By Steve Harrison
Today I’d like to share an idea that could bring you a tremendous amount of publicity and word of mouth.
This strategy has helped some of my clients get on top national TV shows including The Today Show, and get their name and message in front of millions of people.
This strategy takes some thought and planning to put into action, but it could change your life and the lives of the people you serve—and it’s a lot of fun to do.
The big question is, “What interesting things are you doing, trying to do, or challenging people to do?”
Identifying the answer can take you from being just another author or an expert to a newsmaker. It could turn you into someone that the media want to know more about and make them eager to interview you.
How a Purple Bracelet Made Will Bowen Famous
Let me give you an example of someone who excels at turning his message into a media sensation.
When I was reading People magazine a few years ago, I came across a feature on a Midwestern minister named Will Bowen. I was impressed, because it’s very hard to get featured in People if you’re not a celebrity (or dating a celebrity).
Bowen had noticed there’d been a lot of complaining among his church members. So he told his congregation, “I’d like you try to go 21 days without complaining.” Since that’s not an easy task, he decided it might help them to have a bracelet-like wristband to help remind them every day about their goal.
So he placed a large order for purple bracelets bearing this message: “A Complaint Free World.” He gave a bracelet to everyone in his congregation, and told them, “If you take my challenge, and notice that you start to complain about something, take off your bracelet and put it on your other wrist.”
That very simple act got people involved. Most of his church members found they were complaining way too much and were shocked at how hard this challenge was.
They also started telling their friends about it, and a lot of them wanted to try it too.
Bowen says he was “bowled over by the response” to his idea, but is “loving every minute of it.”
"I think most people can agree on two things. Number one: There’s too much complaining in the world. Number two: The world is not the way we want it to be. These things are related. We’re so busy griping about the way things are that we’re stuck in the mire and are perpetuating the problems."
“I’d read a book that had recommended going 21 days without complaining,” Bowen remembers. “My twist on it was finding a unique way of monitoring this. Wearing a bracelet was a practical thing people could do—it was almost like making a game of it. It just exploded.”
When he first announced his challenge, the church immediately began getting requests for the bracelets. After he received thousands of requests, he set up a nonprofit association to distribute the bracelets and spread the word.
The Snowball Effect of Great Publicity
As time went by, A Complaint Free World got more and more word of mouth and media coverage.
Bowen really created—or stumbled upon—a mass movement.
His first breakthrough came when he contacted Helen Gray, the religion editor at his local newspaper, The Kansas City Star. She wrote a story about him that was picked up by the McClatchy News Service and ran in 35 other papers.
After he had distributed 50,000 bracelets, he got in touch with Gray again. This time, her follow-up article was picked up by 125 papers across the country. A Los Angeles Times reporter read this story and interviewed him.
That article was seen by an NBC News producer, which led to Bowen’s Today Show appearance.
It gets better. A People magazine editor decided to write about Bowen after seeing him on Today. Then Oprah’s staff saw the People article and invited him on her show.
After that, he lost count of the number of TV, radio and print interviews he’s done, including major features in The New York Times and Newsweek. Although he does remember that for a 3-year period, he never did fewer than two interviews per week.
Naturally, all this press led to a book deal. Bowen didn’t have a book when he went on Oprah, but his agent sold it to a major publisher after a bidding war with several New York publishers.
He’s since published two books about A Complaint Free World that have been released in over a dozen countries—and was surprised to learn his first book was the #1 self-help bestseller in China for over a year.
This tremendous publicity also launched Bowen in a new career as a public speaker who has spoken to enthusiastic audiences around the world. It’s been quite a journey, and it’s not over yet.
What Campaign or Challenge Can You Offer?
Why did Bowen receive such an outpouring of popular support and media coverage for his quest to reduce complaining?
I think this story worked so well because it wasn’t just about one man. The press could cover what happened to a variety of people when they took this challenge. And radio or TV hosts or journalists could take the challenge themselves and talk about their experiences.
Here are a few takeaway tips to keep in mind if you want to start your own campaign:
- Don’t just talk about solving problems—do something about them!
It wasn’t until Bowen decided to take action to reduce the negativity around him that he became a newsmaker.
- Take on a manageable challenge.
Don’t try to solve world hunger or poverty in one go. Tackle something worthwhile that you have a shot at achieving. Bowen’s complaint-free challenge is just a small part of what he does in his church, but it put him on the map.
- Be sincere and live your message.
Bowen passed on this advice: Don’t try to create a movement if you’re being self-serving. He believes people will sense your motivation and whether or not you believe in your cause. “If you’re just trying to make a buck, it’s bound to fail. But, if you’re trying to improve the lives and consciousness of this world, it can’t be stopped."
- When you have a passion for accomplishing your mission, you never know where it will take you.
Since he began his challenge in July 2006, Bowen’s organization has distributed 8.5 million bracelets worldwide—and 2 million of those requests came in the first 24 hours after his Oprah appearance. Imagine that!
I hope I’ve inspired you to think about ways you can challenge others to meet a worthy goal or to turn your mission into a campaign that people can rally around.
For more info on Will Bowen and A Complaint Free World, visit https://www.willbowen.com/.
More About Steve Harrison
Steve Harrison and his team have helped over 15,000 authors write and/or promote their books. His clients have been featured in major media outlets like Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, MSNBC, The View, Fox News, Entrepreneur, The New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, and Time, as well as countless radio shows.
He has helped launched such bestselling books as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and Rich Dad Poor Dad.