Making the News

Article by C.J. HaydenHave you noticed others in your profession being quoted in the media and wondered why they are being interviewed as experts and not you? It may seem like those other professionals have all the luck, but where publicity is concerned, you may be able to create your own luck with a few simple strategies.

If you want to get noticed by the media, you first need to make yourself more visible. Many of the same things that professionals do to promote their business to the public — speaking, teaching, writing articles, and volunteering — can also attract the attention of journalists and producers. This is especially true when these activities get your name on the Internet. The more often your name appears on the web, the more likely it is that a reporter will contact you.

When looking for an interview subject on a particular topic, journalists will frequently make contact with schools, associations, nonprofits, and trade publications to find out who their recommended experts are. If your class, articles, or volunteer work are already well-known to the organization, they are likely to refer interview opportunities like these to you.

You can often get in the news faster, though, by approaching the media directly. One of the easiest things to do is to write a letter to the editor. When you see a topic reported on that you know a lot about, write to the outlet’s letters column or viewer feedback address and give your point of view. Letters published by well-known media outlets are noticed by many people, and may appear on the web for months or years afterward.

Another kind of comment letter can be even more effective in the long run. Write a letter to the journalist who wrote the article or the editor of the department which produced it, such as Business or Lifestyles. Explain that you are an expert on the topic they covered, and the next time they need information, they should contact you. Include a brief biography of yourself that demonstrates your expertise.

This same approach can work with radio and TV producers. Watch the credits of the show to get the right person’s name, or check the station’s website.

If you have an event to promote, such as a workshop or open house, you can often generate media attention by sending a press release to local print and broadcast media. Write an announcement about your program that a publication could print verbatim, if they choose. Small community publications, niche periodicals, and local radio and cable stations are much easier targets than metropolitan newspapers, and will give your event more space.

You can also use a press release to call attention to anything newsworthy about you and your business, such as research you have conducted, or winning an award. The size of publication you can attract will depend on how big your news is. Your neighborhood newspaper might print a story about your opening a new office, but to get on the evening news, you might need to have a new invention or unique discovery to announce.

A third type of press release you can use is a tips article. Write an article in an interview format with you featured as the expert, discussing a topic you know well. The most successful tips articles are linked to a current event or hot topic. Many publications use short items with themes like “Beating the Back-to-School Blues” or “Stress-Free Holiday Shopping.” By writing an article as if it were an interview, you are providing editors with exactly what they need to run it as news.

Be sure to mention your occupation, business name, and location in the body of the article, so that readers can find you once it appears. Articles like these can be submitted to many different publications and websites at the same time.

To go beyond just getting quoted, and get a feature article written about you or land a broadcast interview, you will need a media kit. This is very similar to a marketing kit, so you may already have some of the pieces assembled. Include a biography, photograph, background information about the type of work you do, a list of questions you are available to answer, and samples of any interviews you have already granted.

The first time around, of course, you won’t have any samples of prior interviews, so substitute an article you have published or a news clipping about your specialty (even if you aren’t mentioned in it). You can also include a press release of any type — event announcement, news report, or tips article — in your kit.

In sending out media kits, be selective. Only approach those publications and shows that typically feature “regular folks” at first. Start with neighborhood newspapers, radio talk shows on smaller stations, and cable TV. Be sure to send your kit to a specific person, then follow up with a phone call to see if they are interested. Once you have landed a few interviews, it will be much easier to approach larger media outlets.

With any of these approaches, always keep in mind that the media’s job is to entertain or inform their audiences, not to promote you. If you can help journalists out by providing valuable content that their audience will want to see, you’ll get their attention. But if you approach them with the idea of simply broadcasting your advertising message, you’ll keep on seeing those other professionals in the news instead.

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