Recently, I had a day-long, playful email interaction with fabulous, good-looking male freelancer Myatt Murphy and it got me to thinking: Creating and cultivating healthy relationships with the media is a lot like being in high school– trying to get the captain of the football team to notice you and ask you out. It’s not going to happen if you don’t speak up. And saying the same thing that every other person is saying won’t get you very far either.
When I was exchanging emails with Myatt, it reminded me a lot about sending one guy I knew in high school secret admirer notes. (He, by the way, recently connected with me on Facebook. Snicker.) In high school you might have been just another character in a romcom with an unhappy ending, like me. You and I got over it. Shoot, now I’m happily married to an amazing guy, Shannon Nicholson, who easily trumps all other men I’ve dated. Now, I only have eyes for him. Let’s face it though, today, flirting with the media is the “real thing.” It’s your passion, career, and lifeblood we’re talking about. You have to put yourself out there, get noticed, and get that varsity letterman’s jacket put around your shoulders when an unexpected cool breeze passes through the late summer air.
Of course it’s not always easy.
From the very beginning you’ll have to build relationships with the media in such a way that proves to them you’re a unique expert who can provide their audience with a fresh perspective. You have to make it clear you can offer the media something that no one else can. Just like getting asked out on a date, you have to grab their attention. And flirting is a good way to do just that! (Ask Myatt!)
Here are a few techniques to use that will increase your chances of landing a placement:
Brand Your Messages (i.e. Bat Your Eyelashes)
When you connect with the media you’ll need to speak about your brand clearly. It’s so important to talk about who you are and what you do in no more than three sentences, making sure those short sentences sum up your brand powerfully. Double-check what you say so you distinguish yourself from your competition. In your pitch, start with an introduction on who you are as an expert and then follow-up with more news and story angles created specifically for their beat or area of interest.
Use Online Press Kits (i.e. Dress to Impress)
When you first connect with the media you’ll hear one of two things: 1) “I pass,” or 2) “Send me more.” (Sometimes you won’t hear anything, but don’t lie on your bed staring at the phone. Stay close to the phone, but keep pitching!) And just because they pass now doesn’t mean they will pass on you forever. You’ll rarely hear, “Quit contacting me,” like you probably would from the captain of the football team. But either way, don’t take it personally. One day the media will be interested and you’ll have to be ready. And when that day comes, dress to impress by sending them your online press kit link (Never send attachments unless you clear that with them first. It’s like showing up on a first date wearing a wedding dress) and a personalized email, just for them.
Use Breaking and Seasonal News (i.e. Don’t take your date swimming outside when it’s snowing)
When you’re researching new media connections, take note of breaking and seasonal news most relevant to them and the media outlet. It’s the best way to introduce yourself, come off as a professional, and be taken seriously. The smart studious types — the ones that do their homework — always land the boy at the end of the movie (or at least they should.) So tie your pitches to breaking news when you can; compliment the journalist on a piece work you especially enjoyed; and always check the media outlet’s website for pitching guidelines. If you can provide a fresh take on a news story they’re working on and show you have knowledge of their work, it will definitely increase your chances to build a quality relationship with them.
You may have thought your flirting days were over, but really they’ve just begun. See, scoring an interview or placement is just like scoring a date: It takes a little batting of the eyelashes, dressing to impress, and doing your homework to land that interview. Come to think about it, that’s the secret to a long, lasting marriage, too. (Wink.)
Michelle Tennant Nicholson, Chief Creative Officer of Wasabi Publicity, is a 20-year veteran publicist who has seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Called a five-star publicist by Good Morning America’s Mable Chan, Michelle specializes in international PR, working regularly with the likes of Oprah, Larry King, BBC, The Today Show and all major media. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal featured an article Michelle placed for one of her international clients, along with a teaser that ran on the front page above the paper’s masthead. She once secured a client a placement on Dr. Phil within eight hours of the client signing on. Check out her PR blog at http://www.StorytellerToTheMedia.com where she teaches tips from the trade.