Tom Haibeck is a DJ who is also a public relations professional and talented communicator.
He’s written a number of books to help wedding hosts’ those involved with the event, like a best man, or DJ/MCs’ do a better job of hosting. His latest project applies his PR expertise to the DJ marketing challenge. Listen in as we talk with Tom about these endeavors and more…
Ryan Burger: So, Tom, tell us about your books on emceeing.
Tom Haibeck: You know, I’ve told this story many times…I was asked to emcee a whole bunch of weddings…Back when I was younger and my friends were getting married, our tradition here in Canada is that typically it’s the best man or a family member or family friend who emcees. And so I had been working in radio. People thought I was, I guess, comfortable with the microphone and that I could get in front of an audience and speak. So I began emceeing weddings and got pretty good at it, so I kept getting asked to do it.
And I thought there would be a market for a book on how to emcee a wedding, because I’d been to some weddings where the emcee was really bad, including my own. And so I published The Wedding MC way back in 1990. I kind of did it as a lark. I had no idea whether it would sell or not. I printed 1,000 copies and it sold out pretty quickly. So I printed another 5,000 copies and that sold. And it’s kept going ever since.
That book led into what I call the U.S. version, Wedding Toasts Made Easy. I discovered that in America and in other parts of the world, emceeing a wedding is typically done by professionals. And so the market for a book about how to emcee weddings was a bit different in the U.S. It wasn’t going to be a consumer kind of item. But I did know that the tradition of toasting at a wedding was universal, and a lot of the advice that I’d had in the emcee book would certainly cross over and apply to anybody making a wedding toast. So I kind of rejigged it a little bit. And so that’s how the second book came into being.
But my background is, I draw upon a number of things in terms of putting these books together. It was my early experience in emceeing weddings was part of it. But I make my living as a public relations consultant here in Vancouver. So I’ve written speeches for major corporate executives. Over the years I’ve emceed all kinds of events. I helped plan and organize major corporate events, like the opening of our trade and convention center here in Vancouver. I did a lot of work at our World’s Fair, Expo ’86.
And I’ve done a lot of speaking around the world as well. So I drew upon all of those kind of areas in putting these books together. And, tried to put the books together in a way that would be easy to read, humorous, something that people could get through fairly quickly; and that’s, I think, really been the success of those books, is being able to distill that knowledge and information down and make it understandable and make it usable for the average person.
R B: On last summer’s Mobile Beat Tour, you did a presentation on DJs using PR. Tell us a little bit about what you think DJs need to be doing.
T B: Well, again, Ryan, I’ve got another book coming out that’s going to be called The Power of Publicity. It’s aimed at wedding professionals and it covers all of the little guerilla marketing tactics that people can use to get themselves free media coverage. Again, that’s my background. I help corporations gain awareness about their company, their products and services, by getting them free media coverage.
So I’ve applied some of that experience in preparing a little handbook for wedding professionals on how they can do the same thing. And it’ll cover everything from how to put together a simple press release; how to contact the media; what to be aware of during a media interview; how to get your message across effectively; some of the dirty tricks reporters might use that you need to be aware of; how to package your service up and make it appealing to media.
I talk about some of the various story ideas that DJs can develop and run with in seeking media coverage, drawing upon their own experience. You know, things like going on a talk show and talking about how to make a wedding more fun. Peter Merry has done a lot of that, with his book [ The Best Wedding Reception…Ever! ] and he’s done a really good job…But DJs all have different experiences, different orientation. And as a TV producer, people are looking for that kind of information that will appeal to consumers, the average guy in the street. People putting together a wedding, it’s typically the first time in their life they’ve done something like that. They want to have fun. And who better to tell them about how to do that or offer some tips than a wedding DJ?
Another story idea: the top 10 songs for having fun at a wedding, to get people dancing. Again, that’s drawing upon your experience. Another one we talked about at those seminars was why iPod weddings are a bad idea; and again, topical, timely, newsworthy. Tons of media coverage out about why iPod weddings work and the advantages of them, but not a lot of coverage out there about why it doesn’t make sense; the downsides of doing that.
