Free Media Exposure

Media exposure can be difficult to come by for Freelancers and small business owners. In particular, “earned” media mentions,” i.e., publicity obtained through promotional efforts rather than publicity obtained by way of paid advertising, is usually the most effective form of media exposure and can go a long way toward enhancing a Freelancer’s brand.  A well-expressed quote in a respected publication can make a Freelance consultant or business owner look like an expert that smart people want to do business with.  Earned media exposure can be instrumental in helping a business to establish name recognition and respect among its target customers.

The best tactic to use when looking to attract the interest of reporters and editors is to position oneself as an expert. The good news for Freelancers is that everyone who provides professional services to paying clients is considered to be an expert in his/her field. The public welcomes and trusts tax tips recommended by an accountant and legal advice offered by an attorney. In addition, those who’ve authored a (nonfiction) book, whether traditionally published or self-published, that addresses a topic that editors feel would interest their readers can also be chosen to receive valuable earned media.

When you’ve made the decision to pursue earned media exposure for your organization, Step One is to decide where you’d like your story or quotes of your expert advice to appear. Research local online or print publications and assess the stories that are featured. You might start with your neighborhood newspaper or a publication that specializes in business topics. If you belong to a business or professional association, by all means look into contributing an article to the newsletter, getting your book reviewed or mentioned, or getting yourself quoted. Hint: active members always get publicity.

Step Two is to learn the identity of the reporter or editor who covers your topic. The easiest thing to do is call the publication and inquire. While you’re on the phone, find out when the publication is on deadline and avoid calling the reporter or editor at that time.

Step Three is to write a press release that makes editors and reporters want to follow-up on your story. Make your press release attention-getting with a good headline. Instead of trying to be witty, just give the facts. A good headline might be: “XYZ Biz wins Chamber of Commerce award.”

In the first paragraph, introduce one key newsworthy fact or piece of information in a single sentence, such as “XYZ Group today announced plans to open a solar-powered restaurant by late 2019.”

A common mistake in writing press releases is using it to tell the entire story.  “People write way too much. Tell them what the story is about and why it would be good for their audience,” advises Paul Krupin, former attorney and founder of iMediaFax.com, a media advisory service in Washington state. The press release should not be the first draft of a reporter’s article.  The purpose of your press release is to entice a reporter to contact you and write your story, or persuade an editor to assign your story to a staff reporter.

Furthermore, don’t make the mistake of trying to sell your product or service in the press release. “The media is adverse to anything that looks like advertising,” Krupin warns. “They want to educate, entertain, stimulate, or provoke their audience.”

BTW, there are subtle yet substantive differences between the journalistic needs of print, radio and TV media outlets that reflect audience expectations and preferences.

  • “Print media focus on facts and figures. They talk about strategies,” Krupin advises.
  • “Radio and television don’t lend themselves to detailed information. It’s about sound bites, tone and excitement. For radio and TV producers, you want to tell them why their audience is going to love what you’re going to say, or hate what you’re going to say. The focus is on the emotional reaction: Why am I going to be entertaining?”

Be advised that media outlets are not interested in helping to publicize the products and services that Freelancers and other business leaders are trying to sell. Krupin, who is also the author of Trash Proof News Releases (2001), works closely with his clients to tease out a story angle that could interest readers or viewers of the target media outlets. “What do you know that people don’t know, but they would like to know?” he asks.

For example, Krupin recommended that a photographer discuss how to hang pictures, rather than discuss the technical aspects of how to take pictures. The two created a press release that led to a number of print articles that featured his photographer client as the expert.

Finally, be patient as you wait for the ROI from your earned media. A customer may contact you months or even years after reading about you and your business. A reporter could contact you several months later to get insights on another aspect of your topic, which would result in still more earned media exposure.  Concentrate on developing an earned media strategy by identifying a story angle that would interest readers as you build relationships with reporters and editors who can give you the desired media exposure.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: By Andrew Laszlo. Entertainment columnist and host of television’s longest-running variety show (CBS-TV) Ed Sullivan (l) interviews Fidel Castro in Mantanzas, Cuba in January 1959.

