Jon Stewart

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

I receive regular offers from The New York Times—in the print newspaper and online—to sign up for Times Premier. The promise: "The Times Insider—your backstage pass to the life and drama that transpires daily in our newsroom."

The Daily Show had been on TV for three years before audiences took notice. Back in 1999, when the show first aired, its inconsistent format and lack of focus all but drove away audiences. So what changed to make the show beloved by the masses? High-quality content, consistently delivered. In a blog post at Cedar Sage Marketing, Suzanne Doughty discusses that transformation and what The Daily Show can teach businesses about the craving for outstanding content. So what lessons can you learn from a hit show? Hire the right people for the job: To boost ratings, the producers hired …

When I saw that the 2008 rate for a speech by Larry Summers was $45,000 to $135,000, I got to thinking.

Out of curiosity, I started prowling the various Web sites of speakers' bureaus and came to six conclusions:

  1. It seems everybody in the world is available for speeches. Included are political and show business stars, second and third bananas, and hundreds upon hundreds of people I never heard of.
  2. All of these people—luminaries and nobodies—get fees from $1,000 to $1 million, plus expenses.
  3. I used to make a lot of speeches, and all I ever got was expenses and a plaque with my name engraved on it.
  4. I was a damned fool. I was as much a nobody as anybody else and could've picked up some dough if I'd just asked.
  5. If someone invites you to make a speech, think about asking for an honorarium at the very least, if not a fat fee, plus expenses. For Colin Powell, expenses include a private jet along with his $100,000 fee.
  6. The worst that can happen is that no money in the budget exists for fees or expenses. If you refuse, someone will replace you.

"Public relations is the business of letting people in on what you are doing," counseled Evelyn Lawson, my first mentor in the business. And Michael Levine's new guide, "Guerilla PR 2.0: Wage an Effective Publicity Campaign Without Going Broke" (ISBN 978-0-06-143852-3, Collins paperback, 354 pages, $14.95), will put you and your team in the mind-set-and give you the basics-of professional PR. Even if you have a PR department or an outside agency on retainer, here is the inside dope that will enable you to know whether your PR is being done right or not.

One day God and St. Peter met on the first tee of the celestial golf course, and St. Peter hit a magnificent drive straight down the fairway.

God stepped up, addressed the ball and-with a mighty swing-hooked it deep into the woods.

One minute later, a squirrel with God's golf ball in its mouth ran out of the woods and started across the fairway.

Whereupon an eagle swooped out of the sky, grabbed the squirrel in its talons and flew off. When the eagle got over the hole, it squeezed the squirrel, who dropped the ball, which landed on the green and rolled into the cup for a hole-in-one.

St. Peter turned to God. "Are you going to play golf," he asked, "or are you going to screw around?"

From where I sit, both presidential candidates are screwing around.

The nuts-and-bolts of the issues are buried under mounds of slung mud.

And in terms of marketing, John McCain is playing a most dangerous game.

I’ve earned my living as a writer much of my life, just as my father and uncle had before me. I wrote some novels and business books, but it was junk mail that paid the bills. As a non-union writer, I follow the Writers Guild of America’s strike against the motion picture and television industries with fascination. Imagine! An unheralded collection of faceless individuals—whose behind-the-scenes creativity is the engine responsible for generating billions of dollars in revenues—has brought the entire industry to its knees. This column is about the Writers Guild Strike and the Mexican standoff that has become so expensive that no

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