Promote A Book: Advertising or PR…Which Should I Do First?

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advertising or pr

Promote A Book: Advertising or PR…Which Should I Do First?

“Results” is the name of the game! As Jim Rohn, world renowned business philosopher, author and public speaker, would say, “The reason there’s a box on the activity sales report is so that an excuse won’t fit! I just need a number!” After all, a business is not a charity, it does not exist completely for altruistic purposes; we want to make a profit! The question, then, that begs to be asked is, “So how do I promote a book?” GOOD QUESTION! Let’s take a look at advertising and public relations (PR) and when should each process be used when you promote a book.

The Proliferation of Advertising

Often people tell me, “I want to promote a book. How much should I spend on advertising?” I always tell them the same thing: advertising to promote a book is not the way that you should go with your initial dollar spend to market a book. Advertising has been around for as long as there has been print media. With the advent of the radio, television and the Internet, it constantly barrages our senses! We have become so desensitized to advertising that we no longer pay attention. You are trying to promote a book so ask yourself, how often do you flip channels during commercials? How impactful are magazine ads and billboards to your buying decisions? When was the last time that you paid attention to a pop-up banner ad? Now I am not saying that there is no need or use for advertising to promote a book, but rather that how it is used is crucial to a successful marketing campaign. I will discuss how it fits shortly.

Al and Laura Reis, authors of “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR (Harper Business, 2002)”—a must read for all serious business people that want to promote a book—explains that the reason advertising is ineffective for launching a new brand is that advertising has no credibility. Think of it! When you see an ad, do you think, “Gee, that is a real informative piece that makes me trust the vendor who has no other agenda than to enlighten me about his or her product.” Or, do you think, “That’s a biased ad that is telling me what the company believes I want to hear, so that I will buy their product?” If you answered the latter, as most people do, you’re in the majority! And that is exactly what people will do if you try to promote a book with advertising and do not think the process through very carefully. According to Al, on a “Public Perception of Honesty” survey, advertisers ranked 2nd to last; only 1 point higher than a car salesman. The perception of most is well illustrated in the Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson video, “Say, Say, Say”. Watch the video, it needs no more explaining.

Public Relations: Start the Conversation

Public Relations (PR), used to promote a book and which is very misunderstood by many, has the opposite effect! People like their favorite radio and TV shows, and read the magazines and newspapers they trust. So, when something is spoken or written by these celebrities, who are trusted by their followers, it carries the weight of an official endorsement! When was the last time that Oprah recommended a book that was not a best seller? When she decides to promote a book, it usually shoots to the top seller’s list overnight! Whether you agree or disagree, Rush Limbaugh affected the presidential primaries in 2008 by his suggestions. And, while people are tuning out commercials, they are avidly listening to their favorite TV and radio host.

Moreover, when you are trying to promote a book, PR allows you to communicate with the audience, as an expert, and have a 5 to 20 minute conversation (depending on the medium) with an implied third-party endorsement. With an ad, you only get 2 to 5 seconds for a print ad, 30 to 60 seconds for TV or radio commercial, WITH NO CHANCE TO CONVERSE! How can you possibly promote a book when you have so limited of time? People no longer want to be sold; they want to be part of the conversation. So, which would you prefer, a 5 to 20 minute conversation with an attentive participant or an inattentive consumer taking a fast glance at an ad where you are trying to promote a book?

Another value that PR has that advertising cannot deliver when you promote a book, is the ability to solidify your base of customers. How so, you ask? Ask yourself, if you were using a product or service and you saw or heard the CEO of the company on TV or a radio talk show, being presented as an expert in his or her field and answering the questions that many have on their minds; would you feel a sense of comfort that you chose the right company and that they knows what they’re doing? Moreover, would you be more or less likely to refer a friend or colleague to this company? Remember, it is easier (and cheaper) to keep a happy customer than it is to get a new one! And, happy customers refer others! Talk with them… not TO them. Public relations to promote a book is unquestionably the answer.

So what should I do if I want to promote a book? Another great question! First, start your campaign by using PR. PR brands by burning your name or product into the minds of the public; advertising does not brand, it only supports an already established brand. Second, once you start, do not stop. It takes hundreds-of-thousands of lbs. of pressure to get a locomotive going. But, once it’s moving, it takes very little energy to KEEP it going! Finally, once you have branded yourself, product or service to promote a book, then and only then start an advertising campaign. You see, after it is known, it’s a matter of keeping it in front of your stakeholders. This is where advertising shines!

So start the conversation, feed the communication and let the public come to like you! Remember as you promote a book that people buy from people they like! When you have done so, you will be able to say that you have made mankind your business and the world your office.


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