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Archive for the 'PR' Category

The magic of “thin credentials”

March 27th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Recently I got an email notifying me that I had been nominated to
be included in the latest edition of one of the Who’s Who (WW)

Now, being smart and sophisticated, you may be laughing already.

“Bob, you maroon,” you may be thinking. “Don’t you know that
Who’s Who is hype and a scam — meaningless, worthless, and
bordering on fraud?”

Well, in some ways it may be. It is definitely a marketing ploy,
and not a genuine award or honor.

But there is a counterargument, and it is based on a simple
notion: perception equals reality.

YOU are smart and savvy enough to know WW is mainly a way for the
publisher to make money from marks who are, shall we say, perhaps
a wee bit susceptible to flattery.

But right or wrong, many in the general public — including some
of your prospects and customers — see Who’s Who as real.

Therefore, if you add “listed in Who’s Who” to your bio, doing so
causes your star to rise a bit with these people.

As a result, your WW listing is yet another block (albeit, a tiny
one) in the foundation of your reputation as a guru or expert.

And as we know, being an established guru in your field helps
sell more of your products and services.

Now, “Who’s Who” is a specific example of a broader category of
self-promotion I call the “thin credential.”

I define a thin credential as an honor, award, membership, or
designation that you (a) proactively pursue mainly for its
promotional or marketing value, and (b) sounds more impressive
than it actually is.

Also, if obtaining the thin credential requires study, courses,
and tests to earn it, the individual seeking it often does these
things primarily to get the certification or designation — with
the education and knowledge gained being secondary if that.

For instance, decades ago, I trained as a Certified Novell
Administrator (CNA) — not so I could become a working network
administrator, but to earn a certification that would show my
credibility as a copywriter in the IT niche. And, it worked!

One word of warning: If you get a thin credential, do not
overplay it. Be low key. If you strike up the band, and your
audience knows it’s lightweight, you’ll come off looking silly,
egotistical, or both.


Category: General, PR | 322 Comments »

Should you ever give a talk for free?

November 21st, 2017 by Bob Bly

I was recently asked by a trade association to give a
presentation at their national meeting, which is out of town and
would require a plane trip to reach.

As a member of the organization, I know they do not pay speakers.

And out of loyalty and fondness for them, I offered to waive my
usual 4-figure speaking fee and do it for free, as long as they
covered my expenses — and of course let me attend the event on
the day of my talk free of charge.

They immediately responded:

“Bob, the terms you specify are eminently reasonable. However,
they are not what we had in mind.

“Paying your travel expenses would not be possible, and we also
normally expect speakers to attend the conference at a reduced
fee — though there is possible flexibility there.”

I quickly sent off a quick email:

“Thanks for the kind invite, but I have to pass.”

Was I insulted?

Not really.

Many organizations don’t pay their breakout session speakers …
and many people accept these invitations gladly.

In my early days, I did too, because speaking at meetings
attended by potential clients was a good way to promote my

However, for many years, the demand for my copywriting has
greatly outweighed the supply, which is sharply limited by time.

And so the incentive to speak without fee is no longer present.

In fact, when the group first invited me to present at their
upcoming event, my original response was as follows:

“Thanks for asking me. I’d love to do it.

“When I speak without my usual fee, I attend the conference … on
the day of my presentation only … for free.

“The sponsor organization pays all my expenses including airfare,
ground transportation, food, and lodging.

“If the presentation is videotaped, I get a copy of the mp4 and
the right to use it however I wish.

“I also get one ad in the organization’s e-newsletter, also for

But they would have none of it.

So there’s little or no motivation for me to go.

And that’s the end of the story.

Except for this:

I am still a member. And will be for as long as I live.

I love the people in the association — both those running it and
my fellow members.

And if they ever have the meeting in NYC, which is just an hour’s
drive for me, I’ll do it for free in a flash.

But pay for my own airline ticket and hotel?

That’s where, rightly or wrongly, I draw the line.


Category: General, PR | 255 Comments »

Don?t Blow PR Opportunities

November 20th, 2009 by Bob Bly

The other day, I asked someone for permission to reprint a short tip of hers in one of my books.

