Interview with Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman
Marsha Friedman

“The term celebrity isn’t just reserved for the stars we read about in the tabloids, but rather, it also refers to experts who are known for being the tops in their chosen fields, many times removed from movie and TV stars,” says Friedman, author of Celebritize Yourself. “Whether you’re a doctor, financial advisor, real estate broker, used car sales person, or even a waiter, you can celebritize yourself in any field.”

Sometimes I am amazed to find that the most notable individuals are the warmest and most generous with information that we all can use to take our brands and our businesses to the next level. Besides being an incredible entrepreneur, Marsha Friedman is a mother of three and the founder of a non-profit organization called the Cherish the Children Foundation. In 1996 the White House recognized her charity which sets out to raise awareness of the plight of underprivileged and foster children. Listen up while Marsha shares some actionable tips you can use today!

Today it seems anyone with a talent, product or service expects to be notable in record time. We’re in the microwave age as some call it. How do you temper your clients’ expectations and set realistic goals with them?
When it comes to tempering expectations, it’s not only about their desire to be notable in record time, but another issue as relevant, if not more so, is the misguided expectation that their PR campaign is going to immediately and directly result in sales.

We frequently have to educate our public that PR is not advertising; and that these two activities (PR and advertising) are distinctly different. The ROI for advertising is sales, while the ROI for PR is what I call, marketing gold. A successful PR campaign is about building your reputation, building your fame, your position as an authority and becoming known as an expert in your field. It’s certainly a lot easier to get sales and new clients when you’re quoted as an authority in the press or you’re interviewed as a guest on radio and TV. That implicit third party endorsement is priceless.

But back to your question about becoming notable; I write about this a lot because many people do have unrealistic expectations about the effort it takes to achieve that level of success. We’re going on our 22nd year of business and I know from my own personal journey with building EMSI, and building my position as an expert in PR the amount of time, energy and effort that’s been required to get where we are today. The truth is it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment to your goal.

In your LinkedIn group Celebritize Yourself I notice you actually take the time to respond to many of the posters’ comments. Have you found LinkedIn to be a valuable source of new clients/prospects?
I not only find LinkedIn to be valuable, but social networking in general has been very helpful in all facets of my business. It’s an amazing marketing tool that I wish I had 20 years ago when I started this business. And, while it can be very time consuming, fortunately I enjoy the process of sharing valuable information, responding to questions and comments, and helping people with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained.

I’ve had people on my mailing list for years and years and there are too many times to count when someone calls and says, “Marsha I’ve been following you for 5 years and I’m finally ready to come on board!”

In an article you wrote last year in April you suggested targeting bloggers as a potential outlet for promotion. I believe so few are taking advantage of this and don’t realize the potential there is in using established bloggers as vehicles for their products and services. Could you share your thoughts further?
Absolutely. The reason to target bloggers is because they are actively working to build a following, so if you have a message that plays into the needs of that blogger’s audience, then it’s a great funnel to reach your target market.

Another area I’ve learned a lot about through you is regarding press releases. It seems many throw press releases out into the universe like a deck of cards, hoping someone, somewhere will read it and make contact. As most who’ve tried have discovered, it’s not that easy. Could you share a more effective way of using press releases?
If someone wants to play the PR game successfully, the first thing to understand is that the media’s mission is to build audience share. So when writing that press release, you have to get yourself into the mindset of the media and give them a story that will be valuable to their audience so they’ll stay tuned in. And, that’s where most companies miss; they throw press releases out that completely violate this very basic marketing principle. A press release about a new VP that’s been hired or a new office you’ve moved into, or a new product you’ve developed, either goes into the “delete” bin or to the advertising department to sell you ad space. Your press release should never be focused on you or your company activity, but rather, on information that’s valuable enough for the media to want to share with their readers, viewers or listeners. If you can help the media engage their audience, that’s when you’ll start seeing a response.

What makes a prospect a good fit for your company? Have you ever had to turn a prospect away and if so, why?
A good fit for my agency are clients with a book, product, service or message for the masses – for consumers. My favorite clients are those who really understand what PR is and its value as a critical marketing tool. They understand that PR is an ongoing activity that’s required to stay relevant to their audience. Lastly, they enjoy being interviewed by the print media or appearing as a guest on radio or TV.

Yes, over the years I’ve had to turn prospects away and for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is when someone comes to me with a message that goes against my personal philosophy or belief. My measure is if I can’t get behind the message, I don’t want to promote it. I enjoy the opportunity of promoting any message, product or service that is going to benefit people and have a positive influence in their lives so this is a critical policy I live by. There have also been prospects I’ve turned away when I didn’t believe their message would interest the media. I have to be selective in this way because we’re a pay-for-performance agency, which means that our service is fully guaranteed so it’s another important deciding factor for us.

That being said, I don’t know of any company who is more expert at developing newsworthy messages for clients. That’s the mark of a good PR, and I think we’re one of the best in the business at that.

I loved Celebritize Yourself. Will you be penning another book anytime soon? (And if I mail you my copy would you autograph it?)
I’m so glad you asked. In fact I do have an updated version of Celebritize Yourself with about 4 new chapters on social media marketing. Patricia, I’m happy to mail you an autographed copy!

There’s one more question I have that’s a bit off the grid. Your foundation Cherish the Children Foundation uses 100% of its donations to provide for foster children and children of the working needy. That’s almost unheard of. How did the organization come about?
I set up the organization about 20 years ago in an effort to help children in need. It was Christmas time when I had the idea originally and I thought it would be so wonderful if I could bring some happiness into the lives of foster children in my community. After doing some research, I learned that the foster children in my county didn’t have a Christmas party of their own and had to crash a Christmas party of a neighboring county. So, I built a volunteer organization to create a party that made them feel very special and which included great entertainment, a large spread of foods they love, dancing, games and of course Santa who gave them an armful of gifts to go home with, (always new) and to cap off the excitement of the evening. Then throughout the years we’ve been asked to do other events and activities for the foster children and their families and that’s how it evolved. I have to say, it’s been a most rewarding experience to be able to bring a smile to the face of children who have known more trauma in their short lives than most people have in a lifetime.

I love what you do, Marsha. Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you Patricia for the opportunity to speak to your readers.
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To learn more about Marsha Friedman visit Celebritize Yourself.


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  • Sandra

    I have posted this article on a Facebook networking group that I belong to. I adapted one of the quotes to assist our efforts on Facebook:

    “If someone wants to play the PR (Facebook) game successfully, the first thing to understand is that the media’s (Facebook’s) mission is to build audience share. So when writing that press release, (or posting on another’s business page) you have to get yourself into the mindset of the media (that business) and give them a story that will be valuable to their audience so they’ll stay tuned in. And, that’s where most companies miss; they throw press releases (or posts) out that completely violate this very basic marketing principle. 

    A press release (post) about a new VP that’s been hired or a new office you’ve moved into, or a new product you’ve developed, either goes into the “delete” bin or to the advertising department to sell you ad space (or in our case gets ignored). Your press release (post) should never be focused on you or your company activity, but rather, on information that’s valuable enough for the media (or your followers) to want to share with their readers, viewers or listeners (or friends). If you can help the media (others) engage their audience, that’s when you’ll start seeing a response. (shares)”

    • Honestly, Sandra, if applied well, the tips Marsha shares in her book are so useless.  For instance, not knowing better, my first press release was all about me, me, me and some more of me and what I’d developed.  No wonder it got little feedback.  When you tie a good press release into a current event, that’s when it gets further reach.  I’m constantly on the lookout now for local events that my news could tie into.