Lots of people call me who want to get on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The View, MSNBC and more. Most don’t know that if they create the entire segment they have a better chance of becoming a guest on a national TV show.
If they can envision the show, map out the theme, plan the guests, create the questions, suggest the props, plan the B-roll (background footage) and then bring their knowledge and expertise to the table, speaking in 10-20 second sound bites, then they’ll have the chance of a winner show.
I know it sounds obvious, but many people aren’t familiar with the show format or the hosts’ style because they haven’t bothered to watch the shows or study the host’s style so their pitches are off-base. These are high-level shows and the producers want you to be intimate with the content, pacing, length of each segment, and host’s manner.
Being unaware of these things shows disrespect and could give you and your business a bad name.
Also, if you don’t perform well on the show you’ve pretty much squelched your chances of being on other top TV talk shows as the producers know each other and talk about the flops. To be one of the successes follow these tips.
1. Start with a Headline that Spells Out the Story.
Supernanny Teams With An Acclaimed Autism Expert To Help A Child Who Is An Outsider In His Own Home On Supernanny on ABC.
While it’s a show from the past, it’s an excellent example of how to create a TV pitch letter.
This is the headline from an well-done press release. It tells you what the problem is and who is going to solve it—but not how. Enticing. “Outsider in his own home” is immediately appealing as you can already feel the emotion that the show promises.
2. State the Graphic Details of the Problem and Your Credentials to Solve it.
Supernanny Jo Frost teams with world-renowned autism expert Dr. Lynn Koegel to tackle the parenting issues faced by a family whose three-year-old son is an outsider in his own home. This episode of Supernanny aired on the ABC Television Network.
Deirdre and Trae Facente don’t know how to integrate their autistic son Tristin into their daily life with their twins, Kayla and Marlana (4). Tristin is completely non-verbal, caught up in his own world of spinning, jumping, swinging and, often, taking off his clothes. The only time he spends with his family is sitting at the dinner table. The twins, who demand much of their stay-at-home mom’s attention, can’t figure out how to play with their little brother.
The parents are at a loss as to how to help Tristin come out of his zone and join the family.
“World-renowned autism expert” lets you know that the guest has weight. You get a clear idea of what family life looks like in the Facente household and can immediately see how divided the family is. It’s a dramatic situation that has pathos and promises to be good TV.
The specific details of “Tristin is completely non-verbal, caught up in his own world of spinning, jumping, swinging and, often, taking off his clothes,” gives you an immediate sense of what the show will look like. And it even has humor. I mean, what mom wouldn’t be mortified if a neighbor dropped in and one of her kids was swinging and spinning about in the nude?
3. Tell How You’re Going to Provide a Solution.
Enter Dr. Koegel and Supernanny. Together they refine the classic Supernanny methods and teach all the Facentes Dr. Koegel’s inclusion and communication techniques to help engage Tristin. For example, when they introduce the new daily schedule to everyone, Dr. Koegel uses a picture board with Tristin to help him understand in a concrete way.
Notice that you’re given just a little detail about “communication techniques,” but not what they are or how they’ll be used. One example is given (picture board) and it is again very visual, conforming with what works on TV.
While this show has already taped and the end of the story is known, in your pitch you’ll imagine what will take place on the show as if it has already taped. You’ll define your role and the actions that you and others will take and map it out visually for the producers.
4. Show Dramatic Visible Results.
In just a week, silent Tristin goes from zero words to speaking hundreds of times using over 20 new words. He is bursting with requests to play a favorite game, be tickled or eat a treat. Step-by-step, Jo and Dr. Koegel help the parents keep Tristin from his disruptive behaviors by including him in family chores and activities.
These efforts culminate in the boy helping his dad set the table, a seemingly mundane task that is so miraculous for Tristin, it brings tears to Trae’s eyes.
In a sense this show is a “make-over” program. It touches on mundane chores, the fabric of a family and creates poignancy. Success is unmistakable and quantified succinctly by explaining that Tristin is transformed from a mute to a chatterer (zero words to speaking hundreds of time using over 20 new words).
how to pitch the media
5. Give Your Credentials.
Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D is one of the world’s foremost experts on the treatment of autism. She and her husband, Robert L. Koegel, Ph.D., founded the renowned Koegel Autism Center at the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
She co-wrote the bestselling book on autism, Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope that can Transform a Child’s Life, which was released in paperback, and also co-authored, with Robert Koegel, the more recent book, “Pivotal Response Treatments for Autism.”
