Tuesday, November 1, 2016

10 Ways Authors Must Think Like The Media To Get Coverage

Imagine if you worked as the editor-in-chief at a magazine or daily newspaper, or the executive producer of a cable news network or radio show, or maybe a blogger, podcaster, or newsletter editor.  You would be a part of the media, one of the people being approached by book publicists and authors about books, books, and books.  If you were on their side, how would you view your pitch about you and your book?  What would you be looking for in the slush pile of emails, voice messages, and mailed packages?

Start thinking like the media, because that’s the very first step to getting their attention.  If you don’t put on their clothes and step into their shoes, how can you expect them to understand, value or appreciate whatever it is you seek to share with them?  If you are not empathetic and sympathetic to their needs, concerns desires, fears, or challenges, how do you hope to impress them?

Let’s start with some of the safe assumptions we should have about the news media:

1.      The bigger they are, the more competitive it will be to reach them.  Everyone is contacting The New York Times news desk, the book editor at Publishers Weekly, and the features editor at USA Today.  Your presentation needs to be short (they have seconds to evaluate it), polished, and to the point.  Don’t expect them to click on anything or connect the dots.  You have 120 words to impress them or the pitch is dead.

2.      There are gatekeepers and litmus tests at these media outlets.  You likely are not directly pitching the person who makes all of the decisions but initially you need to get past an intern, editorial assistant, or secretary. They ae the ones fielding calls, listening to messages, or scouring emails.  If you can’t impress them, you’re done.

3.      Know the demographics of the media outlet that you are contacting.  Further, know whom your specific editor, producer or writer is trying to appeal to. Who reads/listens/watches that media outlet and that specific show/column/website section?  Present your pitches in a way that similarly targets those they desire to reach, especially their advertising demos.

4.      The media waits for nothing.  Every month, week, day and sometimes minute, the media outlet has to get to press, go on air, and go live with something.  There’s a 100% guarantee that every media outlet will say something, even if some days seem more newsy or interesting than others.  They never say:  “Sorry, we have nothing to say today." No, they always have news, analysis, and content to share.  But there are times where they are more open to your pitch.  Seize those moments.  Try pitching at all hours of the day -- some people you can reach at 8 am and others at 8 pm your time, especially if there are time zone differences.  Additionally, the weekends are possibly less competitive to reach someone.  Or send an email at 4 am so it is one of the first in someone’s in-box.

5.      One advantage to being human and pitching other humans is that you understand life and have real experiences that lend insights to how the media might be feeling or thinking.  They too stay up late to watch a ballgame.  They too get up early to get the kids to school.  They too have to stretch a paycheck, go to the bathroom, get sick, feel hungry, read books, and have families, pets, and a smartphone.  Try to connect with them and relate to their human side.  Let your pitch tap deep into the emotional essence of being human. Speak to them as if you were a clergy member giving a sermon and tap into their loves, losses, guilt, anger, hopes, and dreams.

6.      The media, today, is quite split in its demographics.  Online media skews younger, in terms of who works there.  At major media outlets, due to cost-cuts, gatekeepers are young, underpaid and inexperienced.  The veteran editors, hosts, and pros are older, but there is a shrinking pool of them.  If you want to relate to those you pitch, be aware if it’s a 20-something or a 50-something year-old that you need to impress.  There’s a generational gap there.

7.      The media is fiercely competitive.  Speak a language that  includes “scoop” and “exclusive” and “first to get this story.”  They want breaking news and a leg-up on their competitors.  Be careful to not burn any bridges by falsely giving the same info to multiple outlets and presenting it as an exclusive.  Only one – the first outlet to publish – is the rightful owner of such bragging rights.

8.      Same goes with original content.  Guest-posts, op-eds, or bylined articles can only run once – unless you tell an outlet it ran elsewhere and they decide to still use some or part of it – provided you own the copyright.

9.      The media possesses above-average intelligence, knows how to research things and question people, but they are short-staffed and in a rush, so they may be easier to fool than you think.  However, I caution:  Do not lie to them or make crap up.  You’ll be burned for it.

10.  Personalize your pitch to the media.  This is not just a matter of customizing a pitch based on what a journalist writes about, demographics of readers, or what seems newsworthy and trendy.  This is about knowing things about the person you pitch.  Did you look at his or her personal Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Linked In or You Tube posts?  Did you Google them to learn about hobbies, schools attended, past jobs, relationship status etc.? Learn about them and use that information to help you befriend them on some level.

The road to media success comes paved with many speed bumps.  Take the time to research who you are pitching, try their clothes on, and assume their mindset.  Once you understand where they are coming from you can journey forward with them.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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