Whenever something major happens, all the experts come out of the woodwork.When a child falls into a gorilla exhibit at a zoo, it’s the parenting experts. When a gorilla is killed in that exhibit, it’s the animal experts. Today, it’s the political/foreign policy/religion/immigration experts.
The Media Expert
But there is one expert who is always out and about. It’s the media expert… and nine times out of 10, that person has never worked a day in the media industry. (That’s the funny thing about these self-proclaimed experts online. They don’t have any experience in their expertise.)
Before I disappoint everyone with the lack of agenda setting and scheming that really happens in newsrooms, let me address the term “the media” because, well, I don’t really know who that is.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Blaming “the media” confuses me.
Is that your local meteorologist?
The person who covers lifestyle news in the city newspaper?
The video editor at CNN?
The host of an opinion show?
Me writing this article?
You on social media?
Your neighbor who just started a blog?
See? I’m not quite sure who “the media” is (or are).When people say news and media coverage is slanted and there’s an agenda, I really don’t see it. This is my experience as a TV reporter.
The Morning Meeting
In local TV news, the day starts with a morning meeting.This is when potential stories are discussed between producers, reporters, editors, and others. Then, assignments are made.I’ve never been in a meeting where phrases like, “Let’s spin this more liberally,” or “Make sure it has a conservative feel” or “Show this group of people in a certain way” are uttered. Instead, I’ve always heard, “Make sure you get both sides.”
Telling the Story
Sometimes, one side doesn’t want to talk… no matter how hard you try to convince them it’s vital to tell both sides of the story.Sometimes the person who is talking to the media isn’t as well spoken as the person telling the other side of the story. Sometimes, the person isn’t available to go on camera, so instead, they send in quotes that will be used in a full-screen graphic or they assign a public information officer to speak to the media instead. And sometimes, people are just bad at giving soundbites.Then, there are time constraints in TV news. Rarely does a news package last longer than one minute and 30 seconds – no matter what the topic is.So, when I hear people say stories are one-sided or cater to one political belief system, I never noticed. I’ve come to realize that people think their opinions are facts. To take it further, people will describe a news story and read so far into it that they create the bias on their own. If you look hard enough for something, you’ll find it – regardless if it’s really there or not.
When you see a story about Christmas shopping at the mall and the coverage is all about how busy the mall is with shoppers, some people could see that as a positive story because they love going out and being around lots of people in a busy mall around the holidays, while other people can think it’s terrible because they hate crowds and shopping.So maybe the bias isn’t with “the media,” but with you and how you digest information? How else can you explain two people seeing the same thing and having a different reaction?
Photo Credit: Felix Castro
Here’s another example of what happens in the field that many self-proclaimed media experts don’t understand.Once I was covering people signing up their families to receive Christmas presents from the Salvation Army. We were talking to people in line, getting video of the process, and calling the assignment desk to share what we had.There was a problem.Everyone I was talking to and getting video of was Hispanic. My managers told me, “You can’t show just Hispanics. You need white people. You need black people.” But there were no white or black people to talk to or show.When the story aired, guess what happened?The calls and Facebook posts were all about how we were so biased and obviously racist for only choosing to show Hispanics. Surely there were other people there too, but we wanted the coverage to look a certain way, so we only used certain sound bites and video. (Side note: I’m Hispanic.)I’ve had many of my live shots drop while I’m speaking. That’s not because someone in the control booth didn’t like what I was saying and cut me off. That is technology. Sometimes live shots drop. Again, if you’ve ever set one up, dialed it in, hooked up an IFB (if you’re a media expert, you know what that is), you’d understand.Once, I forgot where I was. I was on my fourth story in a matter of six hours and couldn’t remember what city I was in. I’m not stupid or uneducated or “don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” I just forgot where I was for a second because TV news happens fast. Sometimes, faster than I can think.Imagine that… for every story you do. That’s what happens when you work in TV news. If people don’t like what they see, for whatever reason, they will find a way to blame “the media” for using its agenda to make a point. Again, these people making these claims have never shot, written, or edited a VO/SOT (there’ another news term.)And just so you know, a reporter doesn’t write something and go on-air with it because it sounds good. The photographer is involved. A producer goes through it. Then, a managing editor checks it. Sometimes, even more people will sign off on something before it makes air. Trust me, there is a lot of diversity in newsrooms and that’s what helps tell a balanced story, even if it’s not what you believe.
