Have Something to Promote? How To Approach Traditional Media (Part 2)

You are trying to promote your new book, business or venture and part of your promotional strategy includes landing interviews in traditional media outlets. But how? Should you send as many press releases as possible and hope for the best? In my previous post, Have Something to Promote? How to Approach Traditional Media (Part 1), I explained how to successfully land interviews and air time on the radio. In this post we will focus on newspapers, magazines and television. My goal with both of these posts is to help curious small micro-business owners and entrepreneurs spread the word about their great idea.

Newspapers/Magazines – How To Land An Interview and Excel:

  • Who to Contact: Unfortunately finding the right person to contact at a newspaper or magazine can be more time consuming than radio. It has been my experience that often the journalist names are buried in a hard to find location on the website making your job difficult. But, it has also been my experience that a mention in a newspaper or magazine can be far more valuable than a quick radio interview, so it is definitely worth your time.
    • Journalists – Finding the local journalist who covers topics like those your venture focuses on is your first step. Pick up copies of magazines that you think your customers or target group of people would read. Find articles that focus on your topic and note the journalists name who wrote the article, then contact that person. The type of journalist is almost more important than your message to them. For example, while promoting my book Sunrises to Santiago, I looked for journalists who cover travel, outdoor adventure and wellness. The book focuses on meaningful travel so I would be wasting my time if I contacted the financial reporter of a newspaper for example.
  • The Pitch, Getting Mentions and Nailing the Interview
    • Best Way to Contact a Newspaper/Magazine Journalist: I have emailed a prepared press release to many journalists with limited success. I simply found contact information on the websites and/or submitted a contact form. However, a gem for me has been using the service, HARO (Help A Reporter Out), which connects people like me with journalists who are writing stories on specific topics and looking for experts to comment on those stories. Remember YOU ARE AN EXPERT on your book, business, topic or venture. Do you think famous authors just wrote their first book and magically started getting press because they are a good writer? Absolutely not. They worked hard (or their publisher did) to promote themselves and pitched stories to the media and anyone who would listen. I was skeptical about signing up for HARO but I decided to give it a try. It is free to sign up and you receive 4 emails a day with a list of journalists looking for people to comment on stories. Subjects include travel, tech and business, to name a few. I have responded to a handful of inquires and have landed some huge mentions for a first time author. My latest was being quoted in USA Today.
    • Magazines – An Important Lesson – I also approached many magazines. I focused on smaller regional magazines because I knew that someone like me would have a better shot at getting a feature. I learned quickly that I had made a critical mistake. I waited too long to contact them. For a business this is less relevant, but for a publication it is key. Here is a response I received after contacting a large magazine in Denver, Colorado. The reporter, I knew, featured new books from local Colorado authors so I found her contact information online and sent her my press release. I sent it a few weeks before my book’s official release date. Here was part of her response, “Gabriel. Thank you for contacting me. What a great book! However, we prefer to publish book reviews in the month the book comes out, so it’s a little bit late for us at this point (our June issue is already on newsstands).” Oops. Now I know, and so do you. Send your press releases to magazines months before the release date or product launch.
    • What to Say or How to Pitch: It is rare for a journalist to write an entire article on your project, business, book or blog simply because you pitched them a great press release. That is unless you are already an established author or brand. Your job is to get quoted as an expert in as many articles as possible. Train yourself to think like a reporter. They are on a deadline and looking for an expert to make what they are writing stand out and be as credible as possible. The email you send should be short and sweet and get right to the point. Write your press release like a reporter would write a story. If it is a cold pitch try to think of why your product would make a great story.
    • Example: While promoting my book I experimented with different press releases to see which wording and approach worked best. I found that focusing on meaningful travel, instead of simply a book about the Camino de Santiago, gave me a huge spike in responses and mentions. Meaningful travel ideas turned out to be a topic that many reporters were interested in or already writing about. Think about your brand, product, book or blog. What makes the topic unique? What related topic can you imagine reading about in a major publication? Craft your pitches around that topic.

Television – A brief overview and some notes

  • A Word About TV – I spent a little less than year as a co-host on a television show that aired on the Travel Channel in the United States and Discovery Networks in Australia and Asia. Let me first say that landing your product on television, for free, is incredibly difficult for a first time entrepreneur. You won’t be on the Today Show cracking jokes with Matt Lauer unless your story is incredibly unique and extraordinary. As a host, I was not receiving pitches, as I was when hosting radio shows, simply because of the nature of the show. Producers handled much of these things and relied on fixers and locals on the ground to help us find what we were looking for. So who should you start with in TV and should you even bother?
  • Start Local – Should you bother with TV? Yes, but keep your expectations down to earth. Send press releases to all of your local news channels. It is quite easy to find the contact page on a station’s website as they are always looking for new local stories. I also sometimes try to contact a reporter that I know reports on the type of content I am pitching. Again, just like radio, make sure your pitch explains to the reporter why their audience will want to hear about this story. Your best chance of landing time on TV is sticking with local stations. The smaller the market, the better your chances of getting on air. Make sure you mention that you are local as the reporters job is to cover local news.
  • A Lesson – I was watching the local nightly news here in Denver when a story came on the about a long distance hiker who had recently completed a trail very similar to the Camino de Santiago. I had just contacted this exact TV station with a press release and jealousy engulfed my being in an instant as the reporter teased the story. The commercials came on as I fumed. What was wrong with my pitch? Why didn’t they choose my story about the Camino de Santiago? Then the story began. The featured book and person had completed the trail, just like me. Why did he get featured? He completed a 500 mile trail, on a unicycle. I had simply walked. The reason I share this story is to hammer home the point that, your pitch needs to make you extraordinary. In fact that is what the news is, news.

QUICK RECAP:

Step 1: Target Newspapers, Local TV and Magazines (early). Sign up for HARO.
Step 2: Draft Your Pitch With Great Content Ideas. Remember Content Is What Matters. What makes your pitch newsworthy?
Step 3: Contact Your Target Outlets
Step 4: Share All Press You Receive On Your Site and Social Networks
Step 5: Repeat

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