Monday, September 10, 2012

Chick-Fil-A, PR and the Power of Social Media

I was interviewed by the Kansas City Fox affiliate yesterday about the effects social media can have on spontaneous protests in cases such as the Chick-Fil-A/gay marriage (and divorced straight marriage too!) dustup. The clip covers my responses to the reporter's questions about the credibility social media can lend to a cause, and to the amped-up emotions of a political season contributing to even more furious social network activity.

On to the more general aspects of the controversy:

The basics are that Chick-Fil-A (a fast food chicken restaurant with more than 1600 locations nationwide) CEO President Dan Cathy made some statements of support of what he terms "traditional, biblical marriage" in a religious publication:

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

Many gay and (some divorced straight people) took offense, and protests have sparked. (Click here to get up to speed on this issue.)

Chick-Fil-A issued a statement July 19 stating "going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena" and that it is their intent "to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender." That didn't seem to be enough for protestors, who started a boycott.

Obviously, I believe business owners should be true to their beliefs and (judiciously) speak their minds. However, I would never advise my client that it's okay to make potentially inflammatory statements in any public way. Why risk alienating customers? Perhaps CEO President Dan Cathy felt that as he was speaking to a religious publication radio show, therefore a non-mainstream "friendly media outlet," and didn't think his comments would be picked up by anyone else. If so, that's extraordinarily naive.

The cynical among us may posit that Cathy wanted to strike a blow in the culture wars. If so, this lends more credence to my belief that he will not fold amidst the storm of protest. Let's not forget huge numbers of people have publicly supported Cathy and Chick-Fil-A on "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day." Opportunistic politicians on both sides (look here and here for just a couple examples) have jumped on the issue for some election year media attention, too. (Some polling indicates Chick-Fil-A should ask their political supporters to quiet down.)

Despite boycotts, the death of his PR chief and bad press, I doubt Cathy will budge. As I said in a previous interview about the first Chick-Fil-A/gay controversy, I think the growing chicken empire will stand their ground.

*From the 2011 Ragan article:
Don’t expect that Chick-fil-A will respond further on this issue, Greenwood says.

“It’s not surprising when you consider that this company, as a matter  of principle, leaves so much revenue on the table by being closed on  Sundays,” he says. “They stick to their guns. I think they’re going to  continue to play to their base, weather this storm and move on.”

*(Full disclosure: I worked at Chick-fil-A in high school.)


Stay tuned, though. These things can move faster than a rooster in a hen house!
--Alex Greenwood
UPDATE  Aug. 3, 2012: Please note corrections marked with strikethroughs.

Cross posted with the AlexanderG Whiz Pr Blog

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Writing and Marketing Erotic Fiction: An Interview with Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee writes literary erotica and erotic romance. She is also a delightful person who I have known (via the world wide web), for a few years now. She is a generous, talented lady who writes incredibly good fiction with an erotic flavor. Her stories are both sensual and sexual, incorporating some of her favorite things such as travel, culture, and a deep curiosity for what turns people on. Spring into Summer is her second collection of erotic novellas. In this interview, we talk about writing, her books and what really pisses her off about marketing erotica.
You left a career in finance to become a full-time writer. Why?
I was a banker for twenty years and just didn’t have the passion for it anymore. I’m not sure I ever did, but it provided a means for a living. I actually left the first time after ten years to pursue a writing career. Unfortunately, I got sick. I returned to the job after my recovery with the intention of only staying a couple of years to pay off debts. Who knew it would be another ten years before I worked up the courage to leave again?  
Any regrets? Regrets? Not a one. I wasn’t meant to be in banking until the end of my days, but I can see myself writing until I die.  

Do you have a favorite author or work that inspired your writing? I have many authors who inspired me, but as for my stand-by favorites, I’m a fan of Charles Bukowski and have read all his books, including his poetry. I loved The Magus by John Fowles, and Story of O by Pauline Réage started me on my sexual journey when I read it at eleven. I also enjoy the style of Haruki Murakami, and his latest IQ84 was brilliant.

 Your first book, Fall into Winter, was extremely well received--I know I loved it! What seems to be the most common aspect about the book that resonates with reviewers and readers? I think it’s the stories because the themes are universal: younger man, older woman; sexual exploration; lost love. Aside from that, what perhaps sets the book apart is the caliber of the writing. I’m a stickler for the mechanics of writing.

