How the Lord of Darkness gave PR advice to Electrolux
21 Jul 2006
Author and journalist, Jimmy Lee Shreeve (aka Doktor Snake), dispenses "diabolic" publicity tips to the corporate world.
A month or two back, I was at my desk writing a science feature for The Independent, when the phone rang. It was the PR department at Electrolux, who I'd had dealings with earlier in the year when doing a piece on hi-tech, household gadgets. This time they weren't looking to pitch a story around one of their products. They wanted my advice on publicity. It turned out that the white-goods manufacturer had moved into the book publishing business, as a new and novel way to promote their products. But the PR department hadn't got a clue about publicising books. This, after all, wasn't what they were used to.
They contacted me because they were aware I have generated a lot of publicity for myself over the last few years. I've been featured in The Sun, Daily Star and Times newspapers, amongst others, and have been on TV and radio around the world. All as a result of sending out press releases and devising quirky publicity stunts.
But before we go any further, I should say that my publicity endeavours have all been rather unique, and not exactly restrained or corporate in tone. Some would say they were out-and-out outrageous. Back in 2004, for example, I auctioned my services on eBay to help struggling musicians sell their souls to the Devil in exchange for fame and fortune - much as the 1930s blues legend Robert Johnson was supposed to have done (I really love that Faustian pact myth). In other words, I set myself up as a middle-man for the Lord of Darkness himself.
Like all my publicity stunts to date, this was done as my alter-ego Doktor Snake - the name under which I wrote the US cult best-seller Doktor Snake's Voodoo Spellbook (St Martin's Press, 2001/2004).
While the stories I have sent to the media have all been very colourful, the publicity methods I use are sound and can be applied by anyone - by authors, artists, musicians, publishers and business people. This was why Electrolux called me up. They knew that behind the eccentricity and (apparently) tall stories lay a method that works.
Anyway, when the Electrolux PR department called they told me that the company had taken the unusual step of commissioning a novel in a bid to attract male consumers to the firm's products. The book, which is out now, is called Men in Aprons. Penned by female journalist Alex Mattis, it tells the story of two 20-something men and their approach to relationships, work and domestic life. At the end of each chapter are handy domestic hints - things like sprucing up your baseball cap in the dishwasher (I'd have tried that one myself only I don't have a dishwasher).
There's no mention of Electrolux in the story, although a paragraph on the inside cover talks about the firm's products. The forward also mentions Electrolux's involvement in commissioning the book and the cover shows a man wearing an Electrolux-branded apron. But that's it.
I'm not sure whether I had anything to do with Electrolux keeping its pitching to a bare minimum. But I certainly advised the PR department to play down the Electrolux role in their press releases. As far as I'm concerned pushy, corporate PR is a big turn off. When I skim through the e-mail press releases that are sent to me on a regular basis I'm on the lookout for a story. I don't want to know that so and so company is "the world leader" in super-charged widgets. Like any journalist, I'm looking for something that grabs my attention or surprises me - preferably with a strong news angle, to boot.
When I write press releases for myself (I don't do them for anyone else) I always write what I would like to see if I were at the receiving end. In other words, I try and live up to the maxim: "Do unto others as ye would wish to be done unto yourself" (even the Lord of Darkness goes along with that one!). This can involve playing yourself down and focusing more on the story. Or it can mean tying yourself - or your product or business - into a story that's in the news.
Here's an example of a press release I did as Doktor Snake, which tied me into a celebrity-related story, and got picked up by the media:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: Sept 12th, 2004
Contact: Doktor Snake email@example.com
J.LO'S SANTERIA BELIEFS DEFENDED BY VOODOO AUTHOR
British Voodoo expert Doktor Snake says Jennifer Lopez's Voodoo is more wholesome than Madonna's Kaballah cult.
EASTERN ENGLAND - British Voodoo author Doktor Snake says Jennifer Lopez's Voodoo beliefs are far less sinister than Madonna's Kaballah cult. Snake says Lopez's former make-up artist Scott Barnes' revelations in the New York Post and US Weekly about her dealings with a Voodoo "faith healer" are sensationalist - and misrepresent an authentic spiritual path.
"Barnes implies there is something sinister and evil about Santeria, the Voodoo-related path Lopez seems to be involved in," Snake said in a statement today. "This simply isn't true. Santeria is a highly moral spiritual path with roots in Cuba and Africa. It's a good deal more wholesome than the phoney Kaballah cult Madonna is hooked on."
Snake does concede, however, that followers of Santeria practice animal sacrifice. But he says the religion has official sanction from the U.S. Government to do this.
According to Barnes, J.Lo employs the services of Santeria priestess Merle Gonzalez, who purifies the star's houses of bad auras and puts hexes on people J.Lo thinks have wronged her.
Snake, whose "Voodoo Spellbook" (St Martin's Press) is a cult best-seller in the U.S. and out later this month in the U.K., says this is ludicrous.
"Genuine followers of Santeria and Voodoo are whiter than white when it comes to this sort of thing. They only hex people as a very last resort," he says. "That in itself shows that Barnes' so called revelations are down to sour grapes because of being sacked by Lopez."
Or visit his home page at: www.doktorsnake.com
It's not the best press release in the world. I probably knocked it out in about thirty minutes. But the key thing is it worked. In fact, I'm always telling PR departments not to spend days agonising over releases. The secret is to blast them out whenever you see an angle you can latch on to. And also to be very careful about boosting your own charms at the expense of the story. As I said earlier, the story should always be number one. Do that and you'll very likely get media coverage. Not every time. But often enough to make your publicity campaigns worth the effort.
>>> Men with Aprons by Alex Mattis is available from www.electrolux.co.uk and priced at £6.99. A downloadable audio book version is also available.
>>> Jimmy Lee Shreeve is a long standing journalist. His forthcoming book, "Blood Rites" (Arrow, Aug 2006), is a shocking expose of ritual human sacrifice - practised today, and terrifyingly close to home. As the enigmatic Doktor Snake, he is author of "Doktor Snake's Voodoo Spellbook" (St Martin's Press). Discover more at: www.jimmyleeshreeve.com.