Rarely a week goes by when someone doesn’t send me a link to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Insider or Barron’s that’s written by someone they know – often a competitor. “What do I have to do to get in there?” they ask me with exasperation. “I know more about [topic X] than he/she does!”
Okay. Prove it.
You may know more about topic X than your competitor does, but he or she seems to know more about working the press. Here’s the good news. With today’s shrinking newsrooms, you’re likely to see more content bylined by people who don’t seem to have the words “staff writer” or “staff reporter” after their names. So it shouldn’t be that hard to get a byline in a prestigious national media outlet that’s read by millions, right?
Not so fast. Here are three important considerations.
1. Don’t wait by the phone. Media outlets aren’t likely to call you unsolicited unless you’re an A-list celebrity, a superstar athlete or a university professor who’s an expert in a very arcane area that just happens to be in the news due to a recent catastrophe, natural disaster or astronomical phenomenon.
- Open your wallet. If you’re willing to pay for advertising space, sponsor a related conference, or pay a fee to be listed as an “Advisory Council” member (sorry Forbes), the editors will find a way to get you some space to be heard.3. Become a trusted source. In media jargon we call this “earned media” as opposed to “paid media” see #2 above. Earned media will take some legwork, since most journalists, editors and bloggers don’t have time for lunch, golf or drinks these days. But it’s worth the effort. I’ll explain in a minute.
Steps to becoming a trusted source:
1. Isolate a half dozen media outlets in which you’d like to be seen. Ask a team member to see which journalists are covering areas of your expertise regularly. Review recent articles they’ve published and get familiar with their style and publishing frequency.
2. Send the targeted journalist/blogger a brief email or voicemail thanking them for covering Topic X. Cite a brief excerpt from a recent story to show you’ve read their work. Let them know you’re available for comment when they do their next follow-up story on Topic X. Include links to recent articles or presentations you’ve done about Topic X to show you know your stuff.
NOTE: You may notice many journalists don’t make their email addresses publicly available. You can usually reach them by phone by calling the media outlet phone directory. You can also approach many on their Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles or personal websites. You can also subscribe to journalist databases, but I have a few other legal and ethical ways to reach busy journalists for free….Ping me for tips.
3. Be ready to respond quickly. After you’ve proven yourself a reliable source who understands a targeted media outlet’s audience (i.e., your peers), they will start calling you eventually for background. Just know the journalist won’t be sending a camera crew to your home or office for a lengthy sit-down interview. The questions often come in on tight deadline and you’ll often have to respond within 48 hours to be included in the article. NOTE: Always have someone on your team proof your comments before sending. Don’t make a time-pressed journalist do any more work than they already have on their plate.
NOTE: We have an economical service here at HB Publishing that alerts you to breaking stories that journalists with tight deadlines are working on.
4. Confirm the writing policies before pitching story ideas. Once you’ve identified possible guest column opportunities, call or e-mail the editor to confirm the writing policies, potential opportunities and specifications for the article. Most media outlets have strict rules about what should (and shouldn’t) be included in guest columns. Word count, style and format, use of source materials and attribution will be spelled out as well as the rights they’ll need to your work (i.e., exclusivity vs. first rights, etc.).
Most media outlets will discourage you from referencing your company or product overtly in the article. Doing so could cause the story to be killed or heavily edited. To avoid such penalties, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Keep it above board, just as you would when speaking at an industry conference.
- Pitch a concise story outline. Don’t send the full manuscript. Before an editor accepts your pitch, he or she will likely ask you to submit an outline and a one-paragraph abstract summarizing your proposal. Even if such materials aren’t required, it’s good practice to prepare an outline before you get started.
Power of your byline
According to our annual CPA | Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey™, publishing a bylined article is one of the five most effective thought leadership tactics out of nearly two dozen choices we surveyed (82% of respondents agreed). Media outlets are always looking for new content with a fresh outlook to appeal to their audience.
The key benefits of bylines include:
- Establishing credibility in your area of expertise, and to your target audiences.
- Creating relationships with publications for future engagement.
- Starting conversations about issues for which you’re passionate.
- Positioning you as a trustworthy, go-to expert on a particular area that impacts your industry/profession and clients.
- Great platform for obtaining speaking engagements, radio interviews and podcast appearances. Speaker bureaus and producers are always scouring the web and the media for fresh voices and points of view. Having a byline in a prestigious media outlet makes you instantly “vetted.”
You may not win a Pulitzer, but bylined articles are one of the most effective tools available for establishing credibility with a target audience. If nothing else, they showcase you and your organization as a thought leader in your field. The article will draw attention to the stature and strength of your company which helps differentiate it from competitors. We have plenty of ways to make the process less daunting and time-consuming.
Ping me any time to discuss.
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