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Bikerlady, Empress

When a PR gal became a motorcycle writer, little did she know she'd end up building herself a brand.

By Sasha Mullins - December 3, 2003

Seven years ago, I roared out of my nine-to-five job and into the wild world of professional motojournalism. I knew what I was doing, but I didn't realize I'd also be charging full-speed into the world of self-branding and multimedia marketing.

I'd been a public-relations director in the music business, and this exciting ride started with an article I wrote about being a motorcycle passenger, before I ever got my first Harley-Davidson and moved from the backseat to the front. After penning several features about riding, I was approached by an agent to write a book about women and motorcycling. I was thrilled for the opportunity.

But the thrill turned to disappointment as I dealt with the publishing process. My publisher wanted to give me only two months to research and write this nonfiction, reported book. I finagled a three-month deadline, but I still received a pittance pay. It was OK, because the book was a labor of love. Which is why I was delighted when a few months before the book was scheduled for release, my agent and publisher asked me to prepare a comprehensive marketing plan for my beloved work of art. I badly wanted to get the book out there, and I happily provided them with a comprehensive plan—brimming with insider information from the biker lifestyle and the motorcycle industry—and a mission statement that would guide all the sales, marketing, and PR efforts for the book. I even wrote and assembled a model media kit for the publishers' PR department.

But the media kit and marketing plan I created were never used. In fact, my book dropped off the radar and was released with minimal marketing or PR support. I was invited to debut the book, Bikerlady: Living & Riding Free, at Harley-Davidson's 100th anniversary party, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last summer, an event which would be covered by 750 media outlets worldwide—but nary a press release was distributed by my publishers to support this high-profile appearance. Frantic phone calls to the PR department went unanswered. Finally, the reality that had been staring me in the face for months set in: My book was not a priority, no matter how much I was told that it was a valuable project. At that point, I decided to hit the ground running as my own PR, marketing, and sales representative. Little did I know that becoming a published author would lead to me building a branded multimedia empire.

Before the release of my book, I had already begun building a brand based on the response to my articles. I started a company called Bikerlady, Inc., and created an informational website that has evolved into an entertaining one. But what has truly branded the Bikerlady name are the television programs on which I have appeared. It started with the BBC inviting me to take part in an in-depth documentary about motorcycles. Next came the Discovery Channel's Motorcycle Women, in which I starred with five other female riders. The program featured my book and my journalism and music careers. Although only one installment was filmed, the fans are begging to see more of us, and we've begun filming additional footage for a possible future show. Soon after that program filmed, I was approached to co-host a new program called Biker Girls: Born to be Wild, on TLC, The Learning Channel.

After the disappointment with my publishers' publicity campaign for the book, I realized I could capitalize on the multimedia opportunities I had already established. I managed to secure a PR firm to help me with my grassroots efforts by offering them a percentage of my future royalties. This firm helped secure last-minute press opportunities at Harley's 100th Anniversary. I continued to send out press releases through the web, placed marketing information on my website, and created promotional opportunities through my television appearances. By taking advantage of these multimedia opportunities, I realized I could reach women in motorcycling even more than I knew—in fact, I could reach the entire biker community, including those who didn't ride but were fascinated by bikes.

Right now, I'm negotiating my next book deal with a wonderful new publisher, and my brand is flourishing: The website has evolved into the leading resource for women in motorcycling, and, with the next design phase, it'll open up even more business opportunities. There's a merchandising line, a joint venture with a motorcycle manufacturer, and the chance to option the film rights to my many writing projects. Bikerlady has become a successful multimedia brand.

It took one small writing assignment to lead to a multimedia empire. But it's not by pure luck that my empire is evolving. It took hard work coupled with tons of faith. It's important to be focused and continually aware of multimedia opportunities that could extend the reach of your words. The key is to watch for opportunities at all times, I learned, and when there are none, create them.

In the end, it wasn't really the publishing effort that expanded my empire. It was the fledgling empire that made the publishing effort work. (After I started my multimedia campaign, sales were great.) And now, this feedback loop is paying off: One part helps sell the other, which helps sell the first. I'll continue to expand my empire, working as an author, an artist, and a businesswoman. My goal is to achieve iconic branding status. Along the way, I'd like to teach others how to make their creative sparks light a fiery path of success.

It's important (and entertaining!) to think beyond our writing talents to embrace a whole other business opportunity. Multimedia branding leads us through uncharted territory, yes, but there's no need to fear it. It's just like saddling up on a Harley and taking to the open road, charging the unknown because the adventure awaits you. You don't need to know what's around the bend; just let the challenge to discover new opportunities lead you. Today, this Bikerlady is queen of her own road and free to ride her own path, thanks to a trusty pen.

Just call me the Empress of Motorcycles.

Sasha Mullins is a motorcycle journalist and the author of Bikerlady: Living & Riding Free, which you can buy at Amazon.com. She's also the co-star of the Discovery Channel's Motorcycle Women, a host of TLC's forthcoming Biker Girls: Born to Be Wild, and the CEO of Bikerlady, Inc. She lives in Santa Maria, California, and New York City.



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