Full Frontal PR: Getting People Talking about You, Your Business, or Your Product

Full Frontal PR: Getting People Talking about You, Your Business, or Your Product

by Richard Laermer, Michael Prichinello

Whether looking to promote a person, a business, a product, or even an idea, with "Full Frontal PR," anyone can design and implement a simple plan and earn essential media coverage—without a large budget.


Whether looking to promote a person, a business, a product, or even an idea, with "Full Frontal PR," anyone can design and implement a simple plan and earn essential media coverage—without a large budget.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For a public relations professional, Laermer might have succeeded too well with this book: it could threaten to put firms like his own, RLM PR, out of business. After all, write Laermer and co-author Prichinello in this do-it-yourself guide for snaring publicity, the PR industry's dirty little secret is that "you can create the buzz factor yourself." Among the tips: adopt a media-friendly approach that cultivates friends rather than making enemies; use a host of tactics like embargoes, leaks, source filings and exclusives to your best advantage; and give yourself a leg up by knowing what time-pressed journalists are looking for and handing it to them on a platter. The authors bolster their case with examples of good and bad PR: e.g., how BigStar, an online movie retailer, spun its competition with Blockbuster into a David and Goliath tale, or how Kozmo.com's reliance on the media's love affair with its CEO compromised its ability to deliver on its promises. Some troubling references slip in (Laermer's own staffers watch the movies Wall Street and Boiler Room to get revved up for pitching journalists, and the authors admit "someone once told us that media people often dislike PR practitioners a lot"), but, that aside, this is a valuable road map to the land of buzz. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Get People Talking About You and Your Product
compiled their successful PR strategies into a book designed to teach companies all the things they need to get their messages out to the masses. Filled with a variety of case studies and personal anecdotes, Full Frontal PR guides readers through the PR process from beginning to end while providing dozens of insightful hints and strategies that can spread a message and get people talking.

The authors have been creating buzz for years with hundreds of successful PR campaigns. Their experiences have provided them with the know-how to make a product or service stand out against the rest. In Full Frontal PR, they have compiled their vast experience into a guidebook for creating buzz that includes strategies for building relationships with reporters, creating a "hook" that will capture the attention of the news media, and following through to keep the media's attention on a product.

News Works Better Than Ads
The authors write that press coverage is far more powerful than advertising to spread the word about a product because it validates a company or product in readers' minds; advertising, on the other hand, can be easily lost in our media-saturated society because there are already too many paid-for messages out there. To tap into the potential of the news, the authors explain that it is best to aim for the legitimate press because it is the best way to generate interest and enthusiasm for a product - people are much more inclined to believe the news over the ads.

Creating and sustaining buzz, and defusing bad buzz, should not be left to chance. Managing the risks of buzz is crucial to the success of a product, so the authors present several ways firms can keep a message fresh and consistent. They also offer many tips on how to communicate when things go wrong.

Along with advising readers to watch their step, watch the news, and watch the competition, the authors explain how journalism works, and how firms can benefit from being timely and responsible when dealing with journalists. To become a dependable PR news source, company representatives must be able to make a professional sales pitch. To do this, and beat the odds of making it through a journalist's line of defenses, the authors explain that PR people must:

  • Provide a local angle. This allows the journalist to please his or her target audience.
  • Relate to a bigger story. Piggy-backing on a major news story is a great way to break through.
  • Sell with a celebrity. When the hottest people wear your wares in the hottest places, you've got your hook to distinguish them from the competition.
  • Do your homework. Be a source of valid, newsworthy information for reporters.
  • Follow through. If a journalist shows interest, find a way to give him or her your information, yourself and your time.
  • Be courteous. Understand how the media work. Treat journalists with respect.

A Foundation for Buzz
To attain the goals of your PR strategy, the authors say you must create a foundation for buzz. Start with an analyst meeting in which executive members of the company discuss their strategy, finances and investments with research analysts. Beta testing comes next, and works best for hardware manufacturers. Providing B-roll video showing your message through action is a good idea, too. Preparing for the unexpected with a Plan B can also help you answer tough questions if a negative situation arises. Embargoes, events and exclusives can add volume to your buzz.

The authors describe the best ways to plan for interviews, leaks, media tours, and press conferences, and explain how to create press kits, press releases, surveys, and video news releases, and use wire services.

