PR & Marketing for the little guy

screenshot of my recent Facebook Ad campaign

PR or Public Relations as defined by is, “A basic definition of public relations is to shape and maintain the image of a company, organization or individual in the eyes of the client’s various “publics.” What is a “public” exactly? A public, in PR terms, is anyone who ever has or ever will form an opinion about the client.”

I recently decided to actually work as a writer again. The interesting thing about this is that, I already had a number of projects completed, from a writing career that started in 1995. I was pretty young at that time and knew I needed to learn my craft so I went to school and studied. I practiced and continued writing producing several books in a number of genres. Somewhere along the way, life interrupted me and I never really promoted any of the work and eventually I stopped thinking about being a writer as a job. This year though I was inspired by an associate of mine (Jay Norfolk owner of Urban Expressions bookstore),  too begin placing some time into the work I’ve created.

I knew that with my job as an instructor at Southwest TN College and my sneaker shop that I really didn’t have the time to promote my work. I took it upon myself to actually seek out a PR person. Now this is were I get to the core of what this article is about… PR. I understand PR. I’ve lectured on it and I’ve taken a no name shoe company to the point where the brand had 9 colleges in the uniforms and had sold 1200 shoes. As a small business person, I helped to create the logo for Loretta McNary and helped develop websites for The Champions Within as well as helped to develop websites and campaigns for the largest basketball website in the south 901 From my own history and work, I knew that it was best to hire a person to run my PR and with that, I signed a contract with a local rep and paid the PR rep 300.00 dollars per month; which is not a bad deal when you consider that amount of work that has to take place for a successful campaign to take place. What I failed to do when I hired the person is to listen to the fact that the person had never worked with a writer before. However, my experiences told me that PR is a business that a person can work in without having worked with the specific person before. It would take some research on the various methods, but with the internet and the simple facts of PR being a local process first before it becomes national, I thought let’s get it.

Unfortunately after two months, I terminated the contract and realized I needed to take over my own PR. In the two months time and 600.00 dollars in, my PR person had sent out e-mails as the initial push for establishing my brand. This along with research was all that I really saw being done. I was not going to pay another 300.00 when the only results showed a decrease in web traffic to my site from what I had done prior to the contract. I am writing all of this to set the basis for what I did in this last month. Since I would have paid my PR person 300.00 dollars this month, I took that 300.00 dollars and implemented my own PR plan. One that I think could help anyone reading this article.

Here is what I did:

  1. I reached out to my local bookstores by e-mail and through Facebook. If you are going to begin a campaign the best thing to do is to conquer your region. I talk about this in the Key Points on this site. Urban Expressions set up a store front window display for me and I was able to work with The Booksellers at Laurelwood in getting Archie’s Psalm into their bookstore. Time spent on doing this about 1 hour. Cost to me out of pocket? Just the amount of time it took to write the initial letter to both bookstores.
  2. I looked at social media as a tool of marketing and began to write on my site about a variety of things and post those to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Cost to me out of pocket? Just the amount of time it took to write the articles and click the social media buttons.
  3. I sat down and looked at Facebook Ads and took 100.00 of the 300.00 that would have been spent with the PR person and did an ad for my book Stages and my book A Man’s State of Mind. I allotted 50.00 dollars to each ad. Cost to me: Facebook only charges once the ad reaches a certain amount of people, but the totals for the ads are on the image with this article. Cost to me out of pocket? 92.00 dollars. The campaign stopped once it reached a certain dollar amount where the ads could no longer win placement. I invested about an hour and a half of time into the Facebook Ads. I change the copy for the ads twice to check what would get me the most impressions and clicks and although I spent 92.00, the ads actually generated sales in paperback and as a digital download on Kindle.

Now remember in two months time with a PR person I hadn’t sold a single book and my traffic had decreased on my site. While the point of PR is not to accomplish sales, it doesn’t hurt when you do get some sales and you can see a more identifiable trajectory in establishing a brand. Prior to working with the PR person these were my totals for Unique visitors to the site:

January: 691

February: 1037

March: 1202

In these first three months of the year, I was writing on the site and using social media. When I decided to work with the PR person at the end of March I stopped doing all of the things I was already doing. I didn’t want to set a false baseline for the PR rep’s actions. If I was already seeing an increase the rep’s numbers would be inflated. The PR person’s work needed its own set of numbers. These were the numbers for the two months of working with the PR rep:

April: 790


Once I decided to not pay the PR rep, I had to reestablish my own marketing which took about a week into June. More importantly the Facebook Ads did not point to my website, they took the people who were clicking straight to my Amazon page where they could purchase the books. Even with the abbreviated amount of time placed into my website, the site saw an increase in June back to 423. However it isn’t even the visits to the site that are important, it is the fact that the books have begun to sell at Urban Expressions and the book was placed into The Booksellers on June 30th. What is even better is that although the numbers didn’t quite balance out with the Facebook Ads, this 1.5 hour investment of time and 92.00 dollar investment produced book sales. Most important is that in 1 month Facebook gave me a verifiable number of people reached:

472,698 Impressions

134 Clicks

.028% Click Through Rate

solid numbers

To finish off the month of June and to continue using the 300.00 dollars that would have been paid out, I reached out to a book marketing person and set up an interview and Q&A to further build brand awareness. I paid 100.00 dollars for this and the time I invested in doing this was about 1 hour. The interview ran on June 30th and is continuing to draw traffic. I finished the month with 108.00 dollars in my pocket and a renewed belief in my writing career. This article is not to trash the PR person, but it is to bring to other people out there much needed information.

Before deciding to work with a PR person, invest some time into a few outlets on your own. You should also do this when sitting down to work with a PR person:

1. Ask to see their website. If a person is working in PR and doesn’t have a website, that should be a red flag. How can that person promote you as a client and work for you if they don’t have a platform that is already established and has its own social media connections.

2. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter as well as placing them into your circle on Google+. This is important because you can actually do a more accurate job of seeing what they are working on in regard to you. You can also share the information that they have created about you.

3. Most important is to gain clarification on the process that the PR person is going to use for you. In lectures when I speak with people about marketing and promotions, I always tell them to conquer their region first. This is the process of finding out the local places that can assist you in promoting your information. For a writer this means contacting local book stores first, and then sitting down and utilizing Facebook or Google Ads to target your markets. I was able to narrow down a particular segment where my ads would be seen by using keywords. If your PR person decides to build your campaign on E-mail, understand that this is a process that will take an extremely long time and honestly fails to attack the new angles available in promotion. Social media is vital and should be the first stage in any campaign.

PR is a difficult thing to deal with, but it’s not impossible. With the experiences I had this month, I most certainly will be running a Facebook campaign again and I am also adding a Google Ad campaign as well as working with another book promotion company that charges 210.00. My goal is to spend 600.00 dollars in two months like I did with the PR person and then judge whether I was wrong for firing the person. As it stands right now, I’m already well ahead with my own results.

Stay motivated

Chris B.