This May, I was contacted by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal. She had read one of my blog posts online, and wanted to interview me for a piece she was writing about adults who had been voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school. Flattered and curious, I agreed to play along.
After my interview, the journalist told me that the WSJ wanted to send a photographer to take pictures of me in my business. Never one to turn down publicity (especially in a publication like the Wall Street Journal!), I agreed. The photographer contacted me with an idea for the shoot. He wanted to do an action shot he called "It's Raining Bon Bons". The idea was that Pacal would stand on a ladder outside of our building with a bucket full of bon bons. Umbrella in hand, I would step out of the door into a shower of our product.
Now, if you're the owner of a bon bon business, the first thing you ask when you hear such an idea is: "How many bon bons is that going to take?" As I suspected, the answer was "too many". We aren't in the business of making labor intensive bon bons only to dump them all over the sidewalk!
So, as we have done in the past for various photo shoots and visual displays, we used fake bon bons made from PlayDoh. The faux bon bons get wrapped in our foils so they look almost exactly like the real thing. (Hint: if you're ever at one of our trade shows or festivals, don't try to steal the bon bons on display--you'll be in for a mouthful of PlayDoh!)
Our neighbors must truly think we're crazy! On an very warm spring day, Pascal stood outside pouring bon bons on my head while I smiled for the camera. Some of the bon bons would roll down the sidewalk or into the street; others ricocheted off the umbrella and went rolling into our great room. After each click of the shutter, Pascal, the photographer, and I would scurry around, hunting in the bushes and under furniture for the bon bons so we could take the shot again.
Chasing after bon bons on my hands and knees did nothing for my professionally coiffed hair and carefully applied makeup. By the time we'd finished with that shot (the first one of the day, of course!), I was sweating profusely and I looked a wreck. But, it was far from over. The photographer still needed to take plenty of other shots for consideration by the newspaper.
Thankfully, our photographer, D.J. Struntz, was a real pro! He managed to make it look like I was cool and composed, even though I was an overheated sweaty mess. It's a good thing too. Not only did the photo appear online, it also graced the front page of the Personal section of The Wall Street Journal.
Although my experiences working with journalist Sue Shellenbarger and photographer D.J. Struntz were extremely positive, I was surprised by the slant of the article. Prior to its publication, I did not know that the article would portray me as someone who felt "burdened" by my high school honorific. Truth be told, the burden of picking up rolling bon bons in the hot Carolina sun while worrying about my hair and melting makeup was far more taxing then being voted Most Likely to Succeed!
But, as the old adage goes, "all publicity is good publicity". I certainly got a taste of the far-reaching influence of the Wall Street Journal. A distant cousin with whom I've not had contact in nearly twenty years, emailed me from Madagascar; he had seen my photo that morning in the paper. People I'd never met sent me emails, including a sweet lady whose mother used to live here in Wilmington. Other strangers passed judgment on me via comments and blog posts. And one of our area television stations turned the story into a local news piece.
For us, the true measure of success for any media coverage is how it translates into bon bon sales. We can directly trace two customers to the article, a couple who vacationed here in Wilmington the week the article was published. They sought us out, tried our bon bons, and have since become repeat customers. But unless they read this blog post, they'll never know all that went on behind the scenes to add them to our customer database!