A big part of marketing is gaining attention. But what if it works? Are you ready?
You’re working hard to make something big happen. You’re publishing articles on your blog, turning them into podcasts, and repurposing them on Facebook and LinkedIn. You’re making silly TikTok posts, hoping to go viral. You’re creating YouTube videos that reveal your engaging personality. You’re on Instagram showing off your big, shiny teeth.
Here’s the deal:
At some point, something you do is probably going to work.
You’re going to get your 15 minutes of fame. Of course, in the current era, it might be only five minutes, but it could be big–really, really big.
It could be your cryptocurrency and divorce article, or your primer on startup formation, or your video on flying-car liability. You don’t know when something is going to stick, but when it does it might mean–
A tsunami of attention
You’ll get a call from The Today Show, or This Morning, or Good Morning America, and you’ll hyperventilate while they explain that they want you to fly to their studio tonight (in your flying car, maybe). Your phone beeps and buzzes with calls and texts from the other major online news websites. Your email box fills up and your social media accounts get slammed with direct messages.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Your website gets 750,000 visitors in 10 hours, 2,000,000 people hit that LIKE button, and you get more new followers than you ever imagined.
Your website is struggling to stay online; 3,000 inquires are submitted on your contact form. Your phone is blowing up with 1,200 calls and 4,200 text messages. That little chat thing on your site is having a nervous breakdown.
Why are you doing all this work?
I played for attention in lots of ways. I published, I pitched stories to journalists, I built out an educational website, and I experimented with each social media opportunity that presented itself.
I figured I’d mostly make small bits of progress, but I always dreamed of doing something epic. I figured it might happen one day. I might do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, and see some big results.
And then …
I stood there facing seven TV cameras at once in the lobby of the Wake County Register of Deeds Office. My big plan had been to get a local TV reporter to show up, but suddenly we were getting national press. I didn’t have time to be nervous because I’d already fast-forwarded to scared. Prepared? Um, not so much.
As I plodded along, doing what I did, I hadn’t see it coming. To be fair, it’s impossible to know which idea is going to be “the one.” I knew I was making progress, but it’s hard not to dream of the big leagues, when you’re holding your “Divorce Lawyer Celebrates Valentine’s Day” party, or giving away marriage licenses outside of the courthouse.
Those moments came along in various ways at various times. They were never Michael-Cohen-Big (Trump’s personal lawyer) and I never ended up in federal prison, but they were big to me. I made it into publications like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. I had media moments with Dr. Phil, Geraldo, and all the big news networks. I did interviews with Associated Press, Reuters, and more.
When my few minutes in the spotlight came along, I enjoyed the terrifying moment. But did I fully exploit those moments, as the business opportunities they were?
Can you handle success?
I won’t relive my brief moments of fame for you. They came and they went, and the only lingering memory is that our divorce lawyer marriage license stunt got turned into a question on Hollywood Squares (an old TV game show).
When the spotlight shines on you, whether it’s on traditional or social media, it comes fast and then it’s gone before you fully appreciate what just happened. It’s over before you know it.
The question is: are you ready?
When something big happens and the flood of attention rains down on you, it’s important for you to be ready if you’re going to turn the attention into bank deposits.
The attention won’t linger while you think of what to say, or how to present yourself, or what you want to tell people to do. The deadline for the next story is looming, the thumbs are already poised to scroll to the next item in the feed, and nobody is bookmarking your ten seconds in the sun so that they can revisit it when you have your act together.
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If you’re not going to be ready, why bother soliciting the attention?
This is your moment and you’d better be prepared to maximize it, or you ought to not be investing your time and attention in chasing such a moment. When your moment arrives, you must be ready, because there’s no time for planning once the phone starts to blow up.
How can you be ready?
You can’t handle it alone
We’ll each have our own plan for managing the attention. Our situations vary and our audiences are different. But the one thing we all have in common is that our current staffing isn’t sufficient to handle a short-term dramatic increase in workload.
Those website inquires aren’t going to answer themselves. The phone calls and messages won’t get a response if you don’t have some help. The media calls will get lost in the flood of other messages if you’re not prepared to triage the incoming.
The solution is typically a combination of temporary support staff and automation. No matter what you choose to do, it’ll likely be inadequate. But having any plan is dramatically better than having no plan.
Your plan will involve tools, coupled with temporary humans who can jump into the fray immediately.
Tools and temps and cookies are the answer
Let’s talk about some tools first.
There are more tools in these categories than I can possibly mention. You’ll need to find the right tools at the right price for your particular use case.
