• 30Nov

    imageI love seeing what my fellow professionals are writing about. I turn up lots of interesting tidbits and ideas from my fellow writers and marketeers, and I like to follow a number of bloggers who manage to serve up with fresh content on a regular basis. One of my favorite bloggers is Carol Tice, an accomplished freelance writer who is not only good at her craft, but good at promoting herself.

    I now want to take a moment to share my admiration for successful freelance writers. The first freelancer I ever met was my Uncle Ed, who was very prolific and successful. In the age before the Internet, he would hear a new joke and mail it to Playboy or come up with a new story idea to sell to the New Yorker or Field and Stream. Uncle Ed was creative and a good marketer, able to sell a story idea to a wide range of magazines. Early in my career, when I was working as a magazine editor in Idaho, one of my good freelancer friends, Hank Nuwer, taught me about the discipline of freelance writing. Hank would rise early in the morning, around 3:00, and spend the next eight hours writing, whether the words would flow or not (which left the afternoon free for trout fishing). It’s that kind of focus and discipline that makes a successful freelancer.

    And as I have been following Carol Tice’s blog, I can see she has the same creativity and commitment to her craft as a freelance writer. Her latest blog post about Sarah Palin inspired me, because the lessons she offers to freelance writers to help them promote themselves can be just as easily applied to any public relations endeavor. Her basic point is that Palin has figured out how to get attention, and keep getting attention. Whether you agree with her views or her politics doesn’t matter, she’s a good self-promoter. I have not seen her new reality television show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” but it has been getting a lot of attention and a fan following. My wife mentioned the show to me over dinner this evening, and even though she is not a fan of Palin’s politics, she said her views of Palin have changed since she saw a couple of episodes of the show. Palin has the promoter’s gene, like Buffalo Bill and P.T. Barnum – she knows how to pack ‘em in and remember why they came.

    And I wish some of my clients could learn from their example. I have been preaching social media to my clients for some time, and the problem most of them have is they are not interesting in being social. They don’t want to invest the energy in promoting their personal brand as an extension of their corporate brand. They lack that promoter gene.

    So here is a quick recap from some of Carol Tice’s tips for freelancers, and why freelance writers or anyone seeking publicity can learn from the Sarah Palin promotional example:

    1. Palin is fearless. She makes a mistake or gets called on some error she makes in a speech and it doesn’t phase her. She just keeps rolling on. I think many PR programs fail largely because of fear of failure. You have to be willing to get out there and take a risk.
    2. Palin loves the limelight. Clearly, she is a believer in the adage that all publicity is good publicity, and she is willing to get other there and mingle to be known.
    3. Palin is not easily embarrassed. She ignores the elephant in the room, like her daughter having a child of out wedlock while she’s running as vice president, and just sticks to her message. None of my clients would be able to show that kind of tenacity in a tough interview.
    4. Palin has a game plan. She is not interested in abandoning the plan just because it didn’t work the first time. She’s refining her strategy and is determined to get elected to higher office.
    5. Palin is clearly different. She is not like most politicians and clearly stands out in a crowd, which makes her easier to promote. And, of course….
    6. Palin is memorable! She makes outrageous comments, challenges her critics head on, and leaves a lasting impression. If I could get more of my clients to use memorable quotes, anecdotes, and sayings that would make them memorable, they would be quoted more often. Too bad we can’t see Russia from Silicon Valley.

    Love her or hate her, you have to admire Sarah Palin’s ability to effectively promote her own brand. She knows how to get the attention she wants and how to stay on message. I wonder who is brave enough to do her media training?

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    Posted by Tom Woolf @ 9:45 pm

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4 Responses

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  • Carol Tice Says:

    Thanks for the flattering mention, Tom!

    You’ve really paid me the ultimate compliment though I’m not sure it’s deserved — that I know how to market myself. I feel like I’ve been blundering along for a couple of years now, and am just starting to get the hang of it… 🙂

    Thanks for being a reader of my blog!

