journalist

How to find out if your story idea will interest national journalists

Getting featured in national publications and programmes can be a powerful way to promote your business.

But I see so many business owners wasting time pitching stories to national journalists that are far more suited to local or industry titles.

So how can you tell whether your story idea has national potential? And if it doesn’t, is there anything you can do to get national journalists interested in featuring your business?  Read on and find out…

New values

If you want to understand what kind of stories journalists are interested in, you need to understand news values. These are the factors that help journalists decide what stories get covered and how much prominence they are given in their publication or programme. News values will differ from publication to publication (or programme to programme) and between different types of media i.e. local, industry and national.

Depending on which expert you read on the subject, there are up to 20 different news values, but to keep things simple, I’m going to focus on three.

Relevance

Wondering if you’re story has national potential? Imagine a map of your local area with a red line around its boundaries (even better, print one out and draw it on). Would people outside that red line care about your story? Would it be relevant to their lives?

Let’s say you run a fitness business, for example. You’ve recently launched hula hooping exercise classes in four different venues in your local area. Clearly this is not going to be relevant to someone who lives at the other end of the country, so this is a local story.

Maybe you run a financial planning business and have recently won a prestigious industry award. While this is a great achievement, is someone from outside your area (or the sector you work in) really going to be interested in reading about someone they’ve never heard of winning an award they’ve never heard of? Probably not. While this might make a nice ‘local person done good’ item in a regional title, it’s probably not going to be of interest to the nationals.

Or perhaps you run a local business networking group and you’re celebrating your fifth birthday. You’ve grown from 50 to 500 members and now have branches in 15 different locations in your county. While this is impressive, why would anyone outside of the area care?  It might be an interesting case study for people who’d like to start their own networking group - but in a publication aimed at business owners, not in a national.

Imagine a map of your local area with a red line around its boundaries. Would people outside that red line care about your story?
Imagine a map of your local area with a red line around its boundaries. Would people outside that red line care about your story?

Unexpectedness

I speak to so many authors who think publishing a book is enough to make national news. But with more people publishing books than ever, it really isn’t such a big deal (and I say that as an author myself).

But what if your self-published book has made you a millionaire? That’s exactly what happened to thriller writer Adam Croft, which is why his latest book Her Last Tomorrow was featured in the Guardian. Adam’s story is both unusual and unexpected, which is why it made national news.

Jen Lindsey-Clark’s work made national news when she created a chocolate 'Cumberbunny' featuring the actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s face - and sent it to his mum for Easter. The chocolatier from Brighton, who has also made a life-size version of the British actor, got national coverage because her work was unusual.

And you can’t get much more unusual than a restaurant where customers dine in the nude, which is why the first naked restaurant couldn’t fail to attract the interest of national journalists.

It’s worth pointing out here that local publications and programmes also look for the unexpected - particularly something that’s unusual for the local area e.g. the first ‘pay what you want’ restaurant or  ‘men only’ beauty bar in a particular town, for example. But to make the nationals, it usually needs to be exceptionally surprising or a real ‘first’.

Chocolatier Jen Lindsey-Clark made national headlines when she made a life-sized version of the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch
Chocolatier Jen Lindsey-Clark made national headlines when she made a life-sized version of the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch

Divisiveness

It sounds obvious, but to make national news, your story has to be something people will actually care about (beyond those in your local area that is). And stories people care about are often divisive.

Online gym owner Julia Buckley got national coverage when she decided to start taking a £50 deposit from new clients, which would only be refunded if they lost weight and/or inches. Her theory that the fear of losing money gives people an added incentive to stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan is one not everyone will agree with. 

The Keery brothers’ cereal cafe got a lot of national attention when it opened in the East End of London -and not just because it was an unusual concept. Selling bowls of cereal for £3.50 in a deprived area of the city also attracted criticism, along with protests and vandalism, which meant it attracted plenty of national media coverage.