While you don’t have to have written a book, it helps. Books published by established and respected publishing houses carry clout. This husband and wife team even have their own center at a respected university. What’s critical here is your experience and your results. Especially for TV you must be able to show that you’ve achieved results and have influence in your field.
I thought it would be instructive for you to see the process from pitch to published to get into O Magazine. This is an excellent example of how to pitch Oprah Magazine.
Below are the details of the reporter’s query, my client’s response and the final piece where she landed in O, The Oprah Magazine.
Oprah Magazine has three versions. The hard copy version of O Magazine, the online version of O, The Oprah Magazine and oprahmag.com (a separate website) so you have plenty of opportunities to get featured!
Here is what happened.
I saw a query in HARO (help a reporter out) from O, The Oprah Magazine that was perfect for my client Dr. Leslie Korn, PhD, MPH, a Harvard Trained Traumatologist and mental health specialist who trains clinicians and consumers on how to improve their mood with food, nutrition, and herbs for optimal brain function. So I jetted the HARO query to her, letting her know the deadline.
Dr. Leslie Korn – Pitching Oprah Magazine + oprahmag.com
NOTE: It’s important to respond to HARO queries ASAP because typically once a reporter or a producer gets enough responses they can use they stop scanning the emails that come in later. So the early bird gets the quote.
Looking for licensed medical professionals or holistic practitioners who can provide suggestions on natural/organic remedies to cure headaches without using over-the-counter medicine or drugs. If it’s instructional, such as using a hot/cold washcloth, please provide steps along with tips.
Must be a medical professional. If a holistic practitioner or integrative health doctor, please reference any studies where you found the suggestion.
The best way to pitch O, The Oprah Magazine
Notice how she specifically answered JUST what the editor wanted to know. And gave the O Magazine editor a number of great options to choose from. The reporter used her mustard soak.
There are so many types of headaches.. each one has a different tip and treatment!
I am Dr. Leslie Korn, a Harvard Medical School-trained Integrative Medicine clinician. I learned as many remedies when I ran a health clinic in the jungle of Mexico for 25 years, as I did in the jungle of Boston. I know what works (and what doesn’t so much) after 40 years in practice. I specialize in the treatment of psychological and physical trauma and its side effects; chronic pain (headaches) digestive disorders, addictions, anxiety and depression. I have written 7 books including 2 textbooks, with an 8th on the way about Herbal Medicine for Women. I also train and certify clinicians in Integrative Medicine and Nutrition for Mental health.
How to pitch Oprah Magazine
Headaches; the cause will determine the best treatment; figuring out what kind of headache it is will enhance treatment efficacy; a frontal headache usually comes from tension in the back neck muscles, so a good acupressure or cranial sacral treatment to the little knobs (called condyles ) on the back of the skull helps, along with placing an iced cloth on the neck.
While heat is soothing, cold kills pain. Headaches often result from vascular changes; changes in blood flow or vessel constriction, and a simple self care technique is to do a mustard foot soak.
Take a bucket of hot water so that you can place your feet and cover up to your ankles with hot water (hot enough, but not burning hot) Add a tablespoon of ground mustard (grinding fresh mustard seed in a small electric grinder is best, but ground mustard will do in a pinch,) then massage some olive oil around your feet and ankles and soak for 30 minutes.
The heat from the water and the mustard will draw down the vascular congestion and release constricted blood vessels in the head bringing blood flow to the feet alleviating the pain. In advance of settling into the soak, prepare a cup of feverfew tea, or have an extract of feverfew on hand to drink to also reduce the headache.
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches and often increasing water intake helps. To calculate how much water one should drink a day, take your body weight and divide it by 50% and that is what you require, in ounces. So a 200 lb. woman requires 100 ounces a day. One can have a little less some days without negative effects but one should shoot for the optimal.
Migraines can be a challenge; I like to recommend the use of the mineral lithium orotate. Unlike the dangerous pharmaceutical lithium carbonate, lithium is a natures gift to us; relieving headaches, giving us the giggles as it boosts our mood and it protects the neurons in the brain.
Lithium can be dosed from 5-25 mg a day, or go on vacation and find a lithium- rich mineral spring in New Mexico, Washington, Texas or Mexico in which to soak. The Native peoples of Washington have a local springs near Mt Tahoma they call “Laughing Springs, rich in healing lithium.
There is also growing evidence for its use in the rare headaches called hypnic headaches. I also supplement with 5HTP, the amino acid precursor to serotonin. Most people do well with from 50-150 mg and Vitamin B-6 helps synthesize it and enhances efficacy.
