The Clean and Green Club, August 2013

Shel Horowitz’s Clean and Green Marketing Tip, 

August 2013
Before we get into this month’s tip—I’ve noticed that surprisingly few of my newsletter subscribers also subscribe to my blog. This month, I’m making a blatant attempt to get you to subscribe, by reprinting a slightly modified version of something that first appeared on the blog. Starting back in 2004, I’ve generally blogged up to three times a week, covering the intersections of ethics, politics, media, marketing, and sustainability.In addition to the reprinted post that is my main article this month, some entries over the past two months that you might enjoy or find useful include:

  • How to use copywriting skills in complaint letters (a guest post from Jack Forde, who does the wonderful Copywriters Roundtable newsletter that I’ve subscribed to for about ten years)
  • Links to/comments on important articles about utility pricing for purchasing solar power from users, Massachusetts meeting its solar goals years ahead of schedule, and on the impact of fracking on water safety
  • An analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of urban farming, as well as a tour of an urban farm in the Bronx (two separate posts)
  • My positive review of the new Bruce Springsteen movie
  • A look at some of the top green innovations in today’s world
  • Pushback from Europe on the US’s GMO-friendly farm policies
  • Challenging the data assumptions of a pro-nuclear article in Forbes

I’m a realist and I don’t expect you to drop everything and jump on my blog two or three times a week to see what I’m posting. That’s why I offer a subscription. New posts show up in your inbox, and you can either read them there or click over (if you want to follow a link, for instance). All you have to do is visit the blog page, , look over at the top-right part of the gray section, just across from the headline, find “Get the Blog via Email,” and enter your e-address. If you don’t want to give your e-address (which I already have, since you subscribe to the newsletter), you’ll see “Networked Blogs: Follow This Blog” also on the right but near the very bottom of the page. That feature lets you subscribe via Facebook—just click on Follow this Blog.

Bonus tip: if you blog, set up subscriptions and become a subscriber. Then you’ll not only have a way to reach people in their inboxes, but also have an archive of all your posts.

This Month’s Tip
Avoid D-I-Y D-I-Sasters

Some things should always be left to professionals. You don’t ever want to trust me to do any carpentry for you…or even have me paint a room. And the older I get, the more I move from a D-I-Y (do-it-yourselfer) to a have-it-done.

Writing your own press release is something most people should not tackle. Here’s a comment I just made on a self-publishing discussion list in response to an advocate of D-I-Y press releases:

When I write a press release for a client, I spend significant time with the book. Sometimes I read the whole thing. Sometimes I read sections I’ve asked the author to flag, plus the beginning, end, and some random sections. Plus a synopsis, for fiction, and a thorough look at the TOC [table of contents] and Index for nonfiction. And always I read the author questionnaire I send, and the supporting materials I always request (such as press coverage of the author)…I read enough to thoroughly immerse myself in the project. And my press releases for clients have been picked up by the New York Times, among many other places.Yes, the author has far more subject knowledge than I do. But *I* have the expertise in crafting a message that the media, and the public, will find exciting. Most authors don’t, and believe me, I’ve seen their attempts.

One of the *problems* is the formulaic approach F___ recommends. Those formulas yield terrible press releases straight out of the 1970s. I don’t follow the formulas. I write press releases with the idea that the reader says “Wow! I want more of this.” Writing a standard reverse-pyramid 5Ws press release (who, what, where, when, why)–the most common formula–doesn’t accomplish that.

My favorite press release out of the probably thousands I’ve written was for a book on electronic privacy. If I followed the 5Ws formula, my release would have had a headline like “Electronic Privacy Expert Releases New Book.” How fast is the reporter going to hit delete on a big-snore headline like that? My headline was “It’s 10 O’Clock. Do You Know Where Your Credit History Is?” Following a lead about the credit history “vacationing” in databanks of big corporations, the book finally showed up in the third paragraph.

I refer to this type of press release as “the-story-behind-the-story,” and other than my own books, I don’t know a lot of books that teach how to do this… My book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, does give that context, and gives a lot of book-specific examples, including a wildly successful press release by listmate Ruth Houston that violates all the rules–proving that F___ is right that *some* authors can do their own press releases very effectively.

Some can do their own layout, too. I have discovered after laying out two books in my early publishing years, that I’m someone who should not ever lay out my own book. And most authors should not ever write their own press release.

