Monday, November 22, 2010

Ms. Strumming

Ms. Joy,

I have a new online guitar lesson business and I struggle with being in the limelight. I think it's because I'm not comfortable with my looks and, especially in person, I get nervous when I'm being looked upon by others with anticipation or judgment. I've tried all the online marketing ideas I can think of that don't require me to personally be the center of attention, but my website is still hardly known and visited. Do you have some new publicity suggestions?

―Strumming in San Francisco

View my video column response to Ms. Strumming below:

Ms. Strumming,

You struggle with issues that most people wrestle with and you are not alone. Putting this aside, my first suggestion would be to stop marketing. That’s right. Stop marketing to people and start engaging them. Whether you choose to put yourself directly out there or keep pushing the product without yourself at the forefront, you need to stop marketing. 

It doesn’t matter what type of folks comprise your target audience, if you create a campaign that provides experiences, you’ll create real connections. Real, loyal connections will establish your brand and help the word spread because you can use these contacts to help you publicize your business.

At first, online guitar lessons can sound cold or impersonal. Redirect focus onto the fact that through the internet, you can teach anyone anywhere in the world how to play the guitar and, it becomes pretty cool. You can indulge anyone’s passion for music and desire to play the guitar. This is a gorgeously human thing so, relate this other human beings in a way they can feel and hear and see.

Make your campaign speak as passionately and as enthusiastically about learning an instrument as you would. Think of some ideas that people can experience, such as video content. If you don’t want to appear in the video content, then use your past and current customers. Ask them to send in video testimonials that you can share. While you’re reaching out online, try an online song competition. You can advertise it through social media and utilize online voting. Then competitors can wrangle voters from their own networks.

Speaking of networking, ask for referrals and offer folks something interesting for their referrals. You could try a giveaway competition where the top referrer wins something cool like, a guitar maybe. (hmm?)

Also try to find offline, local events that can yield visibility. Look for music, education, or self-improvement related things. Find ways to partner with these events and perhaps have one of your local students demonstrate the skills they’ve acquired through your online lessons.

Music is passion. It uplifts, enraptures, electrifies, soothes and woos. Hell, half the dudes I know that play guitar only learned so they could score chicks! All joking aside, music can embody how we feel about love and life itself. That makes it magical. Grab that magic and infuse it into your campaign. Ignite it in others and you will see results because you’ll make connections that people will love and they will love your brand. 

Keep rising!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mr. List Builder

Ms. Joy,

For the past four years I’ve been promoting my private fitness services in the Boston metro-area. I offer clients mobile services as well as access to my private studio. My team has gathered a mailing list of over 8,000 friends, family, and associates but, we’re not successfully growing our Facebook fan page.

We currently have 100 fans. Out of these 100 fans, we’re lucky to have 4 or 5 actually comment or even email us. Come to think of it, our open rate for our mailings is only 40% and the newsletter has never actually resulted in sales for us or potential client inquiries.

I’m starting to suspect that we’re not engaging our list. Do you have any tips for growing our fans and engaging them?

―List Builder in Boston

Mr. List Builder,

Suspicions can be good and, in your case, it seems your instincts are spot on. It’s difficult to imagine how you can have a mailing list of 8,000+ but struggle to get over 100 fans on Facebook. This may be able to be resolved by asking yourself Who? and What?

Sheer numbers are not the most important thing when it comes to growing a mailing list. You can have a million people but if these people aren’t interactive, what is your list really doing for you? A mailing list of only 10 people who are all spending money, interacting, and promoting your brand for you are worth more than 1,000 silent folks who never even open your mailings.

First, take a real look at who comprises your list. It's time to channel your inner CIA-operative and gather valuable intel. Categorize how many are friends, how many are family, and how many are associates. Out of these people, figure out who would make good brand ambassadors and help spread the word about your business. Figure out what your list spends money on and what kind of money they spend on services like yours. If you don’t have any of this info and are clueless about answering these questions, that’s your first sign that you don’t know enough about your list.

After you figure out who is on your list, you then need to figure out what your people want. If they’re not interacting, it is probably because they don’t understand how interacting with you will benefit them. Incentive is a great way to engage. Most business people think a sale is the best way to entice but, you may need to start with a contest. A contest is something they can win without having to spend money and everyone wants free stuff.

Invite your list to fan you on Facebook and offer them a chance to win something they want if and when they become a fan. Facebook fan pages are set up under your business name but they really belong to the fans.

These methods can get you started. To keep growing that fan base, you’ll have to keep communicating with and learning about your people. Knowing them is the only way to know what they want.