After helping readers prepare for media coverage, they provide numerous examples of how to make the most of an interview, and how to go the next step and become a respected source of future information.

Why We Like This Book
The authors of Full Frontal PR have created a useful and detailed plan for anyone who wants to generate word of mouth. Their light-hearted and conversational tone throughout make this a fun read that is packed with valuable examples and actionable tips. While providing readers with the strategies that helped them become successful purveyors of PR, they also get them started on the path to national recognition by offering a list of important traditional and Internet resources. © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Product Details

Publication date:
Bloomberg Series , #74
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.64(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.89(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Full frontal PR

getting people talking about you, your business, or your product
By Richard Laermer Michael Prichinello

Bloomberg Press

Copyright © 2003 Richard Laermer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57660-099-8

Chapter One

Word of Mouth

A few years back, the low-budget box office battering ram The Blair Witch Project swept through suburbia and became the chatter around town. School buses chock-full of would-be movie crashers compared rumors they'd picked up about the movie. Was it "really" the true story? Were those kids really missing in ... the woods? And did the Blair witch really live in Hoboken?

Hmm. Water-cooler conversations about the film couldn't be quenched, so with a bantam marketing budget that could support little more than buzz, The Blair Witch Project used word-of-mouth PR to turn over big ticket sales and humongous box office numbers.

Blair Witch serves up the lesson that exposure is not only about media coverage; the best exposure still comes from old-fashioned word of mouth. It doesn't come about by accident, though. Starting buzz on the street level is a deliberate step that needs to be as well thought out as getting yourself on the couch of the Today show, only even more so! Look, here you're asking an entire community to buy in, not just a producer or two.

The most efficient way to generate exposure is to get word ofmouth started skillfully and maintain it with artful diligence. You can do this by using all the techniques we'll discuss later in the book, but throughout the course of this chapter, we will identify classic methods of provoking hype, one rumor at a time.

The techniques here also handily blur the lines between traditional PR and marketing. This is an important distinction, for understanding both word of mouth and other aspects of PR, so let's digress for just a moment. Rather than being separate processes, PR and marketing should work with each other to strengthen a unified message. That goes against the textbook approach, but it is definitely true. Many firms we've worked with think that PR is a substitute for marketing. In some cases, management even decides not to have a sales team in place, because they think PR can drive sales right to their door. PR is not a direct-response medium. It builds awareness of and perception about a product in order to increase the response rate of direct-marketing campaigns. It isn't a replacement for them.

One of our clients is a serial entrepreneur who focused all his efforts on a PR launch, with nary a single marketing effort. He called us about a five-minute local TV piece that we'd arranged, which was essentially a free ad. "No one has signed up in response," he wailed. You'd think he'd know better. Bottom line: PR isn't a Band-Aid or super crazy glue for business. It must be integrated with your marketing campaigns. If you do it well, and in conjunction with marketing know-how, would-be consumers should hear your message loud and clear.

Going Verbal

NOW, LET'S GET BACK to word of mouth. One great way to start people talking is by stirring up the lexicon. Coining a great new phrase is one of the first things you should do, because putting the word out is just that. Get some influential or hip people to start using your great new word or phrase, and you'll start some powerful word-of-mouth buzz.

Being able to turn a name into a verb and convincing people to accept your trademark as the embodiment of the field you toil in isn't easy. But if you do it right, your name will be the first one that leaps to mind when consumers think of great new electronics gadgets, say, or the best store in a five-state area for stocking hard-to-find wines and beers. Then it's a short leap to associating you and your product with the industry standard.

In 1999 our firm, RLM, launched a now legendary national firm called Kozmo.com. Able to deliver any movie and Jujubes candy to go along with it (in addition to shaving cream, milk, the morning paper, and even, uh-huh, Crazy Glue) to your door in less than one hour, Kozmo.com was poised to make a fundamental change in urban living. But first people had to hear about it. We started speaking about one-hour delivery as being "Kozmo'ed." Why go to the corner store for the Times when you can get it Kozmo'ed? That was the idea.