Finally, I recommend cuddling with a dog; it releases oxytocin also known as the “love hormone” a chemical which reduces the pain of a headache. Dogs also help us put our worries in perspective and remind us of the power of connection.
Michelle, I could go on with lots of methods ; I hope this is a good start and that you will find something useful. If I may be of further support , drop me a note.
How to pitch O Magazine
The response from the reporter once the piece published.
Thanks for responding to my Haro query. Here’s the link to the article referencing your ground mustard and olive oil foot soak. Take a look so you can see how the O Magazine editor used Korn’s information.
My response to Leslie after the piece published.
Fab! Be sure to write Michelle a quick thank you note and let her know that she can tap you anytime for any of her pieces whenever she needs a resource. Also let her know that you could refer her to other clinicians that could be of help if that’s true. You get the idea — you want to make yourself invaluable.
NOTE: Once you’re in contact with an editor/reporter or producer follow up to let them know that you can be a resource for them in the future.
Recap + additional recommendations to expand your publicity.
Read the reporter/producer’s query carefully. Give them the EXACT information they request. Example: Korn gave the reporter a number of options to choose from.
Tailor your bio to show that you’re an expert on the topic that matches the reporter/producer’s requirement.
Follow up so you can become a trusted source.
Put the logo of the publication or show on your website to build credibility.
Send a link to the piece to your ezine subscribers to share valuable information and increase trust and loyalty.
Put the article on your website and highlight your quote. (You must get permission from the source first.) Otherwise link to the piece on your website so it pops up in a new window.
Post your piece on social media.
Write up a blog post with the information that wasn’t used in the article on the topic and link to the piece where you were quoted.
Dr. Leslie Korn is a Harvard Medical School trained integrative medicine specialist. She has provided over 40,000 hours of care for individuals with chronic mental and physical illness specializing in trauma-related issues. She integrates mental health nutrition, somatic therapies, herbal medicine, energy medicine, yoga and exercise, and detoxification to help people have a happier mood, enhanced cognitive function and optimal physical well being.
She has been in private practice in both Boston and in the jungle of Mexico where she founded a free clinic She trains clinicians and consumers in Integrative medicine for mental health, does career counseling and coaching, and is the director of research at the cwis.org, a native non- profit working internationally. She is the author of 8 books including: The Good Mood Kitchen, Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature and the Body, Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health, Preventing and Treating Diabetes Naturally, The Native Way, and the forthcoming book on herbal medicine called, Natural Woman (Shambhala Press, 2019).
I was walking down our tree lined street yesterday when a boy popped his head out of a car window parked in his driveway.
“Hi!” he yelled.
“Hi!” I yelled back. “What cha doin?”
“Washing my car,” he said.
“Oh, don’t mind him,” his father chimed in. “He is only three and doesn’t have a filter yet.”
“I hope he never gets a filter,” I shouted back.
Kids who don’t have filters make connections. I’m always on the lookout for kids calling out to me across the street or anywhere – asking me to push them on a tire swing, examine a bug, put up a Halloween decoration – as it happens often – up to the age of about six. Then the filter veils over their natural, unencumbered exuberance, and inhibits their instinct to connect.
What I loved about the movie, A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper was their lack of filters.
They sang apart and together unselfconsciously with abandon, grabbing the mic, swaying with the music and deeply connecting with their audience through their song stories, their voices, their longing.
Cooper, who directed the film, let the camera linger on their eyes and lips and faces. So rare now in our speeded up world of fast cuts, flashy scenes, over the top emotions, tell it quick before we lose’ em, mentality.
What is so often lost is these pure moments of “sexy listening.” A term my sweetie coined when describing how I “lured” him into our relationship by hanging on his every word in rapt attention. A Star is Born is made up of an entire movie of “sexy listening.”
What deeply saddened me is what happened in the transformation of Ally from a singer in a Drag Queen bar into a star…. In the process the filter of fame ruined the essence of what made her touch us in the first place.
Which brings me to some thoughts about fame…
Please don’t tell me you want to be famous.
Instead tell me what you are doing to make things better millions of people — or one person — on this planet.
Or how you’re going to bring joy in some small or big way to someone who needs it.
Don’t let anyone commercialize your talent. Don’t let them spiff, glam, or beef it up.
Don’t take something beautiful and pure and add sequins or shine to it.
Let it be.
Stay true to your self.