Keep rising!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Ms. Real Deal

Ms. Joy,

This is so crazy I don’t know where to begin. I have some crazy person online pretending to be me. I’m a singer/songwriter/dj with a lot of famous friends. I travel and gig internationally. I do photo shoots for magazines and TV interviews where I can. I’m working extremely hard for everything I’m accomplishing.

Like everyone else on the planet, I use Facebook and Twitter, but I have both pages protected. I didn’t want everyone to have access to me. I really just want both sites to be for my friends, family, and close supporters.

About 3 weeks ago, someone got a Facebook page under my name, well, sort of. They spelled my first name wrong but the profile picture they’re using is from my bio on my website. They’re sending Facebook friend requests and emails to my celebrity friends, claiming to be me and saying that I lost their cell number. Now this person is on Twitter, too!

I don’t know what they want. Is this an attempt to destroy my reputation? Are they trying to cipher off my career? I’ve heard about this sort of thing before and people stealing other people’s identities to get gigs overseas. How can I protect my name and my work from this craziness?

― The Real Deal

Ms. Real Deal,

Identity theft and cyber-impersonation really gets me riled up. In the south, we describe this level of anger as being .38 hot! The problem is neither legislature nor the law have caught up with this type of foolishness. Once you put something online, you lose a lot of control about what people do with that material. Photos, music, content, and everything else you can imagine is constantly stolen online. There are some steps you can take to protect your reputation, but control will always be an issue. A method you can implement is what I call the Triple A technique: Assess, Acquire, and Assert.

First, you need to examine the situation and figure out how insidious the impersonation is. Do a Google and Bing search and see if your name is popping up in weird places or attached to events you know nothing about. See if the liar has a website under your name or is strictly on social media. If they got a website, you could try to acquire their true contact information through it. If they are only on social media, you’ll have to alert the proper contacts at those sites about their false representation.

Once you’re done assessing the problem, you can start to acquire what you need to regain as much control as you can. One thing you might want to get is an attorney (another “A” word) but, meanwhile, you can start to acquire variations on your name or brands. Go to, a free online resource that lets you get what usernames are available on all social media sites from stumbleupon to youtube. Get the various versions of your username that are still available so no one can easily name-jack you.

Since your predator has already gotten a fake and misspelled username on Twitter and Facebook, see if you can acquire the Google Adwords for that misspelled name. Google Adwords let you pay per click. You can have the Adwords come up every time someone searches that misspelled name and have the ad direct them to you instead. All of this acquisition- the usernames and adwords- can be done within an hour.

Lastly, you need to assert that you are the real deal and that the other person is a perpetrator. I advise you to acquire before you assert because you never want to forewarn an impostor that you’re coming for them. Those were the scenes that I always hated in Lifetime movies. Don’t show your hand before you assert.

Once you assert, go full steam ahead! Have your attorney send cease and desist letters to the culprit and contact the appropriate social media executives. Alert your friends and supporters through private communication such as email or by phone that an impostor is on the loose. Tell them exactly what usernames your impersonator is using so that they know not to communicate with the liar.

If the impostor has fraudulently attached you to events or placed your name in weird associations, contact the appropriate people concerned and clarify the situation.

You may never gain total control again, but these steps will help you diffuse some of the lies.

Keep rising!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ms. Lost Angeleno

Hi Ms. Joy,

I have been acting for over 10 years in New Zealand and Australia. I’m really well known back home in New Zealand although I haven’t done any work there recently. I moved to LA ten months ago and haven’t been working much here, either.

I’m very experienced and smart but I don’t know the right people just yet. I’m slowly getting there. I need to get in front of top Casting Directors and Agents. I have US theatrical representation but I need better agents. I don’t have a Manager here so I don’t really have anyone making introductions for me in LA.

I’ve been handling my own publicity and put together a website, I listed myself on and I also have a Twitter and Facebook page. Nothing’s really happening from any of those sites, though.

There are lots of reasons for me to stay in the US career-wise. But me not working back in New Zealand and staying in front of the people who know me is killing my career. I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t know what to do to get things going here and keep things fired up back home. I don’t know how to meet the right people. I’m not sure how to get myself out there. What should I do?

- Lost Angeleno from New Zealand

Ms. Lost Angeleno,

It’s gutsy as hell to literally jump across the world for your career. Yet, that gumption means nothing without a plan of action. Your letter listed desires but, no game plan. You can dream about a better agent and want to meet top casting agents but there is no magic formula that forces the world to fulfill your wants.