And cafe owner Lawrence Lavender has been all over the national press in his native Canada for selling a Trump sandwich’,  inspired by the US presidential election candidate Donald Trump and advertised as being ‘full of baloney’ . The story has divided the public, offending Trump fans and delighting his critics.

This is not to say you should intentionally set out to be outrageous or provocative in order to get national media coverage (and I don't think any of the business owners I mention above did either). But if you’re wondering why journalists aren’t interested in giving column inches or airtime to your new jewellery range, event planning service or exercise classes, this is what you're up against. 

And do remember that ‘news’ is just one type of media coverage. If you’re looking to get featured in the national media, there are plenty of other ways to go about it (that can be more beneficial for your business). For example:

1.Thought leadership: offering your expertise on ‘hot’ news stories - both by supplying comments to journalists (both in print and on air) and writing opinion articles for newspapers and magazines. Writing articles for the Huffington Post on Danish life has helped Copenhagen based relocation consultant Melanie Haynes attract clients and further national coverage.

2.Teaching: there is a growing appetite in the national media for ‘how to’ content where you share knowledge and/or help people learn a skill. I’ve written a whole series of articles for the Guardian on how to get media coverage and this article on how to write a press release has sent a lot of business my way.

3. Storytelling: sharing personal stories about the parts of your life that intersect with your business can be a powerful way to promote what you do. This article on how being an expat inspired her to start a business has won Melanie Haynes eight new clients.

And one last tip for you...don't be fooled by celebrities! Many business owners assume that getting a celebrity involved in a press launch will automatically guarantee them national coverage. Remember that celebrities do this kind of thing all the time, so unless they are going to be doing or saying something interesting (think Angelina Jolie's human rights activism!) their mere presence at your launch event is unlikely to interest the national press.

[070] How not to feel intimidated by journalists

I've lost count of the number of people who've told me they feel intimidated by journalists.

In fact, the thought of pitching an idea or giving an interview to a journalist can turn some perfectly confident people into a stammering mess.

If this sounds like you, this podcast episode is full of practical ideas to help.

Here’s what I cover in this episode:

  • How in-person meetings can help you feel more comfortable around the media
  • One simple thing you can do to have better conversations with reporters
  • The mind hack you can use to to stop you feeling intimidated by journalists

Key resources and links

How to get a meeting with a journalist (episode 60)

How to get the most out of a meeting with a journalist  (episode 62)

Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart: A Totally Unconventional Guide To Selling Your Story In The Media (out July 7)

Soulful PR Live - spend a day with me & eight national journalists in London on July 7

The Soulful PR Business Club

The Soulful PR Facebook Community 

What to do next

If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it using the social media buttons at the top of this page.

I’d also love it if you could take a few minutes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on itunes. I read every one personally and may even read yours out on the show.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live.

How to connect with journalists on social media (without feeling like a crazy stalker)...

For people who ‘do’ communications for a living, journalists can be a pretty difficult to get hold of. They don’t pick up their phones, answer emails or respond to invites (not without a lot of prompting, anyway). Which can be sooo frustrating if you’re trying to pitch a story.

If you want to increase your chances of getting media coverage, you need to get your idea in front of the person who can make a decision about whether or not to run your story.  But finding these kind of people  - a section editor on an industry magazine or a specialist freelancer, for example - can be challenging. And when you do track the right journalists down, how do you build relationships without sounding like a creep? Read on and find out…

Twitter is where most journalists hang out, so making twitter lists of journalists you’re keen to connect with can be a smart move. Checking in daily to see what they’re talking about, not only helps you find out what topics they’re interested in, you may also spot them looking for help with stories they're currently working on. 

Once you’ve found a journalist you want to connect with on Twitter, start building up the relationship by sharing and commenting on their posts. This way, when you pop up in their inbox with a story idea, they should recognise your name. Don’t overdo it though - there’s a fine line between looking interested and stalking.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many journalists use Twitter like a search engine, particularly when they’re looking for people to talk to for stories they’re working on. So having an up-to-date profile, sharing content that relates to your area of expertise and using hashtags - which group together posts on a similar topic - can be a good move. If there’s anything you’re particularly keen to raise awareness of (e.g. a new book), you might also want to add a pinned post at the top of your feed.