I can’t end this post without talking about breaking news because this is when all the media experts crawl out of the woodwork with their expertise on how to cover a mass shooting 15 minutes after it happens.
When breaking news happens, we usually find out by someone sitting at the assignment desk who heard it on the scanner. Sometimes a viewer will call the station. When that happens, a crew is set out the door to the location.While the crew is in route, the assignment desk is making phone calls. Nine times out of 10, they don’t get a whole lot of information. Why not?Contrary to what many think, when breaking news happens, most details aren’t yet known and a person isn’t chomping at the bit to tell the local TV station everything they know.
Instead, the police are doing their jobs trying to figure out what’s going on, if they are in a dangerous situation, if there are lives to save, etc. Spilling the beans isn’t at the top of their priority list.When a reporter and photographer arrive on the scene, police tell us to wait for the Public Information Office to arrive. (The PIO is the person in charge of talking the media.) This also isn’t immediate.We can’t remain silent for hours in a breaking news situation, so we talk to people nearby. Witnesses who may have heard something or seen something. Sometimes their information is right, sometimes it’s not. There is no way to know until an investigation is finished… and we can’t ignore a breaking news situation for that long.So, we go on-air and say, “A neighbor says he saw…” and follow it up with “Police are here and haven’t confirmed this, but we see…”In a perfect world, we would roll up and the PIO would be ready with every piece of correct information for us to tell the entire story right then and there. (It’s shocking to see how many people believe this is how things happen.)So yes, there is a lot of misinformation in breaking news situations. It’s called “breaking” news for a reason. After “breaking” it’s “developing.”
Back to the Media Expert
I could go on, and on, and on… but we all know you can’t possibly know all about how the media industry works… if you’ve never worked in it. I can’t sum up a decade of experience in one measly blog post or a Facebook comment, so I’ll just leave it here and have a chuckle when someone who has never worked in the industry tells me what they know (because they saw it on TV or read it online.) If that were the case, every Grey’s Anatomy fan or Web MD user would be a medical expert. (Have you seen the vaccination debates with these people?!)But if you do want to learn a little bit about your so-called expertise, you should get a job as a reporter or field producer – someone who is out and about gathering information to share with viewers.I guarantee you’ll be disappointed, at not only the lack of glamor, but lack of agenda “the media” is trying to portray on-air. The truth is, we don’t even have time to create an agenda if we wanted to… and if we found extra time, we’d eat!Another version of this blog post originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
Have you ever watched someone conduct an interview on TV and felt awkward watching it because the guest appeared nervous or unprepared?
They need media training! Many times, I’ve cringed watching the TV thinking this… and sometimes, yelling it.
What is Media Training?
Most business owners want media exposure for their business. With that, comes TV, radio, podcasts, etc. Being on-air, whether it be just your voice, or your face and your voice, is very different from something that appears in print on text online.
Because you are seen and heard, you need to be prepared. This is where media training comes into play.
Knowing how to speak to the media as a business owner or a spokesperson is vital. It could make or break your brand.
Media Training 101
With anything, practice makes perfect. When I act as a media coach for clients, I go over some of the tips mentioned in this post. We practice them. Create a video. Watch the video. Then, repeat it all again from the beginning. These strategies are the starting point. You will take them with you before and during an interview. After a few on-camera experiences, they will become a habit.
Media Training Tips
1. Be conversational.
When you ignore the camera to the side or the people in front of you, this helps you to be more conversational. You will come across comfortable, natural, and more likable. You won’t appear nervous and when you appear like you are just having a conversation with someone, it makes for a better presence… and you will be remembered!
This means NO SCRIPT. You don’t talk from a script in normal conversation, so don’t memorize one.
