A year and a half ago I went to an event in which a panel of experts discussed how to rock out publicity in the media for your business. "Publicity" always sounded dirty to me though - like you're using it only for your own benefit. As I picked up a ton of great tips at the event, I loved how the best publicity is actually achieved not through self-promotion, but through great service.
I'm excited to share with you these great tips so you can serve people well through public media (yeah, you'll gain good publicity in the process - but that's not the motivation, it's the outcome):
Before you pitch to the media:
1. Don’t randomly email them and say “hey, you should do a story on…”
If you do this you’re asking a stranger to do work for your benefit. Not a great way to start a relationship…
2. Build a colleague relationship with the media first.
Get to know them and serve them as colleagues. If you’re going into it with a “what can I get out of this” mentality, you’re already losing. You shouldn’t be trying to make money, you should be trying to provide value. But how do you start a colleague relationship with the media?
- Get to know the audience of the media that you want to pitch to (i.e. is it mostly younger or older people? males or females?). Can’t tell? See what advertisements are run, they usually are a good indicator of the audience.
- Read the media’s articles, watch its programming - get to know a reporter through reading and/or watching their content.
How to pitch a piece:
3. Use current events as a spring board.
Look for current stories that relate to your area of expertise, then summarize it with your input and pitch it to the media. Barbara Corcoran exemplified this in her piece on what Madonna might want in her next real estate purchase.
4. Get to the hook right away.
Get to it in the 1st paragraph. Make the headline pop in some way. One suggestion at the event was that you could write it like a news headline in the first part of your email.
5. Don’t email your pitch as an attachment (unless it’s explicitly asked for in that form).
The more work the reporter has to do for your story, the less likely they’ll be to pick it. At the panel, this was reiterated that it’s not because reporters are lazy, but because they’re busy - serve them with doing the work for them.
6. Write with good, hard, active verbs.
You want to compel people to action. Best to use words that show it.
7. Use bullet points.
You know time is our most precious resource - so get to the point quickly with bullet points.
Hopefully they will get back to you & when they do, the key is to be prepared:
8. Make sure you’re interview ready when you send your pitch.
They might have a spot open and get back to you the same day, so you've got to be ready. Have a professional bio and introduction written as well as a professional photo on hand in case they ask for them.
9. Make sure you’re up on current events.
If you’re asked a question about a current event, you want to be prepared with your thoughts on it.
10. Be prepared to simplify.
Keep in mind that both the reporter and the audience are not an experts in your industry, so be ready simplify terms and concepts in your responses.
11. Have talking points printed out in large point font for interviewers to read in case they need some.
Bonus: since you’ve made your own talking points, you can set yourself up to really shine.
A few tips on what to say:
12. “You know so-and-so, the problem today is ______ and the solution is ______.”
This sets you up as the expert and demonstrates your opinion on a subject.
13. “What’s important to remember is ______.”
Sometimes interviews get off subject. To get back on subject, you can use this sentence starter.
14. Share a juicy anecdote.
Share a story that is relevant, compelling and concise. We all love a good story, right?
15. Always follow up with a thank you.
They gave you a great opportunity to serve people with your expertise. A genuine thank you is the obvious choice.
Mindset is key. Use publicity to serve others. Serve the reporter through the way you ask. Serve the reporter and the public through how your prepare. Serve them through your interview. Serve the reporter through your follow-up. Public media is simply another channel through with you can serve people with your expertise.