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Pop! Goes Publicity
By Karen Williams Villanueva
August, 2005, 04:08

Sometimes a great PR campaign idea hits you like a thunderbolt of consciousness.
Sometimes it's just the minutiae of life that can trigger PR synapses to fire.

It's not always some lengthy, well-thought-out preparation or full-blown PR campaign. Sometimes it can be a passing comment that has found its way to the surface of someone's consciousness and spills forth from their lips in a matter-of-fact way, and hits you like a thunderbolt.

Or perhaps you believe in signs and wonders and you perceive such moments as divine intervention. Whatever it is, it's a less-is-more moment. A small thing that can yield big results.

And it's not to say that as a publicist I haven't thought of all-inclusive campaigns, but, sometimes, you reach an impasse and need a jolt to get the creative juices flowing again.

One such thunderbolt conversational gem that took place at the Route 66 Diner outside Sante Fe:

"Yo, Karen, thanks for lunch, really dig the green chile cheeseburgers here (a New Mexico favorite). Oh, yeah, I've got this weird association with the dry cleaners and have to press on. So, gotta go."

And the words hit me, association, press -- Associated Press. Here I was thinking about how I could get maximum coverage for a book that was really a local/regional enterprise. Then it struck me, thanks to that idea-triggering conversation, that sending it to the Associated Press in our area could yield more than regional results.

When you deal with local branches of the Associated Press, more often than not the story stays regional. But every once in a while the subject matter appeals to their other bureaus and, once it's on the wires, it can be picked up in other territories.

So, not wanting to let the enthusiasm of the moment dwindle, I packaged that sucker up (replete with its beautiful photographs which demonstrated the then and now of New Mexico from the mid-1800's to present day), dropped it by the desk of the entertainment editor that afternoon, and, again, voila! a phone call a few days later from the editor.

Yes, he was interested in meeting the author (a photographer and freelance writer whose day job was surveying and photographing the landscape and ancient cultural sites for the government) and when could I set it up. I contacted the author, checked out his schedule and lined up a few days that might work for both parties.

The first date fell through, done in by a quick and unexpected visit from Prince Charles (ooohhh those ears, like handles on a soup bowl, lovely). Undaunted, I politely pestered for another date. A week later, schedules coordinated, it happened. They met at an outdoor location and both thoroughly enjoyed the interview.

When the piece came out it was a much larger story than I had anticipated. Let it be emphasized that an interesting and gracious interview subject can make the difference between a small article and a sumptuous feature. It hit our region as well as several surrounding states.

Then a few days later we found out the story (printed sans the regional appearances and booksigning events information) was picked up in New York, Hawaii, California, among others, and went almost fully national. Not at all surprisingly, that book was the year's bestseller for the well-respected but regional publisher.

So, one never knows what little thing will lead to bigger and better things -- a passing conversation, something that infiltrates your mind when listening to the radio, something you see in a magazine that gets you thinking, whatever. It's in being receptive and oftentimes, impulsive that you can jump-start the mind into PR action.

Recently a Toronto friend said, "I can't wait to go the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), and automatically my mind went to CN-E? Hmm, CN-N! And I've got this novelist who writes about sports and he'd be perfect for... yada, yada, yada.

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Karen Williams Villanueva is the owner/operator of Karen Villanueva Author Services. A publicist for 20 years, first in the world of rock 'n' roll, and for the last 10 years as a specialist in book PR, she's a transplanted Torontonian living in Albuquerque, NM. Website:

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