?Fine,? she said. ?As long as you credit me as the source.?

?Sure,? I replied.

?And include a link to my site,? she instructed.

?Of course,? I said.

?And run my full bio in the back of your book.?

Huh? I thought to myself.

?And I need to see the entire chapter with my article so I can review the context in which you are placing my material,? she demanded.


?And when you first mention me, give the name of my consulting company and a description of our services.?

Oh, really?

Almost needless to say, I thanked her politely for her time, ended the call, and her article will not appear in my books.

The lesson:

The more conditions you place on usage of your content, the less chance there is of your material being used.

When I am in the role of content author dealing with a publisher, I ask only that the publisher credit me as the source and include a link to my web site URL.

I make no other demands or conditions.

When YOU are a content author seeking distribution of your materials, only ask for credit and for a hyperlink to your site.

The easier you make it for others to use your content, the more of your content they will use.


Category: PR | 71 Comments »

H&R Block’s PR Nightmare

February 24th, 2006 by Bob Bly

Union Carbide’s Bhophal and Tylenol are classic cases of PR crisis management. And now we can add H&R Block to the list.

It was announced on the radio this morning that H&R Block screwed up its own tax returns, and owes the IRS $32 million in back taxes.

Already, according to the radio report, H&R Block has lost 250,000 clients as a result.

If you were the CEO, marketing manager, or PR firm for H&R Block, what steps would you take to manage this PR crisis?


Category: PR | 74 Comments »

Bad PR for the PR Profession

September 18th, 2005 by Bob Bly

In her new book ?Bait and Switch,? Barbara Ehrenreich writes: ?PR is really journalism?s evil twin.?

?Whereas a journalist seeks the truth, a PR person may be called upon to disguise it or even to advance an untruth,? says Ehrenreich. ?If your employer, a pharmaceutical company, claims its new drug cures both cancer and erectile dysfunction, your job is to promote it, not to investigate the ground for these claims.?

PR practitioners: Is Barbara way out of line? Or right on target?


Category: PR | 79 Comments »

Dead Tree Media: Not Dead Yet

December 8th, 2004 by Bob Bly

Rick Bruner, an active blogger and my polar opposite in all things marketing, questions the effectiveness of my use of traditional media ? specifically, articles I write for DM News

He derisively refers to trade journals and newsletters as ?dead tree media,? and suggests that online communication, like blogging, is really where it?s at.

I?m not so sure.

So far my blogging has brought me a lot of fascinating discussions with bloggers (about 80 posts in its first week), but no posts from potential clients.

My DM News articles, on the other hand, bring me more than a dozen leads per article, all from the direct marketers who are my potential clients — because that?s who reads DM News.

My ?dead tree? medium is highly targeted. I am not sure who reads blogs ? but DM News has an audit-verified circulation of 50,000 direct marketers, which is my target market spot on.

Here?s my quick take on online vs. offline media?.

Online is more high tech, more today?s hot topic, more the flavor of the month, more appealing to the under 30 crowd, and more interactive.

Online is easier to respond to, and the response and discussion is immediately visible to everyone on the Internet. The conversation can spread like wildfire, which is a real plus.

Offline is more traditional, more appealing to the over 50 crowd, and has greater selectivity.

Anyone can publish a blog, Web site, or e-zine. That?s why David St. Lawrence calls blogging ?Citizens Publishing.?

But not everyone can get published in Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal ? or convince McGraw-Hill or John Wiley & Sons to publish their book.

And that?s why these dead tree media, unlike a blog, give the author a certain status and credibility that self-published online writings, like e-books, do not.

The best tact is a mixed-media approach: For instance, I am a regular contributor to dead tree media including Writer?s Digest and DM News. And I am the author of 60 books published by such mainstream publishing houses as Prentice Hall and Amacom.

But I also publish a blog, a free monthly e-zine, and downloadable free articles and special reports available on my Web site.

Does anybody have an opinion on which is better ? traditional paper publishing, online publishing, or a combination? What has worked for you guys?


Category: PR | 209 Comments »