By Suzanne Falter-Barns
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take your work into the world and share it with others. But unless you can reach those all-important others, your mission is bound to be a dud.
But fear not. That’s why I’ve created this website and my Get Known Now Program; because after nearly ten years of building my own platform, I truly see it as one of the most critical things anyone who consults, coaches, writes, speaks or runs a small business can do.
Simply put, your platform is your reach in the world; it’s the degree to which your name is known and your work is recognized. It’s your following. It’s your buzz. And it happens to be the single most important factor that literary agents, radio bookers, news directors, T.V. producers, publishers, editors, magazine people, and even big-time publicists use when determining whether or not to work with you. More than one literary agent and editor in major publishing has told me they seldom consider proposals for books from writers with no platform.
Why? There are several answers, depending on whom you ask. Book industry types need authors with platform because the publishing houses no longer have marketing budget to sell books besides those at the top of their lists. That means they rely on unpaid publicity to sell books, i.e. airtime on radio and TV, and write ups in newspapers, magazines and websites.
Meanwhile, radio and print media folks are simply looking for the next big thing – or trying to anticipate trends. So if they run across an expert with a platform that is quickly brewing, they’re interested. Buzz begets buzz. In addition, TV and other major media bookers need to know that the guest they trot out in front of millions is a proven entity, so they tend to really check you out in advance. They want you to have a website, media clips, a great press kit, a video reel. Thus your platform works as a kind of public pre-approval which reassures media bookers. And all of these folks have less time to do more, like the rest of us, so they need everything they’re offered to be laser-like in it’s intensity and clarity, easy to access, and loaded with reasons why. A big platform certainly helps get the point across faster that you’re someone they should feature.
So your ability to ‘break out’, as it’s known in the media, is not about the nobility of your cause or even, ultimately … sigh … the depth and quality of your work. It’s all about how many people already know who you are and what you do. Like right this minute. Before all that great TV and magazine exposure even begins. This has to be this century’s biggest catch-22, because how can your work actually get known unless you impress all those folks listed above?
It can, in fact, if you’re methodical about self-marketing and you plan to put a good year into it. Ultimately, platform for beginners is all about your ezine list – and how many people are actively signing up to hear from you on a regular basis.
Here’s a list of ten things the media and publishers look for in good platform. These items are not the only thing you might offer these folks. And you certainly don’t have to have all of them in place to be appealing to publishers and TV producers. But they are a help.
A healthy platform should include:
1. A hearty ezine list of 5-10K
2. A distinctive brand name or position (i.e. Dr. Phil, the Fly Lady, the Frugal Gourmet)
3. A website that has energy and style, and reflects the brand heavily
4. Optimized methods for capturing names on the website that help grow the ezine list
5. A blog linked to the website, and a blog promotion program
6. Major media clips, or regional ones that can inspire stories in major media
7. A video of excerpts from TV appearances (for more senior platform builders)
8. A tightly put together media kit
9. Excellent quality, high resolution black & white and color head-shots that can be downloaded
10. A book or audio CD produced by a major publisher
How does your own work measure up? Have you got good platform yet? If not, you might want to check out my Get Known Now home study program. It’s a massive 265-page binder that puts it all together in loving, road-tested detail. You’ll learn everything from how to define your brand, set up your web site and build a great media kit, to how to get those all-important major media clips and TV sound bites.