doing a cartwheel

The publicity stunt is a way of gaining attention for your company that can offer a gigantic payoff--BUT it is always a gamble since there is no guarantee the media will cover it. If you have been trying to come up with a way to make the news, there is a book that can help you increase your chances for a win.

Publicity Stunt! was written by Candice Fuhrman who headed her own PR agency in the San Francisco area for 10 years. Her clients often asked for news-making ideas, so she began to explore what makes an idea so irresistible that it becomes page-one news.

She acknowledges that today, most PR agents disavow any connection with stunts, pointing to their role in creating a client's total image. However, her research led her to an appreciation for the special genius behind the publicity stunt.

Following are examples of stunts that were successful.

Story creation... In the 19th century, fledgling newspapers would create stories to build circulation. The New York Herald sent journalist Henry Morton Stanley to Africa in 1871 to search for the missionary-explorer Dr. David Livingston. He sent back stories all along the way.

Outrageous acts... The publicist for The Return of Tarzan caught the public attention by checking into the Hotel Belleclair in NY City with a large box said to contain a piano. The next day he asked room service to send up 15 lbs. of raw red meat, prompting the management to inspect the room and discover a full grown lion in residence. This brought the police and reporters, and rescued the Tarzan sequel from oblivion by linking the stunt with the movie.

Attracting a crowd... may be as easy as putting a sandwich board on a man and as expensive as dropping $10,000 in small bills from the top of a skyscraper to celebrate a particular accomplishment.

Photo opportunity... Alerting the media to a situation to be created for an interesting photo can lure reporters. The famous photo of Marilyn Monroe on a street grate with her skirt blowing straight up did not just happen --It was a staged event to publicize The Seven Year Itch, accomplished with the help of special wind blowers installed in the grate.

Daring acts, contests, fake letters to the editor, and other staged events are explored in Publicity Stunt!, and Ms. Fuhrman invites readers to share their own stunts which she promises to publish in a sequel.

Publicity Stunt! by Candice Jacobson Fuhrman. Candice Fuhrman Publisher, 1989.

pretty woman

The late Andy Warhol predicted that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. With the proliferation of media and the desirability of having your product or service televised, you could find your place in the sun as a company spokesperson. Are you ready for that?

YOUR PUBLIC BEST by Lillian Brown is "The complete guide to making successful public appearances in the meeting room, on the platform and on TV" (its subtitle). Ms. Brown knows her subject well; her list of credits includes being a radio producer, voice coach, chief TV makeup artist for CBS News Washington Bureau, and personal makeup artist for five presidents, among many other distinctions.

Her advice covers personal appearance, voice improvement, public speaking, handling the media, and TV appearances.

If getting your point across convincingly is important to you, Ms. Brown's tips will be, too. Her list of most frequently asked questions includes: "What colors are best to wear in public?" "At my age, can I change my voice?" "What can I do to avoid stagefright?" Following are some of her insights on these matters, to help you on your way to becoming your public best...

Don't trust your color analysis.
What colors are best to wear in public? Never wear black, red or white, advises the maven. The two extremes of the color spectrum are black and white, and both the eye and the camera have difficulty bridging the distance between the two. White faces in black suits, for example, are not photogenic. Red is domineering and harsh. Wear blues, grays and jewel tones on the platform or on TV. No matter what colors are flattering to you according to your color analysis, they could be publicly insulting. Ladies, keep jewelry to a minimum; men, avoid the red "power" tie- it will reflect red on the white of your eyes. Look on your tie selection as an enhancement of your eye color.

The public will also judge you by your voice. You know you have a problem when you pop the "p" on a microphone, or when your listeners eyes wander or glaze over after you've been speaking for a while, or when you look mature, but your voice sounds too young! Fortunately, none of these symptoms is irremediable.

Exercise to shape up
Ms. Brown gives lots of exercises for voice improvement such as how to breathe so radio or TV listeners won't hear the audible gasp for air through the sensitive mike you must address. Also, imitating your favorite singer can teach you to pronounce your final consonants which is essential to clear diction.

Perhaps you'll never be faced with a media stakeout or press conference, but you may be called upon to accept an award, or to participate in a panel discussion. Stage fright may urge you to run, but hold on. Through preparation, logic and on-the-spot reasoning with your fear, you can conquer this instinct. Rehearsing your talk and visualizing the setting beforehand can prepare you for a great performance.

Here's_a tip for a dry mouth: "Drop your jaw and rub the underside of the tongue against the inside of the lower and upper front teeth. This activates the lubricating saliva glands, relaxing the back of the throat and giving you the moisture you need in your mouth." (p. 122)

We recommend YOUR PUBLIC BEST as an excellent consultation on this subject. Ms. Brown's 30 years of experience will help you be your public best.

YOUR PUBLIC BEST, by Lillian Brown. Copyright 1989. Newmarket Press, New York, NY.

many microphones

What would you do if the local news team or ombudsman phoned or appeared in your office? It could happen to you. Unexpected calls and visits from reporters and watchdogs are made to even the best companies, for unforeseen reasons.

Here is advice from Herb Schmertz on handling the media under adverse circumstances, from his book, Good-bye to the Low Profile. For 20 years Mr. Schmertz was a member of the board of directors and vice president of public affairs for Mobil Oil.

»» Don't let a reporter intimidate you into talking by telling you it's in your best interest to cooperate. He could be right, but the decision should be yours, not his or hers.
»» Feel free to ask the reporter whom else he will interview and what his sources are.
»» Don't allow a reporter to seduce you through flattery or by coming across as a trustworthy friend. In many cases, by engendering a warm, friendly feeling, his aim is to encourage you to say things you shouldn't.
»» Some reporters may use techniques or intimidation such as trying to convince you they are morally superior or represent the public more than you. Your objective is to put yourself on equal footing with the journalist. Remember, you are the expert.
»» Try to avoid saying "no comment."

Don't wait for an emergency to initiate contact with the media. Start now--when there's no story to report.

Treat reporters as you would want to be treated. Don't try to make friends with them, but do try to establish a real relationship so that they can respond to you as an individual instead of as the representative of a firm.

GOOD-BYE TO THE LOW PROFILE. 1986. Little, Brown & Company. Boston.