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.
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.