In this guest post Celestine Chua shares tips on how to get your blog some press coverage.
Getting featured in press and media is probably like a dream come true for many bloggers. If you are thinking that you need to be an accomplished name online like Darren Rowse or John Chow who gets a six-figure annual paycheck before you are in any position to get media coverage, think again.
In 2008 last year, I left my day job at the age of 24 to pursue my fierce passion to help others be their best self and live their best life. I started my personal development blog CelestineChua.com, intending it to be the cornerstone of my business. I had no experience in Web 2.0 web development/internet marketing (The last time I had a proper site was 6-years ago and the landscape had totally changed then) .
In less than 4 months, I got my first media coverage in a popular local newspaper, with circulation of 300,000. My second media coverage came the next month. Then came the third. And the fourth. And more.
To date, I’ve been featured in press and media at least 6 times, which have resulted in a new flock of loyal readers, huge flood of life coaching sign ups, increased awareness levels of my business/blog, heightened credibility, multiple collaboration proposals by interested parties, numerous speaking engagements, just to name a few. So many people who have registered for my services that I have to put up a waiting list, which is stretching till Nov ’09 at the moment (that’s 4 months away). At the rate it is going, the waiting list isn’t showing any signs of shortening. And this is definitely not the last of it.
If I were to look at the trigger point for my results today, it was the first media coverage which helped put me on the map. The amazing thing is, none of these came about due to any personal relationships or media contacts. Media coverage is something that you can get, whether you are a newbie blogger or a seasoned veteran. In this article, I’ll openly share the strategies I used to secure my media coverage.
Benefits of Being Featured in Press
So why should you seek media coverage? Here’s four key benefits:
Let’s face it – Online marketing channels are exhausted to death by right about every blogger out there. Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious, forums, commenting, article directories, guest posting, writing list posts, writing pillar articles – You name it, everyone’s doing it.
While these were probably the key success strategies of the past right at the time when Yaro Starak first wrote the Blogging Profits Blueprint, they have since dwindled to become steps to putting yourself at parity level with the rest. I’m not saying that these steps aren’t important – They certainly are, and you should continue putting efforts into them. The question is what, then, sets you apart from the others?
Press isn’t going to be the one thing that sets you apart from the rest, but it is one of the best ways to do that today, especially since getting a press/media feature is totally underutilized by bloggers. Just because you are operating a blog doesn’t mean you should stay clear from traditional marketing vehicles. In fact, you should leverage on as many mediums as you can to gain the maximum exposure. If you get a press coverage, it’s certainly going to put you in a totally different position in your readers’ minds.
When I first started CelestineChua.com in Dec ’08, I realized that there were about thousands of personal development blogs out there, and I had to do something big to set myself apart from all other blogs. Press instantly stood out as one of the ways I could use to do that, and it proved itself to be an immense tool to my results.
2. Exposure to new audience.
The people who check out the press regularly are quite distinct from blog readers, so being featured in press gives you access to a new audience group. The media I’ve been featured in so far have a circulation of about 200k~300k on average. A good number of them have turned into loyal readers on my site; and many have gone on to share my site with their own networks. Within this large base of audience you can reach, there will be a good handful who are interested in what you have to offer and become loyal readers/users of your service. This is going to be especially critical when you are first starting out.
3. New opportunities.
With each media coverage I get, what’s hot on the trails are new readers, new people interested in my coaching services, new collaboration proposals by people in the industry and new speaking engagements. In fact, it was my first media coverage which put me officially on the map – everything just took off by itself afterward.
Features in traditional media automatically instill “credibility” in the subject that is featured (I’m not talking about paid advertising, of course). This is unless the article is writing you in a bad light, which isn’t likely to happen if you follow the steps in the 2nd half of the article. Most reporters are really nice people – if you work hand-in-hand with them and help them to your best ability, they will reciprocate this kindness too.
My media features have been incredibly helpful in establishing credibility in what I do. I’m in the personal development/life coaching industry, where age of the person is often used as a measure of his/her skill as a coach even though it isn’t an accurate measure. Prior to starting my blog, I had already spent many years intensely growing and helping others and had amassed a huge array of personal winning strategies and learnings. Not only that, growth is a continuous journey and I’m constantly developing myself to self-improve and better help others. With the multiple media coverages, I was able to get strong endorsement on my credibility and expertise. It has since brought me a whole list of coachees who in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even late 50s, who go on to provide great testimonials. Age is clearly no longer the issue.