In an earlier post in the same discussion, responding to a post that called professional publicity services a waste of money, I describe the advantages of a third alternative between do-it-yourself and pricy full-service publicists:

R___’s point is well-taken. With any expenditure, you want to be sure the results justify the expense.

And she’s right that most book publicists who are any good are frightfully expensive. Typically, you can expect to pay between $2000-$10,000 a month, with a 6-month commitment required. It takes a lot of sales to justify a $12-60K expenditure.

However, it’s not an either-or. There is a third alternative between doing it all yourself and spending $60K on a professional full-service publicist.

That alternative is hiring a la carte: use a professional writer to create a get-noticed media release that is likely to wildly outperform anything you do on your own, and then either hire one of the publicists who is willing to work a la carte and just do the distribution/follow-up, or use a wire service, or do it yourself with a list compiled by a media list specialist (such as our own Paul Krupin of Direct Contact PR).

As an example, I charge $325 to write but not distribute a news release on a book. I refer out to others for the other pieces for a few hundred more, and the total cost is under $1K. So if you did, say, six releases in a year, you’d still pay less than for one month of a high-end publicist.

Oh, and regarding the likelihood of better results: I had one client do a comparison test. He sent my release to half his media list, and one he’d written to the other half. He became a fan and a steady customer when mine got 6 times as many media responses.

One further lesson: these two posts demonstrate examples of promoting my own services on a discussion group while not making enemies—because the self-promotion is in the context of—and directly relevant to—a discussion already underway.

Reminder: this first appeared on my blog, along with a lot of other great content. You can easily subscribe—just visit the blog page, and scroll down until you see “Get the Blog via Email” near the bottom. If you don’t want to give your e-address (which I already have, since you subscribe to the newsletter), you’ll see “Networked Blogs: Follow This Blog” a bit higher on the page.

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About Shel & This Newsletter

As a marketing consultant and copywriter… award-winning author of eight books… international speaker, blogger, syndicated columnist — Shel Horowitz shows how green and ethical businesses can actually be *more* profitable than your less-green competitors. His most recent book is category bestseller Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet. Shel also helps authors/ publishers, small businesses, and organizations to market effectively, and turns unpublished writers into well-published authors.He was inducted into the National Environmental Hall of Fame in 2011.

Shel Horowitz’s consulting firm, Green And Profitable, is the first business ever to earn Green America’s rigorous Gold Certification as a leading green company

He began publishing his monthly newsletter all the way back in 1997, making it one of the oldest marketing e-zines (it’s changed names a few times along the way).

“As always, some of the links in this newsletter earn commissions—because I believe in the products and services enough to promote them (I get asked to endorse lots of other programs I don’t share with you, because I don’t find them worthy).”
Hear & Meet Shel

Saturday and Sunday, September 7-8, my friend Steve Schappert is organizing the first GreenFest in Middlebury, Connecticut. I am not currently scheduled to speak, but I think I’ll be there at least one day. If you’re attending, let me know.

Thursday, September 26, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT. “Incorporating Values in Copy: When, Why and What to Avoid,” Speaking at Marcia Yudkin’s No-Hype Copywriting Telesummit. She has a great lineup. No charge to attend the live calls, and a bonus session if you choose to purchase the recordings.

Saturday, September 28, 10:15 a.m. “Do-It-Yourself Book Marketing,” Amherst Publishing Fair, 99 Main Street, Amherst, MA, $10 includes all events and fair admission from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Planning way ahead: May 10, 2014, I will once again be presenting at CAPA University, a one-day book publishing program in Hartford. More info: gaffney AT
Friends who Want to Help

The Magic of GOOD Water
If you’ve been to Las Vegas, you might have noticed that the water tastes and feels wretched. I drink a lot of water, ever since I had a kidney stone (BIG ouch) about ten years ago; in most of Vegas, I had to really work at getting enough fluid. But I went to a conference there recently, and I noticed that in the conference rooms, the water was among the best I’d ever experienced—but in other parts of the hotel, and in other places we went in the area, the water seemed unfit to drink. And this was especially awkward because in the hot desert climate, keeping hydrated is crucial. I drank a whole lot of water from the conference rooms and felt great.

