Getting press coverage can establish you as an authority in your industry. You can get access to audiences full of the people that can hire you as an employee, partner and vendor. Getting free press coverage as an individual can be a challenge, but it can be done and be done effectively leading to the opportunities you seek as you work to grow your personal brand profile.
In this chapter, we’re going to give you a process that others have used to increase their own profiles. The next time you see someone on TV or featured in an article you’ll know that you possess the ability to get the same kind of coverage.
How Tim Ferriss Gets Free Press
Tim Ferriss had a dilemma when he was preparing for the release of his now-popular book, The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim and his publisher wanted Tim to do the media rounds, but nobody wants to talk to someone for this type of publicity unless the public knows them or if they have speaking experience with other big media outlets.
It’s obviously difficult to become known by the public and to get coverage by media outlets if you can’t find a way to get started. That’s why Tim became creative with his approach to getting free press.
In a post on his blog, From First TV to Dr. Oz—How to Get Local Media…Then National Media, Tim outlines the process he used and the process you can use to get free press for yourself.
First, Tim looked at the current news landscape to see what was happening in the world. He found something that the media was interested in at the moment and found a connection between his expertise and the topic.
Second, Tim contacted local TV stations that were affiliates of the national channels—ABC, CBS and NBC. He made his pitch that he was an expert on the news topic and that he had a different opinion from the common thought and could provide his input for viewers. He didn’t hear back from many, but did hear back from one.
Third, the opposing opinion was key for Tim. It made him stand out as someone with a different view on the current event. And that one, local TV affiliate spot was the proof he needed to show others in the media that he would speak clearly and effectively when on TV, radio, etc.
The rest of Tim’s blog post talks about how you can dive into the topic and create your talking points. It’s worth your time to read through the entire article, but for now we’re going to take a step back and discuss how you can become an expert in your industry so you can make yourself available to speak with the media when current events arise.
Here is the process as outlined in Tim’s book, The 4-Hour Workweek:
Step One Signup For Official Industry Organizations
Becoming an expert simply means being recognized for your accomplishments in a specific topic. It doesn’t mean that you have the best job, the best business or have even worked in an industry very long. It’s simply the recognition that you’ve done certain things and have the proof to back up your accomplishments.
The first step to building your expertise and recognition is to signup for official industry organizations. We won’t say that every industry, but many industries have official organizations that represent the affairs that happen in that industry. People recognize these establishments and if you’re associated with them you gain social proof by associating yourself with them.
Step Two Read Three Bestselling Industry Books
Next, read the most popular books every published in your industry. If you’re going to be speaking to the press in interviews you’re going to need to know the history of the industry. Find the most popular books and read them front to back and make sure you can recall the information later on. You want to be able to reference the best material in your industry when you’re talking about current events. It gives you credibility and that can earn you higher expert status with your audience.
Step Three Give A One-Hour Seminar
Next, offer to do a free seminar at your local college or university. The seminar will be a how-to on things in your industry. You’re looking to help students or anyone that wants to attend how they can get involved in your industry and what they can do to succeed. It’s also recommended that you speak at a local business involved in your industry if possible, but doing it at a university is good for your portfolio to start.
The reason you’re giving this seminar is that you can put it on your profile and use it to gain access to media interviews and other contributions as an expert. Giving seminars and being part of organizations show those in the media that you’re not only an expert, but that you can speak in public and do so effectively; so effectively that a university had you in for a seminar.
Step Four Write An Article For A Trade Magazine
Finally, write an article for a trade magazine. Use the credentials you’ve been building through this process to gain access to writing an article for a trade magazine. Again, being publish in an industry magazine is another feather in your cap that you can use to work your way up the chain with free press (more on the chain later).
To start, find a popular topic in the industry and provide a contrarian view from what’s being offered by other experts now. Back up your view, of course, but offer something different because the media likes bringing in something different that will get the attention of their followers.
If you can’t get accepted to write about a hot topic in the industry then offer to interview someone in the industry to get their opinion on a topic. You might not be able to give your own thoughts, but you’ll still be credentialed in the magazine and you can use that to gain more press coverage.
One final note from Tim, on another post on his blog, How to Get National Press With No Budget, Tim has Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, contribute his process for getting free press coverage. The key to what Alexis was able to do for his press coverage early on was to always pay it forward. He would meet with those in the media and really with everybody he could and always look for ways to help them.
Alexis looked at this like he was putting a penny in his piggy bank. Each time he helped someone out he would be adding a penny to the bank and over time he had built up enough good will with people throughout the media that they were more than happy to return the favor to him and discuss his exciting new startup, which turned out to be Reddit.
