As much as we all want to be linked to and referenced by other blogs, there is both a great deal of credibility and attention that still comes from being mentioned in the mainstream media. Whether it’s a small-town newspaper or a huge magazine, the attention, as long as it is positive, never hurts.
But getting the attention of journalists is a difficult task. On a crowded Web, how does a blog stand out? Well there are a lot of things that you can do to make yourself a more likely target for an interview, but there are no silver bullet answers.
Instead, you should focus on putting yourself out there and making yourself available and appealing to reporters. Here are a few things that you can do to help your site along.
1. Do Something Newsworthy
This one seems obvious but if you do something newsworthy you will be more likely to get the attention of the news media. Even something as small as a ground-breaking article can be the cause for a media buzz around your site. It make take some more, but if you do something unique and exciting, you can get yourself plugged both on and off the Web.
Often times people do things that are newsworthy, such as charity drives, but never promote them. So it is important not just to actively be seeking out activities that may be worthy of a mention, but to work and get the word out.
2. Be an Expert
The other, more passive route, is to be an expert at something. Anything.
When you’re an expert on a topic, as media members seek to write articles about issues related to your topic, they will often call upon you for comment, promoting you and your site along the way.
However, you can be an expert on just about anything and at least some publication will likely have an interest in you. For example, I’ve been a plagiarism consultant for about five years and am often asked to comment on copyright and plagiarism-related cases. However, if one were an expert in lemon cakes, for example, cooking magazines and TV shows would likely seek them out routinely for their pieces.
The key is that when you are an expert on a topic, the publications related to your field will be the ones to seek you out. That works out well as they are most likely the ones catering to your intended audience.
3. Read HARO
David covered the HARO email list back in September but it bears repeating as it is such a valuable tool.
When you sign up for the email list, you’ll receive several messages per day that contains requests from reporters. These requests are extremely varied both in terms of what they need, where the reporters are from and the types of publications they write for.
You need to skim the lists carefully as they arrive, the reporters are almost always on a tight deadline, and then, if you find one that fits you (and it must fit you well or it will be tossed as junk), send them an email with your basic info and contact information.
It’s a great way to both help reporters build their story (which is what the list is really about, please do not forget that) but also a means to give you some publicity.
4. Start Small
Don’t expect the New York Times and CNN to be calling you on the phone right away. Unless you are part of some huge national story, at which point you don’t need help getting media attention, they likely won’t turn to you first.
Instead, start small. Focus first on blogs and trade publications. Then start working with local newspapers and smaller magazines and keep building your reputation until you can realistically get an audience with a larger publication.
Building your reputation, both online and off, is a tedious process but it is one that is worthwhile as it is the only way to building a lasting name for yourself.
5. Forget Press Releases
Though sites like PR Newswire tout the benefits of press releases, they don’t seem to do a lot of good unless you are a major company or have a name that truly stands out.
News organizations are flooded with press releases every day and the vast, vast majority are trashed without even being read and, of the few that are read, almost none get any coverage. Putting out a press release on the various distribution sites is, most likely, a waste of time and energy.
The better approach is to both use the HARO list and to make good contacts in the relevant news industry and contact people directly when you have news they might be interested in.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media to this end. Reporters read Twitter and other social news sites as well so getting your work on those places for relevant keywords may be a huge boon.
6. Be Available
Remember that reporters are always working on tight deadlines so it is important to be available and be flexible. Keep on top of your email and consider, if necessary, having a separate account for press inquiries. Be available by email and phone as well as IM if possible.
You don’t want to miss an opportunity to be interviewed because you forgot to check your mail or missed a call. Simply put, especially with hurried stories, sometimes the person who gets the mention is the one who was available when the reported needed them.
7. Be Realistic
Finally, and most importantly, remember that a reporter’s job is to cover the news, not to give you publicity. Not every interview results in you being in an article and not every article makes it to press/air anyway. Of the interviews I’ve given over the years, about 2/3 have resulted in a mention, most fairly minor. Only a handful were focused on me in any major way.
If you go with the flow and accept that some stories will be crushed for reasons out of your control, the odds are the reporter will know to call you again and pass your information on to others. If you burn bridges by complaining or making demands, you’ll just have your contact information tossed.
You will get much farther working with reporters than getting mad at them.
There’s no real magic to getting mentioned in the mainstream media. Sometimes it takes dumb luck, such as a story to break thats in your field, but most of it is good old-fashioned networking.
Talk to people, make friends and build contacts both in your blogging circle and beyond. If you do that you’ll eventually be able to get the word out about what you’re doing and have others turn to your for your expertise.
But more than just a means to get media attention, it’s good blogging practice in general. It helps you grow your audience and your prestige naturally over time. Even if you never get a mention in a newspaper, you’ll still be a better and more important blogger.