You need to realize when the spotlight turns your way. It’s not always obvious if you’re out on the back deck in the hot tub. Tools like Keyhole and Talkwalker monitor specific keywords–like your name, practice area, geographic area, etc.–and will wake you up from your hot tub slumber before you shrivel up. They’ll know before you do that the clock has started running on your fifteen minutes of fame.
Google Analytics can alert you when the traffic floods to your website–if you’ve set up the proper triggers in advance. Your site will get hit hard if you blow up on social media. Everybody will go looking for more information about you. Hopefully, you’ve already built a website providing them with what they want to know.
Google Tag Manager is another tool you can organize in advance of your moment in the sun. It’ll let you know where the attention is coming from, by tagging incoming traffic to your web presence. It’s good to know the source of your sudden fame because that allows you to tailor your responses going forward. Who are these people expressing sudden interest in you? Tag Manager will give you clues.
You also need cookies (not Chips Ahoy) for your website. By tagging the sudden influx of visitors you’ll be able to reach back out to the crowd after the dust settles. Cookies allow you to present online ads to the visitors who showed up during the wave of attention, and remind them that you can help. Clearly they’re interested and they’d like to hear from you. But you’ve got to have a remarketing plan in place before your fifteen minutes of fame happens, because you can’t cookie those folks after the fact. You’ll only be able to reach them if this is all set up before your big hit.
Of course, your website and social media accounts need to be ready to capture as many leads as possible. A strong lead capture system built around an automated email responder (we use Active Campaign) along with lead capture advertising needs to already be set up and running. It should simply be doing its small bit each day to help you with your marketing, so that it can blossom when the flood of leads arrives.
Bottom line–you’ve got to know the wave is coming before it hits the shore, and you’ve got to be prepared to capture that energy as it crashes into your beach.
You’ll need some people too
Most of us can’t afford to operate year-round as if we’re always waiting for a huge number of unexpected inquires. The costs would be too high and we’d have people twiddling their thumbs.
We need an elastic support network that’s ready to expand into the wave of attention and inquires.
Simple solutions, such as phone answering by firms like Ruby Receptionist, allow for rapid expansion of phone answering. Using a service like Ruby for after-hours phone answering year-round positions you for rapid expansion of the service when you need them to handle thousands of calls coming in quickly over a day or two. If you’re already up and running with such a service, it’s a quick switch to level up your plan.
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The same is true with virtual assistant services that offer a team approach to helping you. They can expand your assistance in an instant, because you’re already a customer.
Firms like Ruby and Belay can step into the fray if you’re already using them. But you’ve got to have them ready. Simple things, like putting the call from the Wall Street Journal or the NBC reporter ahead of the call from the crazy woman in Belarus (true story), must be part of your procedure that’s in place before the onslaught. Visualize what’s coming and build your system in anticipation of what’s expected.
You’ll also want specific assistance with media relations, which will help you plan for what’s next. Having a prior relationship with a media relations firm will be of great value to you when the wave hits. Keeping a few small projects rolling year-round puts you in a priority position when you’ve suddenly got big requirements over the short term. Knowing there’s someone you can call for help is incredibly reassuring as you head for the studio, with that lapel microphone attached to your suit jacket.
As you’re contemplating your fifteen minutes of fame, get some media training. If you’re on your way to the studio, it’s too late for training. Now is the best time to get some help. We’ve all watched politicians move from the minor leagues to the majors. They’re pretty awful when they first step onto the big stage. The differences aren’t subtle. You won’t be given time to improve, so you need to ready on day one. Media training is an investment that will pay off whether or not you ever end up on CNN. You’ll use your improved communication skills in the courtroom, or to convince your four-year-old to go to bed. Media training is a smart investment regardless of how you use it.
No regrets: be ready
Most of us read something like I’ve written and figure we’ll deal with it later. We assume we don’t need to get ready right now.
That’s a mistake. The steps I’ve described won’t hurt you with the normal level of interest you get now. These steps will streamline your process so that you save time on a daily basis.
You may not see it coming now, but it might be coming soon. That’s the nature of unexpected events–they’re unexpected. That live stream from the courtroom might capture you saying something funny, and ninety minutes from now you’re a YouTube phenomenon morphed into a duet on TikTok. It happens. On the other hand, it might not happen. It’s hard to predict the unexpected.
You may never have a huge influx of interest in your business. It may never happen.
But if it does, you’ll regret not being ready. Don’t set yourself up for regrets, when preparing costs so little and helps you out over both the short and long term. Having a plan in place is a win, whether the tsunami of attention strikes or not.
If you’re working toward gaining attention, it’s imperative that you assume it’s going to work and get yourself ready. Otherwise, you might as well not bother.