This guest post is by Dan Kaufman of Mediasurvival.
Most bloggers don’t promote themselves to the mass media … and I can understand why. It’s daunting to put yourself out there by pitching to professionals who work in a cutthroat industry where they receive—and reject—pitches on a daily basis. And yet, having been a newspaper and magazine editor and journalist for over 17 years (and a proud blogger for three years), I know that it’s still worth trying.You see, even though your typical editor receives an avalanche of pitches a day, the reality is that most of these aren’t targeted toward the specific publication. When an editor receives an intelligent pitch from someone who understands and knows their publication well, however, they usually pay attention.
Furthermore, the mass media churns through a staggering amount of stories and perpetually needs more to feed the beast. With a 24/7 news cycle and multiple platforms (from online and the iPad to print) that all need content, editors need a lot of story ideas—which is where you come in. As such, I’m going to give some tips on how to get your blog mentioned in the media:
Look for an angle
You can pitch an idea to the media in one of two ways: either through a press release, where you mention a story idea that you think the publication’s journalists would be interested in writing about, or by writing a story for them yourself as a freelancer.
Regardless of which option you choose, you need to be flexible with story ideas and think about what forms a story can take. Don’t just send a press release saying that you have a blog. Instead, think about whhich angles are genuinely of interest to a reader.
For example, if you’re an accountant who, after a trip to Mexico, has become so passionate about tequila that you created a blog and ebook filled with cocktail recipes and started importing unusual brands of tequila, then that’s interesting. Contact the careers section of your local paper to see if they’d be interested in running a profile on you (many careers sections run profiles on people who have had a career change or have an interesting job).
Or you can pitch a feature to the travel section since your story isn’t one you see every day—and many travel sections run stories written by readers. Or you can pitch to the food section since the tequilas are unusual, or you can pitch to a small business magazine, some of which are desperate for profiles on unusual businesses and start-ups.
Remember that each story can be covered in many different ways and editors are usually interested in trends, human-interest stories, an unknown fact, something unusual or some research that hasn’t been previously published.
Do not spam
You need to choose your publications wisely. Instead of carpet-bombing a huge number of them with the same press release or pitch—and I realize this is tempting—focus on finding publications that would actually be receptive. After being an editor for so long I now only pitch carefully to individual publications that I’ve taken the time to read and understand. I know that it’s more effective in the long run.
For example, if you can find a local angle then pitch to your community paper. If there’s an emotive angle then maybe try a tabloid, or a magazine that publishes a lot of reader stories. Think about niche magazines and trade publications as well as the bigger names. The smaller the publication, the less staffed they are—and often the more in need of copy and ideas.
Labour over your words
If you’re a good enough writer then a freelance story can be a great way to get your blog mentioned in the media (for example, if you write an opinion piece for a paper then they’ll often write a short bio of who’s writing the story underneath).
However, nine out of ten freelance stories get rejected purely because they’re not well-written (from my experience of being the editor who had to do the rejecting!). As such, you have to put the effort in to write and rewrite the article until you think it’s perfect—if you’re not willing to put that effort in then be prepared for rejection. The nine out of ten stories that do get rejected are usually written by people who probably said to themselves “I’m a decent writer and this is good enough” (for more writing tips, you can check out this ProBlogger article, which I wrote).
Cut to the chase
If you do send a press release then cut the preamble and say immediately why your blog/project/campaign/idea is of interest. Editors are so time-poor and deal with so many pitches that it drives them nuts to have to read four paragraphs of small talk and fluff before coming to the heart of the matter.
You should also always leave your full contact details on the release.
Don’t expect a link back
Keep in mind that the mainstream media don’t understand the idea of linking back to you. They just don’t (at least for the most part). They may print your website address in print and on online but they often won’t activate the link.
While this isn’t great from an SEO point of view, you shouldn’t let it put you off too much—after all, you’re still getting great promotion to a different audience you wouldn’t normally reach. Hopefully more newspapers and magazines will eventually learn from us bloggers that active links are an important part of how the web works.
What are your stories?
If I had to pick the most important tip from this post, it’s that you need to find an angle—be it a trend, a human-interest story, something unusual or an unknown fact—to sell an idea to the media. As such, I’d be interested to know whether you’re going to pitch a story—and what your angle will be. And, if you’ve already pitched a story, tell us how you did it. We’d love to hear any of your experiences or tips in the comments below.
Dan Kaufman is the author of Dealing with Grumpy Editors, an ebook from http://mediasurvival.com that looks at how to write press releases and what the common mistakes are when pitching to editors. He worked at The Sydney Morning Herald for over 11 years, primarily as an editor, in addition to editing magazines prior to that. He now also runs Bar Zine.