Keep the essence, lose the glitz.
Tell true stories. Connect. Let go of adornments.
Touch people with how you’re scared, weak and paralyzed.
But also show them that there is hope and how you’ve come through your pain or poverty and arrived at who you are today, whole, but cracked, so others can get in and feel who you are at the core, no matter how much you’ve glazed your pot.
Stay in touch with the thing that made you come alive in the first place. Music, art, words, sports, science, coding, people, whatever your jam is, feed it everyday. Listen to where it leads you next little by little.
It is your compass and will not send you astray even if it looks like the direction you’re going is taking you nowhere fast.
Instead breathe in the molecules of today one by one. Each molecule was once inhaled and exhaled by someone you love from history, or yesterday or today. Or someone you hate. Breathe them in too for this will make you stronger even as you resist it. And you will soften in the places where the world has made you hard.
Remember your roots. Where you came from is important. It feeds who you are today.
Practice kindness. I’m going to say this again as we have strayed so far away from being kind. Find ways to do or say something kind every day. Even in the midst of your anger and frustration. Even when you can’t find an example to follow. Although there are many. Find them.
Gaze inside and follow your own heart as it’s made of kindness, first and foremost.
If you’ve forgotten just look into the face of your own child. Their kindness came from you. Look into the face of any child. It is all there. And it came from us. All of us. No filters.
Back to Lady Gaga and being unfiltered for a moment. I watched her on Stephen Colbert when he asked her what she would be doing if she wasn’t singing and acting. She said she’d still be singing in bars – because that’s what she loves to do. Sing. I believe her. She wasn’t just acting with Bradley Cooper in a Star is Born, she was there, 100% of her, sexy listening, sexy being, undistracted, whole.
Would you still be doing what you’re doing if it didn’t have the promise of fame or acclaim?
The following are 3 radio pitch letter templates courtesy Steve Harrison and Alex Carroll. (Thank you guys!)
Steve shared these brilliant radio pitch letter email templates and Alex created the amazing examples. You can just copy these and fill-in-the blanks with your topic or subject matter.
Also, if it isn’t obvious, all of these fabulous formulas double as as story headlines for pitching TV, magazines, newspapers and online to feature you or whatever you’re promoting.
And, if you’re planning on attending the National Publicity Summit (the event where you get to meet the media in person and pitch all the big TV and radio show producers face-to-face), these will be a big help to get prepared.
(Please forward this email to anyone you think it would help).
1. Radio Pitch Letter Template #1: Is/Are __________ getting too ___________?
Here’s how you might apply it:
Show Pitch: “Are China & India getting too many of our jobs?”
Show Pitch: “Are parents ruining their kids by letting them get away with too much?”
Alex notes: “This formula can be used any time you identify something that’s gotten out of control … or could be getting out of control. It opens up a debate because regardless of what position you take, others will oppose you … which is exactly what you want. Remember, radio shows love anything controversial.”
2. Radio Pitch Letter Template #2: The ___ toughest questions your _________will ever ask you … and how to answer them without getting
Here’s how you might apply it:
Show Pitch: “The 5 toughest questions your kids will ever ask you … and how to answer them without getting into trouble.”
Show Pitch: “The 3 toughest questions your attorney will ever ask you … and how to answer them without getting into trouble.”
Alex notes: “This is one of the best and most universally applicable pitch formulas around. You could fill in that blank with virtually anyone. Banker, accountant, spouse, wedding planner, in-laws, doctor etc., etc.
3. Radio Pitch Letter Template #3: These ____ common ____________ actually do more harm than good!
Here’s how you might apply it:
Show Pitch: “These 3 common apologies actually do more harm than good!”
Show Pitch: “These 5 common forms of exercise actually do more harm than good!”
Alex Notes: “Why is this formula so compelling? Because it goes against the conventional wisdom. It says that something that everyone thinks is a good thing … is actually not a good thing at all. This really catches the media’s attention. They absolutely love these kinds of pitches. They are guaranteed to grab a producer’s attention virtually every time …
BTW when you attend the summit you’ll have a chance to get a 1 sheet media makeover with Alex in person (free). Be sure not to miss it as this is his genius. I was stunned with what he did with mine…
One of my goals this year is to give more things away. This is a carefully curated treasure trove of free goodies that will help you and your business move into the public eye gracefully with more ease and fun.
Click on the image and you’ll be whisked to the right place to download a PDF or register for a training.
NOTE: Some trainings aren’t offered at this time. But register anyway and you’ll be notified the next time they run.
