Last night, I was honored to speak on a panel with Becky Monk, assistant managing editor for the Puget Sound Business Journal, and Whitney Keyes, publicist, writer, marketer, and video producer, as we discussed tips and techniques to earn free publicity at Seattle University.

To listen to it right now, please click the play button.

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To follow is the text of my presentation, just in case you weren't able to attend.

These are very challenging and changing times in the media. Newspaper circulation is dropping precipitously. Internet usage is at an all time high. New blogs are launching and earn new readers as others fizzle. Social networks are launching and finding new members as online communities take root and grow. In fact, Technorati — the leading blog search engine and most comprehensive source of information on the blogosphere — indexes more than 1.5 million new blog posts in real time and introduces millions of readers to blog and social media content, and the numbers are growing daily. If your own blog posts aren’t yet among them, they soon should be.

All this is to say that the ever changing nature of the traditional and online media today can be overwhelming to ponder at a time when getting your message delivered seems more essential than ever.

At the same time, the economy is giving everyone a run for the money, adding even more challenge to the prospect of doing business today. The Puget Sound Business Journal reported last week that some entrepreneurs are electing to stay at their jobs, rather than jump into the marketplace with their start-up ideas. Others are finding it hard to secure the angel financing they need to take flight. Still others are downsizing and electing to bootstrap their efforts as opposed to taking on debt or securing equity partners.

These are not easy times, yet these are still very exciting times to share compelling stories with the media that can break through the message clutter, solve problems consumers and businesses are eager to address, and fuel prosperity for those willing to jump into the media relations game.

Those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get into the media relations game by sharing their stories, ideas, products, and causes with the world can most definitely prosper. No one cares more about your success than you do. With times as tough as they are, now is the perfect time to acquire new skills to advance your success – like the skills of DIY publicity. When you learn and apply your lessons well, you will invite more success with greater ease. And, when your business grows substantially, you’ll be in a much better position to hire out your public relations because you know more than enough about the process to be effective on your own to be sure to engage the right partners when the timing is right to keep your stories in the news in a favorable, ongoing basis.

Just last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to promote the amazonkindle – Amazon’s revolutionary, wireless reading device that makes it easy to catalog and read volumes of books in one easy-to-carry and operate electronic device. Oprah was so enthusiastic about it that everyone in the studio audience received one as a gift. Viewers were offered a compelling online discount to invite their purchases. Now, the kindle is a “must have” item on the holiday gift lists for millions of people worldwide – even during these challenging economic times.

The folks at Bacon Salt didn’t have the big bucks to launch their new product with the aid and budgets required of a public relations agency. Rather, they took their new product idea to the social media. What began as a half-joking idea – what if there was a spice that made everything taste like bacon – soon become a bustling business that has sold 600,000 units in 18 months, thanks mostly to the harnessing of the word-of-mouth power of social media.

The Bacon Salt marketing story began actually before the product existed. In July 2007, Dave Lefkow, a former executive at online employment company Jobster, posted a MySpace profile dedicated to Bacon Salt. He and partner Justin Esch then spent countless hours mining MySpace data, sending messages and “friending” anyone who declared an affinity for bacon in their profiles. They found 37,000 MySpace members mentioned bacon in profiles. The “spamming” as Esch initially called it, generated a surprising result: not only were people adding Bacon Salt, they were ordering the product even before Lefkow and Esch had ramped up production. Their “cute side project” as Lefkow described it, suddenly got serious. “It was one person telling another persona telling another person,” he said. “It was amazing and scary at the same time. We weren’t prepared for the onslaught.”

Stacy’s Pita Chips is another example. In 2007 with big intentions and a small budget, the company reached out to 133,000 people named “Stacy” in America by sending each one a party kit of Stacy’s Pita Chips to enjoy, just in time for a big football weekend. The company researched the top 10 Stacy’s hot zones with the highest concentration of people named “Stacy” and did a mailing with this message included:

“We hope you enjoyed getting your free box of Stacy's Pita Chips as much as we enjoyed sending them to you. If you did, why not share the joy by sending a FREE gift box to a friend? Since we've already sent them to every Stacy, you're free to send them to Bill or Mary or Cheryl or John—or whoever you think would enjoy Stacy's chips the most.”

That got a lot of people talking and blogging about the company’s targeted efforts to reach out. Soon, Stacy’s Pita Chips was enjoying dramatic sales gains. Not long after, the company was purchased by Frito Lay, and Stacy is – no doubt – living the life uncommon.

Now is the time to find your authentic story and consider the best ways to share it. Now is also a great time to avail yourself to abundant and often free resources that can help you get a handle on what is changing in the media and figure out the best way to share your story.

In 2001, I got inspired to serve as a DIY publicity resource for small business owners everywhere. Today, if you “Google” the term “do-it-yourself” publicity, my name and blog show up on page one of the search. By taking my own DIY publicity advice, I’ve earned a solid reputation for serving this need. I haven’t spent money on advertising. I have no debt. I don’t answer to partners. I just serve in the way that I know now. If this is what has unfolded for me by deploying the power of DIY publicity, what else might be possible for you when you get into the media relations game and play to win in only the ways that you can?

Consider these questions:

How much of the story telling responsibility for your product, service, idea or cause can you embrace on a do-it-yourself basis?

Can you apply an hour a day to telling your story by writing articles, making story pitches, or sharing quality press releases with the world? That is a great place to start.

Can you visit informational websites like www.theblogsquad.biz and www.blogging101.com to show you the way to blogging success?  Or, can you “Google” the terms “how to blog” and follow the easy links to learn essential information to empower your success?

Can you sign up on at least one social network and make authentic contributions and connections that make sense for the ways you are serving the marketplace? Examples to reference include www.linkedin.com, www.biznik.com, and www.plaxo.com.

Can you sign up today for www.helpareporter.com and begin responding to media queries that could put your ideas and expertise into the media spotlight?

6) Can you attend a do-it-yourself publicity workshop or avail yourself to free publicity tips, ideas, and resources to grown your knowledge, advance your confidence, and get into action? To that end, if you would like to receive 25 newspaper columns to empower your DIY publicity success, I invite you to sign up to receive my free Authentic Visibility ezine at authenticvisibility.com. If you would like to avail yourself to the tools and workshops I have created to empower your DIY publicity success, I would be honored to be of service.

The New York Times once said that good publicity lasts forever. I always like to say that bad publicity lasts even longer. What is it going to take to compel you into action, and won’t you start today? Speaking of getting into action, there are just eight spots left for the November 14 Publici-Tea™ Half-Day Workshop at The Village Bellevue. Why not treat yourself to the gift of the Publici-Tea so you can get your story ready to broadcast to the world in the winning way that will make you proud? Register at this link. And, just one person has posted a comment so far to win a Publici-Tea™-to-Go! Gift Bundle at the blog post below about getting into action. Why not post your own comment and get into the game to win? I can't wait to read your post.