The big concept we had-to start introducing the word into the vocabulary of trendy people everywhere. Hip people all over New York City began using the verb-no matter where you went, people stopped saying, "I want a delivery" and said instead, "Let's get this Kozmoed." Talk about awe-inspiring word of mouth. The term really picked up when Kozmo announced a partnership with Amazon.com. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw the value in kozmoing his books and chainsaws, and Amazon soon reported an upswing in sales and Web traffic.

More recently, Google.com, the Internet search engine, discovered that it had become part of the Internet generation's slick new vocabulary. Hipsters in the single scene found a new use for Google's search-engine capabilities. They started using Google to pull up their dates' digital histories to find out where their mysterious strangers had been and what they'd done on some other enchanted evening. Witty culture writers at New York magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the Observer picked up the "Googling" practice in the singles scene and put it into overdrive, making Google the most popular search site on the Web for a while.

When you're trying to drive buzz about your product in this way, you have to use the new word whenever you can, in conversation and in writing, to get people truly to start using it and to make it stick in the collective memory. This is not an overnight effort, but the effects can be powerful, and they can last a lifetime. For example, take the example of Marilyn Loden, author of Implementing Diversity, who wrote on women and diversity. She coined the phrase the "glass ceiling" to describe the barrier women had to face in the workplace, especially those who were gunning for top positions. Because it was such a vivid image of the current corporate culture, it became part of the collective conscience of the country.

But it couldn't end there. Loden knew that without support, the phrase would sputter into oblivion, and it was too important a sentiment for that. To give it life and momentum, Loden, now considered an expert in women's issues, used the term everywhere she could. It peppered her interviews and other public appearances. The media picked up on it and began to use it in the context of every woman in every business story, on the air or in the papers. Loden's work paid off, and "glass ceiling" became a two-word term everyone knows to describe a complex social issue.

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star

IF CHANGING THE LANGUAGE is one proven approach to attract attention, another is to speak your customer's language. In 2000, Business Week inked the term "buzz marketing" across the cover of one of its April issues. The magazine was rolling the curtain back on a new technique that smart companies were using to get the style-conscious excited about their product. The idea is to get the admired or influential to talk up your brand, to make it cool and desirable.

Vespa, a kitschy European scooter company, did this with great flair. The company sent out beautiful, lanky models in droves for a drive (on scooters) through the scene-setting streets of Los Angeles. But beauties on bikes weren't enough to make an impression. To notch up the style quotient, the models would pull up to outdoor cafés in small groups, park out front, and sit down for a cup of latte and conversation about the scooters that got them there.

Eavesdroppers and gawkers in earshot of the chai-sipping Vespa models not only sucked up the vision but their conversation, too. Instantly they saw the European scooters in the same beautiful light as they saw its drivers. Vespa knows the power of influence and those who wield it, and in this case, influence lay not with the media, but with the people whom the media follows. Vespa knew how to pick a hot location, too. For a fraction of the cost of one TV ad, they had people in the most trend-setting neighborhoods clamoring for their scooters. Be on the lookout for them everywhere!

There is one important thing to remember, though: Even hypereffective word of mouth can't save a bad product. In 1995, Twentieth Century Fox was about to unwrap its latest big flick, Nine Months, in theaters across the country to much expected fanfare. Ironically, given the movie's parenthood subject, its salient British star, Hugh Grant, was caught canoodling-not with his superstar girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley, but with a prostitute, just days before the launch! The "talk" swirled out of control. Papers in America and Great Britain slapped his deer-in-the-headlights look on front pages, and the rumor mill kicked into high gear.

The following week, Grant appeared on the Tonight show in a much-hyped appearance to talk about the allegations, his relationship with Elizabeth, his unfortunate judgment, and of course, the movie. But now here's the clincher. What Twentieth Century Fox must have chalked up as a celestial stroke of great luck turned out to have zero effect on its bottom line. Because the movie was dull and uninteresting, even the biggest gossip scandal of the year couldn't bump the numbers up.

Movie studios are often more successful than that at using word of mouth to give movies a second wind. In 2000 Warner Studios saw strangely low numbers for Proof of Life, starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. Its box office ranking was a disappointment, given the star power of the movie. But with the advent of digital video discs, movies now have a double life after the big screen.

Before the movie went on sale in DVD format, the studio's internal press people leaked a rumor that chemistry had bubbled over between Ryan and Crowe during the shooting. The rumor created huge curiosity on the part of movie fans who wanted to see if the onscreen twinkle in their eyes seemed real, spiking sales of the flick. Or, as we heard many people say, "I had no desire to see the movie on pay-per-view or video, but then again, I did have to wonder ... hmm." That's all you have to do: Get them to wonder.

