In my new book, So... what are you saying?, I get the privilege of telling a few stories that I hope will be encouraging to readers who are trying to figure out how best to connect to their target audience in their business or personal life.
This one is one of my favorites. It shows the kind of amazing things that are possible when you get the message right.
One day, my good friend Roger Wright called me from his home in Chicago and said that he was working on a manuscript for a book about jobs. I was immediately thinking "Oh, no, not another 1-2-3, pull-these-levers-and-get- a-job-book. That's a subject that has been beaten to death in the book business." But, because Roger is such a wonderful writer, I was curious to read it.
Honestly, I was already pretty sure that I would not take the book.
Then the manuscript landed in my mailbox, and I started reading it and... I couldn't put it down. It was as far from a 1-2-3-get-a-job book as it could be. It was filled with stories and powerful anecdotes that made readers think about their talents and gifts, what their communities needed, and how they could use those talents and gifts to fill those needs.
After reading the book, I agreed to take it, mainly because it fits into my philosophy for what we do here at Articulāte. If it doesn't change the world for the better, at least a little, I'm not interested. I don't want to take projects because we need the business or to keep the lights on. This work is difficult enough when you are fully vested in a book or idea. It's darn near impossible when you are just going through the motions. Why? Because your targets can sense that you are not excited about it, just as they can sense when you are very enthusiastic about an idea or an author.
A Word about Hurdles
I've decided that all great endeavors that change the world start out with one thing in common--seemingly insurmountable hurdles. This campaign was no exception. Right at the onset, I got an email from a syndicated jobs columnist who asked if I had any jobs experts on my client list who would be willing to write a couple of paragraphs about finding work. She suggested that maybe it should be something not typical, and she was looking for new and fresh ideas that were out of the box. Well, Roger Wright has never been in the box, ever. I thought this might be an opportunity to jump-start the campaign at the outset, so I asked him to write a few paragraphs for this person.
Let's just say that the response to what we submitted was tepid at best and outright negative, if we want to honestly appraise it. Basically this syndicated columnist said that Roger was a nut, a "wack-job" who didn't really understand the job-hunting process at all and was even a bit out of touch with reality. What does he mean that "the job-hunting process was not linear"? What does that even mean?
So, our campaign began with one of the top jobs experts in the media saying Roger didn't know what he was talking about. In a way, I should have expected it. But, it blindsided me, and I was very discouraged by her response.
But, we pressed on with our publicity campaign as if nothing like that had ever happened. I started reaching out to the smaller targets to see if we could generate any interest at all. We needed a little toehold if we were planning to climb the mountain.
One day, after a prolonged period of silence in the campaign, a freelancer, Dawn Klingensmith, emailed me and said she'd like to talk with Roger about The Five--his five organizing principles around finding work. I set up the interview and Dawn called Roger. Sure enough, she got what he was talking about in a way that no one in the media had up to that time. She wrote a terrific piece that wound up being syndicated, and soon it appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other dailies around the country.
But, Dawn wasn't done yet. She called Roger again and talked about another one of The Five, and sure enough it, too, appeared in dailies around the country.
I could feel the wheels of the campaign beginning to lift off the runway. These are my favorite moments in my work. After all the pitching and work and messaging, somebody or several somebodies start writing about the book and the author. It's pure elation, quite honestly. I feel like I've won the lottery.
After Dawn's articles ran, a nationally syndicated radio show decided that they would let Roger be interviewed and that interview ran on 150 stations around the country.
All of this activity confirmed what I already knew: Roger apparently wasn't crazy after all, and his unique and completely original ideas were gaining traction.
And, it kept getting better. Next, CNBC.com ran a guest column that Roger penned, and that was picked up by Yahoo Finance before that day was over.
Then, I pitched Roger and the book to Forbes, and it started to get really interesting. My contact there read the press kit and apparently looked at Roger's other national articles and exposure and said that they were "intrigued." Within an hour, one of Forbes' top writers called me and asked if she could speak to Roger directly.
By the way, for the uninitiated, the answer to that question is always an enthusiastic YES! I connected her with Roger at home and she interviewed him for an hour or so. Then, all day long she kept circling back to him on email and asking follow-up questions.
Along about five o'clock that afternoon I got a call from Roger that I'll never forget. He said "You know, Dennis, either I'm a genius or I'm the biggest and most self-delusional charlatan in the universe, based on her questions. She says the story will run tomorrow, and I guess we'll all find out together what she thinks about me and my independently published book."
If you get a chance, go to Forbes.com and read the story:
Honestly, we could have written it ourselves and it would not have been more positive. She totally got it. The hurdle we ran into at the beginning of the campaign was now so far back in our rearview mirror that it was hardly visible at all.
We finished Roger's campaign with a flurry. He is a prolific writer and blogger and one of his dreams was to be a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He also wanted to do a book signing in his hometown of Chicago, and be on WGN-TV.
Every single one of those things happened for him, and I couldn't be happier. He's a good friend, and I understand his mission and the potential that he has to change lives and offer hope to people around the country.
I loved being a part of it for a while.
Here's an important takeaway from this experience for all of us: Don't let the critics take you down. Never settle, never try to fit your ideas into somebody else's narrow view of what it should be. You can't win like that. Be yourself. Be original. Be proud of being your own person and creating something that adds to the conversation, whatever that conversation may be.
And, take the time to figure out how to explain what you're doing, using just the right words. If you get it right, the sky's the limit.