Read the entire article from Alexis. He gives great advice including details on how to form your pitches around “pegs” or the big items of the day that are getting press coverage. By attaching yourself to pegs you can get your “in” with the media and build your way up to getting big (and free) coverage.
How To Use HARO To Get Incredible Press Exposure
Help A Reporter Out or HARO, is a service that connects sources or experts with journalists. As someone growing their personal brand, you can use HARO to connect with journalists to get free press. Using Tim’s advice from the previous section you can establish your credibility and build your expert status so you’re more likely to be accepted by the journalists using HARO.
Here are a few steps complete with case studies on how to best use HARO so that you’re getting your name in the press and building your profile.
Step One Signup For HARO
HARO Basic is free. With the basic version you get three emails each day filled with queries from journalists and content producers. You can signup for the premium packages if you want to have more ability with the service such as filtering the queries by specific keywords and to build your profile.
Step Two Setup Criteria For Responding To Queries
Not all queries on HARO are created equal. To gain traction and get free press there is a fine balance of finding quality queries that are also likely to use your quote as you work your way up the chain (more on this later).
There are two factors that go into your criteria for responding.
First, the publication should have your target audience. If you feel the publication will put your name in front of the people that could hire you or that would want to become clients, then it’s worth your time.
Second, the publication should look good on your personal website or it should look good when you email other publications to show proof that you’ve been covered in the press before. Obviously the publication could have widespread recognition and be good, but even if the name is recognizable and official sounding it can be worthwhile for you to respond to the query.
Step Three Respond Quickly To Increase Chances Of Being Published
All types of content creators use HARO. Some are working on long-term projects, but others and probably the majority are working on tight deadlines. They might have looked for sources through other channels and have come to HARO as a last resort. They need quick feedback from experts to meet deadlines.
Always be thorough with your responses. You want to provide appealing answers, but be cognizant of the time you take to respond. The Basic HARO emails go out early in the morning, around noon and in the evening. If you can respond within an hour or a few hours of the query you’re more likely to get a response.
Step Four Use Your Previous Credentials
As briefly mentioned, use your credentials of the previous places where you’ve been published or have been included in the articles. If you’re just starting out, join the industry organizations and do the seminar to build your credentials.
Other things you can do include guest posting or offering to help with articles on blogs and other publications. Look for ways to get your name published as part of articles, videos and other items. These are proof that you can safely be quoted and used in articles.
The journalists using HARO are on a deadline, but they still have to be careful with their sources. They look for credentials to give them peace of mind about including you or anyone else.
Step Five Follow Up When You’re Quotes Are Used
Normally you’ll hear from the journalist when they include you in the article. Find the article and share it on your social media profiles and add it to the credential list on your website and use it for future queries.
And once that’s over make sure to reply to the email the journalist sends you with a note saying thanks. Even if you don’t get an email, but your quotes are published go ahead and send a thank you note in an email. It’s always good to finish with positive vibes and end with saying that you’re always available for quotes on future articles.
How To Use ProfNet by PR Newswire To Get Even More
ProfNet by PR Newswire is a service that journalists use to get input from experts for articles. The journalists can use the service to find credible sources for articles. When there is a hot topic in an industry a journalist can go to ProfNet and have the experts respond to queries. It’s like HARO and it’s another opportunity for you to gain access to journalists including those writing about your industry.
Here is the recommended process for using ProfNet and getting free press by responding to journalists in a way that will make them want to include you in their articles.
Step One Request Information About Subscribing To ProfNet
There is a cost to join ProfNet as an expert. You signup here to get information about what fee you will need to pay to get full access. If it’s within your budget it’s worthwhile to signup for the full service. You’ll have more access to the journalists using the service, but there is a free alternative that can work too.
Step Two Signup For ProfNet Connect
ProfNet Connect is an online community of journalists and experts. With ProfNet Connect, you create content to prove your expertise. You answer questions in forums, publish other content and connect with other experts and with journalists.
Step Three Fill Your Profile With Your Credentials
The content that you share and publish on ProfNet is important obviously, but just as important is the way you fill out your profile. Journalists will look at your content, but they’ll want to know who you are. They won’t just feature anybody in their articles and stories.
To be appealing you have to use the credentials you’ve built in this chapter to your advantage. Cite the organizations that you’re part of and mention the seminar that you did at the university. As you go through this process you’ll get mentions on publications. List those publications with something like “As seen in…” on your profile and on the content you publish on ProfNet.
