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5 Tips for Getting Free Media Exposure for Your Blog

This guest post is by Michael Haaren of Creators Syndicate/Dallas Morning News.

Many bloggers and other brandbuilders are moving en masse into Twitter, Google+, and other new media. While these should certainly be part of your overall media strategy, don’t neglect TV, radio and other legacy media. They still have plenty of reach and prestige, and are starving for cool stories to tell. Here are five tips for getting your name in lights.

1. Grab the big picture

Legacy media is grappling with tectonic changes. Before you pitch any idea to a TV producer, radio-show host, or newspaper or magazine journalist, take a few minutes to see what’s happening in their industry. Since your “target” is dog paddling in those trends, knowing them helps your pitch bob to the top instead of sinking to the bottom.

Sites to check include I Want Media and Media Bistro.

2. A good pitch is usually short and succulent, like a fish hook with a worm on it

It’s trite but worth remembering—the journalist is a fish and you’re the angler. You’ve got to cast something we’ll bite at. And since we’re even more info-stupefied than everyone else, you only have a moment to catch our eye.

For example, I recently put out a query on Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out, better known as HARO, which many journalists and producers use to find interviewees. (Queries are distributed three times daily and are free, so be sure to sign up while you’re there.)

Since I write about home-based gigs and careers—which now includes many bloggers and experts, like Darren working in a home office in Melbourne—I wanted to hear from people who have unusual home-based businesses.

As soon as the query went out, pitches began to flood in. I scanned them in spurts, in between posting to our Facebook page and screening a job lead for our website and trying to keep the dog from chewing his hot spot again. (Like many journalists, I work from a home office, too.)

Soon, I was “hooked” by a lead-in that described a baby fawn lying on a bed of broken glass, in Pennsylvania Amish Country. The glass, I learned, came from antique bottles, discarded long ago. Collectors would scoop up intact bottles but leave the broken ones behind, and wildlife like the fawn had to cope. The artist pitching me, Laura Bergman, turned these fragments into remarkable pieces of jewelry. The business was Bottled Up Designs, and we covered it in our column.

As a rule, keep your pitches to a three- to five-line paragraph or two. Mention briefly why you’re pitching the journalist (“In reply to your HARO query on wombats…” or “Having read your Toy Industry Review article on Ken cheating on Barbie, I…”). Then add the “hook,” and your relevant credentials. Close briefly with your cell phone number. Journalists are usually time-pressed and work odd hours. If you’re not available, they’ll quickly move down the list.

3. Target people who care

It’s much easier to get a journalist to cover you if your pitch includes something we care about. For example, I often write about green issues; it’s one reason I’ve advocated telework for so long. Laura Bergman, whether by coincidence or by research, hit a nerve when she mentioned that fawn lying in glass.

4. Identify, hone, and cue up your blog’s unique stories

Every blog comes with unique facets, aspects, or stories. Bloggers are individuals, and blogs, in the larger sense, are always narratives—absent mimicry and plagiary, both unique. The trick is to find the sexiest or most intriguing or flamboyant facets, polish them down to a few lines, and share them when the opportunity presents.

A pitch might be based on something in your own life—“How blogging wrecked my marriage” could easily be a morning-show segment—or key off a subject or individual you covered in your blog.

Even a blog on a theme that many might yawn at—tax law, for example—can hold compelling tales. How about a rogue tax agent, who leaves his family with embezzled funds, and winds up on a nude beach in Brazil, surrounded by aspiring samba stars? You get the picture.

5. Pitch early and often (email is usually best), but don’t call

When journalists send out queries on HARO or Bill and Steve Harrison’s Reporter Connection (be sure to sign up there, too) they trigger immediate replies, often voluminous. And the first pitches to arrive in the inbox frequently end up the winners.

Pitch often, too. If you can score on 10% of your pitches, you’ll beat many pros. You have to play the odds to “get ink.”

Finally, unless invited, don’t call to follow up on a pitch. Let the journalist call you.

Oh, and one last tip, which you may have heard elsewhere: don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Michael Haaren is the co-founder of Rat Race Rebellion, a site devoted to screened, home-based jobs, and a syndicated columnist with the Dallas Morning News. His frequent media appearances include CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and many more.

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Comments

  1. You definitely give new perspective, Michael.

    However, I wonder on one thing. Should a new blog with limited audience go for this type of promotion or should they focus to build their strength first and go for standard social promotion first?

    In opinion, if we go too early, our strength and quality maybe not yet match the required standard. In the end, we may put our effort in the wrong place at the point of time.

    What do you think?

    • Helmi – You make a great point about readiness. Ideally, two things would be in place before a big media opportunity (live on Good Morning America, for example) presented itself — (1) Your Voice (substantiated by an archive of quality content) and (2) your Persona — the public you, ready for that Electric Chair.

      The Voice part, as you probably know, comes from lots of writing and reflecting. The Persona part doesn’t mean phony (as we often assume), but rather simply being prepared for the occasion. When you know your material cold, and you know the venue (the host, the show; their audience), then you can be natural and authentic, and nail the gig. ~ Mike

  2. Great piece, thanks a lot for the HARO link!

    • Christopher – Thank you, glad you found it useful. HARO, launched by Peter Shankman, is a great resource. I check it daily to see what’s trending and to make pitches of my own. ~ Mike

  3. Mike says:

    This is a great piece about getting noticed quickly and also being able to get that extra little exposure.

  4. Jovie Onyema says:

    “target people who care”. thats almost the most important. most people seem to write what they want, not what the people want.

