Whether you are a business owner, author, performer, or any other brand of entrepreneur, here are three things you need to know about getting placed in mainstream media:
1. It’s better and cheaper than advertising.
Anyone with money can place an ad in a newspaper or magazine. Only the cool cats, however, can get featured in a newspaper or magazine. For this reason, taking out an ad does nothing to promote your credibility or je ne sais quoi. Nobody is going to pay that much attention to you babbling on about how amazing you are. They are, however, going to take notice of someone else singing your praises. For this reason, the more prominent the media outlet featuring you, the more your “stock” will go up in people’s eyes. It’s third party validation in action. Here’s the especially awesome thing about it all: While advertising in mainstream media can easily cost anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars, depending on the outlet, getting featured in mainstream media is totally free. And while an advertisement will come and go in the blink of an eye, spending far more time in the recycling bin than on someone’s mind, an article is something that people often remember. Regardless, it is something you can reference in your bio for the rest of your damn life. In other words, even if you were featured in The New York Times once upon a time at the tender age of 26, you will still, as a crotchety old geezer, legitimately be able to refer to yourself as a New York Times-featured entrepreneur/author/performer/whatever – making all your toothless cronies at the senior home ooh and ahh in wonder. In a word: priceless.
2. It’s formulaic.
Mainstream media is kind of like the Wizard of Oz: super intimidating until you get behind the smoke and mirrors and realize the wizard is just some dude from the Midwest, with a bad haircut. In this case, the media is managed by people like you and me, except they drink way too much coffee and, especially in the case of women’s magazines, subsist on cigarettes and diet soda. (You know diet soda is bad for you, right?)
The way to get into the media is to climb into the minds of editors and producers and decode their formula. I’ve already done that for you, so here’s my report back from the brain cell field trip: These lovely folk are working under ridiculous amounts of pressure, day-in and day-out, to provide content that is what I like to call “fresh but not too fresh.” They want stories that are in the realm of what everyone is talking about (heart health, the latest technology, investment strategies) while providing some new and credible angle on topic. Following this formula, editors and producers are sure to engage the largest possible audience, while providing a hook that draws people to their outlets and not other media outlets. If you can fit your big message into their little box, you’re in. In my case, for example, I approached media with my story of healing from chronic and debilitating pain, through a dance method I developed, called Dancing with Pain™. I connected the dots between my own story and the statistical reality of 76 million Americans suffering from pain with no relief in sight; the latest and most credible studies on the power of mind-body medicine; and the endorsements of leading integrative medicine practitioners. My story landed not only in outlets like The New York Times, ABC News, and Fox News, but even in the social media network for a conventional medicine bastion – the Johnson & Johnson health channel. So hey…were you increasingly impressed as I rattled off the names of top outlets? That’s the allure of media. Go and get yourself some.
Related: Loolwa interviews Mod Girl® Founder Mandy in this Huffington Post article, Get Your Blog On!
3. It’s accessible.
Chances are, of course, that you’re not going to march straight onto the set of The Today Show or its ilk. While there are always outliers, most people have to work step by step to get to the rung of top media outlets. But if you have the goods, you most certainly have the potential to get to the top. In my experience, it takes anywhere from six months to one year to develop someone’s platform enough to get featured in mainstream media. You just need to start small and step ladder your way up: Start off by writing for or getting featured in blogs, local papers, local cable channels, and niche media outlets that have modest followings. Editors and producers at these kinds of outlets will be more willing to take a risk on you. Work you way up from teeny-tiny outlets to small, medium, and large outlets. Each time you break into a new level, showcase your clips from the most prestigious outlets where you have been featured so far, and otherwise flash any bling to your name – VIPs who endorse your work, leading venues where you have spoken, prestigious institutes where you have gotten diplomas and awards, and so on.
Don’t worry if your credentials are not super flashy yet. Use two or three of the biggest and baddest names you have to your credit, in each category, and replace them with the more jaw-dropping ones as you climb your way up the rungs. Meanwhile, once you have in mind whom to target, put together a news story. Let’s say you are a massage therapist. No editor or producer will care, no matter how phenomenal a massage therapist you may be. If, however, you are a massage therapist offering free oncology massages to low income women with breast cancer, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; if you are partnering with the oncology clinic of a local hospital to offer these massages; and if you have a local oncologist or gynecologist sharing breast cancer prevention and early detection tips for women, as the kickoff to an afternoon of free massage, you have a media story. Or let’s say you own a raw organic vegan restaurant (because then I’ll come eat at your joint), and you want to get it into the top local media. First, choose a holiday. Editors and producers are always on the lookout for fresh angles on holiday stories. Second, create an original recipe for that holiday, and give it a funky name.
Editors and producers love to eat and are always on the lookout for new dishes in their town, plus a funky name helps get their attention. Third, teach a cooking class the week before the holiday, demonstrating how to make this new dish. Then you not only have a new dish, but you have a community event. Fourth, offer a discount for those ordering the dish on the holiday. This perk will score you another holiday festivity point. Once you have this made-for-media package together, send a press release to the local newspaper, TV, and radio, and bam! You’re in.
Keep in mind that media is largely about attitude.
If you believe you have something unique, edgy, or otherwise worthwhile to say, get clear about what it is and why it’s so awesome, then communicate your message in a way that most people will understand. Instead of expecting the world to come to you, go to them. Wrap your message in the shiny paper that most appeals to the culture or counter-culture you are targeting. Get out of the advertising-style “bring me customers” mindset and think instead about what you can offer to the world around you. Paradoxically, it’s when people step out of the self-promotional mindset and into the service vibe that they are most likely to attract media – in turn scoring the greatest promotion of all.
Mod Master Contributor, Loolwa Khazzoom
Loolwa Khazzoom is a punk rocker activist chick turned media badass and public relations manager. She has written for, been featured in, and/or placed her clients in top media outlets including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, Forbes, Self, The Washington Post, and all the major networks – ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, PBS, and Fox. She also is a business blogger (albeit a highly undisciplined one) for The Huffington Post.
Loolwa specializes in helping people identify the essence of who they are, what they do, why they do it, and why the heck anyone should care, then translating all that juicy goodness into a brand and message that rock the media world, attract VIPs, and score prestigious speaking engagements. She primarily focuses on working with integrative medicine and holistic health practitioners, given her experience in and passion for self-healing. On that note, she is the founder of the Dancing with Pain™ method of natural pain relief, which encourages you to boogie from your chronic pain bedquarters.