 A signature of your work is that it is extremely well written erotica. The characters are easy to visualize as real people with realistic motivations and appetites. The stories are sexy and sexual. In my reading experience, that's more the exception than the norm--but I could be making an unfair generalization about the genre. (More than a few "erotic novels" I've read seem to be about as erotic as a gynecological exam, or worse, read like a bad porno clip.) Does that perception make marketing your books more challenging? Firstly, thanks Alex so much for your compliment about the characters and stories in my books. They are always given top priority along with writing that is as flawless as I can make it. Marketing is a challenge for all indie writers, but for a writer in my genre, there are added hurdles. You’ve touched on a few. Erotica is often perceived as pornography. No matter how many times I’ve answered this question to dispel the myth, it will never be enough. People believe what they want to. Given this, many sites will not review erotica. There is also the perception that erotica is poorly written, and some of it certainly is, but that goes for all genres. It’s just that there are scores of self-published erotica books out there, so the numbers are skewed against it. In addition to this, I also fight against people who think authors of erotica are sexual deviants and therefore pariahs of the writing world. I don’t have enough time and energy to fight all the ignorance.

Writers of horror, thrillers, [and] mysteries don’t ever need to “explain” their genres; erotica writers do. Sometimes, I just get tired of being on the defensive and want to slap my book into a reader’s hands and say “Read the f***ing book before you judge the genre or me.”
Aren’t you happy you asked this question, Alex? ;)

 I knew I was touching the third rail when I did, Eden! Thank you for your passionate and candid response. Let me grasp that third rail a little longer: Do you think the 50 Shades of Grey craze has helped or hurt other writers of erotica?
 I believe it’s helped writers of erotica—exposing the genre to a mainstream public even though good erotica has been around for ages. What E.L. James has managed to do is ignite a fire of enthusiasm for the genre. This has given other writers of erotica an opportunity to get their work noticed. In a nutshell, if you wrote crappy erotica that didn’t sell before “50 Shades,” perhaps you got a small lift from the success of it. In the end, it’s still crappy writing. Hopefully, the good stuff will rise to the top in the long run.  

Tell us about Spring Into Summer. Ahh, Spring into Summer is my second anthology of four stories; two take place in the spring and two in the summer. I’m very proud of it, and I rarely say that about any of my work. Readers who’ve read my first book, Fall into Winter, will notice a more sensual language in this current release. I was heavily influenced by poetry while writing it, and I think my words reflect that.  

Was a series of seasonal-themed books always planned from the beginning?
Oh no. I’m not that organized. I wrote short stories with the intention of selling them individually to traditional publishers but got rejected. As a result, I packaged my writing differently as an anthology and tied them together with a common thread—the seasons. I knew I would get two books out of it. It’s time to move on unless someone’s discovered another season I don’t know about.  

Ha! What have you learned about marketing your work since your first book--in particular, lessons/ideas you will put into place for the new book?
I learned most of what I know by following the right people (like you, Alex), forming meaningful relationships, and observing those I respect. Sincerity and kindness go a long way in real life and just as far in the virtual world where there are fewer cues to draw upon. Without a supportive network, it’s difficult to get the word out about anything, let alone a book. I’m no marketing guru, so I’ll provide my simplified plan. Continue writing good books and have friends help spread the word when it’s done. Make sure you reciprocate in kind. I don’t mind helping anyone if I can, but it’s never tit for tat with me. That’s why a genuine relationship is important to establish from the get-go.  

What's the toughest part of being an independent writer? Doing it all—design, editing, marketing. I hire out what I can’t do myself. What this translates to is less time to write. What it provides me is full control. It’s a compromise I can live with.  

You blog extensively. How has your blog helped your brand? My blog is mainly to highlight other authors and make those meaningful connections I spoke of earlier. I like blogging and it’s been a home to my flash fiction, poetry, and other work I’ve done.  

What's coming up after Spring Into Summer? My next book will be a full-length novel. I am not committed to a genre as yet, but I have ideas for a story, and erotic elements will definitely be included in the book. I’m a fan of writing that arouses me, and I’m not just talking about sexually.

 I can't wait to see what you create next. Thank you, Eden. We look forward to your next book and many more. Thanks so much, Alex for interviewing me. I loved your questions and so appreciate being here on your wonderful site.  

About the book In Spring into Summer, a collection of emotionally-charged erotic novellas, four women explore their sexual limits, marked by love, lust, and loss. Life for Claire Pelletier is changed forever when she meets a professor who teaches her a most important lesson in "A Season for Everything." Evelyn Sutton goes in search of a man in "Unlocking the Mystery" and discovers the key to her own heart. With an open mind, Ava Connors attends a party but wonders if reality can ever live up to her hottest fantasies in "Summer Solstice." In "The Lottery," Sierra Zhao sacrifices herself to numerous men to help a friend, fully aware of the consequences. With locations in London, Dublin, Cape Cod, and Bangkok, these four women will seek pleasure to alter their lives and push their sexual boundaries.

Buy Links: Ebook formats Amazon.UK  

More About Eden and Her Work: Twitter @edenbaylee Facebook Youtube Pinterest

 --This article cross-posted with the AlexanderG Whiz PR Blog

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Greece is the Word, KC!

More info? Click here!