In my line of work, I often hear from authors who have written a novel, memoir or theatrical production and want my advice on how to adapt it to a different medium, typically a screenplay. The rationale behind this isn’t just that movies represent the gold standard of fame and fortune; it’s the perception that if an idea is really spiffy, it should be able to shine in multiple venues.
Hollywood, of course, is replete with examples of why this isn’t true. How many times, for instance, have TV shows that were popular in their heyday been expensively repackaged for the silver screen, only to flop miserably? Likewise, how many adaptations of your favorite books have turned out to be a disappointment because the director’s vision wasn’t the same plot that played in your head while you were reading? And who among us doesn’t have a friend or family member who pens hilarious emails but would be a total deer in the headlights if s/he were encouraged to pursue a career in stand-up comedy?
How can these variations fail, people wonder, when the source material had so much going for it?
Individuals and organizations tend to view media outlets in a similar, one-size fits-all context. Because these entities are all in the business of promoting products, services and events, it’s not uncommon to assume that their procedures, timeframes, expectations and rules of etiquette are interchangeable. The small business owner who is accustomed to submitting newsy notes to a weekly newspaper on Monday morning for publication in that Thursday’s edition is, thus, thrown for a loop to discover that magazines and trade journals have lead-times of several months. The bloggers whose comfort zone has always been a casual chat with virtual fans may be daunted by the inherent structure of doing a live show, despite their familiarity with the topic. Even something as commonplace as email – a ritual that most of us take for granted – is foreign turf to those who have never learned how to type nor mastered the skills to type particularly well.
The fact that today’s media opportunities can arrive in any size, shape or format makes it incumbent upon you to stop clinging to yesterday’s outdated practices. When the chance to tell the world who you are comes knocking on your door, your ability to respond with confidence, flexibility and professionalism will dictate how smoothly the experience flows and whether you’ll be contacted again in the future.
Suffice it to say, the latter scenario is often based on the spin-off value of what you represent as an entertaining, informative and reliable commodity. It’s not so much how many names and phone numbers of media personnel you have in your office Rolodex but how many of them have your contact information on file. On many occasions, for instance, I get calls from newsletter and magazine editors who suddenly have a spot to fill as the result of another writer missing a deadline or delivering a story that just doesn’t click. Having already demonstrated my ability to write material that resonates with their readership, I’m among the first people they think of to come to the rescue or to liven up a slow news day.
That same strategy is essential in fostering mutual trust with your own media contacts. Be the person they know they can rely on to consistently give them what they want, including fresh ideas for what they may not even have thought they want yet. In the words of Mickey Spillane, “The first page sells your book. The last page sells your next book.”
Never give them a reason to stop reading…and anticipating.
Here’s the line-up of this month’s guest bloggers:
Why Old-Fashioned Media Still Rocks – by Dr. Neryl East
Event Safety and Risk Assessment – by Mike James
Calming the Crisis, or Fueling One? – by Philip Owens
Releasing Your Project at the Perfect Time – by Alijah Villian
Un-Googling the Art of Online Ads – by Ben Bradshaw