Fan Fare

THE 2002 OSCAR AWARDS were groundbreaking, everyone said, because Denzel Washington and Halle Berry swept the Best Actor and Best Actress awards, making it the first year African-Americans took those honors together. PR pros noticed another groundbreaking occurrence, Sandra Bullock's singularly exceptional word-of-mouth campaign for Listerine's tiny new PocketPaks (or "oral care strips").

Before Sandra made it to her seat on the arm of Hugh Grant, she managed to mention her spanking-new, cool little Listerine tabs to Joan Rivers, Jules Asner, and every other camera-wielding social arbiter on the long, red carpet. The breath-mint technologists tapped into 20 million people around the world, all tuned in to see what they should be doing next to be "in." If you flipped through the channels on your remote (for those who couldn't get a ticket!), you could actually see Sandra do her shtick from channel to channel as she progressed down the red carpet.

The brilliance of it is that she didn't obviously plug the product. Rather, Sandra simply worked it into every conversation, offering a tab to the interviewer or marveling at its small packaging. Again, it's an example of using trendsetters to make conversation.

As a side note, we'd also like to also remind our readers that Listerine's parent company, Warner-Lambert, did a fine job of getting the little PocketPaks breath strips into the hands of dentists for nearly ten months before its release. Dentists, like our brokers, are people we supposedly trust.

But sending out samples of a product in this way is often hit-or-miss and very expensive, to boot. Warner had the money to get a mouth-enriching product into dentists' useful hands. You may not. But influencers in a town or city sure can help you get the word of mouth started.

Tying a Buzz On

OKAY, LET'S SUPPOSE you don't have access to movie stars or scooter queens. There are still plenty of ways to get the buzz going. In major cities, parties are the way to spread the word-with, of course, fancy gift baskets that are handed out at major celebratory/commemorative/charity events (the three Cs). If you know people who run those, or can get to them, and the events have some kind of tie-in to your product, give them a call and offer to help as much as you possibly can. Also, remember that influencers don't have to be on red carpets or shiny scooters. They can be anyone who sways opinion, such as your local mayor, PTA president, or smooth-talking CEO. The key is to find the person who spends the most amount of time administering to the circle you or your idea travels in.

For example, what about that longstanding and much-maligned newspaper institution: the gossip columnist? Cringe all you like, but here in New York, nothing gets the buzz on the streets flowing faster than Page Six in the New York Post. Everyone from Howard Stern to Extra recounts the missives on this page, the fertile soil where buzz takes root and grows.

But you don't have to track down a Michael Lewittes or a Richard Johnson to get serious hype, since most local papers have at least one rumor mill, if not more, for you to tap into. A note explaining what the buzz is will suffice, and if your pitch is airtight (for that you actually have to read the rest of the book), your big idea should be the talk of the town.

Gossip (see sidebar, "When You Want Someone's Attention, Just Whisper") is a powerful tool, and it rarely backfires if you wield it well. One of the first things broadcast producers do every morning is trawl the rumor columns for salacious fodder. If you've done the heavy lifting and actually managed to get your item placed with Cindy Adams, Liz Smith, or one of the other columnists out there, clip that piece fast and work it.

And put the power of time zones to work for you. When pitching a gossip piece, unless it's extremely local in subject, pitch it to a paper on the East Coast. The East Coast works three hours ahead of the rest of the country, so when your rumor hits print, you still have an hour or two to fax it to all the other news stations on the East Coast. Then you have another two hours or more to send it west, before the sun rises and Los Angeles producers broadcast their shows.

Take It to the Streets

ANOTHER GREAT WAY to create word of mouth is to take it to the streets.


Excerpted from Full frontal PR by Richard Laermer Michael Prichinello Copyright © 2003 by Richard Laermer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Richard Laermer is CEO of RLM PR (RLMpr.com). A renowned speaker, he is author of seven books such as the bestseller "Full Frontal PR" and "2011: Trendspotting". He hosts "Taking Care of Business" on TLC and is a commentator on CNNMoney.com. He lives in New York—and on tons of airplanes.

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