Words On Words

Learn how to master publicity before meeting the press.
Three new books help you get your message to the media.


Originally published on Monday, February 23, 2004 in The Miami Herald.

Dealing with the press is tough stuff. How Johnson & Johnson interacted with the media during the 1982 Tylenol poisoning case is still studied as a textbook example of how being open and up-front pays off. Those who prevaricate or obfuscate often exacerbate their difficulties.

Fortunately, most routine communication between the press and com panies and individuals rarely affects the future of a product or a firm. But it can.

Here are three recent books that offer advice to those seeking publicity (or avoiding it).

Most Out of Every Media Appearance

How to Make the Most Out of Every Media Appearance. George Merlis. McGraw-Hill. 288 pages.

George Merlis is a veteran television producer (Good Morning America, The CBS Morning News, Entertainment Tonight) who also has trained spokespeople and civilians in the art and craft of dealing with media appearances. Having worked on both sides of the camera and microphone, Merlis understands and ably conveys the inner game of interviews. With insight and wit, he breaks down the component elements of the interaction and shows how to turn it into a win-win situation.

When adequately prepared, one needn't allow an ambush or be forced into straying from whatever message is intended for delivery. Merlis provides a strong context for ensuring that the subject considers every likely scenario so the desired effect is achieved. It's not a totally foolproof formula, but if you're not surprised by errant questions, your confidence and comfort levels rise and success should follow.


Never Say ''No Comment'' Ian Taylor & George Olds. LB Publishing Services. 180 pages

Buy No Comment!

Canadian media gurus Ian Taylor and George Olds present some outrageous, albeit plausible situations to illustrate their points. The entertaining and often hilarious result is also a deadly serious primer for ensuring that you don't get unspun (or spun) by nefarious spin doctors, or interviewers with their own agendas. You'll get pretty much the same stuff here as in Merlis' more serious and businesslike book, but Taylor and Olds' purposeful silliness makes the learning seem like play.



The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity: A Comprehensive Resource -- From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press. Lissa Warren. Carroll & Graf. 336 pages.

savvy authors guide

Nearly all of the publicity people I deal with as a reviewer are remarkably intelligent, helpful and pleasant. They represent publishers and authors, and they ask me to review their books. Simple enough, but a few publicity people who are exceptions to the rule have pitched inappropriate texts (I don't do novels or parables in this space), and a few even tried to get me to review books I'd already reviewed!

Lissa Warren is one of the first and best book publicists I've encountered since starting this weekly column nearly 3 1/2 years ago. She could write a book on the subject, and she has. So thorough is her guide that she even references The Miami Herald's Business Monday Book Club and its immodest instigator, which almost caused the elimination of this gem from consideration for review. Its value, however, is considerable, so ignore it at your own peril if you're an author or a publishing publicist.


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