Book PR: O'Connor seeks to cutout cussing

Client: Jim V. O'Connor (Northbrook, IL)

Client: Jim V. O'Connor (Northbrook, IL)

Client: Jim V. O'Connor (Northbrook, IL)

PR Team: O'Connor Communications (Northbrook, IL)

Campaign: 'Cuss Control'

Time Frame: August 1998-July 2000

Budget: dollars 40,000

On his way to see the film Get Shorty, Jim O'Connor, head of O'Connor Communications, was complaining to his wife about how often he hears the 'F' word these days. As fate would have it, O'Connor remembers, 'the first word (in the movie) was the 'F' word, and they used nothing but the 'F' word (throughout).'

Thoroughly offended, O'Connor became more agitated about prevalent use of the word, and, as a PR practitioner, decided it was his responsibility to shape public discourse. 'The basis of PR is not just exposure, but image and reputation,' he says.

So, representing himself, O'Connor structured an ingenious PR campaign to fuel interest in the book he was writing, Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cussing.

By creating the workshop and sending out press releases to PR Newswire, he positioned himself as an expert, and in doing so created news value for the book.


To strengthen his credibility and provide a platform from which to tout his book, O'Connor began teaching classes aimed at helping adults control their swearing. He targeted both individuals and companies.

His agent warned him of overexposure as the April 2000 publication date of his book neared. Too much publicity on the front end would hurt him when he needed to sell the book.

But O'Connor felt confident. 'My feeling was that the publicity was creating awareness of swearing as a problem. So suddenly, (my clients) would hear about the book after going through training and a lot of them invited me back,' he said. Moral: don't tell a PR guy how to PR his own book.


After his first round of teaching, O'Connor issued a press release. Rather than announce the opening of his new 'Cuss Control Academy,' he let the media think it had already been established, thus bolstering its reputation.

He spent several months issuing press releases on PR Newswire focusing attention on how cussing affects everyday life. After completing his book in the summer of 1999, he established a Web site,, to serve as a clearinghouse for media inquiries.

In the Fall of 1999, he approached human resources magazines with press releases about swearing in the workplace, eventually obtaining 15 invitations to speak to employees about the downside of cussing.

By January 2000, he had sent more than 700 sample books to newspapers, only to find that most don't review self-help books. 'Lucky for me many of them passed (the book) on to their features reporters,' said O'Connor.

All the while, O'Connor kept an eye on current events, and issued press releases about his book and classes when appropriate. For example, he sent out a release this past summer when Tiger Woods was overheard cussing at the US Open, and again when George W Bush cursed the name of a New York Times reporter. He even used business trips for his other clients to promote his book, calling television and radio stations in those markets to arrange interviews.


The 1998 launch was covered by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and at least 10 radio stations. The Sun-Times article led to a January 1999 interview on the Oprah Winfrey Show, cementing O'Connor's reputation as a cuss-control expert. By August 1999, he had been the subject of 26 newspaper articles, 13 magazine articles, and had been on 15 television and 200 radio stations. His press release on Tiger Woods, who he admonished for swearing because of his role-model status, earned him coverage in USA Today. After his book release, he was covered in 300 articles in publications with circulation totaling 39.2 million.


O'Connor is working on a screenplay for a movie about controlling profanity.

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