‘Stay Classy,’ Columnists

you, the columnist

This column was originally published in the January 2014 edition of The Columnist, the members’ newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Dave Lieber

Dave Lieber

By Dave Lieber
Columnist, The Dallas Morning News

You, the columnist, are your own marketing department. If you don’t market yourself, no one else will. But how?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus. All necessary tools for a writer’s self promotion, but that’s so 2013.

What’s the latest strategy? Seems that the sophisticates for promotion have decided the best method to gain attention is to show up in unexpected places doing unexpected things. How so?

Poster for the first Anchorman movie

Poster for the first Anchorman movie

I studied the media promotion for Will Ferrell’s new movie, Anchorman 2. As writer Christopher Heine wrote in Adweek, “The wide-reaching social push is unlike anything done before.”

Let’s put it out there that I saw Anchorman 2, and it was ghastly. A terrible movie. But that’s not important here. What matters here is what happened promotion-wise before the movie came out.

  1. Viral videos. The cast made about 50 of them. They were short. They had stories. They were funny.
  2. Paramount Pictures used Tumblr to seed the Internet’s ecosystem with the videos.
  3. With his cast members, Ferrell was a surprise guest on Saturday Night Live.
  4. Partnering with Huffington Post to create ads and also have Ferrell write for the site as fictitious anchor Ron Burgundy.
  5. Ferrell showed up at a North Dakota TV station and helped deliver the news in character.
  6. International bloggers were brought in to write about the movie.
  7. Twitter was used as an “audition” tool to join #TeamRon.
  8. An exhibit called “Anchorman” opened at the Newseum.
  9. Book tie-in. Let Me Off at the Top! by Ron Burgundy.
  10. Ferrell as Burgundy interviewed Peyton Manning on ESPN.
  11. Burgundy is seen on Dodge truck commercials.

Of course, this is sophisticated, expensive stuff. But what can we learn from it? Let’s imagine you have a big project coming out — a book or a special column.

  1. Make a list of all media outlets that might be interested in your project. Figure out if you have a personal connection to a particular outlet that you can call on to get an inside track.
  2. Make short 1-minute videos about your subject and place them on social networks. No need to get crazy. Simple smart-phone videos can work.
  3. Establish a presence on the four most important social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Use them to promote everything you do that’s noteworthy.
  4. Contact other columnists and bloggers you know or respect and make a lighthearted plea to give you some love. Don’t simply ask for publicity. Give them specific ideas that fit their template.
  5. Partner with establishment outlets to host a party or reception. What about the local museum? Or a major retail outlet?
  6. Partner with a strong non-profit that has a wide constituency. Tie your project into the non-profit so they benefit financially or attention-wise and you benefit by gaining access to their list.
  7. Contact groups in your area that bring in speakers and let them know what you are planning and offer yourself as a presenter for one of their programs.
  8. Tie yourself to the news. If news happens that relates to your project, jump on it quickly. Present yourself as an expert. One technique that works is to send a video to TV show producers showing your expertise on a subject and giving a contact number. If they’re looking for a guest expert, you’re right there. But do it fast.

Remember that it’s not your project and you that matters. It’s how you can relate the project to your audience and their needs.

As Ron Burgundy might say: Stay classy, columnists.

• • •

Dave Lieber has written a column for this newsletter since 1995. Read about him at yankeecowboy.com Contact him at dave@yankeecowboy.com .

Editor’s note: Want more? Here’s Ron Burgundy interviewing Tom Brokaw, a 5-minute video.

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