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Online Reputation Management

Shakespeare, in Act 2 of his circa 1603 play Othello, said it best: Reputation, reputation, reputation.  It is the original personal brand and one of the defining realities of our lives.  As a Freelance consultant, reputation governs the projects offered to us and therefore, our income and the kind of life we’re able to live.  It pays,  in more ways than one, to cultivate a peerless reputation and guard it vigorously.

In the internet age  that is especially so, in both the personal and professional spheres.  Mistakes and mischaracterizations made in digital formats are extremely difficult to dodge, ignore, deny, or correct.  One’s online reputation is the ultimate flypaper.  Take steps to ensure that what sticks to your name is all good.

Images

Along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are the sites where images of you are most likely to be posted,  by yourself and others.  When cameras are around,  meaning whenever anyone has a cell phone,  which is about 24/7,  make sure that your behavior represents you and your brand well.

There’s nothing wrong with being photographed in an obviously casual gathering—just make sure that you (or others) are not in the midst of activities that could be misconstrued and reflect poorly on you sometime in the future.  If you regularly appear in photos that you know or suspect will be posted to social media sites, counteract with a photo of your own that shows you at work, paid or volunteer. Balance your accounts, so to speak,  and show that there is more to you than non-stop partying.

Content

Create and regularly post original content that makes you look smart, professional and successful.  On your LinkedIn account, announce when you will attend a symposium,  serve on a panel,  teach a course or workshop,  or have recently earned a professional certification or advanced degree.  If you’ve presented a webinar,  request the replay and turn it into a podcast for your website and YouTube.  If you write a newsletter or blog,  link to your website and LinkedIn.  If you’re on Twitter or Instagram,  produce streams of high-quality feed and images that convey the competencies and values that you want to be known for.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can feature glimpses into your personal life as well and it could all be for the good,  as long as you are strategic about what is revealed. Your volunteer work is always a safe bet.  Training for a marathon or even a fun and casual volleyball or softball league would be excellent.  Your parent’s wedding anniversary party would make another good personal aspect to include in your online narrative.  Be aware that narrative is the operative word.  Create the story that you want to be told, in a manner that makes you look wonderful.

Search

About every three months,  search your name and your company name in engines such as Bing,  Google and Yahoo and see what comes up in the first 50 listings.  Are you happy with what you see?  Try keywords related to your business along with your city and check your professional reach in a more profound way.

If you find that your business has been reviewed in an excessively negative and inaccurate way,  contact the reviewing site and request that the offending post be removed.  If customers have offered criticism that just may be constructive, address the matter.  Apologize and offer your side of the story.  Make amends if possible.  By doing so,  you’ll add to your credibility and customer service reputation.

It’s been reported that 70% of US employment recruiters have rejected potential job candidates when something about them that was considered unsavory appeared on social media.  Freelancers should assume that prospective clients will do the same.  Maintaining and monitoring your online reputation has never been more important.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Media Training Gives You Media Savvy

Journalists are constantly on the lookout for interesting and engaging stories that will become the relevant content that consumers of their visual, print or online outlets seek out. Freelance consultants must always encourage the existence of confidence in our abilities and media exposure may be employed to help us to achieve that aim. We must become adept at the art of selling ourselves, that is our capabilities, to target audiences through various media channels. When we make ourselves available for commentary tin the media, we position ourselves in a very powerful way and assume the mantle of authority in our subject.

To maximize the benefits derived from your media exposure, explore ways that you might receive some media training.  Media training will make you much more effective in your interactions with journalists and the technology and teach you how to get your message across succinctly and with impact.  You will be on your way to becoming an effective spokesperson and journalists will return to you again and again for expert commentary on issues in your field.

Speak in a way that builds confidence in your expertise

Our body language, tone of voice and vocabulary help us to deliver our message in a positive and powerful way. When speaking on television, facial expressions and body language can overtake the value of verbal content. As example, think of political debates, televised or not. Many politicians have been declared the winner of debates primarily on their communication style. That their action items were noticeably weaker than their less glib opponent gets lost in the shuffle.

Learn how to best define and communicate your key messages

Being savvy with body language and facial expressions and knowing how to look into the camera are all good, but it’s even better when we have a relevant message or information that is communicated clearly and concisely. Media training will teach you how to speak in “sound bites” : short, easy to remember statements that focus on outcomes and information that concerns the audience, spoken in language that resonates with the audience. Three points seems to be the magic number that audiences will recall in days that follow the interview.  Once you’ve enumerated your messages, you can loop back and reinforce them throughout the interview.

