How Jen Kushell Reached Millions, Wrote a Bestseller & Became “Guru of Her Generation”

Recently, YSN President & Founder Jennifer Kushell was featured in Steve Harrison’s Book Marketing Update. Since the magazine is in print we got the go ahead from Steve to share the full article with you here.

Not long ago, New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur and consultant Jennifer Kushell hired a media company to audit all of her past media appearances. The results they returned were astounding.

Kushell, who is globally recognized as an expert on young people and career development, was told she’d received approximately $7 million worth of free publicity and reached more than 200 million people via mass media over the past 15 years.

That number is closer to 300 million these days.

Kushell’s career took off when she was 19, still in college and before she’d ever published a book. How did she achieve these impressive results — and at such a young age?

It all began when Entrepreneur magazine published a piece she’d written about the emerging entrepreneurial demographic she was a part of. That article sparked interest in her story and led to a number of profiles in other leading publications, from Elle to U.S. News & World Report.

“U.S. News & World Report ended up calling me a ‘guru of my generation,’” she recalls, adding that scoring this label was “a huge thing” because it made her stand out and turned her into a spokesperson for her age group.

In the wake of that publicity, a number of large regional newspapers all over the country ran articles about Kushell. She was able to capitalize on the growing media frenzy by publishing her second book, The Young Entrepreneur’s Edge.

“One of the things I learned was that media is like a virus,” she says, adding that this all occurred at the dawn of the Internet Age, long before there was constant chatter about news and information going viral on YouTube and elsewhere online. As a result, Kushell has also been featured by many international media.

How to play the media game (and get invited back)

Kushell credits having fun during her media appearances and developing camaraderie with the journalists she was meeting as two other key factors that led to her early success.

Wise beyond her years, but young enough to remain flexible and open-minded, Kushell says that her early experiences with media enabled her to “start to understand the anatomy of an article.”

First and foremost, she understood that she didn’t need to be the main focus of the story for which she was
being interviewed. As long as she gave great quotes or provided helpful background information, she would still get featured.

She also realized that if she prepared statistics, visual aids and demographic information in advance, she would become a more valuable resource to journalists, who would seek her out again and again. “Over the course of a few years I ended up sourcing over 400 different journalists,” she recalls. In one instance, in order to mine data she knew
would prove valuable, Kushell actually flew to another state in order to do research about her subject. “When you have data, statistics or research, that’s a great, great way to get media attention,” she explains. Asking journalists a follow-up question such as “Is there any other angle you think I can cover?” has also paid dividends over the years.

“We’re very busy people… If you can understand a journalist’s job, you’re more likely to get exposure,” she emphasizes.

Kushell chalks up her ability to capture the attention of journalists to the fact that she was talking about an emerging trend and began doing so at a very young age. She believes she also succeeded because she has always been ready, willing and prepared to help provide sources and statistics for a story.

“You just build great karma” by doing this, she says.

How she turned Secrets of the Young & Successful into a New York Times Bestseller

In 2003, Kushell and her husband and business partner, Scott M. Kaufman, published their book Secrets of the Young and Successful, after selling it to Simon & Schuster for a six-figure sum.

“We did a 10-city media tour and we did events all over the country,” she says. With publicity from major magazines such as Cosmopolitan, the book quickly debuted on the New York Times bestseller list—and became Simon & Schuster’s first book in two decades to hit that list before its publication date.

Before they ever put pen to paper, Kushell and Kaufman spent “many hours at the bookstores, and what we did was kind of deconstruct how you get a bestseller done.”

Their research convinced them that Simon & Schuster would be the best publisher to approach with their idea, because other major publishers weren’t focusing on the youthful demographic they had in mind.

After inking their deal, Kushell says she and Kaufman “planned a massive marketing campaign around (the book’s release),” which included high-profile launch parties on both coasts.

“We also had a larger goal of building a media company,” the Young and Successful Media Corporation. Their company launch was bolstered by the five-page spread she received in Cosmo; a “huge article” Kushell says ended up being “probably the biggest” of her career, in terms of impact.

How did that article come about? Kushell points out that her “relationship (with Cosmo) was cultivated over the years,” explaining that she “had met the editor-in-chief when she was working at Redbook, and we networked.”

Now a successful corporate speaker with popular social media platforms and two Web sites, JenniferKushell.com and ysn.com, Kushell adds that it’s also critically important to be able to change with the times.

For example, after the economic downturn began in 2008, Kushell says she re-evaluated her outreach goals and began to target individuals returning to the workforce after a long absence, in addition to the emerging workforce generation.

“You’ve just got to morph,” she notes. “You’ve got to be able to spin.” And “if you’re too hard of a salesperson, it’s not
going to work,” she advises.

According to Kushell, it’s the slow, steady and consistent publicity approach she has used for the past 15 years that will win you the race.

“You’re really going to have to get yourself out there and get beyond your comfort zone. It takes time. You can’t choose to be viral. The world has to choose you,” she sums up.

Article Featured in Steve Harrison’s Book Marketing Update.
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