I forgot the mention my favorite Instagram feed. This one always makes me laugh and feel good. So if you’re feeling low, and like everything is just too darn much, head over here for a jolt of joy. Then once uplifted you can move forward.
Still thinking about your New Years’ Resolutions? Some more things to ponder from past years here and here.
I just did a radio interview and totally muffed it.
It was a huge disaster.
I didn’t take my own advice – and even some of the advice I’d planned to talk about – on how to interrupt someone!
I completely forgot in the moment.
Here’s what happened…
The phone rang on my landline. There was music. Then the host came on and shared a short bio about me. He didn’t mention the topic of the interview – which he had requested: 5 Essential Assertiveness Skills Your Daughter Needs to Know to Become an Entrepreneur/Executive Tomorrow.
Long story short he first told me the advice I gave was essential full of sh-t. But he misinterpreted my answer and I couldn’t understand what he was asking me or what he objected to. His questions made no sense. Then he went on a tirade, actually about five of them, about how bad parents were. How both parents were terrible human beings because they both worked and let their kids run wild. And that kids today were cr-ap too. I had to disagree and did so a number of times.
I got in 2 out of 5 of my points in 35 minutes. Not a good track record.
I’ve done dozens of radio and TV interviews, but I was still at a loss of how to break in to his blitherings that went all over the place – and had nothing to do with our topic.
My advice to myself, clients and course participants after every interview? Review it and note what you did well and what you could improve next time. And be kind to yourself (I need work here, too). Boy do I have a long list of improvements.
There is so much to learn about pitching the media, following up, and then being a great guest. The kind of guest that your audience and the media loves. And there are more opportunities than ever for you to be a part of the good news, sharing your advice, your perspective, your opinion and how your products, courses or consulting can help others.
Here is my advice on how to be kind to yourself and consistently get better every media appearance.
Getting media attention – especially the right kind of attention – is something of an art. Whether you’re a celebrity, a business owner, or a politician, it’s all about finding an angle. And not just that – you have to be able to get a reporter’s attention in the first place. This can be easier said than done.
Bear in mind that reporters and media journalists are solicited hundreds of times a day. Their email inboxes are virtually overflowing. So if you want their attention, you need to go about it in the right way. You need to stand out from the crowd – even if that means taking an unconventional approach.
Google is an amazing resource to unearth useful information about the reporter, what they cover, and how they like to be approached.
A good place to start your ‘Googleathon’ is social media. See how they interact with others online, and whether they regularly interact with others pitching them ideas. You can also look to their work bio to see if they specify preferences.
There are different schools of thought on the best way to approach a reporter with an idea for a story. They may prefer email, Twitter, or a good old-fashioned phone call. In the unlikely event that they aren’t present on social media, you can defer to phone or email.
HOT TIP: look out for any pet peeves they regularly complain about. Take note as well of the current issues that they’re tweeting or retweeting. See if there’s any common ground you can use to help build a connection. Maybe you have a product that might help? Or maybe you feel the same way about a social issue?
Ultimately, if you already have a feel for the reporter and what s/he likes and dislikes, you have a better chance of reaching out to them successfully.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that attempting to reach out and get the attention of a reporter is much like modern dating. Thanks to online dating, we often have a chance to find out about someone before we decide to approach them. When we do decide to make a move, the opening line is critical.
Tinder lines can be hilariously terrible. They can also be downright dull. Mastering the art of a good opener is paramount if you’re serious about looking for love online. And if you’re serious about getting your story picked up by the media, then it’s equally crucial.
‘Hey, how are you?’ is a great way to get ignored by a journalist. It does nothing to spark their curiosity. It lacks creativity and fails to disclose your reason for getting in touch.
Powerful subject lines for an opening email are:
Remember, your pitch must immediately rouse the reporter’s interest. An effective subject line really is half the challenge. Check out these top 10 email subject line formulas for inspiration. You may be surprised to learn that in some cases, “profanity f*cking works”.
Journalists also love data — so put your best foot forwards and give them some awesome data for free. Running an ecommerce business? Why not send out some surveys to your customers via social media and email to find out more about their habits? From family life and holidays, to food habits and leisure — there are plenty of useful insights and stories lurking out there.
Play it cool
Yep – the online dating metaphor still stands. When you’re building a relationship with a reporter, timing is important. Journalists are busy people with full schedules, and your clinginess will not be appealing to them.
