5 Ways to Make Google Your “Assistant Publicist”

Today’s guest post is by Rusty Shelton, publicist and CEO of Shelton Interactive, a full-service digital agency dedicated to helping authors. I asked Rusty to chime in with advice for writers trying to figure out useful ways to market and promote their books.

Putting Google to Work for You

There is no substitute for working with a top-tier publicity firm with established relationships, but it is also important to understand how important Google can be for authors as an assistant publicist. The media environment has changed dramatically over the past four years. According to Forrester Research, between the years 2000-2008 one in four media jobs disappeared. As startling as that statistic is, when you consider that the time period surveyed is before our current recession really got underway, you can start to appreciate why media members are so overloaded with potential stories to cover.

There are fewer of them covering more stories than ever before and the last thing they have is time. They are so deluged with books, that often the best way to reach them is not by chasing them—it’s by giving them a reason to chase you. As counter-intuitive as that sounds, based on a variety of factors, media members are increasing taking a “don’t call us . . . we’ll call you” approach to selecting those they will cover.

A recent Cision/George Washington University study backs up this trend, finding in a survey of journalists that when researching stories:

  • 89% look to blogs
  • 65% turn to social networking sites
  • 52% use Twitter as a resource

This shift in the way that media members operate has the potential to play right into the hands of authors who understand it and widen their net to catch those queries.

When journalists hit Google or Technorati looking for a “Cardiologist” or “Turnaround Expert,” those credentialed authors who have developed unique and interesting content surrounding the topics journalists are searching for have a great opportunity to not only provide their readers with great value—but also position themselves for more traditional coverage.

 5 Ways to Make Google Your Publicist

Here are five ways to make Google your publicist:

  1.  Push out timely blog posts.Every author should have Google Alerts set on at least five keywords related to their topic area. Each morning, review the stories that are running in your topic area and consider how you can add to the discussion. Odds are the media members are searching for resources and insight on those timely topics and when you create a blog with your take and tag it correctly, you widen your net to attract attention from journalists looking for experts just like you. Extra tip: host your blog on your website and make sure one of the main links will take media members to a “press room” where they can find links to previous media coverage, press materials and contact information for you or your publicist.
  2. Conduct an online brand audit.If I am a radio host and my friends at Smith Publicity have told me what a perfect guest you would be for my show and I Google your name to book you, what will I find? If you don’t currently have a website or any online platform, do I have any way of getting in touch with you? If I can’t find you quickly, I’m moving on to the next guest. If you do have a website or blog, is what I find when I arrive there going to reinforce my decision to have you on my program or make me wonder about your credibility? Also, think about those media members who may not know your name, but are searching for someone with your exact credentials . . . does your website or any of your blog posts come up in even the most specific search? Extra tip: Watch every single video that comes up in a simple search for your name on both Google and YouTube. Put yourself in the shoes of a producer at a top morning show and ask whether or not the video would encourage or discourage them booking you. Take down any videos that detract from your brand.
  3. Pay it forward to journalists doing a good job in your topic area.When you read articles or hear stories in your topic area that you believe are well done, pay attention to the name of the media member responsible and find a way to help them drive traffic to the story. The best way to do this is to search for the journalist’s Twitter handle and drive your followers to the story with an encouraging tweet: “Love this story by @JohnSmith in the Wall Street Journal today (link) Really smart take on this, John.” While most journalists get hundreds, if not thousands of e-mails a day, they get far fewer @ replies and often pay attention to those talking about them on Twitter. One key point is to never pitch with an @ reply on Twitter . . . all of your journalist-related content should add value and contribute to the discussion. Extra tip: Use MuckRack.com to sort and find journalists on Twitter by category and media outlet.
  4. Consider your social media infrastructure as an online press kit. In today’s changing media environment, the first place that readers, media members, colleagues and others are likely to interact with you and your book won’t be at Barnes & Noble or even Amazon – it will be on your website, or perhaps more likely, via your various social media extensions. In many ways, these online extensions make up your virtual press kit, and you must make sure that your branding is consistent and you are providing value across each. Extra tip: Nothing looks worse to media members or readers than a social media extension that hasn’t been updated in months. Don’t set up a Facebook page or Twitter account unless you intend on engaging and providing consistent, valuable content there. If you have social media accounts that you don’t update, cancel the accounts.
  5. Be interesting. Your odds of getting your content in front of a journalist within social media are dramatically improved if you are writing pieces that your readers want to share with their networks. People don’t engage with those who stay in the middle of the road—so be interesting and thought-provoking with your content and make sure you give people a reason to share your insight. Extra tip: Blog titles often make all the difference in the world. Consider ways to spice up your headlines to attract more attention from journalists online.

Rusty Shelton first spoke at Harvard on the changing world of public relations at the age of 23. Now he is the president and CEO of Shelton Interactive, a full-service digital agency focused on helping authors build larger platforms. The firm builds dynamic websites, handles social media strategy and training, and runs digital PR campaigns for numerous best-selling authors. Shelton Interactive is also the lead digital agency for Chicken Soup for the Soul and Harvard Health Publications and has worked with top brands like IBM, Amazon, and others. Contact him at rusty@sheltoninteractive.com or visit their website to learn more at Shelton Interactive.


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  1. Thanks for the interesting and helpful post. I’ve got a long way to go. Your post will be helpful in getting me focused so I can do more of what I want to do. I really just want to write.

  2. I have a debut novel coming out in October 2012, and Smith Publicity is my publicist. I was excited to read this and find I’m pretty much following this, but #3 … I simply didn’t think of. Thanks so much for this great post!

    1. Great tips and especially insightful on conduct and content. Example: using @ before the name you want to mention, and stay OFF the road, be bold. I’ll apply these suggestions when I make the big push self-pubing my latest novel (soon). Will continue to follow and pass on (@)Rusty Shelton sharp thoughts. Thanks.

  3. Great advice, Rusty. While the amount of work may turn some people off, it is simply a fact of life today. The writer must promote and market his or her work. The tips you provided should help many a writer. Thanks.

  4. Great advice. I’m just getting my blog together and seriously focusing on my writing so I needed to hear all of this and more. I will definetly come back to TNW and check yours out as well.

  5. My book (see link) has a pretty good Google presence. But this post is an outstanding reminder of how people (especially media people) actually use Google. Very glad to have found this, I’ll retweet it and also look at Mr. Shelton’s site. Well done.

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