Case study: How an Author Turned a Newsletter Into Big Publicity

Today I want to share a case study of how an author I’ve been working with turned an issue of her newsletter into writing an essay for The Atlantic and an appearance on CNN, all within 2 weeks.

Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science journalist and author of the book How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes. She has been a client of mine for awhile, and one of the things we have been working on are strategies to not just grow her audience, but engage with them as a community. To do so, she has been doubling-down on her Instagram presence and her email newsletter. Again and again, we have been developing ways to not just share content, but create a sense of connection with her audience that leads to meaningful engagement and word of mouth marketing.

Overall, she’s had an incredible year, growing her Instagram following by more than 65% year over year. But that’s the story for another case study. Today, I want to share what she did to turn an email newsletter that she wrote and published in less than an hour, into massive publicity. Let’s dig in…

It Started With a Single Email Newsletter

A little more than a year ago, Melinda created her email newsletter. She started bi-weekly, but then moved it to weekly. As any longtime readers know, I’m a huge fan of weekly newsletters.

As a science journalist, Melinda often identifies a topic to research, or is assigned one by an editor. Her reporting is based on extensive interviews with experts, and she translates it for a broader audience of parents.

But for the first newsletter of 2022, Melinda did something different. She sat down to write and started with: “If you’re anything like me, you’re losing your mind…”

She was reflecting on her own experience of starting the year amidst a new wave in the pandemic, and that of the many parents and experts she spoke with. This newsletter shared her personal experience in a very honest way. The email included phrases such as:

“I’m having an especially hard time with the cognitive dissonance…”

“This is the other thing that’s putting me on edge…”

And she shared details of what she and her family were going through at the moment. It was raw and honest. She described it as more of a rant, and explained how she wrote it quickly in less than an hour.

This is the kind of authenticity and honesty that tends to truly engage people online, when they feel as though they are truly connecting with you as a human being, not playing some small part in a “content strategy” that someone devised to optimized for social media likes.

The response was immediate — loads of emails back from her readers. When she posted an excerpt of it in her Instagram feed, it received 10 times the level of engagement as her other posts.

I often talk about focusing on every individual person you can engage with, and not worry about an “audience.” What happened next illustrates why…

Every Reader Counts

So it turns out that one of her readers is an editor at The Atlantic. Melinda had two essays run in that publication in the past four years, but for different editors. This editor immediately asked if she would write a piece for them based on this newsletter.

In less than a week she wrote it and it was published. It immediately became one of their most shared articles, filling Melinda’s inbox with messages, and her Instagram with DMs.

When she shared it on Instagram, her online engagement was (again) 10x what it would be for a typical post.

Be Prepared for Opportunity

A couple days later, she got an email from a producer at CNN, they wanted to invite her to the studio to do a segment on the topic of the essay. CNN quickly switched the appearance to being through Zoom instead of in-person.

Because of her Instagram feed and the promotion she did for her book, Melinda was well set up to appear on video. Not just having her technical system down, but being super comfortable knowing how to talk about her work in a manner that was professional, yet engaging.

So there she was on CNN, with her bed in the background, talking about the topic that started as a quick rant in a newsletter and snowballed from there.

Other national newspaper editors have reached out to her as well, interested in her writing for them too.

Bring Your People Together

Melinda didn’t stop there. The outreach to her piece was so massive that she decided to hold an event on Saturday evening for her readers. This would be a chance for parents to come together to share, vent, feel heard, and know that they are not alone in their challenges.

Even though The Atlantic and CNN offered her a greater breath of audience, Melinda didn’t stop showing up to engage deeply with her core community. Dozens of people joined and Melinda engaged with every single person. It was such a meaningful experience, that she is doing another event.

Outcomes That Matter

In working with writers full-time for 12 years, I have long since learned that publicity can be complicated. I’ve spoken to plenty of authors who had the media appearance of their dreams — having their book featured on the Today Show or other national media, only to see zero bump in their sales numbers, and no growth in their followers.

But the strategy that Melinda has been taking is different. Let’s talk about the outcomes of this entire experience as it relates to some of her goals as an author:

  • She saw 1.5% growth in her Instagram followers and free newsletter subscribers during this timeframe. But, she saw 10% growth in her paid subscribers, which is huge!
  • New professional connections were created with editors and producers that could lead to other assignments or appearances later on.
  • Deeper reader connections were forged — those who don’t just know her as the author of a book, but someone who brings people together and truly sees them as a reader.
  • She created a new type of event that she can now use with her audience down the road.
  • Of course, this entire experience gave her lots of material to share about on social media.
  • It adds to her already impressive list of credentials. She is hired for speaking events too, and these credentials could increase the chance that someone becomes aware of her work, or hires her.

What Melinda achieved here is why I believe writers need a system in how they establish their identity, find their readers, and launch and promote their books. What she did here follows a progression and a strategy. If you want to explore how we can work together for your goals as a writer, take a look at my process and reach out.

And you can find out more on Melinda — her book, newsletter, Instagram, speaking, and more — on her website.