5 ways to land a story in top-tier publications
It’s not a bad question, but clients’ longings for Tier 1 media coverage are often misguided.
Good press coverage should be a helpful tool, not a means to an end. PR is a process, and a valuable one at that. A single placement in a Tier 1 media outlet can open doors, but you must have realistic expectations about getting there, and you should know how to make the most of it after the publicity happens.
Remember these guidelines:
1. Stop insisting on features.
If you’ll accept only features or profile pieces in major media outlets, your chances of ever getting covered are severely diminished.
Every client wants a big profile of the company on the cover of a major magazine or newspaper, but most stories are about a “trend,” several companies, or some recent news with quotes from experts. Profiles are few and far between.
You must think like a reporter or journalist. Your business is never as exciting as you think it is, but if you tie it to a current event or trend and pitch it that way, you’re on the right track.
2. Make yourself available.
Journalists and bloggers do things on their time, not yours.
Shailesh Kumar, founder of Value Stock Guide, got featured in The New York Times—two years after he initially pitched the reporter.
He says: “I responded to a HARO query from the same reporter but on a different story. He did not contact me for the story I had responded to, but cold called me for this [different story] one year later.”
Reporters might not call back when it’s convenient for you. When they do come calling, don’t insist on doing things on your own terms. Journalists have a lengthy list of other credible sources ready to do the interview at a moment’s notice.
If you want the exposure, be available, be timely, be accommodating.
3. Be patient.
Those behind the “overnight success” stories gracing The New York Times have worked tirelessly and have pitched its editors countless times.
Have realistic expectations going in. If you expect a response from a Tier 1 journalist your first time around, you’ll be let down. Successful companies view PR as a long-term strategy.
Media placements take months of relationship building, pitching and re-pitching, follow-up and then some—and sometimes that still leads to a no. Successful pros keep going (not to be confused with annoying or stalking their coveted reporters and editors).
Even after you get a reporter to commit to running a piece on your company or including you in a trend story, the writing and editing of that piece can take months. Contrary to what you may believe about our digital world, good stories take time to percolate.
Be strategic about pitching and patient in your expectations. Good publicity is worth both the effort and the wait.
4. Make newsjacking your new best friend.
If you’re not keeping up on trends and news in your industry, you should be. Terrific publicity opportunities come from being in the right place at the right time (or offering the right thing at the right time).
Madeline Johnson of The Market Council says: “Don’t think that top-tier media is going to just produce a story about you. Newsjack your story by tying it into the news.”
A great example is when Oreo newsjacked the Super Bowl in 2013, during the on-field power outage. Brand managers tweeted, “You can still dunk in the dark,” resulting in massive news coverage.
Small businesses and startups can take full advantage of newsjacking, too. Sometimes reporters want to write a story about a trending topic right then and there, and if you’re on the ball you can capture some of that coverage.
5. ‘Go big, or go home’ is terrible advice.
Tier 2 and smaller media outlets can also provide your business exposure, third-party credibility and traffic.
While you’re chasing national media mentions, flex your pitching muscles by building relationships with writers at smaller outlets. Not only could they lead to something bigger, but they will also help you establish yourself as a credible source in your industry.
Ryan Holiday, author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” calls this “trading up the chain.” You land your story in smaller news outlets and blogs and keep pitching the story up the chain until Tier 1 media can’t ignore you any longer.
Linda Parry of Product Launchers tells how her relationship with a local radio host led to her product getting covered on the “Today” show:
We contacted Lou Manfredini, a well-known home improvement expert to introduce him to our product, My Paint Saint. He fell in love with the concept and raved about it on his radio show. We further cultivated the relationship and began selling product in his two hardware stores. We were top of mind when he was invited onto the “Today” show to introduce new home improvement products.