Be respectful of what the reporter already has on their plate. Realize that when you send them a pitch, they’re probably not going to be able to respond right away – unless you’re very lucky and caught them at exactly the right moment. Give them at least a few days to respond before following up.
If the story is especially time-sensitive, then you need to make this clear when you reach out to them first time around. Conveying urgency is another great way to get a reporter’s attention.
weird ways to get a reporter’s attention. source: pexels
Send them a video
Video is changing how we create and consume news. Journalists know it, and if you can help them source quality video content, then they’re going to be very happy with you indeed. Here in 2017, video content represents 74% of all internet traffic (Source).
So if you want to give your story a boost and make it more likely to hit the headlines, consider sending a video along with your pitch. 4X as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it – and the same goes for news stories. News publications love video because it encourages readers to stay on the page for longer.
Making a vaguely professional-looking video doesn’t have to be hard. There are lots of great apps out there for making videos, including iMovie, PowerDirector, and LumaFusion.
Be willing to let it go
With time stacked against them, most reporters will probably require a follow-up a few days after you’ve pitched them your story. In most instances, they’ll probably appreciate the reminder — always with added ‘new’ information that’s of value to them — not, “Did you get my email about…”.
However, if you’ve already chased them a couple of times and received nothing but stony silence in return, you might need to try a different approach, angle, or twist on the topic. You can also ask if your pitch might be a better fit with someone else at their organization.
The risk is that you may not necessarily get the answer you’re looking for. But by putting it out there in a gentle way, such as “seems like this wasn’t a perfect fit for you – unless I hear otherwise, I will run a different idea by you soon.
If you are looking to promote something time-sensitive like a product launch or a new ecommerce venture, you are going to have to plan ahead and be mindful of editorial deadlines you can tell them that you’re offering it to them first. And if they pass you can move on to the next top person on your media list. Whether you build a store from the ground up, or invest in a readymade one, make sure that your branding and content is on-point enough to appeal to busy journos. A good pitch from a badly formulated brand may go to waste — so make sure you cover all bases.
Of course, if all else fails, and you really will stop at nothing to get that reporter’s attention, you can try one the following:
Hire a banana costume and do a little dance outside their office window
Pay a movie theater to play a pre-recorded video of your pitch after the ads at a movie you know they’re going to see (because they posted about it on social media)
Accidentally bump into them on the bus while holding a basket of kittens
Heroically save them from falling into a pond
Disclaimer: These methods are not tried and tested. I hold no responsibility for them going wrong.
We need the attention of reporters for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you’re trying to make a story or piece of content go viral. Perhaps you just bought an online business and you want brand coverage. Possibly you’ve found yourself in the public’s bad books, and you need a bit of good publicity. Whatever the reason, it helps to know how to go about it. Hopefully these suggestions have been useful.
Vicky is a freelance writer and ecommerce marketing consultant. She loves being part of the brand growth hacking process and producing real, measurable results. In her spare time, Vicky shares her knowledge by writing for a variety of digital publications.
It’s fair to say that America is a fairly divided place right now, with wildly differing ideas about what’s right and wrong. Whatever your views, our blundering, boastful President does seem to have mastered one thing, and that’s showmanship. As he appoints more than a few questionable characters to office, many of us remain distracted by the latest inflammatory statements he’s made on Twitter, or by what’s going on with Celebrity Apprentice. As intelligent entrepreneurs and business owners, here are 8 lessons we can learn from his strengths and weaknesses when it comes to courting publicity.
PR is rooted in positive relationships
Most CEOs respect PR, or at least understand its function. Whatever their feelings towards it, they accept that in positions of high power or visibility, it is necessary. For better or worse, Trump is not most CEOs.
Donald has yet to realize that at the root of PR is a carefully tended network of positive relationships, built on clear and transparent communication. He mistakenly considers himself an ‘expert’ PR person, despite his total lack of tact, sensitivity, or awareness. Let’s not forget, he appointed a hedge fund manager to run his communications office.
For the life of him, Trump cannot seem to hold on to a PR chief, and the reason is quite simple – no self-respecting, professional PR person wants to work for a boss who thinks he can do better, and who will publicly shame you for trying to do your job.
How to apply: Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People: “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”. In other words, an aggressive approach will get you nowhere. He also says that “Winning friends begins with friendliness” – another simple yet oft forgotten pearl of wisdom. Take a look at this list of the 100 Most Trusted People in America. They are well-liked, charismatic, and many of them are actors. Interestingly, none of them are TV bullies.
