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President Reagan & the Publicity Insider!How a Stock Market Crash, the First Lady's Illness and a Bombing Mission Didn't Stop Me from Winning One for the Gipper

a.k.a. "How your humble publicity insider got to know as much as he does"

October 19, 1987 was a pretty interesting day to be hanging around the White House. The US bombed an Iranian oil installation. Nancy Reagan was in the hospital recovering from a mastectomy. And, oh yeah, the stock market crashed.

That's right, on Black Monday your friend, the Publicity Insider, was walking the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Which would have been cool, except for one thing: I was there to get publicity for a big client and the historic events of the day were conspiring to kill off any chances of media coverage. Months of hard work were about to go down the drain if fast action wasn't taken.
 

 

Here's the background:

Hasbro was looking for a way to rebut charges that G.I. Joe was a "war toy". In response, our company developed a program called "The G.I. Joe Real American Hero Search". We would identify young people who had performed heroic deeds -- saving someone from a fire, rescuing a drowning person, etc. -- and honor them. The big payoff: a trip to the White House to meet the Gipper himself - President Reagan. My job: score huge national publicity for this major event.

The kids stepped into the Oval Office, shook hands with the President and posed for a picture. I prepared to service the wires and major dailies, and get footage to the networks.

And then all hell broke loose.

The next few moments were what separates we Publicity Insiders (you're now part of the club, by the way. Welcome.) from amateurs. We heard that the President was about to get on the chopper to visit his wife in the hospital and up popped a brilliant idea: a giant get well card for Mrs. Reagan signed by the G.I. Joe Real American Heroes. We grabbed a large piece of paper and started scribbling hurriedly. In the youthful spirit of the day, I signed the card Billy Stoller, a name I hadn't used since my glory days of stickball in the Bronx. At the bottom of the card, the product name, nice and bold.

As the Gipper got on the chopper, my heart raced as I stood on the White House lawn, watching him hold up the sign for the cameras. As the photographers clicked away, I wondered to myself, "Did we really pull this off?"

My question was answered the next morning as the photo ran throughout the nation. It was one of the best images of the president on this historic day, and my client generated tons of publicity. In the end, months of planning, meeting after meeting among highly paid PR pros and many thousands of dollars became meaningless, and it was a piece of cardboard, some magic markers and a good idea that saved the day.

And that's what being a Publicity Insider is all about.

I've worked with some really huge clients (Coca-Cola, Hasbro and Colgate-Palmolive to name a few) and some very small ones (my favorite was a lady whose entire business was playing practical jokes on people for hire). It's been great, and I've learned so many inside tricks for getting publicity that I've become something of a walking publicity encyclopedia.

This website, my eZine and, most exciting for me, my new newsletter Free Publicity, are all designed to share that knowledge with you, and help you experience some of the fun I've had -- and some of the success my clients have enjoyed.

I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a note at bill@publicityinsider.com and let's get acquainted.


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