20 tips on how to raise your influence with reporters.
Do you want to give your blog maximum exposure? One surefire way to do that is to attract the press corps to your site, members of the media who can quickly send your blog into the stratosphere.
Out of the Shadows
Most bloggers long for the day where their site steps out of the crowded shadows of blogdom and becomes a key influencer for their niche. Blogs such as Copyblogger, Engadget, The Huffington Post and Mashable have managed to get the attention of media folks, with each one frequently cited and gaining in value accordingly. Your blog may not someday be worth millions, but it could help you gain the respect you desire.
If you’re satisfied with your blog being lumped among millions of others, then don’t read on. However, if you want to get yourself out there, you must engage with the press directly and do so on top of writing kick ass content.
1. Find and connect. Reporters hang out on the web, looking for fresh stories or angles on news via Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Like or follow these people to begin your connection. Retweet their stories, share on Facebook and connect on Google+.
2. Cite and attribute. When you develop a story, use references to support your information. For example, if you write a story about cars and you use information supplied by Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press to develop your story, then cite him. Follow up with an email link to Mark to let him know that you quoted him. Spell the name of your sources correctly.
3. Meet journalists at events. I attend automotive conferences and events, opportunities for me to mingle with other members of the automotive media. This means I bring with me plenty of business cards exchanging same with other press folk. When you introduce yourself, keep your spiel short and personal. Be a good listener and don’t throw yourself on journalists.
4. Travel to the story. Stories break all the time and are best covered in person. If you can’t afford to visit an event clear across the country, find interesting local events that appeal to you. In my area I have connected with print and online reporters, people that work within minutes of my home. If you attend a local event, expect that other locally-based reporters will be in attendance, people for you to connect with as you develop a story.
5. Break news regularly and with authority. You can call yourself a reporter, but you also must have the track record of breaking news just as any reporter would. You may not have a degree in journalism, but if you have the ability to sniff out news and can write superior content, then you’ll soon acquire the respect of other reporters.
6. Write with passion. Any individual can tell a story, but not everyone can do so with enthusiasm. What you write about should be of interest to you and that interest should be conveyed with passion. Purposefully, I stay away from stories that are completely outside of my niches. However, when it comes to automotive stories I have learned to not just cover the auto trends, but stories about the classics and the people who shape the industry.
7. Make use of the human angle. So-called “human interest” stories have sold millions of copies of newspapers down through the years. People read stories that have a personal connection to them. For instance, if you are writing a story about cancer research, interview a family whose child is being treated for cancer. Your readers will make a connection to a real-life person, a story that has a much greater chance of getting read, referenced and linked then they would to a generic story.
8. Write an amazing press release. News releases are far from dead and remain an excellent way for you to reach out to the media. A well-written press release can be picked up by news sources and republished. You can also send your news release directly to reporters, especially to local or regional publications. Your news may be republished in its entirely or cited in a similar story.
9. Tell others when you’ve been cited. Once you are on the radar of reporters, you’ll be contacted to contribute to a story. Mention that information on your blog within a story or on your About page. This is a great way to let people know that you are an authority — link to those stories too so that readers can verify same.
10. Keep in touch. A reporter may contact you about a story, therefore you need to make yourself available to them. I give out my cell phone number to my closest contacts, people who know that I can be reached easily. Reporters work on a deadline and will usually move on to another source if you are not available. Respect a reporter’s time and don’t be upset if your quote or information is not used in an upcoming story — editors will sometimes remove information to make the story fit.
11. Run a contest. You can make news just as easily as you can find news. One attention getter it to run a unique contest, one that is certain to attract much interest. For example, you might work with a local business to give away two tickets to a benefit concert. You’ll help the business get some press, draw attention to the benefit concert as well as put your name out there.
12. Follow up. If a reporter uses your information and it is published, follow up with the reporter to offer your thanks via email. If there is something else you can share about the story, then do so too. You might not be mentioned again in a subsequent story, but you’ll develop a reputation of being helpful as well as knowledgeable.
13. Pitch a story idea. You may like to break stories, but why not help someone else do so by sharing a story idea with them? That story may include a contact you have used in the past, enabling you to connect this person with a reporter. You may receive printed credit for contributing to the story or simply raise your profile with a reporter.
14. Plan ahead. If I know a major story will break on a certain date, I note this information in my personal planner. Well before the story breaks, I’ll have put together my outline, contacted my sources and written a rough draft. Use this time to alert reporters that the story will break. Offer to share your news with them and, in some cases, you can expect that you’ll be the one breaking the news through their publication.
15. Bring your camera with you. What good is a story if you don’t have a related photograph with it? Keep a camera handy and be prepared to take plenty of pictures when you’re following a story. Choose the best photo(s) and offer to share these with reporters. You’ll receive attribution for sharing your picture; in some cases larger publications will offer you money to obtain a full-rights release.
16. Comment on stories. Not only can you cite reporters on your blog, but you should visit their stories published online. You can add a relevant comment to a blog post and include your email address and blog link in the appropriate space. Subscribe to the blog post too as the reporter will likely comment on your comment. Keep up a helpful dialogue to support this reporter.
17. Keep it simple. I’ve often bypassed stories that were too technical for most of my readers to follow. Sometimes, articles are written to serve a very specialized niche of readers. While these stories certainly have a place, your broader bog is not one such venue. Always write your articles in plain English, explaining technical terms and keeping your paragraphs and sentences short. Your audience may be college-educated, but write so that a middle-school student can understand you.
18. Contribute a guest column. Many media outlets accept columns from guest writers, an ideal way to get your name out there. These stories, however, cannot be self-serving. Instead, each story must impart something of value to your readers, otherwise you risk not being called upon again to contribute. Your byline is all that you need — if an “author information” section is included, then that is a bonus.
19. Be consistent and quietly persistent. Be persistent without being a pest. Never rely on one reporter or news outlet exclusively. Show consistency by staying in touch, but not so frequently that a reporter gets tired of you. If you have a habit of contacting a reporter every few weeks, then don’t suddenly increase it — reporters are busy people and will soon ignore your overtures.
20. Answer calls for contributions. If you need to expand your number of sources, google “calls for contributions” to find websites that will accept your guest post. Some of these sites are newspaper-driven, and will require you to submit a short query along with two or three clips of related articles. Use clips that align with the publication’s article archives for references; write fresh stories and always follow writer guidelines.
As with anyone you meet, building relationships with reporters is a must. Relationships take time to form and should be built carefully and naturally. Bloggers that come across as self-promoting, pushy or impersonal can expect to see their efforts fail. Show genuine interest in reporters as people (not machines) and maintain a collegial approach when it comes to business matters.
Photo courtesy of Presentation Process.