Do the same thing with ProfNet if you join the full service. When emailing the journalists with responses to their queries, list your credentials right in the email. These credentials will intrigue the journalists and they’ll read your content.
Finally, a note on the content you share whether it’s on ProfNet Connect or via email—do thorough research when responding to queries. The journalists will get tons of responses and in order for yours to be one they use you’ll have to showcase your credentials, but your content will also have to be researched on the topic. Show that you know what you’re talking about and try to present a contrarian point of view when you can. This makes you stand out and that’s what journalists generally want.
How To Trade Up The Chain Like A True Media Superstar
Ryan Holiday wrote the book Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions Of A Media Manipulator. In the book, Holiday wrote about his experiences in the new online media world where he could manipulate people and systems to get press coverage and attention for his personal brand and the companies he worked for and represented.
Manipulate can seem like a strong word and it was probably used to manipulate potential readers into thinking Holiday was some kind of con man to sell more books. But some of the methods mentioned in the book were solid strategies for getting free press including one called, “Trading Up The Chain”.
If you’re starting out on the process of building your reputation then trading up the chain is the perfect strategy for getting media coverage and move toward bigger and bigger publications. Tim Ferriss mentioned it and we’ve alluded to it a couple times.
Here is the process.
Pre-Step Building Your Stories
Each time you want to get free press you have to develop a story. Stories are the things bloggers and journalists latch on to and take to their audiences. You have to become good at telling a story that your audience would be interested in hearing.
Your story could be something you’re doing in the local community. It could be a charity event for a popular cause or an interesting project you’re participating in to help the community. These events turn into stories that journalists want to talk about.
Look for things in your local news that are getting attention. Also look at popular topics that you can latch on to that are hot right now. Journalists want sure things for their reporting so using popular topics and trends in your stories gives them something they know their audience will care about.
Once you have your story you can begin trading it up the chain.
Step One Identify Small Blogs In Your Industry
Trading up the chain begins with small blogs. There are blogs for nearly every industry in existing. Do a simple Google search to find the blogs related to your industry. You’ll probably find the bigger blogs at first, but go to sites like Alltop and Technorati to find blogs that are in your industry, but not quite as popular as those on the front page of Google. Also look for local blogs in your area.
When you’ve identified the small blogs in your industry, reach out to them and present your story. Look at what they’ve done in the past and latch your idea on to their idea with an email message like:
I saw you’ve posted an article on this. I’m writing because I’m working on a project similar in our area and I thought you would be interested. If you have time I’d love to share more details. I think your readers would like the story.
That can get the attention of the smaller bloggers because they’re looking to break news. It gives them an opportunity to report news that the bigger media channels might miss in the early stages.
The key to trading up the chain is getting your story published on a small blog, any blog. Getting that first publication or first few publications are key because once you have them you can use it to work your way to bigger outlets.
Step Two Trade Up To Local Media And Large Network Affiliates
Once you have small blog coverage you’re looking to build up to something with a little more coverage area, but something that also has a connection to something even bigger. This might be a local news station that is an affiliate of a larger national network like CBS, ABC and NBC. It also might be a local newspaper that has connections to larger publications throughout the nation or the world.
Reach out to these publications with the same type of email message, but use the coverage from the smaller blogs as a way to prove that your story has something worth discussing. When you can show that others have thought enough of you to publish it gives the bigger publications comfort and they’ll be more likely to publish your story in their own words.
In his book, Holliday talks about sometimes using fake email addresses and fake names to give these larger publications tips on the stories published by the bloggers. It’s a little more dishonest, but if you’re struggling to get through with your regular messages then you could try using anonymous names.
Step Three Getting The Big Publications To Write About You
Once you get bloggers and the local media to cover your story you can look to have national media cover your story.
The key is having the connection with the nationally recognized publication. For example, if you’re able to get coverage on a local CBS affiliate you’ll be able to use the CBS logo in your emails when you’re reaching out to larger publications whether it’s a national blog or large newspaper. Journalists recognize those types of logos and they’ll be interested to see why you’re associated with that logo.
Trading up the chain can be used to manipulate the media for unethical things, but if you’re doing it for the right reasons like discussing charity or business events in you’re area and you just happen to be getting your name out there it’s win-win situation.
Start with your story. Get it covered by small bloggers. Then go to bigger blogs and local media and work your way up to larger publications.
With each step you’re building your credentials and that can go a long way when it comes to finding a new job or looking to get new clients.