August 15, 2002
A publicity primer tells organizations "how to" on the Internet.
Jewish organizations are increasingly relying on the Internet as a way to augment or even launch fundraising and publicity efforts.
Updates about the situation in Israel fill e-mail inboxes on a daily basis and financial appeals line the homepages of Federation Web sites across the nation.
Locally, the Internet has been a crucial tool for nascent Jewish groups. For example, the grass-roots campaign to save the Jewish Community Centers was quick to establish a Web presence (www.savethejcc.org), and the pro-Israel groups StandWithUs (www.standwithus.com) and the Council of Israeli Community (www.cicisrael.com) both organized almost exclusively online.
According to Michael Levine, author of the best-selling "Guerrilla P.R." (HarperCollins, 1993) and head of the entertainment publicity firm Levine Communications (www.levinepr.com), the Internet permanently altered the way people approach PR.
The low-cost, near-instantaneous nature of the Internet makes it easier to get a message out, Levine says. Something that used to take five days to mail now only takes five seconds. But it's crucial, he warns, that the intended audience is receptive to the message being delivered online.
In "Guerrilla P.R. Wired: Waging a Successful Publicity Campaign Online, Offline, and Everywhere in Between," (McGraw-Hill, 2002) Levine addresses the changing nature of publicity by giving his primer a crucial 21st century upgrade.
"The metabolism of the world has changed more in the last 10 years than in 1,000, but human nature hasn't changed at all. To change is not easy, so people are very resistant," said Levine, who doesn't hide the fact that he himself did not quickly jump on board the Internet revolution.
"I was very resistant when it came to embracing the computer. I was scared. I was lazy. Two things you have to get over for 'Guerrilla P.R.'"
In his first book, Levine detailed how anyone can use the same techniques that Fortune 500 companies employ in multimillion-dollar campaigns, but for little or no money. His "Tiffany Theory" explored how publicity is like gift-wrapping: a gift delivered in a box from Tiffany's will have a higher perceived value than one in a plain box or in no box at all. In "Wired," Levine expounds on this theory: delivering your message online adds a "perceived value and cachet," he writes.
Levine opens "Wired" with a quick-and-dirty orientation of "Guerrilla" basics for PR newbies. Faster than a DSL connection, he explains the Internet, the Web and e-mail, including Netiquette crucial to getting your message out ("There is a fine line between upkeep and harassment where e-mail is concerned.").
"Wired" doesn't delve into HTML or Java lessons, but focuses instead on dispensing advice of what works online: keep it simple, fun and attractive with a clear message.
Also, Web site setup and promotion shouldn't exhaust a nonprofit's budget in order to make an impact.
"Wired" looks at Howie and Lori Levine, who have spent very little on their Web site, ASPEN, an online network devoted to children diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (www.aspennj.org). The do-it-yourself couple bought a book on HTML, found a Web host for $250 a year and listed their site on search engines for free. The Levines also print the Web address on all promotional material. Since 1998, the site has had over 300,000 hits.
Later chapters address such need-to-know topics as the fine art of getting press attention and the importance of damage control.
While the digital age has made publicity more complicated than the good ol' pre-Internet days, Levine says that the innovators who have the brains to get there first are the ones who reap the rewards on the virtual homestead.
"The Internet has increased the demands," Levine said, "but it's increased the opportunities as well."