2. Dress for the part.
Don’t wear a suit if your brand doesn’t warrant it. If you’re an attorney, a suit works. If you’re a personal trainer, sport your gym clothes. If you’re a chef, throw on your chef hat. Other than that, I suggest a shirt with your business logo or simple patterns with bright colors.
The day of the Miami Heat parade, I dressed the part. Yes, I was reporting, but I was at a fun event celebrating the Miami Heat, so I wore a White Hot Heat t-shirt!
3. Know what you want to say.
Don’t memorize what you’re going to say. That’s when you get tripped up and stumble over your words. Instead, make a list of bullet points that are vital to your brand. Use those points to deliver a conversation and engage with the audience.
If you’d like to share the bullet points with a member of the media to help fill them in on your expertise, make sure they are just bullet points. If you try to write a journalists script for them, you won’t only leave them insulted, but you may never be invited back. It’s the equivalent of telling someone how to their job.
Don’t worry, they did their research. They know all about you and they know what they want to talk about. Yes, what THEY want to talk about. In an interview, it’s not what YOU want to talk about. (If you want that, you need to buy an advertisement.)
4. Speak in soundbites (or quotes.)
Say what others cannot say. By this, I mean use the emotion behind your business and brand. Anyone can tell you about a product or service. Only you can talk about what makes your product or service amazing and different.
When I sat down with “The Situation” we didn’t only sit in a tanning bed (very much his brand), but he spoke in a way no one else could because he is so unique… like you are!
You are the face of your brand, so speak from your point of view.
5. Be animated.
For the same reason on-air talent and stage performers put on a little extra makeup and a little extra hairspray, you need to put on a little extra personality. Things translate differently on TV and on stage, so if you aren’t acting extra excited about what you’re talking about, you may look bored.
Media Training Course
Because media training is such an important part of media relations, I have included extensive training in my online course Master your PR. Check out the free version, a five-day email course, here.
One of my go-to pitches for clients revolve around holidays. You know what’s better than the major ones? The bizarre holidays.
If you’re a small business owner who accepts American Express, Small Business Saturday is your day – not only for business but for publicity too!
I’d be willing to bet just about every TV station and newspaper in your market is covering this “holiday,” so why not pitch them as the owner of a small business to be interviewed?You could talk about
the importance of shopping small,
what you’ve done to prepare for this day,
what impact holiday shopping has on your business and the local economy, etc.
Remember, it’s all about finding a way to insert yourself and your brand into what is happening in the news.
Two days later, it’s one of my favorite bizarre holidays, Cyber Monday! (It’s the day I do all of my Christmas shopping.)
Earn Publicity on Bizarre Holidays
Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday aren’t exactly holidays, but they also aren’t that bizarre.
In March, there is something called Pi Day. (It’s 3/14… get it?) Even though it’s math related, “pi” sounds the same as “pie” and the restaurant I worked with made pizza pies, so I pitcheda cooking demonstration on a morning newscast for Pi Day. It worked!Remember, you need to look ahead and pitch the story before the day arrives.
These kinds of pitches work best for those newscasts that share more features and lifestyle content than hard news.
For TV, local newspapers, and online, I suggest pitching about two weeks in advance. If you don’t hear back, follow up one week later, then two days before the “holiday.”
If your goal is to be featured in a print magazine, you need to look ahead three months.
Planning for Bizarre Holidays
Plan ahead by making a calendar of all of the bizarre holidays, like
December 7th, Cotton Candy Day
January 29th, Puzzle Day
February 9th, Toothache Day (Dentists – this one is for you!)
By implementing these days into your marketing strategy, you will not only be better prepared, but you will also increase your chances of earning media coverage.
Do you want me to create a calendar for you that outlines all of the bizarre holidays every day of the year? Let me know and I’ll create something just for you!
What is media relations? That’s a question I get a lot. Many people don’t understand the media relations definition, and I can see why it’s difficult to comprehend. Even family members and friends ask me, “What does a media relations specialist do?” So, I’m going to break it down here.
Media Relations Definition
When I asked Google to define media relations, it told me “Media relations refer to the relationship that a company or organization develops with journalists, while public relations extend that relationship beyond the media to the general public.”