Sometimes you need to take an unconventional approach
Some believe that Richard Nixon lost the 1960 presidential race due to his poor TV presence, compared to JFK, who understood the power of the medium. Trump is, of course, no stranger to television, having perhaps more experience with it than any other presidential candidate in history. Throughout his election campaign, he consistently eschewed conventional politics in favor of sensationalism and sound bites, in contrast to Hillary’s more measured approach.
What’s more, while Clinton worked to secure votes across all demographics, Trump lasered in on a specific target audience – white, working class men who had been feeling less represented under the previous Democrat government. In marketing we are often advised to ‘find our niche’, and it seems that the same could be true of politics.
How to apply: There are lots of ways to get unconventional with PR, though it’s no guarantee that just because your campaign is unconventional, it will be a success. From publicity stunts and viral videos, to riding trends and putting out crowdsourcing content, the internet has made it much easier to be imaginative. Check out these Timeless Creative PR Ideas.
If you fake it, you’ll probably get found out
Earlier in Trump’s career, several New York reporters spoke with a John Miller or a John Barron – two supposed PR men who sounded suspiciously like Trump himself. Miller and Barron were particularly insightful, sharing detailed explanations for Trump’s actions and love life, all the while presenting him in the most favorable light possible. You can read the full transcript of one of John Miller’s interviews here.
Of course, these strangely forthcoming sources were none other than Trump himself, and if you read or listen to the interviews, it is startlingly, ridiculously apparent. At one point, he even forgets to speak in the third person. The lesson here? It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: don’t pose as your own publicist and expect to get away with it. Oh – and the tan isn’t real either.
How to apply: It’s fairly straightforward really – just be honest and authentic about who you are and what you do. If you don’t fake it in the first place, you don’t get found out. Lance Armstrong was a celebrated road racing cyclist who many people admired, until the doping scandal came out. Likewise, Tonya Harding was a famous figure skater, whose career was left in tatters after she hired a thug to break her rival’s leg. The public hates a cheater, so keep your record squeaky clean.
You must be willing to listen to advice
PR professionals are much like counselors. Their job is to advise the client on the most effective approach to communications, if they want to achieve certain goals. They are a valuable asset to the team, and a smart client will realize the importance of listening to their advice, even if they end up taking a slightly different course of action. A sensible business owner will involve their PR person in all big-picture discussions.
The thing about Trump is, he really doesn’t want anyone’s advice. He wants to do his own thing and he thinks he’s got PR sussed. When Spicer worked at the White House, he griped about his limited access to the President, yet was still blamed when things went wrong.
How to apply: Benjamin Franklin said that “wise men don’t need advice – fools won’t take it”. If you’re attempting to navigate the choppy waters of publicity, it’s better to do it with a legitimate expert at your side. Part of a PR practitioner’s role is to train their clients to effectively face the media, as well as making their client’s reputation as strong as possible. Ultimately, they help to keep you focused and moving towards your goals – with the force of the media on side.
The celebrity phenomenon
Whether your feelings towards Trump are mild or extreme, it can’t be denied that he is something of a sensation. For better or worse (and likely worse), we’ve never had a figure quite like him on America’s political stage. We now live firmly in a culture of celebrity, and Trump – a longstanding TV star and populist bigmouth – is known by everyone. It shouldn’t really come into the equation when you’re running for President – yet it does.
Why? Because with their deity-like status, we listen to what celebrities have to say. So in 21st century America, should we be surprised that a celebrity has managed to become President? It’s wall-to-wall (pun intended) publicity, be it good or bad. Whether you love or despise Trump, he remains a popular topic of conversation – and that’s just what he wants.
How to apply: So how can you find ways to keep people interested in you? To enjoy the kind of engagement that Trump gets online and in the media, it’s all about being engaging and having a stance or opinion that people relate to. Today’s consumers are discerning about which brands deserve their time and attention. Don’t be afraid to start discussions, and fan the flames to keep them going. Experiment to find out what resonates with your audience, and mix up your timing, language, and use of imagery.
He tells it like (he thinks) it is
Trump doesn’t speak the political tongue. Everybody knows that – just look at his Twitter feed. Instead, he seems to say whatever comes into his head, without much of a filter to speak of. Agree with him or not, you always get the jist of what he’s saying. Some politicians do themselves a disservice when they speak in political jargon, alienating the less articulate voters.
Honestly counts for something in PR, even – or especially – if that honesty is controversial. Trump’s followers love him for his willingness to tackle any subject, in particular those that more seasoned politicians dance around.
