I know it’s been a while, if by “a while” you mean nearly a month, but when your PR agency is keeping such a constant flow of leads and introductions coming your way, and you’re scrambling to keep them all organized, answered, and scheduled, there’s not much time for blogging.
I’ve got a break until tomorrow, right now, so here goes…
I spent about 22 years doing PR for drag racers. First, as an assistant to the guy in New Jersey who represented Chuck Etchells and Mike Dunn. I learned a lot of ropes back then, including the ropes involved with living in Harriman, NY and working in Wyckoff, New Jersey.
Then, rather impulsively, I went out on my own anticipating I’d conquer the world in a matter of days. Instead, I basically went broke. Pro Stock driver Lewis Worden (still a dear friend) was my first paying client. He and his racing partner Steve Ash paid me $600 a month. British Funny Car driver Norm Wilding (also still a dear friend) was also a client, but we were both about broke so he couldn’t pay me. It was a passion project. Passion projects typically don’t pay well.
At the end of my financial rope, in 1994, I got a call from the Kansas City Attack indoor soccer franchise and that was my escape hatch. I actually had a salary and I loved being the general manager of the team for about two years. Then Funny Car star Whit Bazemore called. I was out of the office but I knew he had called and I was 99.99% sure I knew what he was going to ask me. Sure enough, without much prompting, I quit a soccer job I loved and jumped back into the NHRA Funny Car pool.
A year later, I joined Del and Chuck Worsham. That symbiotic relationship lasted 12 glorious and thrilling years. When our Checker, Schuck’s, Kragen sponsorship went away, all of us were looking for jobs, Del included. He went on to win World Championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, but both of us went on to remain close friends. To this day, I often get texts or calls from Del about either important stuff, or family-related news. The family stuff is priceless. I was his best man the day he married Connie, and Barbara and I were near the top of the list for a phone call the day Kate and Maddy were born.
Before that 2008 season ended, I had already agreed to join Tim Wilkerson’s Funny Car team. Those eight years flew by so fast it was inconceivable.
PR is not manual labor. It’s not knuckle-busting work out in the snow or mud. Its creativity and it’s all about writing and communicating. Lots of writing. Tons of writing.
Press releases, daily updates, race recaps, sponsor proposals, and then the dawn of social media. This old “Boomer” had to adapt, and I’m not necessarily good at that. But I did. Twitter, Facebook, and email became close friends of mine. I couldn’t hazard a wild guess as to how many pages of PR work I cranked out from the day I joined the guy in New Jersey until the day I walked away from it all at the end of the 2015 season. But I sure was fortunate. I worked for some stellar people on wonderful teams. 10 minutes ago I answered my phone in the car (Blue Tooth, another Boomer adaptation) and spent 30 marvelous minutes talking and laughing with Krista Wilkerson. She’s an incredible person and a priceless friend.
With Bats, Balls & Burnouts I hired the one and only Elon Werner to do my PR. It’s very difficult to do your own publicity. It’s like saying “Hey, look at me! I wrote a book. It’s awesome…”
As I knew he would, Elon did a fabulous job. He’s really adept at longterm relationships with a wide range of people in the media. He can make one call and say “Bring Bob Wilber on your show. How about next Thursday?” and it happens. Same thing with print reporters. They lined up.
For How Far? I talked to Elon again and learned that he’d finally flipped the switch to go out on his own with his PR agency, but he was eager to help me, totally pro bono (that means free if you’re not into legal lingo) while he grew his client base. He did great again, but in terms of his agency he did even better than he thought. He attracted clients like a light bulb attracts bugs. Before long, I knew he didn’t have time so I thanked him profusely and plotted my next move.
When Ascot Media Group reached out to me, I’d never heard of them. I did my due diligence and was convinced they could not only help me sell books, but also build my brand. The second part of that sentence was more important than the first. With each book, I want to be more well known, more respected, and more legit as an author.
They’ve been working for me for two months and I have to decide soon if I’ll sign up for another month. Are they good? Let’s just say they’re great. I’m averaging about 20 fresh leads and requests per week, for everything from podcasts, to radio shows, TV shows, and print. Reviewers have been consistently asking for copies to read and review. It basically never stops.
My office here in the lower-level man cave of our house often looks like a shipping depot. I’m on close terms with the Postal Service “Flat Rate Priority boxes.” I can pack up a book in a flash, and print my own Priority postage labels right here. All I have to do is swing by the Woodbury post office and throw them in a bin. That happens at least three days a week.
And here’s how that works. Responding to the lead and getting a book packaged and sent out (or, in some cases, a digital PDF version of the book to places like Australia and Great Britain) is just the start. The books have to get there, and it’s not a super-quick read. Reviewers and reporters need time to digest it all. I’m still just now getting reviews from books I sent out the first week Ascot represented me. It’s pretty nonstop. And it’s fun.
The grass was mighty green on the PR side of the fence, and I had the chance to do it in a sport I barely knew when I started. My 22-year love affair with NHRA Drag Racing was a major highlight of my life and career. It made me “somebody” and that brand, that knowledge that “If Wilber wrote it, it’s probably good” is invaluable. You can’t buy respect. I think I’ve earned it.
Now, the grass is just as green over here as I watch a team of professional publicists get after it on my behalf.
This Wednesday, at 6 am my time, I will go live on WTBQ radio in New Jersey. Their reach encompasses that little town on the other side of the Hudson River. What’s the name of that place again? Oh yeah, New York. They have 3 million average listeners. I’ll have to be right to the point to answer the interview questions before they say “Thanks Bob. That’s all the time we have. Now let’s check the traffic situation…”
So yeah, I’m digging this side of the fence. It’s all passion and communication. I’m pretty good at both of those things. And the hits just keep on coming.
Now I have to make dinner… Steaks and salmon cakes with small salad and Bernaise sauce.
And yes, to answer the question I hear the most, I am indeed plotting my course for my next book.
Would you read a sequel if I completed How Far? to its logical end? I closed that book when the two characters’ careers had ended, not when their lives ended. The whole “post-career” path for both guys and their families is still ahead of them. More drama, more love, more tears, and more hockey and baseball for sure, because they will become parents and the circle of life keeps going around and around. That’s the way I’m leaning, but that’s not a promise. Something else could pop into my brain at any moment.
For fun, I think the title might be the answer to the question posed by the prior book. What about This Far! I kinda like that.
This is a good time to say THANK YOU again to Elon Werner for getting me off the ground as an author. He’s phenomenal, and a truly great friend. And equal gratitude to Ascot Media Group. I’m telling you, every day is like Christmas when I see their emails in my In-Box. Every email is a lead, and any lead can be huge.
See you again soon. I promise it won’t be another month.
As always, I humbly ask for a favor. If this is your first trip through one of my blogs or if you’ve read every one of them since this blog adventure began in August of 2005, please click on the LIKE button below.
I’m also on Instagram now. This Boomer just keeps adapting. Follow me at bwilber5.
I’ve posted a few photos and reviews below, as an example of what Ascot Media Group has done.