  • Tom Woolf Says:

    Carol – you are more than welcome. My respect for freelance writers continues to grow in a world where we are all self-published. It’s harder than ever making a living putting words to paper (or hard drive if you prefer). Keep up the excellent advice. We all need inspiration.

  • Whitey Bluestein Says:

    Tom, your note is excellent, and makes some of the same points from the PR perspective that my friend, Bob Reich, makes from a political perspective in his excellent HuffPost piece — http://tinyurl.com/23fhjnk — that the Republican establishment doesn’t get the Palin Strategy, in which celebrity allows her to avoid the inside game. Like her or not, she is a natural politican and self-publicist. Incidentally, Reich calls her strategy, “a celebrity game — a snark-fest with the nation’s entire white working class.”

  • Steven Spenser Says:

    It will be impossible for Sarah Palin to ever sell herself successfully as an intelligent person capable of leading a nation. No amount of brand-building or reputation management can create a silk purse out of her sow’s ear. Only about half of her endorsed Tea Party candidates won in the recent midterm elections. Palin couldn’t even get her endorsed Tea Party candidate elected in her own state of Alaska–Lisa Murkowski made history by becoming the first write-in Senate winner in 50 years.

    At this point, Palin is famous for being famous. She hasn’t earned her fame–it came to her through McCain’s disastrous selection of her for vice president. She is destined to become a famous media personality rather than a successful politician or thought leader. As such, she doesn’t need PR to maintain her brand–only to do damage control for the gaffes that are sure to keep on coming.

    If Palin has any PR representation, they’re certainly not worried about how to get her increased exposure.

    Palin is already a national brand, so she’ll be resistant to any plan that calls for her to hide from the spotlight. Her new reality show–which will keep her in the public eye while depicting her sympathetically–is a masterful campaigning tactic that many politicians (which she is not) and would-be politicians (which she is) will consider imitating in years to come. But they won’t be as successful at it if they’re not already a national brand themselves.

    Part of the public’s fascination with Palin is that we all want to see what she does next. Everyone’s waiting for her next gaffe, her next misstep. She has the same, can’t-look-away, attractive force as a train crash about to happen.

    Since she’s being so underestimated, Palin can use that to study privately and begin authoring policy documents that won’t make legislators laugh. I’m sure her goal is to emerge from her seemingly transparent media chrysalis in 2011 as a thoughtful policy influencer worthy of national office. In the meantime, she’ll be able to play the picked-on underdog whom disaffected hoi polloi can relate to, simultaneously serving as a symbol and rallying point for inconsistent voters who don’t understand national issues very well themselves. Right now, she’s building her name recognition by staying in the public eye.

    Palin doesn’t appear to be someone who takes orders well, even for the overall good of the team–another reason I wouldn’t want her a client. Her incentive to contribute to any team but her own will wane as her star power waxes.

    Given her inability to be a major player in Tea Party election results–only about 49% of her endorsements won office–I don’t see how anyone can consider Sarah Palin a major influencer, as some have described her. Being talked about in the news media should not be confused with being able to influence public opinion, affect the national policy debate, or even lead to desired PR outcomes, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes and behavior. Palin has cannily latched onto the Tea Party “movement” but has not made it her own with any original contributions.

    I would not be surprised if Palin keeps the public guessing for a year about her presidential aspirations –the “Will She Run?” speculation will only keep her in the spotlight longer, advancing her ultimate goal–and then choose to remain a media star earning millions annually.

    If she runs for the White House, she stands a good chance of losing. Opponents will tee off on her, and every gaffe from 2007-2008 will be repeated ad nauseum during the electioneering. She might decide that she could have a greater influence off the political stage, at least for the next five years, and try rebuilding her brand for a presidential run two elections from now. If she runs, the risk of being a two-time loser is very great, and has to be balanced against the loss of her media-star platform and all its attractive, ego-sustaining attention and fame. Walking away from being a media star is hard to do for many people.

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