Then I met the water magician who made it happen: Patrick Durkin. Patrick has done a whole lot of research on water, and has tremendous knowledge about how to reduce disease, rid your water of toxins, and enjoy a great tasting natural beverage. And it turned out that Patrick had arranged to treat the conference water so that we had something not just fit to drink, but fit for kings and queens.

Since our bodies are mostly water, the quality of the water we drink can have a huge impact on our health, our mindset, and of course, our taste buds.

I asked Patrick if he would share his water wisdom with you. And I asked him if it was OK for you to bring friends to hear this information. He said yes, and we set a date far enough out that you can help spread the word. Please save this date: Tuesday, September 24, 8 pm ET/5 p.m. PT. And sign up for the call at 

Another Recommended Book: Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism by Ozzie Zehner (University of Nebraska Press, 2012)

What if everything we believe about alternative energy turns out to be wrong?

Green Illusions is both one of the most grim and one of the most hopeful books I’ve read in years. Be warned: the first two-thirds or so is the grim part.

Zehner knocks down one sacred cow after another, arguing that most of our most cherished energy alternatives are not any better than the fossil-fuel and nuclear status quo. He attacks:
• Photovoltaics (solar cells that turn sunlight into electricity, often shortened to PV)
• Wind
• Ethanol and other biofuels
• Hydrogen
• Electric and hybrid cars
• Large-scale hydro and geothermal

On what grounds? Most of his exhaustively researched arguments—documented in 60 pages of end notes and a 20-page index—center around what he sees as a failure to count all the costs of a particular technology. Those costs are not measured only in dollars, but also in energy consumed, raw materials mined (including rare earth metals), pollution during manufacturing, transportation, petroleum products, time and opportunities spent, maintenance/repair, and, of course, waste generation and disposal. And he says many of the most optimistic projections are based on erroneous data, and cannot scale up to be a meaningful part of the world’s energy picture.

And while I am skeptical of some of his findings, I’m not willing to write him off as any kind of crackpot. After all, I’ve been arguing for years that we have to count all the costs, and my book on the many problems with nuclear power draws heavily on our failure to do so. A future book I’ve begun working on positions this question as key to solving many of the world’s great problems.

I don’t have the science background to really evaluate his claims or the counterclaims by proponents of alternate technology. But I’d say that certainly we ought to be looking at these issues. We ought to make sure that our investments in alternative energy are appropriate, provide a net reduction in use of fossil and nuclear, clean our environment, and lower our carbon footprint. I believe, despite reading this book, that alternate technologies are a big part of the solution, and will continue to improve. But proponents must anchor this belief in fact.

With a lens focused primarily on the United States, Zehner argues that many of these technologies are nothing more than boondoggles: wildly overpriced and poorly performing “solutions,” often government-subsidized, that actually consume more energy than they generate, once all the factors during their lifecycle are figured in.

He also argues—and this I agree with—that until we get out of the headspace of “productivism” and consumerism, the idea that we can simply generate, purchase, use, and throw away infinite amounts of stuff—we will never solve our energy problems.

He also worries that adding these many alternative technologies won’t actually reduce the demand for conventional fuels, because we are simply adding new capacity rather than replacing existing polluting and warming ones. And hybrid cars promote sprawl, which in turn increases energy demand substantially.

Now, for the hopeful part. Zehner sees many areas where we can change our mindset, slash energy use and carbon footprint, and actually make progress. For starters, he notes that even very developed parts of the world, such as Germany and
Scandinavia, use far less energy per capita than the United States does. Bringing US energy consumption down to European levels would not even interfere in any meaningful way with typical American lifestyles, and could be done quickly and easily with existing technology.

A lot of this could be accomplished with policy and regulation shifts. Right now, much US policy creates incentives for waste, overconsumption, and sprawl. He suggests a number of policy initiatives that would encourage conservation, sustainable development, and reuse.

He does identify some technologies, including smart electric grids, solar thermal or solar light concentration, and greater efficiency, that do in fact take us in a deeply positive direction. My experience as a homeowner bears this out. Our solar hot water system, installed in 2001 (in cloudy, cold Massachusetts) has performed very well. Our little 1kw PV system has been a disappointment. But some of my neighbors with large PV arrays claim significantly better results. I would think that in places like Arizona and New Mexico, solar PV’s performance ratios would be substantially better.

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