So, How Do I Get Featured in Press?
Now the magic question comes – “So how exactly do I get featured in media?” I’ve lined this out into a simple, easy to follow 3 step formula. Let’s explore each step.
1. Create an absolutely enticing news story.
This is the most important step out of the 3 steps. The newsworthiness of your news angle is going to pretty much determine if your story gets featured or not. Newsworthiness means how intriguing your story is to others. Reporters are always on the lookout on what’s the latest and most exciting in the world now. If you can offer them a news story that’s absolutely irresistible and “breakthrough”, they will want to cover it.
To do that, it doesn’t mean that you have to be elected into the White House, win the Oscar or invent the vaccine for H1N1. Coming up with a good news angle just takes some element of creativity. Think about what the readers of the particular press are interested in. Your message should be one that appeals to the readers. Check out the previous editions to get a sense of the kind of stories they like to run. Coming up with an excellent news angle may mean creating a story or a movement out of nothing. (i.e., launching a new book which the world has never been seen before, doing something really viral and unique). Checkout 25 Brainstorming Techniques for 25 different ways to brainstorm for out-of-the-box ideas.
Think about these questions – What is so unique about you and what you are doing? What sets you apart from everyone else in your industry? Why should everyone know about you/your business? These should be related to your Unique Selling Proposition, which is a fundamental strategy for anyone who wants to succeed in their business/blog. (If you don’t have a USP defined yet, spend some time to craft it out first!)
I’ve learned from my media coverage that one of the best ways to create a newsworthy story is to use your personal story. Everyone has their story to tell. What’s unique about yours? My personal story was that I ditched my USD $50K/year Fortune 100 career to pursue my passionto help others live their best life, all at the age of 24. There were 3 big reasons how this was newsworthy:
1) I completely went against all types of social norms in my country (I live in Singapore which has an Asian culture and largely conformist tendencies). The most common values among Asians are financial stability and job security. Many people typically put money first and see the pursuit of passion as a luxury. Yet, I did the compete opposite – I put my passion before money. To many around me, what I did was deemed as bold, courageous, vivacious, somewhat defiant, possibly crazy, or inspiring even. Whatever it was, it was definitely not ordinary.
2) What made the story even more unconventional was I had a highly coveted career in a Fortune 100 company. Companies on the Fortune 100 list are highly prestigious and sought after by employees. I tossed away what society considered to be a conventional, golden path – right when the recession was kicking into full gear, no less! – for my passion.
3) My previous salary of USD $50K/year was considered to be high in my country, especially at my age. The average paycheck of my peers would be around half of that. People typically look upon one’s salary as an indication of one’s worth and have a habit of comparing earnings with others, especially in Asia. By very transparently and openly putting my salary right smack in my press release title, it was a great way to catch the eye of editors.
How about you? What’s your story and what makes it newsworthy? Here are some helpful articles on how to create a newsworthy story:
Spend some time to get your news angle right, and don’t even proceed to the next step unless you are absolutely sure that you have a totally irresistible news angle to pitch.It was after some brainstorming that I finally arrived at my final idea. Before that, I just refused to move to the next step because I didn’t think the ideas were strong enough. If you don’t have a highly newsworthy story to begin with, you will just be wasting your time with the next 2 steps.
Note: As you create a newsworthy story, remember to stay true to the core message and theme of your blog. While the thought of getting coverage is definitely very enticing, don’t become so eager that you lose sight of the original intent of your blog. You can certainly get featured on the press if you do something totally out of the world like running around naked in the middle of the expressway during peak hours, but that isn’t going to get you the kind of coverage you want.
2) Write Your Press Release.
After you have come up with an absolutely enticing news story, the next step is to write the actual press release. If you don’t have the luxury of a PR team (which would include me and probably most bloggers), you need to get down and dirty and write the release yourself. It’s not such a bad thing since you have complete control of how it’s written. Here are some links to check out on how to write a press release, complete with template samples:
Be sure that the press release you write is your absolute best and vet it repeatedly for mistakes before you move to the next step.
3) Send it to everyone u can reach
After writing the press release, it’s now time to send it to all the editors. Some people probably prefer to select a few key channels and send to those. My personal motto is to just use the shotgun approach of Ready – Fire – Aim. Since you have already taken some time out to write the release, might as well just send it to as many (relevant) channels as possible and let them decide if they want to run the story. This includes newspapers, magazines, online portals, or even radios and TV if you are interested. You can easily get the contacts from their websites or just by looking through the papers and magazines for the email addresses.
