If you’re waiting for a slow news day to pitch your story ideas to the media, you’ll probably have a long wait. In fact, you might never succeed in shouting down the major events of the day, and you might find yourself waiting forever to find a lull in the news so that you can launch the book promotion campaign you’ve envisioned.
There’s always something happening: crime, war, politics, money, sickness, or a combination of all those things. These front-burner events will take priority over any other story ideas you offer producers and journalists, and they should. These are the news stories that affect people’s lives, and you can’t fight their impact. These are the news stories that affect people’s lives, and you can’t fight their impact. Instead, you can take advantage of new stories and their relationship to the messages you want to convey, and you can use them to get the top media placements you seek.
Here are five ways to let the news work for you so that today’s headlines can become your immediate media placements:
• Scout for opportunities. Make a habit of checking news outlets for stories that you can address as a professional, or as someone who has researched (or experienced) the subject matter. Ask your friends, relatives, associates, and publicist to do the same. You’re seeking news stories to which you can add expert advice, missing information, or an alternative perspective. Is everyone in the media discussing the stock market’s volatility? Then this might be a good time to pitch your knowledge of the long-term dangers of stress, ways to teach children about investments, or how delaying retirement can benefit your health. In other words, if you can tie your wisdom (or your novel’s themes) into hot news stories, then you can use all of the book promotion strategies at your disposal to pitch the media while the event is still unfolding – and while media decision-makers still need to find fresh ways to report it. You might discover news hooks you had never envisioned while you were writing your book or planning a promotional campaign, but those time-sensitive news angles are usually the ones that get the best media response of all.
• Be creative, but realistic. Sometimes, news stories jump out at you as obvious opportunities for contributing your voice and experience. At other times, it takes a bit more imagination to connect your expertise to the news. That can work in your favor. If all professional landscapers thought about sharing their advice about how to clean up after hurricanes at once, then you’d have far more competition to worry about. But, while it helps your cause to find clever connections that others miss, it could harm your relationship with the media – perhaps permanently — if your pitches are wildly and consistently off the mark.
• Be concise and professional. Because most time-sensitive pitches are online pitches (how many journalists and producers do you know who actually pick up their telephones anymore?), you’ll probably email, text, instant message, or tweet your pitches to the media. Make every word count. Be succinct, and offer hyperlinks (no unsolicited file attachments!) to help media decision-makers find relevant information easily. At the same time, be sure to proofread your pitches before you send them. If you compromise spelling, grammar, or accuracy in favor of speed, then you give journalists and producers a reason to question your communication skills, and you never want to do that.
• Make yourself available, or wait until next time. The media has just released the surprising results of a medical study, but they don’t know the whole story. You’ve let all the health editors in your database know that you have something important to add, but you’re committed to seeing patients, and you can’t do interviews until next month. That may be too late. When a news story is breaking, and you’re tempted to pitch the media, first ask yourself whether you really can make yourself available for a quick round of publicity opportunities. If you can, go for it. Otherwise, hold onto those media pitches for another time and another news story. Don’t offer media decision-makers something they want – in this case, yourself – and can’t have.
• Be confident. Modesty is admirable, but if you want the media to take you seriously, this isn’t the time for humility and hesitation. Your job is to convince media decision-makers that you’re the go-to person for a particular news story, and you can do that only if you believe it yourself, and if you convey authority, self-assurance, and credibility with each pitch.
Finally, persistence can work in your favor. If you’re disappointed with the media’s response to your initial pitch, then try again another time with a different news hook. The media’s silence isn’t an indication that your pitches are unwelcome. It only means the timing wasn’t right or that another expert came along with a more appealing angle. Keep trying, and who knows? The next unfolding news story could provide you with just the hook you need to score an appearance on a major media outlet. And, with luck, it might even happen before the day is through.