On July 6, 2015, the Dalai Lama turned 80 years old. People love to celebrate 80th birthdays, much more than 75 (why is that?), so it was clear to all that there would be a big worldwide observance. My old friend Daniel Goleman authored a special book written closely with the Dalai Lama designed to be published in concert with the birthday - A FORCE FOR GOOD: The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World. Over many years, I've helped with the promotion and outreach for Dan's books and was happy to be part of this push.
Although this was not a book authored by the Dalai Lama, there are a lot of Dalai Lama books out there, so the challenge is always how to get media and public attention for a new book that can sometimes seem too similar to previous books. Dan and his wife Tara raised some funds to create an active website where people could commit to being a "force for good" and engage in compassionate acts in honor of the birthday - Join a Force 4 Good. They also brought on an active social media team - an essential dimension of any book or film outreach these days. My job, in addition to going after conventional and new media opportunities, morphed into creating some videos that would both celebrate the birthday and link in the new book.
Side note. Book publicity has become increasingly more difficult over the last decade. The big "get" used to be the Oprah Show - where one appearance could make a bestseller. When Oprah held up a book and said, "Everyone must read this," it worked. Hundreds of thousands of copies would be sold within days. Also, the network morning shows - Today, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning - were once ideal venues for book promotion. Well, the Oprah show is long gone and the morning shows have increasing become giggly entertainment hubs rarely interested in serious books. So in the new digital age, social media and content creation are key. Content creation means generating magnetic social media posts as well as blogs, short videos - all designed to be compelling on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. "Going viral" is the catch phrase of the this new media age, but those ice-bucket challenges are often spontaneous and hard to manufacture or contrive. However, we can all still create posts and campaigns that people enjoy sharing and liking, so the word spreads to key audiences with the right message.
As expected, the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday was celebrate globally.The week before the birthday, he visited the Glastonbury music festival in the U.K. where 150,000 people sang happy birthday, then on to Southern California for three days of gatherings including a major birthday event. Then he traveled to to New York City. Connected to A FORCE FOR GOOD, Dan spoke at ABC Home where everyone sang Happy Birthday which we captured on video. We then decided to videotape many more personal birthday greetings to create a compilation video. John Halpern agreed to be our video producer, I also came up with idea of getting Broadway stars to send birthday greetings. Rob Fisher, a very well-connected theater maven, volunteered to help pull this together. He also arranged for some Broadway singers to come to a conversation evening at the 92nd Street Y in NYC with Dan Goleman and Dan Harris. The singers would lead the crowd in happy birthday, also to be captured on video.
You can see here the results of this effort. The Broadway community is joyous in their birthday wishes. And the real star was Ana, age four, from Queens, New York. She leads the compilation video with 12-captivating seconds. Over 60,000 people watched Ana sing happy birthday. Both the compilation video and the Broadway video featured links to the book campaign and the social media team actively posted elements from the videos.