After Sending the Press Release
At this point, there’s nothing you can do but wait. You might want to get the phone number and give a call to just check if they received your press release. Depending on how popular the media channel is, the editors can receive anywhere from tens to even thousands of press releases every day, so a follow-up call might be good just to bring their attention to your release. Personally, I never did any follow-up since I got their repsonses quite promptly.
Usually, if your story has been picked for publishing, you will be notified anywhere from within the day to maximum 1 week. It depends on the type of stories they have planned for their papers and when they are running those stories. Beyond 1 week, it’s safe to assume that your press release has not been picked.
If You Are Called For An Interview
If you are contacted for an interview, congratulations! The reporter will either interview you over the phone or schedule a time/date for a face-to-face interview. If you are getting a decent feature, they will probably arrange for a photo shoot. I had done a series of phone interviews, face-to-face interviews and photo shoots where the photographers come down to my house, since my room is pretty much my ‘office’ where I write my blog.
Throughout the interview, be clear on your message you want to drive home (whether it’s on publicizing your blog/business, establishing your expertise, etc), and articulate it clearly and concisely. You can’t control how the story is being written, but you can increase chances of your message being featured by being singly-focused in your delivery during the interview. Be professional, open and personable as you share your thoughts.
At the end of the interview, check with the reporter on when the feature is coming out and whether they will be featuring the URL. The caveat is most press don’t feature web addresses as it is seen as a form of advertising. Try to rope their help in publishing the URL. Even if it can’t be published, the world doesn’t end there. People are smart – Many people went online to search for my name in Google or Facebook after reading about my coverage and eventually found me and my personal development blog. Bottomline is, if the coverage resonates with the reader, the reader will find ways to find you. ;)
Getting the Coverage!
Of course, things don’t end after the interview is out. Here are some things to do after that:
- 1 day before the coverage is out, do an mass announcement on your blog and to all your friends. Let them know that your feature is coming out and prep them up. This helps create hype and excitement!
- Enjoy the new stream of traffic and opportunities you will get on the day of the feature. :D I remember I was getting new emails by the minute when my first feature was out.
- With the article out, leverage on it. Create a media section and use it as an archive for your media features. Share it with your readers through an announcement. Include it as part of your elevator pitch if you want. I put a reference to my press/media features in a corner of my header, so new visitors can immediately see that.
- Maintain good connections with the reporters and media houses for future collaborations
- Continue to create new stories for coverage in the future. Be on the lookout for newsworthy things you can do to get ongoing coverage. The good thing is, once the first coverage is in, subsequent ones will typically get easier. Out of all my coverages, some of them were solicited, and some were initiated by the reporters who read about me either through the existing coverage or other channels.
What to do if you didn’t get any coverage?
If you didn’t get any responses in your first attempt, don’t feel dismayed. Go back and review the 3 steps above. Was your news story enticing? Was your press release well-written? Did you send the release to as many different media as you can find? Check against the stories that have been running in the particular news channel for the past 1-2 weeks and try to spot the differences between those stories and your stories. Why were those stories being run and not yours? How can you create a story that’s more newsworthy than any of those? From there, refine your story. There’s some possible reasons. Sometimes, it might be the theme of your story wasn’t aligned with the type of topics the press wanted to run at the time.
Whatever it is, work on improving your news angle and your press release. You might want to improvise on what you have now, or totally work on a new angle (which might be needed if your original news angle was time-sensitive, which meant it would be outdated in due course). Then, wait for about 2-months before you send your new press release to send to the editors. The reason for 2-months is because you don’t want to overwhelm the editors with your submissions. You don’t want to get to end up having your email blacklisted in their address books.
Don’t give up – as long as you keep trying and doing, you are bound to get better and better. Here’s a favorite quote on mine on success: ìSuccess is not built on success. Itís built on failure. Itís built on frustration. Sometimes itís built on catastrophe.î – Sumner Redstone Chairman. As long as you keep working on it, you will reap the fruits of your labor in time to come.
Hope this article has been helpful to you in getting your press release :D . I’ll love to connect with you, so please let me know what you think!
Celes writes at The Personal Excellence Blog, where she shares her personal stories and insights on how to live your best life. Some of her top reader favorites are 101 Things To Do Before You Die and Are You Sleepwalking Your Life Away?. Add her on Twitter @celestinechua.