My client, the Beebo, feature on the Rachael Ray Show
In other words, it’s earning placement in the media without paying for it. When you pay for it, it’s advertising. When you don’t pay for it, it’s media relations.
The picture above shows media coverage I earned for my client, the Beebo. The Beebo was featured in a segment called “Human Lab” that showed local mothers testing out three different baby products.
Public Relations Media Relations
Aren’t they the same thing? Well, no.
Many people think they are the same thing and get them confused because most people want public relations forthe media relations. There is a lot more to public relations – there’s writing, blogging, social media, events, photography, video, advertising, SEO, and much more. Media relations is just one part of public relations. Many times, it’s the most popular part.
So now that you’re clear on what media relations is, you’re probably wanting to hear some media relations tactics, right? I’ve also included a media relations plan template and guide that will help you as well. Click here to access that or scroll down.
Have a Media Relations plan.
I meet with so many people who say they want to earn media for their brand, but aren’t specific as to where they want media and what kind of media they want. Having a media relations plan means you know exactly who you want to target – the journalist at the media outlet – and you know with what story angle you want to pitch them. Make sure your plan is very specific.
Practice Media Relations 101.
What is media relations 101? In a sentence – it’s not calling a journalist when you first attempt to pitch them. While some prefer to work on the phone, most do not. (Here’s an example of that.) For many, it’s just not convenient.
Most prefer to receive an email. A short email. If you want to send a press release, copy and paste it in the body of the email instead of sending it as an attachment. But today, you don’t need a press release to pitch the media.
The fortune is in the follow up, so don’t email once and leave it there. Wait a few days. Then, you can send a follow up email, make a call, or even send a tweet.
Use these Media Relations tips.
Do not look for a free commercial. You will not earn coverage if you just want to promote your brand. Instead, you need to tell a story and the best way to do that is by using what I call the three Es:
If you can offer a story that educates, entertains, and offers some kind of emotion to the media outlet’s viewers and/or readers, you will earn media coverage. The hardest part is finding that story, but every brand has a story to tell! You just need to know how to look for it.
When I was working with Heat Running, I did not focus on the app itself. Instead, I focused on the story behind the app and the creators. With this approach, I earned Heat Running coverage in Women’s Running, Men’s Fitness, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Today Show, Runner’s World, and many others.
My client, Heat Running, featured in Runner’s World
Need more help? No problem. That’s why I’m here! Check out this media relations guide that also serves as a media relations plan template to start earning your brand exposure in the media.
Regarding media exposure, I’ve had this conversation many times:
You: “I think I have a great product, but no one knows about it.”Me: “Do you have someone handling your public relations?”You: “We looked into it, but it’s so expensive. We’re just trying to do it ourselves for now.”Me: “Well, what are you doing?”You: “We post on social media and send out press releases, but it’s like people still don’t know we exist.”
Well, if you want to know why you’re not earning media exposure… maybe it’s because you’re not making yourself, your product, your service, your business, or even your brand newsworthy.
1. You’re not earning media exposure because you are sending a press release.
Before I start working with most clients, the words “press release” are usually spoken in the first 10 minutes… and not by me. I don’t like press releases, but many small business owners insist on me writing them and sending them out. If this is what you’re doing, this is why they may not be working for you:
Your press release is too long
Your press release is boring
Your press release is complicated
Your press release is not newsworthy
Your press release is too evergreen
2. You’re not earning media exposure because you are reaching out to the wrong people.
Earning media coverage is hard. Because it’s not only free, but much more effective than advertising, small business owners want it for their brand. Many times, this means pitching anyone and everyone in the media industry with an email address. This is not effective. When I was a TV reporter in Miami, I would receive pitches that included a topic in a different market, a topic I have never covered before, a topic that would never be covered by the TV station itself, and the list goes on.
3. You’re not earning media exposure because you are promoting your brand too much.
While some media coverage may end up being seen as a great commercial for a brand, it should never be pitched this way. Remember, the job of a journalist is to tell a story that will educate, entertain, and evoke some kind of emotion in the reader or viewer. If your brand isn’t doing that with a pitch, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
4. You’re not earning media exposure because you are not trying hard enough.
Very rarely does a member of the media come to you. If one does, consider yourself lucky and that a rare occasion. Journalists work 24/7 – at 2:00 am, on Christmas morning, and many times in a few different cities in just a couple of days. It’s not a 9-5 job, so you cannot treat your outreach like it is.