So again, there are opportunities for mobile entertainers to leverage their own skills and experience in gaining that kind of media coverage that can build their own profile; and in so doing, help them increase their presence and increase their fees. Because the better known they are and the more qualified as an expert they are perceived to be, the more they can charge for their services.
So that’s what that book is going to cover, and it should be out hopefully in the next few months here. [ Editor?s note: Tom will be presenting a seminar walking DJs through the PR process at MBLV16 this February. ]
R B: Very cool. So obviously a project that you’re continuing to work on and continuing to revise. I mean, you’ve had some success of your own with national TV coverage. If I remember correctly, you got to meet Regis?
T B: Yeah. You know, one of the big breaks for my little book came, I think it was back in 2005. And Regis Philbin’s daughter was getting married and he began to talk about that on the air. He and Kelly would do their little banter. And one of the things that came out was he was talking about how nervous he was about having to make a toast at his daughter’s wedding and how he was concerned about tearing up and getting emotional, like most fathers of the bride.
And so I heard about this through some friends, who suggested, you know, you should send him a copy of your book; I mean, who knows, maybe he’ll use it. Anyway, through some connections I had, I got a copy of the book to him. And unbeknownst to me, he showed up one morning on air and started talking about the book. You know, he discovered this little book and he brings it out and holds it up to the camera and the camera zooms in. And he says, man, this just happens to be a pretty good little book. And he starts talking about what he learned from it, etc.
And I had no idea that was going to happen. It happened again after the wedding. He talked about it again about how much it had helped him after the wedding. But my phone lit up that morning. My bookkeeper was the first person to call. And she said, “Tom, I can’t believe this. I’m watching television and Regis Philbin is reading, live, from your book on national television…” I was just freaking out. My little book went from about 500,000th on Amazon.com to the top 20,000 within 24 hours of that broadcast. So to me, that demonstrates the power of publicity; the power of media coverage in promoting sales of a book like that.
I had a chance to meet Regis later. He came to Vancouver, doing a show here locally with his wife. And I got to meet him backstage, and he remembered the book and was very gracious. I was most impressed, because he was the same guy offstage that he was onstage and on television.
But the whole subject matter of those books, again, crosses into the whole consumer area that is of interest to TV producers and editors, etc. We all share this common fear of public speaking. And making a wedding toast or emceeing a wedding, that gets potentially exacerbated because people are doing it in front of friends…So people can get really nervous and kind of freaked out about having to take on those roles. So I’ve been able to take a proactive role in getting the message out about these little books and in making myself available to media to talk about those aspects. And that’s landed me interviews with the New York Times, the Washington Post, Men’s Health, and many others.
R B: What else are you working on right now?
T B: When I was in New York as part of your tour and I came across the Wall Street Journal column about terrible wedding emcees…And that prompted me to write the article for your publication [ “Fear & Loathing on Wall Street,” MB Nov. 2011 ] and to start a new little thing which I’m launching called NoMoreBadToasts.com. And it’s really kind of an online community designed for wedding DJs and professionals to help people up their game in terms of their own emcee skills.
I’m also writing a blog called TheProfessionalMC.com. And that’ll offer tips and background information for emcees to draw upon. I’m taking kind of an inside look and showcasing some of the industry’s best and brightest emcees, talking to them about how they got started in the business, what they’ve learned, how they prepare for events, what they look for in terms of putting an event together and keeping it fun and engaging; those kind of things. I’m also going to share business success stories and look inside the operational side of some of these businesses. So I’m trying to make this a place where DJs, mobile operators, emcees, can come to learn more about the business and get better at what they do.
And I’m also going to offer my ebooks on a license basis, whereby the wedding professional will be able to buy on a bulk-buy basis…They’ll be able to pass those on to their brides to download. Anybody making a wedding toast will be able to get a copy of that from their DJ, which will help them enormously in doing their wedding toasts at the wedding and make the DJ look good in doing it; right? It just helps underline their professionalism and their care. MB
Filed Under: Issue #140
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