Monday, June 2, 2008

Media Talk

For some strange reason, I am head of the media team for my course in Self-Expression and Leadership. Although I am a company spokesperson and marketing guy, I felt I was not leveraging my knowledge in my personal life to promote my community projects, so I wanted to get over that barrier.

Being in charge of the media basically means that people in our class call me up to get coaching regarding the media. I am sure everyone reading this column knows how much easier it is to give advice than to actually use that advice in your own life. However, at some point you look like a fool if you give advice you aren't taking, so I've done what I tell people to do.

The number one question people ask me is "What do I do to get an article in the media?" In fact, that's basically the only question people ask me. So far. (Hopefully next week I'll get questions like "that didn't work, what next?") This blog seeks to answer the first question.

What do I do to get an article in the media?

  1. Have an actual story. In this particular course, this is assumed, since all the projects are just amazing.

  2. Have faith that it's easy. Assuming that you reach the appropriate news outlet, it is their job to come up with interesting things to report, so if you are doing something interesting, they will want to report it. National news outlets are putting up articles every 10 minutes, so believe me, they need lots of people to tell them stuff, because they can't make it all up in their heads (They make up quite a bit of it, judging by the zillions of articles on what someone said about what someone else said.)

  3. Identify the appropriate outlet. If you are doing a project, for example, where the kids in your school are giving out MP3s to the seniors in the old folks' home down the street, you can't expect to get a spot on the 8:00 TV news (though you might if you did really good footage, know someone, or are a good salesperson). You can, however, get into your city newspaper or on an online news site covering local news.

  4. Have visuals. Open a paper or an online news site. Amazingly, every article has a picture with it. Some are pretty lame, like a headshot of the person doing the project or a stock photo of a grandfather and a child. The less lame your visual, the more likely the paper is going to want to feature the article. An amazing picture can definitely sell a mediocre article.

  5. Make it easy for the journalist. Send an e-mail where you practically write the article for them. Remember that they are trying to put something new on line every 10 minutes? If it's all written, the 10 minute goal is easy. Include quotes and all the information you can think of. The most important information goes first, and then you go into detail.

  6. If at all possible, quote relevant and credible people. If your project is enforcing fishing laws and preventing overfishing, you could include a positive quote from someone at an environmental organization who sounds like an authority. You could include a negative quote from the ministry of agriculture who told you that nobody enforces the law and they don't plan on bothering with it.

  7. Use the contact details on the web site, then follow up by phone if the journalist doesn't get back to you. If you know the name of a journalist who covers that particular topic, call him up. Again, pitching to a journalist isn't like pitching a sale. Assuming you have an actual story, there is no reason the journalist won't want to talk to you. Every news outlet has an official way to contact them either electronically or by voice, and a system for dealing with those calls.

That's it. No big secrets there.

The one thing you want to keep in mind is NOT choosing the wrong outlet and being careful not to step on toes. Journalists want to be the first to report something. If yours is not a must-have news item, getting it published somewhere may prevent competing journalists from publishing it. In other words, if it is a national story, go first to the national media, because they won't like being "scooped" by local media.

Keep in mind specialty media. For example, if your project is recording opera so that kids can download and hear opera with their parents, music magazines and web sites might be interested.

BTW, the two projects I mentioned as examples are actual projects from the Landmark course I am doing.

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