“Reporters are like alligators. You don’t have to love them, you don’t necessarily have to like them. But you do have to feed them.”
What The Media Loves
Above all else, the media wants newsworthy items. The first thing they ask is, “Will our audience care about this?” News is what affects people’s lives, what they discuss at the dinner table and around the water cooler. For the media, news is not just about delivering information; it’s about entertaining first and educating or selling second. So, provide your information in an entertaining fashion.
2. The Big Three: Sex, Money, and Health
Stories that involve sex, money, or health attract attention. The media believes that the public is obsessed with sex, money, and health, and if you link your story to one or more of them, it will increase its media appeal.
Save everyone time and effort by sending short, concise messages, preferably by e-mail. Cut to the chase–be direct and without subterfuge. State what you’re pitching and how it will help the intended audience. Long missives often go unread.
Warning: Faxes can be unreliable. Some newsrooms, stations, and offices have only one fax machine, or one per floor, and it may be operated by an intern or a clerk. In large organizations, faxes are often undelivered or delivered to the wrong person. If you send a fax, follow up with an e-mail to be sure it is received.
4. Targeted Pitches
Every story isn’t for every outlet. Research the audience you wish to reach and identify which outlets best target that audience. Before making your pitch, study each media outlet: read its articles, watch and listen to its programs, and visit its Web sites. Customize your pitch to stress how it will benefit each outlet’s specific audience. Send business stories to business reporters, not to lifestyle reporters, unless the story has a lifestyle angle.
Media people like to deal with people who build relationships rather than merely try to sell a story. Although individual stories are important, people in the media know that careers are built by forging strong relationships. To the media, professionals build relationships and they prefer to work with professionals in their network rather than one-shot wonders.
Do your homework. The media likes to work with people who have their acts together and can deliver what is needed. Focus on making the media’s job easier. Know your subject inside and out and have written materials completed and on hand to send upon request. With products, send three copies of the product to the media. Being prepared shows commitment and that you’re a dedicated professional.
7. Broad Appeal
The story behind your product or service should be able to reach a wide variety of individuals. You want something that makes audiences say, “I know someone who could use that.” The media looks for stories that people will identify with. Search for broad themes that deliver some punch.
The media wants stories that feed into larger items such as breaking news or trends. It looks for topics that will spawn families of stories. For example, during mining disasters they go for stories about safety, corporate greed, the closeness and tradition of mining communities, handling grief, treating trauma, technical and scientific advances, and the environment.
Reporters, editors, and bloggers like to see how others have covered your story; send articles that others have written about you or your product or service. Producers and podcasters want to know how you came off on camera or radio; give them a list of shows you’ve appeared on and offer to supply tapes for their review.
The media loves stories that they can picture. In your written materials, use visual terms to create images and tell stories that illustrate your main points. The better the media can visualize your story, the better it can visualize its audience visualizing your story.
11. Celebrity Connections
Explain how your product or service is linked to well-known personalities. The public craves information about celebrities and products related to them get plenty of ink.
12. Prompt Response
Since the media works tight deadlines, time is always of the essence. Respond promptly to requests. Send requested material by the fastest route: hand delivery or overnight express. Delays can cause postponements or cancellations. You’re always in a race with the clock.
Be respectful to everyone you come in contact with, especially those who answer the phones. Before speaking with media contacts, learn the proper pronunciation of their names. Butchering a media contact’s name will get you off to a rocky start; it will put you in a hole before you begin.
14. Visual Aids
A picture is worth 10,000 words. Send charts, graphs, photographs, illustrations, and other graphic aids that reporters can stick under their editors’ noses to show why your story merits telling.
15. Send Warnings
Before sending unsolicited material, you should notify your media contacts that it is coming with a quick call or e-mail. If they tell you not to send it, respect their wishes.
Reprinted from “Rick Frishman’s Author 101 Newsletter”
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