Step on a Crack, Break Your Mother’s Motrin

Note sure if this title dates me. When I was a child it there was an expression we said to each other, “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” The idea was that you would avoid stepping on cracks in the concrete, otherwise it would hurt your mom. Something like sticking pins in voodoo dolls, I guess.

This week the Chicago Tribune carried a story called “Company caves to moms’ Motrin ad backlash.” The story includes a link to the commercial for Motrin, which says in way too words that mothers who carry their babies somewhere on their bodies will get back pains. And Motrin will fix the problem. Here’s some copy from the story to put my post in context:

“Offend mommy bloggers at your own peril. They can chew you up and spit you out in a day. That’s what happened to McNeil Consumer Healthcare’s new ad campaign for Motrin. Saturday morning, all was fine. By Monday, a contrite McNeil had yanked the campaign and its vice president of marketing was busy issuing apologies.The offense? An online ad aimed at moms who, the ad surmised, might need Motrin to ease back pain caused by using slings and such to carry their babies.”

This is a funny public relations backlash (pun intended) because first, the commercial is stupid. It goes on and on explaining the justification for pushing Motrin onto women. Second, it shows the downside of advertising in combination with the downward spiral of negative publicity. Let me explain.

As all the marketing gurus will tell you, advertising is about pushing information onto people. Public relations is usually getting a third-party source to say you are wonderful . In the case of Motrin, the third-party sources said that Motrin offended mothers. Advertisers can show how their product solves a problem. However, researching that problem first, can give clues into what might backfire (I did it again).

In this case, Motrin could have done a better job of setting this up. If they had some parenting authority say that research shows that moms that carry their baby on their backs are more prone to back pain, then maybe, just maybe, they could make the argument that Motrin could help. It’s the type of self serving attitude that has worked in the past before the Internet. I remember when I was a child that toothpaste commercials pushed the fact the fluoride in toothpaste prevented cavities based on dentists’ recommendations. So, at least putting a toxic chemical in your mouth made sense.

Some well intended commercials have missed the mark many times and public relations campaigns can miss their objectives too. However, maybe in this case, thinking about the intended audience first and doing some research could have gotten this back on the right track. (I never knew there could be so much potential for puns with the word “back”.)


Is Blogging a Book Author’s Way to Freedom of the Press?

Too many books are like the millions of sperms reaching out for that egg. So exactly how many is too many? Here’s one response that puts the number at 190,000. Actually, I prefer what the New York Times website had to say on the topic. Why does this matter? Because the majority of new books are never promoted. Who’s at fault?

While I don’t want to make my friends at the Society of Midland Authors (SMA) my enemies, I say the author is the main villain. That’s because the author usually puts in the greatest investment of time and effort into a project and does not always think about how their books will get in front of potential readers. That’s why this week, I’m presenting a program for the Society of Midland Authors called, Blogging for Authors. For those who attended the program and saw my Power Point presentation (dowload here) and those who did not, I’d like this post to point to what I talked about as well as a few other ideas.

First, I don’t believe that blogs will save the world. However, they can save your book. Why? Because every book has a unique audience. And traditional public relations cannot handle the demand for the 100,000 plus books that come out every year. Rather a blog is a tool, and even a free tool, that can help you build readership.

One of the blogs I pointed out in my presentation is called Greek Tragedy maintained by Stephanie Klein. Reasons for using it as an model are:

  • Nice clean layout
  • The book covers are a good size
  • The links are set up for interested people to buy her books
  • Every post has several comments (details on this were explained in my live presentation, I saved some good stuff for the Tom-Ciesielka-in-person presentation)
  • The authors “About Me” page is engaging (it also “sells” by showing how much legitimate attention her writing garners)
  • There are several comments on a number of post which shows that she knows how to engage her followers

I also talked about Problogger written by Darren Rowse. Darren focuses on information about how to make money from your blog. Look, I don’t believe that you can spend money with any type of on-line marketing actitivity and make a pile of cash. It’s never been that easy and never will. However, your goal is to become more popular and authoritative, then you must think about “selling” who you are and what you’ve written.

Finally, not referred to in my live presentation is a link to This post walks through 18 tips on how to be a better blogger. Most of which I touch upon during my presentation. Why? No, I’m not a copy cat. Rather, the fundamental rules for building an audience through communication never change. It’s always been about coming up with a compelling message for the right audience and connecting with that audience. Think about the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. (I’m sure most SMA members would not want to seriously think about USA Today.) My point is that they took decades and lots of money to build up their name and audience. It’s no different for an author who is a blogger.

Here’s the difference: You could have a few articles about you and your book in the New York Times (nice for show and tell) and maybe found a few people who will be crazy about your book. However, with blogging, you can search for your audience and build a relationship with them directly. Something impossible with traditional media.

There’s plenty written about blogging and on-line marketing. I’m sure there are many, many Dummy books available. Which reminds me, did you know that Sex for Dummies is one of that series most popular titles? Seems like a bad idea to me. Do you really want those people procreating?

But seriously folks, if you’ve not started a blog, go to Blogger and start one for free. And if you have a blog, please leave me a comment. I enjoy blogging. However, one of my great joys is seeing others use blogs successfully to get their message out.

P.S. I was just reviewing my notes for tonight’s SMA program and found another great source for blog book tours for authors. Helpful information.


PETA – Phony Ethics for Embracing Animals

OK, I’ll admit it, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) makes me crazy. They ride their high horse (probably not, because it would hurt the horse) with how they protect animals from badly behaving humans. To set the record straight, I like animals. I used to have two cats and my wife has a dog that I’ve adopted. Animals should be respected, yet not equated with human beings.

So in this week’s Time magazine, I was amused by an interview with Ingrid Newkirk who is the president and co-founder of PETA. Let’s take a look at a few of her answers to reader questions:

Q: Is there a simple, everyday way people can help animals? James Dodds, KATONAH, N.Y.

A: … if you just change to one vegetarian day a week, that’s a wonderful step that will save animal lives. It means you have chosen something kind instead of something cruel.

So which animals do you chose not to eat? Eat the bigger ones because they are more dangerous? Or eat the smaller ones because they take less time to cook? Which is less cruel?

Q: Have any of your campaigns been counterproductive? Max Wilson, SEATTLE
A: …Some may have caused many of our members to leave us, and they may have caused people to dislike us, but we’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to get people to find out the facts about how animals suffer.

Let me get this straight, you’re an organization that is trying to create positive public opinion in order to attract supporters. And the results you get are that “many members” leave, people “dislike” you, and you’re not popular. Sounds like a winning public relations campaign.

Here’s the laugh for me. Organizations need to avoid having a self-righteous attitude when it comes to standing up for their cause. Sure there are many causes they everyone cannot agree with. However, when by your own admission you see bad blood flowing, then maybe it’s time to call home the dogs (as long as you don’t eat them).

P.S. In the process of looking at Google images for something related to PETA, it returned a whole bunch of nude human figures (pornography for some). PETA is animal friendly, not family friendly.