On a breaking news story, journalists may also use geotags to find people to talk to in a particular area - another reason why it’s worth being active on Twitter (and sharing your location, when it's safe for you to do so). Never turn down the opportunity to comment on a story - even if it doesn't have any obvious links to your business - as it's an opportunity to build a relationship with a journalist you might be able to work with in the future (unless it's bad for business, that is, and you can find out more about that here). 

There’s no reason why you can’t pitch an idea over on Twitter, but just be aware that once your ideas is out there, it isn’t exclusive any more, which can be off-putting for journalists. Sending a tweet saying you have a story idea and asking if it’s ok to send a direct message (they’ll need to follow you back for you to do that) is usually better.

And don’t ‘spam’ journalists with story ideas. If a journalist can see you’ve pitched exactly the same idea to dozens of other journalists, they’re unlikely to be interested (particularly if you’re sharing it with competing programmes/titles).

Find out how to pitch a story idea to a journalist.

linkedin

Many journalists are listed on LinkedIn, so if you’re looking to find the name of someone in a particular role on a specific publication or programme e.g. deputy editor or producer, it can be a useful resource.

There’s no reason why you can’t message journalists with story ideas on LinkedIn, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a reply. Most seem to use it for job hunting - or to make themselves more easily found by prospective employers - so if you’re pitching story ideas, Twitter is probably a better bet.

Do bear in mind that journalists do look for people to talk to on Linkedin though, so having an up to date profile - ideally with examples of your work and/or a short video of clip of you talking or presenting is a good idea. If it’s immediately obvious that you know your subject - and are a good talker - journalists are much more likely to want to connect with you.

Take particular care with your ‘professional headline’ (the one-liner under your name). While it’s tempting to put your title e.g. ‘Director of leadership coaching company’ or ‘Employer engagement co-ordinator’ this will mean nothing to a busy journalist. Explaining how you help people e.g. ‘I help female CEOs get promoted’ or ‘I help make employers create happier workplaces’ is far better.

Creating content for LinkedIn Pulse - the platform where users can share their own content - can be another way get to noticed. Not only are posts search engine friendly (which means, thanks to the authority of LinkedIn itself, content gets ranked relatively quickly), it also boosts your authority and keeps you front-of-mind with your followers. This is not just useful for attracting journalists - it can also help you attract new business.

facebook

Posting regular content on your Facebook page can help journalists find you more easily.

On the flip side, do be aware that some journalists trawl Facebook groups - particularly community ‘noticeboards’ - for potential stories. So always be mindful of what you’re sharing in Facebook groups - you never know who might be reading.

instagram

Following journalists you’re keen to connect with on Instagram is a good idea. Checking in daily to see what they’re talking about, will help you get an idea of what topics they’re particularly interested in. Get yourself on their radar by liking and commenting on their content, but as with Twitter, remember there’s a fine line between looking interested and stalking. 

Photograph: The Gay Beards

Remember, also, that having a great Instagram feed can be newsworthy in itself. For example, the Gaybeards got tons of media coverage last Christmas for their Instagram campaign showing photographs of them, erm, covering their beards in glitter.

snapchat

While there are aren't so many journalists hanging out on Snapchat at the moment, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact it means you’ll stand out more. Finding journalists who are hanging out on Snapchat (the Ghostcodes app can help) and following them can be a good way to build relationships. 

And unlike some of the other social media platforms, it seems to be more socially acceptable to message new connections on Snapchat to say ‘hi’  - so you don’t need to worry so much about looking like a stalker. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Finding journalists who are active on Periscope, watching their ‘scopes’ and sending messages can be a great way to connect.

If a big story is breaking, journalists may also use geotags to find people to talk to in a particular area - another reason why it’s worth being active on Periscope. 

