements sent to real news media. You'll need to learn how to write one, but it's do-able.
A press release is an artform unto itself, the same way a marketing blurb for your book's back cover is different than writing the book, itself. Writing a press release is something you can learn. There are great online resources (some of them right here on my blog!) Just spend the time learning or hire someone to do a press release for you. I haven't offered my services for copywriting like that yet but I'm considering it, given the lack of choices for Indie Authors to hire someone who "gets" our industry's specific challenges.
Some good sites to find experienced and connected copywriters include my top two favorites: Copyblogger and PR Web. You'll also find tutorials on both sites for learning how to do it for yourself.
The Launch Problem & Motivational Solution
You can never throw enough money behind advertising of an unknown or weak name to make publicity just "happen." You'll go bankrupt trying to generate buzz for a Brand through advertising spots.
Instead, ask yourself what category you can create in which the new Brand can be first and therefore, the leader. See Immutable Law of Marketing (for Indie Authors) Law 1 and Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) Law 8 for more on Law of Category.
Then ask yourself these questions. Does the new category have publicity value? What slant or angle can you use to motivate consumers to prefer the new category over the one you're positioned in now? This is your motivating factor and without that, launching a new category just moves yourself out of the fast-moving category. Combine the launch of a new category with a strong motivating factor and publicity will follow all on its own.
Tomorrow in my Tuesday Tip I'll be looking at the new "permalink" from Kobo Books and other news from the Smashwords blog. I hope you'll join me then!
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