May 4, 2006–Bestselling Author Shares Secrets to Self-Promotion–Marion Owen

Bestselling author shares secrets to self-promotion
by Laurel Downing Bill

Master gardener, photographer, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author Marion Owen told those attending the Alaska Press Women luncheon on May 4 that they needed to beat their own drums to get the word out about their work. Born and raised on Puget Sound in Washington State, Owen likened the process of promotion to walks along the beach in search of shells with her father when she was a young girl.

“Just keep turning over those rocks,” she told the audience he would tell her. “Your answers are going to come.”

Owen, who co-authored “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul,” then offered seven “answers” to how journalists can help promote themselves.

1. With around 3,000 advertising messages bombarding a person on any given day, it is important to make your message stand out from the rest.

“It isn’t being louder,” said Owen, a current resident of Kodiak. “But being real and honest.”

2. Remember the Cajun word “lagniappe,” which means “a little bit extra.”

Owen said that appealing to emotion rather than intellect is most effective, so one-on-one communication is key to successful promotion. And, she said, always refer to yourself.

“The most important word is ‘you,’” said Owen, who practices what she preaches in her published articles, the UpBeet Gardener newsletter, her award-winning UpBeet Gardener radio show and on her Web site.

3. Anyone in business should have a Web site, even if it’s only a one-page business card. Good designs include a banner across the top, navigation along the left side, and the center, or “prime real estate,” filled with important information. The right side is a “call to action” area where visitors can click to buy your product or service. Testimonials fit there, too.

“It’s like the letter Z,” she said. “It takes three seconds to ask, ‘Am I in the right place?’”

4. Look for hooks and unusual angles in your promotion, because the Broca area of the brain, which is involved in language and processing speech, is pounded with messages all the time. It doesn’t let just anything in.

“We think we’re visual creatures, but we hear words audio – the ear is next to the Broca area,” Owen said. “Words sound like something you recognize: ‘lips that taste like wine.’”

She said try to think of something so unusual to promote yourself that one will ask, “why didn’t I think of that.” Like the pet rock.

5. Use press releases – they are the unsung heroes of self-promotion. Owen said two-thirds of the copy in the New York Times now comes from press releases.

A few tips to make great releases include:

  • Keep them 1-2 pages
  • Have a hook
  • Remember your audience
  • Tell the story you want told

“Press releases level the playing field,” Owen said. “Keep it personal. It’s about people telling stories about people to people.”

She also stressed that “keeping it personal” translates to mailing out information about you and your service, too. Hand write addresses on envelopes and affix a postage stamp.

“Building relationships is key,” she said.

6. Stay in touch with retailers, suppliers, customers, the media and the world. The most powerful thing to have is a mailing list. Keep track of your contacts.

If you have a large number of e-mails to send out, split them up by categories. Use a newsletter/mailing list host service to help. Owen suggested two Web sites:

  • Sparklist
  • Constant Contact

“Remember, you are taking somebody’s time,” said Owen. She added that it is necessary to promote oneself daily.

“Just do five things a day. Five phone calls, five letters, five e-mails,” she said.

Owen concluded her presentation with helpful tips that included wearing eyeglasses in the shower to get them clean and replacing pasta with shredded green and red cabbage to lose 15 pounds.

The humorist business entrepreneur said that by using the latest high-tech communications, combined with one-on-one communication, Alaska’s press women can get “ink” in any media out there.

Owen is available to do in-depth marketing workshops. She can be reached at: P.O. Box 1694, Kodiak, AK 99615, (907) 486-2500, or

Marion Owen

Marion Owen