    • Jovie – Yes. Darren often talks about the importance of writing what your audience will find useful, practical, actionable. Bloggers and other journalists ignore that at their peril. ~ Mike

  5. it is important to become a good pitch writer because you need to tell everything that is important and that too in minimum of words

    • Tushar – It’s definitely an art. I still struggle with it. Many experts say that the opening sentence is all, as with a murder mystery. “I discovered Edwina’s head in the birthday cake, just as Betty Crocker had foretold….” ~ Mike

  6. Neil Duckett says:

    It’s one of the biggest challenges I’m facing with the industry I’m in. It’s slowly changing though, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Cleo and Cosmo are all running features these days.

    • Neil – Ah, interesting. I understand your challenge. It reminds me of an old quote about legacy media – “You can say whatever you want, just don’t embarrass the advertisers,” the Fortune 100s. As you suggest, that yardstick for older media is longer now.

      But boy, the “new media” yardstick is a wormhole. Since online advertisers are limitless, and are usually just cycling through anyway, a YouTube clip can be as raw or as iconoclastic as it wants. And this is educating young eyes and minds to find “old” media excruciatingly dull, slow, and irrelevant. ~ Mike

  7. You should also make sure that you are not competing in crowd. I have seen many good blogs (good content) fail because they start in already crowded market. Choosing niche is first most important thing and everything else falls good, if you are laborious.

    • Aakash – Point well taken. But if you do happen to find yourself in a crowded niche, I think you can still develop an edge if you absorb and execute on the advice of leading experts (Darren’s, for example, whose blog I’ve been following for years), and contrive to get your violin heard above the symphony (without squeaking, of course). Good luck! ~ Mike

  8. Drewry says:

    These are surely great tips for helping to get free media exposure to your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this useful information with us :-)

    • Drewry – You’re welcome. There’s much to be said for scaling up. Doing local radio before national, interviewing for a light-traffic website before pitching to a Yahoo News or an A-list blogger, etc. Tough to go straight to Yankee Stadium for a tryout. Too easy to flub! ~ Mike

  9. James Greg says:

    The points described are really great and # 4 is really important. Throwing away invitations to people who have no concern is not worth the effort. Too many unconcerned visitors can give views just once but that won’t be beneficial and would equal to just views but no income.

    • James – Your comment reminds me that blog posts, too, are pitches — overtures to would-be readers, fans, evangelists. Knowing your “pitchee” is arguably even more important than knowing your subject. Look at Bernie Madoff, for example. Great salesman, though as an investment adviser, not so much. ~ Mike

  10. Great article Michael. My friend/co-worker (CEO of incentiBox) worked for clear channel radio before going into the startup world. I wish incentiBox (our startup) which specializes in social media exposure and brand marketing especially for eCommerce. Most sites are busy making things run smoothly and that makes reaching them more challenging…which is unfortunate because they could retain customer loyalty beyond the holidays using our product. Fortunately, challenging means more difficult, not impossible :)

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    • Justin – Small world; my son works for Clear Channel and we (my co-columnist and I) have many friends in radio. Hats off to you for the startup; I see the need for your service but understand the challenge. Doing business online demands extreme innovation now. Good luck! ~ Mike

  11. Faizan Elahi says:

    Very nice post. A TV interview can certainly increase the popularity of a blogger.

    • Faizan – Thank you. Re TV, I’m often reminded of the OJ Simpson trial. A number of experts “broke through” and went on to stardom doing TV interviews on the trial. ~ Mike

  12. If only journalists weren’t scared of bloggers …

  13. Great helpful post. Questions: I don’t quite see how Media Bistro would help one understand legacy media, although I’ve used it to help me find a job (I’m a media professional). I would think it would be more efficient to study websites of individual media outlets to help you decide who to target and develop your media list. Also, is there any reason why your blog’s links don’t open in new windows? I would get clicking around on your links and lose your article.

    I was directed to your blog via Twitter! Nice job!

    • Valerie – Thanks for your feedback. I too use Media Bistro for the purposes you mentioned, but also for news on the TV industry (“TVNewser”), the magazine sector, book publishing, LA & NY media news, etc. It’s a pretty rich buffet. Re the links / new windows issue, I’ll have to hand that over to Darren’s team, as I didn’t do the final embedding, just supplied the URLs. Have a great weekend! ~ Mike

  14. Drewry says:

    I feel this post is very valuable to the Internet audience, and will potentially link to this post in an upcoming forum thread on my site. If and when I do potentially publish a post and link to this specific blog post, I’ll leave another comment as well as the link :-)

  15. I recently interviewed Ana Hoffman (traffic generation cafe), and we talked about becoming an authority blogger. I think these media opportunities contribute a lot to that. So, not just marketing – but also a tag for “as seen on xyz”. Appreciate the practical steps for getting there!


    Michael

    P.S: you’ve got a pretty sweet domain name!

    • Michael – Thanks! Yes, media exposure does indeed bestow authority. We re-experienced the awesome power of TV today when Rat Race Rebellion was featured on Good Morning America. Our server was immediately overwhelmed. It’s been a crazy day (a good kind of crazy to have). Good luck as you move ahead! ~ Mike

  16. Chirag says:

    Nice post! I need to work on this to get some media exposure..
    Thanks for Sharing!

    • Chirag – Thank you, and you’re very welcome. “Media marketing” should be an oft-used tool in every entrepreneur’s kit. And as with other tools, the more often you use it, the more professional you’ll become. Good luck in telling your Story! ~ Mike