Weekend Read: Six Ways to Grab the Media’s Attention
This post is an excerpt from Let’s Close A Deal by Christine Clifford, a new book that guides businesses to better pitching, positioning and selling, published by Wiley.
There are six ways to get the media’s attention.
In 1995 I was in the middle of chemotherapy, and as a way of keeping my mind off my situation, I had started to draw cartoons about my cancer experience. I carried them with me wherever I went so that if I had a down moment or started to feel sorry for myself, I could pull them out for a good laugh.
I was still calling on Kmart Corporation in Detroit for SPAR Marketing, and one day after making sales calls, I boarded a plane to fly home to Minneapolis. As I sat down, I realized that the woman sitting next to me was none other than Pat Miles, our local NBC news anchor in Minnesota and a celebrity in her own right. We had met before, and as we settled in and started talking, she told me how sorry she was to learn that I had been battling cancer. She went on to share with me that she had lost her only sister to colon cancer at the age of 35.
There are a lot of theories about luck, but one definition I read many years ago was that luck is “when preparation meets opportunity.” I pulled my cartoons out of my briefcase and showed them to Pat.
Pat got very excited and said, “We need to do a story about this! I’ll have our health care producer get in touch with you, Christine.” After about a week I got a call from Pat. “Christine, I’ve decided to do this story myself. When can we come interview you?”
That chance seating next to Pat was certainly lucky. But if I hadn’t had my cartoons with me and had simply tried to explain to her that I was drawing cartoons, I’m confident nothing would have come from that experience. Instead, KARE 11 (NBC) ended up doing a 6-minute piece on the 10:00 PM news. At the end of the piece, they posted a phone number for The Cancer Club. More than 400 phone calls came in to my single telephone line inside my home from people wanting to buy my cartoon book—which hadn’t even been published yet! (Word to the wise: Don’t ever get publicity before you’re ready to handle it.)
Be prepared for luck when it crosses your path. I once spoke for the Inventors Network. After my program, as each attendee came up to me to ask a few questions or generate a few ideas, I’d ask to see his or her invention. Not a single person had brought it! Ideas will never materialize sitting in garages and in desk drawers.
A bounceback is when someone from one magazine, newspaper, or TV station sees you on another. It turns out that someone from our local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, saw the piece on KARE 11 that night. The very next day I got a call that a reporter wanted to interview me. The paper ran a two-page, full-color spread on the front page of the Variety section and featured several of my cartoons. The Star Tribune was owned by a large national firm that made the article available nationwide to its database of affiliates. Soon the article was running in the Detroit Press, the Chicago Tribune, and numerous other publications around the country.
The Star Tribune’s competition on the other side of the Mississippi, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, saw the article in the Tribune. A reporter there, too, asked to write an article—and this one was even larger and more colorful. It appeared in the Sunday edition. The paper was also owned by a large conglomerate, so the article popped up in papers all across the country. I was off and running.
You can buy media exposure. Companies such as Finn Partners Media Connect (formally Planned Television Arts), media relations and public relations (PR) companies, can get articles about you and your company, product, service, or cause in the news. You can also use services such as PR Newswire or PRWeb to distribute press releases online.
Services for publicizing your expertise can be purchased through venues such as Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR) and the Yearbook of Experts, Authorities & Spokespersons or through traditional print, radio, television, and Internet ads.
Free Media Services
Two excellent media services provide daily leads to reporters, producers, authors, and bloggers for free. One is HARO (Help A Reporter Out) at www.helpareporter.com, and the other is Reporter Connection www.reporterconnection.com. Through these two services I have appeared and/or been interviewed by AmExp OPEN Forum, Better Homes & Gardens, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and more. HARO is delivered three times per day, and Reporter Connection is delivered twice daily.
Write your own press releases; post on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn; call and e-mail media contacts; and post videos on YouTube. Start building a list of media contacts and work your list whenever something new or different happens to you or your company.
When I started Divorcing Divas, a company that hosts all-day educational conferences for people facing divorce, I started contacting all of the local magazines and community periodicals across the state. Our first year we found enormous success because we were new and different. In subsequent years, however, I learned that we needed to put a new twist on our subject matter. So I dug deep to find a speaker, volunteer, committee member, sponsor, or vendor from each local city so I could customize my pitch. “Although our event is being held in St. Louis Park,” I’d begin explaining, “one of our speakers, Mitch Irwin with Bell Mortgage, is from Woodbury and will be speaking on the subject of financing or refinancing your home during the divorce process. We also have an attendee, Bonnie Bakken from Woodbury, who has attended our event three times. May I put you in touch with them for an interview?”
We went from having a neighborhood magazine—Woodbury Magazine— that probably would never have given our event coverage to doing a feature story. Dig deep and work hard to get more media attention.
The first rule is ask for referrals. If you are a guest on a radio show or television network, ask the producer who booked you on the show if there are other shows within that network that he or she thinks could benefit from having you as a guest. Ask your radio show hosts to post positive reviews of you on the BitBoard, a sharing network of talented and creative guests and interviews.
The most important piece of advice I can offer if you do secure an interview and your contact asks you to forward your information is to mark any package you send with big, bold letters directly on the box saying, “REQUESTED MATERIAL.” That way, your box can easily be segregated from the hundreds of unsolicited materials that cross your contact’s desks every day.
If one media outlet features you, others will follow. Media is like a rubber ball—it comes bouncing back to you.
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A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.