Everyone can publish a post on Facebook, go live on Instagram, or record a Youtube video. While social media is making out to be a serious business for experts and influencers around the globe, there is nothing that says “I am the expert” as much as a feature in a top magazine.
There is still a certain mystery about traditional media; they are a bit of a closed club with no clear membership guidelines. During the last 4 years, I pitched and placed stories in multiple media outlets from top tier magazines like Forbes and Entrepreneur to national TV like NBC.
Here are a few things I learned that would hopefully help you to share your expertise using the power of media:
1. No one cares if you are a best-selling author
Neither do they care about your “top-rated app” or “new exciting startup.” The number of your reviews or rankings alone are not a good foundation for an interesting story. Sure, that’s an important achievement for you. However, asking a journalist to feature you solely on the basis of being a best-selling author won’t do. You have to dig deeper.
Imagine you are on a plane about to take off for a 4-hour flight. Next to you is a stranger starting a conversation. If you open with a list of your achievements, that will likely just be awkward. Instead, what if you get to know your seat neighbor, and when the moment is right to tell them about a book you’ve published or company you’ve built, you might be in for a long and interesting conversation. Journalists don’t care about your list of achievements, but they do want to hear from people who lived through some outstanding experiences and lived to tell the tale.
2. This is a place where your degree finally matters
While employers no longer care about where you went to school and which diploma you are holding, the media still does. Every journalist and editor that holds a value of objectivity would make sure to find at least a few original sources for their article. They would often look for studies, personal interviews, and some expert opinions. And how do they know someone is an expert? Diplomas, certificates, and other proof of your knowledge come in handy.
You are much more likely to be quoted by a journalist if you hold any of those official certifications. Just send your short bio to a few journalists covering topics in your area and ask them to put you on file, so they come to you next time when they need a source.
Pro tip: Editors appreciate diverse sources. So, even if a journalist already featured your competition, you can still get a spot in the next article.
3. Find a new angle to something that’s already widely discussed
One of my favorite techniques is called “stupid majority.” There is a great TEDx talk about it by Jerry Silfwer. He suggests that one of the best ways to get your message across is to debunk a popular belief.
For example, about 30 years ago, the general public believed that fat was one of the unhealthiest food types, with a large body of studies of links between cholesterol and heart disease. The “stupid majority” already had an awareness of the topic. Here enters the “smart minority,” telling us that it isn’t all that easy. In fact, there are “good fats,” which are essential for your nutrition. Where there is already an existing conversation, it’s easier to enter with some new facts, examples, and studies, rather than trying to pitch a whole new topic never discussed before.
In your industry, ask yourself what are some things that everyone believes and you know is wrong?
4. Know who you are pitching: Contributors vs staff writers
It goes without saying that before contacting anyone with a cold pitch, you should do your research. Apart from analyzing their topics, style, and area of interests, it’s important to understand what their primary reason for being a writer is.
There are 2 main types:
Staff writers are paid to write. They have weekly and daily quotas for the number of articles they should turn out. In the reality of today’s media, one staff writer might be covering a spread of different topics and need to stay on top of many of them. Point out a new trend or research when contacting them – it might be a great start.
Contributors and freelance writers usually do writing on the side. Often, those are entrepreneurs with primary business outside of the media platform. They often use media platforms to position themselves and sometimes, to promote their services. They only publish when they find something really exciting, as there are no minimum requirements for them. With contributors, it would help to build some personal connections first and show them how a conversation with you might support their needs.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie
5. The Media moves fast. So should you
When you’ve been sending pitches and finally get a “yes” or even a “maybe,” you have to be ready to follow up with more information very quickly. We are talking hours, not days. Stories move quickly and often being picked for an article comes down to sending the right information at the right time. If you follow a few reporters, you’ll see they sometimes turn out a few stories a day and the best way to respect their work is by giving them accurate information fast.