Alan Fox Explains the PR of Storytelling

Alan Fox is the director of StoryFocus, a corporate communications firm, and has managed more than 350 publicity campaigns including work on behalf of major publishers, Hollywood film studios, and a wide range of leading companies. He’s also a novelist who chose to publish The Seeker in Forever himself and is using his own publicity background to get the word out. In this essay for Beatrice, he explains how solid PR work isn’t just about knowing the right tactics to use; it’s about having a strategy in place that those tactics will serve.


I have found, through 14 years in the field, that a lot of people don’t understand the true nature of publicity. If you are interested in writing as a human enterprise, and you want to know one of the great secrets of the story industry, then you’ll want to pay attention to this. I have not seen this adequately explained anywhere.

Publicity was born out of news writing. News writing was born out of story.

Most people think publicity was born of advertising. They have totally the wrong picture in their heads. It’s not that at all. To go there is to go in the wrong direction.

It’s sad to see writers work for years and then go wrong.

For a writer of stories, publicity is not going off to fight a strange war in an alien territory. Publicity is coming home. You’re coming home to your finished story. You will find quality. And there you will stand. And you will not let anyone move you.


The best publicity campaign is the one that comes from the book. The one that follows the construction of the book.

If you’re a writer like me, this throws you on the horns of a very massive problem: If the book is a story, the best publicity follows through the story. This is good news for writers… and very bad news.

For writers who do publicity, it means the things you learned about storytelling are valuable. What you know about finding your focus or theme is important. What you know about how to tell a story is important. What your story is about is important.

The bad news is that, frankly, almost no one will give a damn.

Publicizing your book takes an act of courage. Even though they don’t give a damn, you can’t let that mean anything. If you’re like me, you have spent seven years making sure you have a fine story and 10 years before that learning how to write like all the best of them. If you have a good story, and you know in your soul it’s a good story, your publicity plan is to let everything ride on the story.

You keep your story in focus and in front of you. Out of the story come the reasons for the story—the reasons are what you take into this world of people who don’t give a damn. My book, The Seeker in Forever, is the story of a young man and woman who take on the world.

There’s a maxim that says, “In the battle of you versus the world, bet on the world.” This is the opposite of that idea. This is about what, reportedly, Sam Houston once said: “There ain’t nothing more powerful than a man in the right who keeps a-coming.”

This is the story of a young man and woman who take on everybody. They take on a heavyweight politician, the establishment, and the world order. We hope they don’t get themselves dead.

Now how do you publicize a thing like that?

We hope they beat the whole world but when was the last time you heard of a man and woman beating the whole world? You tell the story. Most won’t give a damn, but if you want to learn to ski, you don’t go down easy slopes.

Then you find things in the story that are even bigger than today’s world. You find how man is mad and always has been. It’s not so important to go to the story each time, as it is to go back to the reasons that produced the story. To the eternals, the universals. The trick is to keep them in front of you.

What I have found over the years, and am finding today as I write this, is that it is deceptively hard to sight the target mark. Where exactly is the bullseye? You have to become a master archer, and you must always know precisely. You have to catch sight of it. Now, you’ll find that there are a thousand less valuable targets that are nearby and they all look an awful lot like your prime target. Then once you have sighted the true target, you have to mark its position so well that even with your eyes closed you can let your arrow fly, and from a great distance, hit it dead-center.

Those are my thoughts about the nature of publicity, as I am discovering it.

23 October 2006 | guest authors |