Anticipate difficult questions and learn to design a clear and credible response

Journalists often take a perverse pleasure in throwing interview subjects a question that might stop them cold or undermine their message. The journalists want to maintain credibility with their audience by showing that they’ve done their homework and demonstrating that don’t traffic in powder puff interviews. Media training will prepare you for challenging questions and help you learn how to anticipate the difficult questions that might be asked and to finesse your way out of tight spots, whether or not you expected that line of questioning. This skill above all others will help you to feel confident as you step into the interview.

Learn how to control your interview

The interview subject is always in control. Media training will teach you how to assert your dominant position, graciously. First, those who have clear answers that are communicated well are able to steer the interview in a direction that benefits them.  This is a subtle and yet hugely important skill. One can never stop practicing. A very close second is that through media training, one learns to maintain composure, which is a defining element of trust, the appearance of competence and professional stature. S/he who maintains composure can create the outcome that is desired.

Reduce the chance of being misquoted

Under no circumstances do you want your message to be misinterpreted in any way. Being unprepared for an interview leaves one in a very vulnerable position. Credibility and reputation are at risk. Learning, practicing and perfecting the skills of defining the most important points of your message; delivering the message in “sound bites” that help the journalist as well as the audience to understand your position; learning how to control the interview;  and learning how to finesse difficult questions, all the while maintaining your composure, will make you an in-demand media darling whose brand and billable hours will be greatly enhanced.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: How to Write A Press Release

In numerous posts,  I have urged readers to send out press releases.  Despite the presence of social media outlets,  traditional media outlets still matter and the usefulness of a well-crafted press,  or news,  release continues.  When you win an award,  participate in a major charity event in your community,  teach a class, host a webinar, or debut a new product or service,  a press release should be sent to the appropriate media outlets.

Writing a good press release can be a challenge.  The stakes are high for Freelance consultants and other small business owners who must promote their products and services to target markets on a shoestring budget.  The press release is an important representation of you and your brand and it’s imperative to make it effective. Reporters might receive dozens of press releases a week,  so the relevance of your story must be obvious.  The key to success is an interesting news hook,  says Lou Colasuonno,  former editor-in-chief at both The New York Post and The New York Daily News and now Senior Managing Director at the New York City P.R. firm FTI Consulting.

Colasuonno advises his P.R. clients to consider how newsworthy their story will be to a publication’s target audience. Colasuonno also advises that the press release email subject line summarize your story hook in 10 words or less.  Your release needs a good headline,  so that the editor or reporter will immediately see how your story will impact their readers.   He recommends that you customize your press release to the editor or reporter who has responsibility for whatever your topic is,  to improve the likelihood of a response.  Finally,  he cautions that you visit media outlet websites and note publishing deadlines.  Two weeks lead time is standard for many newspapers and a bi-monthly magazine may require three months lead time.

  • Determine the story your release will tell
  • Write a  “hook”  that communicates why your story qualifies as news to recipient media outlets
  • Avoid using words and phrases that are likely to get your email blocked by a spam filter
  • Keep to a 400 word maximum release

Follow the standard format when you compose your release.   At center top in capital letters,  write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE and below that include the contact information,  with email address,  web address,  telephone number and today’s date.  Centered below the contact info and written in bold capital letters,  provide your headline.  If your press release must exceed 400 words or one page,  include a short synopsis of your story below the headline.

Many press releases begin with a dateline,  giving its city and state of origin in parentheses.  In the first paragraph,  summarize the story’s theme and newsworthy info very concisely.  The most significant items appear at the top of the page and less important information is stated in subsequent paragraphs.   The final paragraph gives standard company info,  including the company mission,  when the company was founded,  awards that have been received or other major achievements,  so that the media recipient will have some background information.

Add credibility to your news release by including at least one quote from someone in authority  (maybe that’s you).   An insightful quote communicates to readers why your story is important and deserves publication.  You might also add audio-visual aspects to your press release and include a YouTube or podcast link or link to a client testimonial from your website.  Finally,  it’s recommended to send your news release in the body of the email and also as an attachment,  since many editors and reporters will not open an attachment from someone whom they do not know.