Make yourself visible

Lastly, do remember that being active on social media not just about finding journalists - it’s about being found. Having up-to-date social media profiles (ideally with a 24/7 contact number), posting regular content that shows your expertise (rather than telling people about it) and having your own blog will make you much more visible to journalists.

Did you find this post useful? You may also like: how to find journalists' contact details. 

email sign off

[056] Should you pitch the same idea to different journalists?

One of the most common questions I get asked about PR is: 'should you pitch the same idea to different journalists?' The rather unsatisfactory answer is 'it depends'.

In this episode, I share practical tips and advice that will help you decide when it's ok to send your idea to multiple journalists and when you need to keep things exclusive.

Here’s what I cover in this episode:

  • In what circumstances it's acceptable to send the same story idea to different journalists (and when you definitely shouldn't)
  • How long you should wait to hear back from a particular publication/programme before you try elsewhere
  • Why you should be wary of sending the same story to different journalists on the same publications/programmes

Key resources and links

How to use guest content to grow your audience

How to tell your story in the media (without being boring) 

Soulful PR Live - spend a day with me & eight national journalists in London on July 7

The Soulful PR Business Club

The Soulful PR Facebook Community 

What to do next

If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it using the social media buttons at the top of this page.

I’d also love it if you could take a few minutes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on itunes. I read every one personally and may even read yours out on the show.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live.

[031] How to build & promote a profitable online business with Mariah Coz

Building a business you can run from anywhere in the world - one that makes you money even while you sleep - is a dream for many aspiring entrepreneurs.

But how do you go about building a profitable online business? How do you create products and services people are itching to buy? And what are the best ways to promote them? 

In this episode, serial entrepreneur Mariah Coz shares the strategies she used to build a $100k a month blog in less than a year...

Here’s what's covered in this episode:

  • Mariah’s entrepreneurial journey - from selling vintage clothes to online training
  • The strategies Mariah used to build a $100k a month blog in less than 12 months - including webinars, email marketing and content upgrades
  • Why Mariah admits to being ‘terrible’ at social media (but why it hasn’t hurt her business)
  • A killer guest post strategy you may not have thought of (I hadn’t!)
  • Common pitching mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Key resources and links

Mariah’s website  and her online course

Mariah on Twitter

Mariah's free download:  8 must-have tools to create, sell and market your products 

Mariah’s 2015 business review: the nitty gritty of how she built that $100k a month blog...in less than a year

How to guest blog like a boss (Mariah’s secret guest posting strategy)  

How to write an effective press release (my article in the Guardian)

Infusionsoft & Convertkit (email marketing software)

App Sumo - the software I used to create a Welcome mat on my website

Soulful PR for Starters (my self-study PR programme)

What to do next

If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it using the social media buttons at the top of this page.

I’d also love it if you could take a few minutes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on itunes. I read every one personally and may even read yours out on the show.
And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live.

[023] How I landed 200 media interviews in a year with Denise Duffield -Thomas

Denise Duffield -Thomas is a money mindset mentor. She's also brilliant at getting interviews in the mainstream media & on popular blogs and podcasts.

Denise has been featured in titles like Cosmopolitan, Grazia,  Cleo, Body & Soul and in this episode, she talks about how she made it happen and shares some of her best pitching tips. 

Here’s what's covered in this episode:

  • Denise's journey from broke to million dollar business
  • How she pitched and secured 200 media interviews in a year
  • Why Denise prefers being interviewed for business podcasts to traditional media
  • How Denise decides which media opportunities to pursue
  • Her insider tips for successful pitching

Key resources and links

How to get interviewed 200 times a year for your blog 

Denise's website

Denise on TwitteFacebook 

Denise's book Get Rich Lucky Bitch (get the first free chapters free)

Eventual Millionaire  podcast with Jamie Tardy

Show me the money: why women need to stop working for free  (my Guardian article)

What to do next

If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it using the social media buttons at the top of this page.

I’d also love it if you could take a few minutes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on itunes. I read every one personally and may even read yours out on the show.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live.