5. You’re not earning media exposure because you are not ready.
If your website is not up and running or if your product is not ready for distribution, then you are not ready to earn media exposure. Unless you have a solid business plan with something to see, people to talk to, and documents to share, then you need to do more on the business side before trying to earn exposure in the media.
Now that you know what’s not working, why not try some things that work? In this free e-mail course, I’ll teach how to right some of these wrongs.
Making an appearance on the Today Show is a dream goal for almost any business or brand. Most of them tell me, “I want to be on the Today Show” within hours of beginning our work together. Then I say, “Yeah, you and everyone else.” (I am very honest with my clients… and I never promise coverage, especially coverage on Today.)
But, I have earned a couple of them coverage on Today and I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it, so you can do it too. Click here to see the story.
Remember, this isn’t advertising. This is public relations… media relations to be more specific. If you want earned media, you need to have a newsworthy story to tell. I like to use the three E’s to determine if a story is newsworthy:
When I started working with Heat Running, a fitness app, I knew I could earn the creators coverage because of the story behind it. It had all of my three E’s. That’s how I earned them coverage – not because of the app. It’s cool, don’t get me wrong, but so are thousands of other apps out there. The story behind the app is even better.
So, you have the three E’s… but let’s focus on that last one. Making something newsworthy also means having a “real person” to interview. Arya, one of the creators, is that “real person” the Today Show was interested in.
Here’s another example. An owner of a jewelry store in Boca Raton, where customers can come in and make their own jewelry, wants media attention for her business. After talking to her to find a story, we found one: Moms were coming in to make their own jewelry for fun, but some turned it into their own at-home business and became entrepreneurs. It all started at this store, so obviously the store would be mentioned and hopefully, the owner would be interviewed, but the story wouldn’t be about the jewelry store or the owner. It’d be about that “real person.” That “real person” is usually where the emotional aspect comes into the story… and it is much needed!
I earned Heat Running coverage on the ABC station in their local market of Washington DC. I also earned them coverage in Men’s Fitness, Women’s Running, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and others… all in three months.
From those media hits, came others – like Today. I also put the creators in touch with an interested writer at Runner’s World, so expect to see something there soon. Getting in this magazine was another big goal for my client, so it feels great to make it happen… even if it’s seven months after I originally pitched them. (Yes, PR takes time.)
When I was working in news, so many people would ask me, “How do you get to be on TV?” First, I would explain to them it’s not as glamorous as it looks. Then, I’d explain the process I went through of school, internships, making a tape, sending it out (hundreds of times), making a new tape, sending it out (hundreds of more times), then bouncing from market to market. It took a lot, but many can bypass all of that.
If you are an expert in your field and you think you’re good enough to be a panelist on TV – you can do it too. I work as a coach to both media train and put together a reel for experts who want to do this exact thing!
Here are five ways to earn TV time as an expert in your industry:
If you are a doctor, attorney, computer programmer, etc. – pretend you’re talking to 5th graders. These types of experts have a tendency to try to sound smart and they go on too long. Keep it short and simple and speak in normal language.
You have to practice being on TV before you can get on TV. You can do that with your phone. Pretend you are having a normal conversation. Also, a reel doesn’t hurt. Before anyone puts you on the tube, they want to know you can do the job!
Stand for one thing. Have an opinion about issues… if not, what are you there for?!
Hire a publicist (like me!) until you make your own relationships with assignment desks, reporters, bookers, etc. (I think I have a leg up on working in PR for this reason… I used to be the media!)
ALWAYS send out an email the minute you hear a story breaking you could be an expert on. It can be as simple as, “I am an expert if you guys are doing a story on such-and-such.” That’s it!
Do you want to promote your brand? You can! Sign up for my FREE e-course to learn how you can by doing PR yourself. Click here to master your PR. For more, email me at Christina@MediaMavenAndMore.com.