Alas,  even when we follow all the  “rules”,  our press release may go begging.  Carson Stanwood,  Freelance PR/media consultant and COO of Channel Signal,  a social media analytics platform in Jackson Hole, WY,  claims that in his experience,  only about 10% of press releases receive a response from recipients.  He recommends that you follow-up your press release with a phone call and cautions that you not call daily or otherwise make a pest of yourself. I prefer to call the editor or reporter first,  to determine whether there is interest in my story.

I pitch first and then send the press release if appropriate.  My strategy does not always work,  because editors and reporters sometimes lie,  unfortunately.  Really,  whether your story sees the light of day depends on what other news is happening and what the editor or reporter finds compelling.  But keep sending out press releases when appropriate,  because that is how relationships with the media are developed.  Offer to take a business reporter or editor to coffee and pitch your story in person.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Press Release Primer

What you need is a media event.   Along with positive word of mouth generated by satisfied customers,  there’s nothing that will enhance your business cred like a nice mention in print,  online,  social,  radio or television media.  Even if your phone doesn’t ring immediately,  you are guaranteed to take that good publicity straight to the bank.

You must get the ball rolling.   Keep your eyes and ears open for a newsworthy event to which you can attach yourself.   School boy or girl sports events,   health fairs,   neighborhood clean-up and flower planting initiatives or art fairs  are potential publicity opportunities.  

Or brainstorm a way that you can turn a spotlight onto something interesting that you will do.  Maybe you can nominate yourself for a professional or volunteer service award and figure out a way to win?  You must get creative and get involved.

You will send a press release.   A press release is a standard way of communicating with journalists.  Providing content is the most important function of the press release,  in addition to grabbing attention.  If written well,  your press release will pique the interest of the target journalists at your chosen media outlets.  Your press release will convey the essentials of your story.  It will make things easy for the journalist and increase the chance that you will receive coverage. 

You must identify the appropriate media outlets.   Get familiar with local business oriented radio and television programs,  bloggers and community and business newspapers and magazines.  Watch the programs,  listen to broadcasts,  follow the blogs and read the magazines and newspapers.  Learn which journalists cover stories like yours.  Take notes on stories they’ve written or reported on.  Obtain their email and phone contacts from the media outlet website,  or call and ask the receptionist.  Make special note of issue deadlines.

Send press releases 4-5 weeks in advance of your event.   Give target journalists adequate time to evaluate and plan to cover your story. 

Send the press release in the body of the email.   If there will be a good photo opportunity at the event,  inform  the journalist.  If you have an event press kit photo, attach to the email.  In your introduction,  mention that you’ve listened to or read certain of his/her stories and that you wonder if there could be some interest in yours.

You must follow up with a phone call.   Ask the receptionist for the best call times,  or ask the journalist in your voicemail.  Confirm that the press release was received.  Ask if your story merits coverage.  Ask if additional information would be helpful.

  • Your email subject line should read FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  so the journalist will know that a press release has arrived.
  • In the upper left corner,  the press release sender gives contact info: name,  title,  company name and address,  email,  telephone and fax.  If you are alerting journalists to a particular event,  provide the organization name,  address,  website and other contact info in the upper right corner.
  • In BOLD CAPS,  state your press release headline.  Make it straight to the point,  a title for your story.  Above that give the press release date,  also in bold.
  • Below the title,  you may also provide a 3-4 sentence summary overview of the press release subject.
  • Next,  provide the body of the press release.  Write in the third person and include the relevant who,  what,  when,  where and why of your story or event.  Give an unbiased and factual account that communicates why the journalist and his/her audience will find your story newsworthy.
  • If your press release is longer than one page,  you may choose to include bullet points to detail key story elements.
  • Conclude with 2-3 sentences about your company,  your product/service and website link.  Also include links to any related or relevant articles in which you have been mentioned or profiled,  as well as applicable video links.

Persuading the media to publicize you,  your work or your community involvement is always much more compelling to current and prospective clients than any advertising you could ever buy.  Third party endorsement is always perceived as more credible.

If packaged correctly,  what you do in your professional and/or personal life could be considered newsworthy by any number of local (or national) media outlets.  Put on your thinking cap and identify how you can contribute a story that will pay dividends for your professional reputation. 

Thanks for reading,

Kim