How to apply: We want your perspective on what matters to you and why it’s important to your audience. Your strong opinion about a topic you care about sets you apart from your competitors who may have a different take – and sets you up as a thought leader. News shows are made up of people proffering different opinions on a topic then backing those opinions with facts, research, or other evidence.
Pick an enemy (or several)
Branding experts will often tell you to identify an enemy and position against them. That enemy doesn’t have to be a person, it could be a system, a state of the world, an injustice, or an opinion. The world’s top brands all have distinct enemies – and Trump is a brand too.
At this point, Trump has made many enemies, and he has a habit of calling them out and going after them. Choosing an enemy gives your campaign a focus – it’s the classic scenario of ‘us vs. them’ that galvanizes large groups of people into action. It’s a great tactic for businesses. Is it a good one for politics? It’s certainly been successful at getting Trump into office, but as to the effects on society and the world, it all starts to feel like a dark and dangerous road.
How to apply: So every brand or personality needs an enemy, but that doesn’t have to be a competitor. It could just as easily be an idea. A nutritionist might position processed food corporations as ‘the enemy’. A pro web designer might frame DIY website builders as ‘the enemy’. For an artisan coffee shop, it might be instant coffee. Whether it’s a belief, an assumption, or a rival business, every beloved brand has something to push against and rally behind.
If you don’t have the instinct for it, leave it to the professionals
Anthony Scaramucci has said that Trump has ‘excellent public relations instincts’. So is that true? He certainly represents something different, and something different – especially in politics – is pretty irresistible. But I would argue that overall, Trump’s PR instincts are fumbling at best, and volatile at worst. And they appear to be getting worse. His weeklong assault on his own attorney general in July was apparently ‘all his idea’. Good one.
Trump is used to the selective media exposure granted by his TV lifestyle, but as President, you are on show 24/7. PR decisions are more critical than ever. The best bosses understand their own strengths and weaknesses, but Trump’s inflated view of himself means he won’t listen to others. From a PR perspective, it will be interesting to see where his ego leads him over the course of his time in office.
Trump famously exaggerates, but if you’re looking to implement his tactics into your own business PR campaign, maybe think twice. Exaggeration and dishonesty are no way to do business – and you will be found out eventually. If you’re trying to get more media attention for your business, here are some good guidelines. What we can take away from his success is the importance of picking an enemy, leveraging social channels, being true to yourself, and being memorable. But we can also learn to become better listeners, better bosses, and better people.
Vicky is a freelance writer and ecommerce marketing consultant. She loves following politics and drawing lessons that can be beneficial in other areas. In her spare time, Vicky shares her knowledge by writing for a variety of digital publications.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get information about your product to a magazine editor, at the exact time when that editor was looking for products like yours? Well, that option exists, if you use Editorial Calendars.
What Are Editorial Calendars?
Editorial Calendars list topics and special editorial coverage, to be included in each issue of a publication.
How to Use Editorial Calendars to Gain Publicity
Savvy product and ecommerce companies will find Editorial Calendars extremely useful when pitching products for media coverage.
Here are some tips to make the most of your story pitching:
Research the publication. Understand the publication’s focus and how your product or service might fit in. A new beauty product for spring may seem perfect for all publications looking for beauty products. But if your product is a luxury item, and the magazine focuses on low-cost products, it’s not a match.
Make sure that the Editorial Calendar topics are still relevant. Editorial Calendars can change throughout the year. Check to make sure that the topics you want to pitch are still in the Calendar.
Offer product submissions with enough lead time. The lead time for publications varies, and can be as much as six months or more. If you’re not sure of the lead time, assume three to six months.
Where Can You Find Editorial Calendars?
Typically, Editorial Calendars can be found in advertising sales kits. The calendar topics are included so advertisers can tie their ads into topics covered in the publication. You can sometimes find an Editorial Calendar in the advertising section at the publication’s website. If you can’t find it there, contact the publication’s marketing/sales department and ask them to send it to you.
I’ve just put together a list of Top Magazine 2017 Editorial Calendars. Included are: O, the Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, People Style Watch, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Men’s Journal and more.
So remember – you can increase your chances of getting media coverage for your products by utilizing Editorial Calendars. Don’t wait – get your list today!
This post is contributed by Margie Zable Fisher, president of Zable Fisher Public Relations, www.zfpr.com, which specializes in e-commerce and product P.R. and publicity. Get her new free report, “How to Outsource Your Social Media Efforts Inexpensively,” here.