Mike Schwager: Phil Smith and Eric Thomas are co-authors of A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking and the Business Solution for Ending Poverty. They sought to drive book sales and to raise the issue of microfinance, especially among entrepreneurs.
What made FT.com such a good hit for them? How did you pitch the editors there?
Schwager: FT.com reaches a global business audience, which made it an ideal target. I had worked with both the Financial Times and FT.com in the past, so when I came up with the idea of a live debate between a proponent and an opponent of microcredit, I proposed it to a New York-based FT editor. He ran it by the editors in London and they loved it.
An online debate is a bit of an unusual forum. Was it difficult to put together?
Schwager: No. Even before I pitched the idea, I had reached out to University of Michigan professor Aneel Karnani, who had written an article critical of microcredit, or microfinance as it's known internationally, for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Once he was on board, the whole thing came together quickly, as FT.com has done online debates before, though not on this subject.
Did participating in a live online debate require any special preparation?
Schwager: Because it was a live text-based debate, there was no media training, but Eric had to be extremely quick in typing answers to the complex questions posed by an editor in London. We also made a chapter of the book available on FT.com and worked with Professor Karnani to make his article available.
What was the impact of the hit?
Schwager: The 90-minute online debate was a huge success and a summary ran on page one of FT, as well. Book sales rose considerably, so the authors felt it ended up as a brilliant way to promote the book.
Name: Mike Schwager, president, World Link Media Consultants (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Placement: FT.com, July 19, 2007
Pitch timeline: Two weeks