How I Really Sold The World-Famous Brooklyn Bridge, One Piece At A Time
It’s true. In 1983 I became the first person in history to sell the world-famous historical landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge, piece by piece. That was also the beginning of a very exciting new life for me. And I have media publicity to thank for it all.
I started “playing around” with publicity at the age of 15. I followed what the books were telling me to do. I wrote the press release just the way they told me. I addressed the envelopes just the way they told me. I mailed the releases just the way they told me.
I bombed. I got no press coverage at all. So, I got another book. I read every word. I followed the plan. Bombed again...and again...and again.
Eventually, it dawned on me: maybe all those books were wrong!!! They were telling me how to get press coverage, but they weren’t showing me proof that any of their techniques worked. They never showed copies of articles or gave details about any media interviews.
So, I started to experiment with the releases I was writing. I had no idea what I was doing. I would just try something. If it worked, I kept it in. If it didn’t work, I tossed it.
Slowly but surely, I started getting publicity. As my technique improved, I got more and more. I wasn’t able to find these techniques in any book. I was just trying any idea that would come to mind.
Pretty soon, I was on a real roll. I was able to get lots of publicity...and I was able to get it quickly. But still, something was missing.
I was getting lots of publicity, but I wanted the “big kill”. I wanted a story that would drive the national media absolutely nuts!!! I wanted news reporters knocking down my door to get my story. I wanted my phone to be ringing non-stop -- each one a call from a reporter, hot to get an interview with me.
I knew that there was still one piece missing in my publicity puzzle. I knew that when I figured out what it was, I’d hit the jackpot. My life would change forever...if I could only figure out what the missing piece was.
it hit me like a brick!
I knew what the missing piece was!!!
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was squeezing my brain, trying to come up with the missing piece of the publicity puzzle. I took a break to get something to eat and wham...there it was! The answer.
I went wild. I knew I had found it. I had the solution to writing a killer press release. The kind that would get me media coverage around the world.
But I didn’t have a story I could use my new formula on.
I was jumping and twitching, wait for a hot story to hit so that I could test my new formula.
Well, I didn’t have to wait long.
A few weeks later I was watching the morning news on television. I saw a man being interviewed about the renovations being done on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Now everyone’s heard about the Brooklyn Bridge. Even if it’s just the old line about “Wanna buy the Brooklyn Bridge?”.
It seems that the guy being interviewed was the foreman of the construction crew doing work on the Bridge. He said that the wooden pedestrian walkway was being removed because it was old and rotting. (Up to then I didn’t know any part of the Brooklyn Bridge was made of wood...and I live just 30 minutes away!)
Anyway, the wood that was being removed was the original wood that was used when the Bridge was first built. Standing behind this guy was a huge pile of this old, rotting wood.
There was no doubt in my mind
This was the story I was looking for. This was the story I needed to test my new press release formula.
The first thing I did was call the guy who was interviewed on the TV. How did I get his number? It was right on the side of his truck, which was as clear as day during the interview.
I asked him what he was going to do with all that old, rotting wood.
“I’m going to toss it out. It’s junk.”
I asked him if he’d be interested in selling it and delivering it for $500. I told him I was just 30 minutes away.
With a “my mother raised no fools” tone in his voice, he said “Sure I’ll sell it for $500.”
We made the deal and I gave him the directions.
Next, I made another phone call and made arrangements to have the wood cut up into 1” square pieces, each about 1/8” thick.
Then, I jumped out of my chair and headed for my typewriter (didn’t have a computer in those days). I wrote the press release for my idea. Step by step I followed the formula I had just come up with. This was the test.
It took me about 15 minutes to finish the release. The headline read:
Jersey Man Sells
Brooklyn Bridge...for $14.95!
Are you catching on yet?
After I finished the release, I did a rough layout for a 5 1/2 x 8 1/2” certificate. On this certificate, I wrote a little history of the Brooklyn Bridge and some current information about the Bridge.
Then I wrote, “Attached to this certificate is a genuine piece of the original wooden pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge.” At the top of the certificate I drew a small box where the piece of wood was going to be attached.
I was done. I took the press release and the rough sketch of the certificate to a friend of mine who was a printer.
“Can you make me copies of this press release and typeset this certificate so it looks professional and have it for me this afternoon?”
He said “Sure!”
I zoomed back home. I was on fire. My heart was pounding. I was headed for the big time. I knew it. I had the formula for writing a killer press release and now it was going to provide me with everything I wanted.
As soon as I got home, I started addressing envelopes to key media people. I don’t remember how many I sent out, but it was probably no more than a couple of hundred.
The whole mailing didn’t even cost $100!!!
When I was done, I went back to the printer. The press release copies and certificate typesetting were done. I was thrilled. The certificate was spectacular. I told him to print up a stack of them. I knew I was going to need plenty.
I took the press releases home, stuffed them in the envelopes and raced to the mailbox before the 5 PM pick up. (Why didn’t I fax them? This was before there were cheap home fax machines.)
Then I waited.
Nothing happened the next day. It takes the mail a while to get to where it’s going.
But...the day after, everything went absolutely wild!!! My dream came true. The phone started ringing like crazy; reporters were coming to my door. I was doing interviews for newspapers, magazines, radio shows, television shows. Every time an interview would run, more reporters wanted to do a story on the guy who was really selling the Brooklyn Bridge.
Reporters from around the country were calling, coming to my door, coming to the place where I worked. It was a blast!!!
CNN even sent one of those big trucks with the antennas on top right to my front door. They wanted to broadcast the story all around the nation. They ran cables up the stairs; had reporters with microphones setting up; lights; cameras. The works!
They shot the interview...and then...if you know CNN...they ran that interview every 30 minutes for the next 3 days!!!!!
The publicity went on and on for over 6 months!!! That’s not 6 days or 6 weeks. I said 6 months. And it was a ball. Just about every major newspaper sent a reporter. Radio stations from around the country called. Magazines from every corner of the nation ran the story.
I was in the newspapers, on radio & TV shows, in magazines. Everywhere I looked I saw the story of the guy who was selling the Brooklyn Bridge. I was having the time of my life!
After 6 months, things started to cool down. I figured the publicity wave was over. I had accomplished my goal. I hit an enormous jackpot.
The Johnny Carson Show called!!!
They read the Brooklyn Bridge story in a small midwestern newspaper. They asked if I’d send a sample.
I did. I didn’t hear anything for probably 2 or 3 months. Then I got a phone call.
Johnny was going to do a “little bit” about the Brooklyn Bridge on the Tonight Show. It would be aired in the next few days.
Well, Carson’s “little bit” turned out to be about 10 minutes worth of air time for me. Carson even did one of his comedy knock-off routines based on the Bridge certificate.
It started all over again. A whole new round of media people saw that Carson show. They hadn’t done a story on the Bridge, but they wanted to do one now. The phone started ringing again and I was on my way to weeks of additional free publicity.
From that day on, my life has never been the same. I know how to use the media to get just about anything I want. And I’ve used it over and over and over again.
Life is a lot of fun when what you want is yours for the asking!
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