If you’re trying to get publicity but, so far, nothing you’ve done has worked, it could be because you’re doing the same things most other Publicity Hounds are doing.
You might be sending long, lousy pitches to journalists, using a boring subject line.
Or maybe you’re not pitching at all. Instead, you’re waiting for THEM to call YOU.
Or maybe you’re intimidated because you know the competition for attention is fierce.
I worked as a newspaper reporter for 22 years. The five ideas I’m suggesting below work as well now as they did back then. I’ve even created post-it reminders for you in the image above. Print it and tack it to your bulletin board.
Here, then, are five ways to make it almost impossible for traditional and new media (bloggers, podcasters, content creators, etc.) to give you publicity.
1. Newsjack by commenting on a breaking news story.
This is when you take a hot story and offer your own commentary, angle or unusual twist. Here are three examples:
This week, social media was buzzing when French author Yann Moix, 50, a prize-winning novelist, was quoted in an interview saying that he thinks women over 50 are too old to love because he doesn’t like their bodies. “I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of. The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all.”
What a timely opportunity for dating coaches, marriage counselors, authors, speakers and experts to offer their own hook or angle and offer tips to over-50 women on why they should ignore this clod.
In March last year, Facebook’s new app for kids, called Messenger Kids, received an avalanche of criticism from parents and child health advocates who claimed it was a sneaky way to get young kids hooked on Facebook. Messenger Kids is a texting-type service that a parent sets up for a child through the parent’s own Facebook account. It doesn’t have a News Feed or a “like” button but many elements of the social network are there, including emojis, selfies, video chat and group texting. It’s targeted to children 6 through 12.
That story was perfect for newsjacking by advertising executives, child safety experts, social media experts, pediatricians, online safety experts and PTA members. I listed ideas galore in my article “Facebook Messenger Kids App Perfect for Newsjacking.”
In April last year, condom snorting was all the rage among teens on social media. They made videos of themselves snorting condoms into their nostrils and pulling them out through their mouths. At the time, I wrote that condom snorting was ripe for newsjacking by doctors, parenting experts, therapists, brain experts, and others.
Then, less than a month ago, I wrote about a USA Today article that listed the top 25 industries that lost the most workers in the last decade. They include bookstores, the newspaper publishing industry, tobacco, telephone apparatus manufacturing, office supplies, business and secretarial schools, and political organizations. If you can tie a related story idea into one of the industries on this list, say in your pitch that the list is in USA Today. See “America’s dying industries: These businesses lost the most workers in the past decade.”
Why this idea works: Journalists and broadcasters love it when they can offer the local angle to big breaking news stories.
2. Pitch a follow-up to a story about you.
Let’s say your daily newspaper wrote a story about your dog-walking business when you opened. You told the reporter that your goal was to recruit a small group of dog-walkers who could walk and dog-sit for the many mutts in your community.
A year later, you met your goal. But you took it one step further by creating a Meetup group specifically for single men and women dog walkers who want to meet each other.
Call the reporter who wrote the story and say, “I’ve got a follow-up to the story you wrote about my dog-walking business last year. Not only have I recruited other dog-walkers, but I started a MeetUp group for single men and women who own dogs and are looking to meet each other. Already, two couples in the group are dating.”
Then update the reporter. Be sure to use the phrase “follow up” because that’s media lingo. Do you have a video or tips to share? If yes, offer them along with the pitch. Can you offer a couple that fell in love and would agree to be interviewed?
Follow-ups work just as well with bloggers and podcasters.
Why this idea works: News consumers want to know “the rest of the story.” For that reason, journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and podcasts love “follow ups.”
3. Pitch a follow-up to a story about someone else.
Typewriters are making a comeback. because of technology burnout with computers and because, well, the retro look is just plain cool.
Let’s say you read a story in a local business magazine about a “type in” at a local coffee shop where customers were able to try out various old vintage typewriters and buy them on the spot. You know how to repair those typewriters and business is booming.
You can call the business magazine and pitch a follow-up story about all the new business you’re seeing because of the typewriter trend. Or perhaps you own a thrift store, and you’re creating special displays for vintage typewriters.
This follow-up is also perfect for TV, even if the trend story didn’t originate there. Call your local TV station, refer to the story in the business magazine, and tell the person who books guests on a talk show or news program about your special display. This story is perfect for TV because it has visuals as well as the clickety-clack sound of fingers pounding the typewriter keys.
Why this idea works: It’s an easy sell for two reasons. A media outlet has already covered it, and it’s a trend.
4. Target special sections.
Many print and online newspapers and magazines feature special sections throughout the year devoted to specific topics such as gardening, home improvement, small business, technology, etc. Bigger media outlets let advertisers know about these sections by publishing editorial calendars. They list, month by month, the sections that are being planned so far. New sections are added throughout the year.
These calendars help advertisers determine where they can best spend their money.
But for Publicity Hounds like you who don’t want to advertise, editorial calendars flag you to sections where your stories would be a good fit. When you know which magazine or newspaper you want to get into, go to their website and do a search for “editorial calendar.” If you can’t find it, search for “advertising.”
Once you know when the section will be published, you can call the publication and request the name and contact information for the editor who’s responsible for collecting the editorial content for that section. Do not call the advertising department unless you want to buy an ad. Ask for editorial. When you talk to the editor of that section, ask if it’s OK to email one or more story ideas, and ask about editorial deadlines.
I’ve explained how to use editorial calendars.
Be sure you’re using the most recent calendar for this year or next year.
Also, you can pitch special sections with the regular paper. Last year, I wrote about Kasia McDaniel of Southern Pines, N.C., a home decorating and staging expert, who has pitched her bi-weekly newspaper seven times in the last few years. Each time, she got publicity.
She knows that the paper has a real estate section every Wednesday. She submits tips for staging and decorating. This year alone, the paper used three of her tip sheets, with attribution:
- Staging Can Make Sales Happen, in April.
- Six Tips to Get Your Home Ready for an Open House, in May
- Help Elderly Parents Continue to Live Independently, in July.
Why this idea works: Most people seeking publicity overlook special sections. Editors who have their day-to-day duties publishing the rest of the newspaper or magazine don’t want to have to spend time thinking of story ideas. Pitch one they can use, and you’re as good as in!
5. Use HARO consistently.
Note the word consistently. This is where many Publicity Hounds ruin it for themselves.
They subscribe to this service, short for Help a Reporter Out. It delivers hundreds of free publicity leads from journalists, broadcasters, authors and others. But after a week or two sifting through leads, and feeling as though they’re drinking from a fire hose, they abandon HARO “because it’s too time-consuming.”
That’s a huge mistake!
Many of my clients have received publicity from this service, especially those who are experts in niche topics. When journalists from magazines devoted to a specific niche are looking for sources, and the experts respond as soon s they see the lead come in, they sometimes get the publicity they’re after because there’s less competition among sources.
If you abandoned HARO, I urge you to subscribe again. To make it easier for you, consider hiring a stay-at-home mom or dad who can sift through all the leads and forward to you the ones that are a good fit. Ask them to text you when they’re sending a lead so you can respond to it pronto, preferably within five minutes.
Here’s a short video from Peter Shankman who founded HARO, sharing other tips for responding to queries:
Those are my five best tips. If you have a favorite tip of your own, share it in the comments and explain why it works.