So, you need to have backup strategies if your desires don’t materialize as is. PR is a great way to elevate and expand your connections and thereby your possibilities. Your PR plan should encompass networking in the states, staying connected to your New Zealand contacts and fans, and leveraging what you’ve already done.

The first thing that most actors stress out about is getting representation. Still, you may never get an agent or manager- at least, not the ones you want. Worst case scenario is that you never find someone to introduce you to casting directors. Perhaps you should shift your focus to networking with producers and directors. 9 times out of 10, they’re the ones making the final casting decisions anyway. Plus, they’re rarely pummeled by tons of emails from actors begging for work, unlike casting directors.

If you have acquired NZ-based contacts and a fan base, don’t lose those people due to silence. Communicate and stay connected. Create a newsletter. Find countrymen on Facebook or Twitter that have common interests and network with them directly. Reach out to other New Zealander actors who are now based in the states.

Social media isn’t just a way for you to keep talking to people you already know. It’s also an amazing way to be gregarious and establish new connections with strangers.

Since you acquired career momentum back in NZ, keep using it. Connect with the New Zealand consulate and New Zealand film groups with offices in LA. Reach out to New Zealand press outlets that have covered you in the past and pitch them a story about your move to the states. Involve yourself in New Zealand charity efforts and be one of their US-based ambassadors.

There are things that are in your immediate power to change and things that are out of your control. Take control of what you can, mainly, your personal game plan. Strategize, nurture the connections you already have, expand your network, and leverage your value.

Keep rising!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ms. Say What?

Hi Ms. Joy,

My first interview went all wrong. I don’t know what happened. The reporter and I got along incredibly and we talked for hours about my life and my background. We also talked about funny, everyday life stuff and shared stories with each other. I was so relaxed and thought I did great but when I got the interview all my quotes were wrong and the things I thought were the most important got completely left out. What did I do?

Ms. Say What? in San Francisco

Ms. Say What,

What happened to you can happen to anyone. It sounds like you said too much and got off subject. Often, we think that the most important thing to know for an interview is how to be verbose but, a lot of times the real knowledge is in knowing when to stop talking. While you’re being chatty and personable, you want to stick to the facts, drive your points home and not get misquoted.

It’s easy to get relaxed, distracted, and start giving the reporter too much background. By the time you finish, the article is about the time you wrecked the family car on prom night instead of your forthcoming project. It’s easier to stay on point if you give yourself a game plan in the form of a Fact Sheet.

Fact Sheets are simple. They are one page of bullet pointed facts (hence, fact sheet, ahem) that are concise and easy to read. Each fact should be one sentence in length. Keep it simple to memorize so you can recall these points quickly and effortlessly. This will help you stay on subject even if your interviewer wanders off.

Plus, you can always send the fact sheet to the journalist when you confirm your interview. This will help them know exactly what the key messages are and help them shape the story. They may even ask you questions straight off the fact sheet. That practically makes it a cheat sheet.

Outline the facts, memorize them and stick to them. Hopefully you won’t find yourself reading another article about YOU wondering, “Did I say that?”

Keep rising!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Mr. Tied Up

There is no magic button.
Thankfully, we can make our own magic. This addition of ASK JOY weighs the benefits of celebrity placement to an overall marketing campaign:

Hi Ms. Joy,

I'm an investment banker by day, silk-tie designer by night. Since I work in Chicago, I deal with a lot of high-net worth men to sell my ties to, but, someone suggested that I get more celebrity connections. I actually did a gift bag in Los Angeles last year and nothing happened. No press. Nothing! Is celebrity placement really worth it for me and my ties? Why bother?

- Tied Up in Chicago, IL

Mr. Tied Up,

Yep, it's probably worth it. Of course, any celebrity placement you do needs to be smart, strategic, and aligned with your overall brand image.

I'm not sure if that gift bag in LA placed your ties with your target demographics (since you didn't tell me what celebs got them) but, before you agree to do any placement, you need to know some stuff. WHO will receive the ties? WHAT media (if any) will be covering the placement? WHERE will photos be available? WHEN will photos be available?

Once you have these answers you can start to make decisions and figure out how much hustle you need to do. And you do need to hustle on your end. You can't just get a photo and sit on it and expect magic and fairy dust to happen.

Try to place your ties with names that you respect and think adhere to your brand. Target events that will provide the resources to promote your placements. Then, take control and pursue press on your own- take the photos and use them to entice merchandisers and customers. If you do a placement and nothing happens, then take it upon yourself to make something happen.

Just like print articles, ads, TV press, and radio interviews, celebrity placement is just another aspect of publicity. Don't expect one celebrity gift bag alone to be a magic wand. Make everything work in concert.

Keep rising!