By Marsha Friedman
Sometimes the harshest truths are the most important ones.
In public relations, one of the most important truisms revolves around the primary question members of the media ask themselves as they evaluate potential stories: Who really cares?
They ask that not to be rude, but out of a genuine desire to serve their audiences. Now, as media consumers, we may argue with some of their story choices (personally, I never understood the endless fascination with the Kardashians), but we have to remember that the media’s revenue comes from the size and scope of their audiences. If they believe their audience wants to hear about a particular person or story, you can be assured they’ll cover it.
For anyone seeking to promote themselves or their business, that “who really cares?” question is absolutely paramount because it reveals one of the most critical and common pitfalls in the PR business. That is, the idea that promoting yourself should be all about you.
The hard fact is that if the media don’t already know who you are, they really don’t care about you. They don’t care about your book, your website, your company, your product or just about anything you’re selling. Of course, their advertising director would love to sell you time or space, but that’s advertising, not PR.
So your key question becomes: How do I get the media to care about me? The answer is you must demonstrate to them that your expertise and your message will add value to the lives of their audiences.
Now, many self-help authors will think that should be easy, but it’s not. It’s not so much about the fact that you may have helpful advice to offer, but rather that you have different and more insightful advice than the last person in your field who pitched them for an interview.
What’s more, it’s not just self-help folks who have something to offer. We have several clients who have written memoirs and their life experiences offer tremendous value to the media’s audiences. For example, we have one client who’s a survivor of domestic and child abuse, and who can provide a perspective on how to overcome such a background and thrive as a successful adult.
With that said, here are a few points to keep in mind when you contact the media and try to pitch them on your story idea:
- Explain your expertise. Are you a medical doctor with 30 years experience? Are you a tax planner, business strategist or a history professor? Let them know your credentials and why you’re someone their audience should listen to on the subject that you would be talking about. Sometimes your personal experiences – as a foster child, a cancer survivor, or an immigrant who came to this country with nothing in his pocket – also can lend you credibility and spark the media’s interest.
- Offer something of value. Based on your profession or experience, what is it you can tell the media’s audience that they will find valuable or interesting? Can you give them advice on how to take advantage of a change in the tax laws? Can you help them navigate the growth of their business? Can you explain from personal experience how the foster-care system can be improved?
- Avoid sounding like a commercial. Let’s face it. You’re after publicity because you have a book, a product or a business you want to promote. But that’s your goal, not the media’s. You’ll have much greater success if you don’t sound like an infomercial pitching a product or like a celebrity on a late-night talk show telling people to buy their book or watch their movie. But here’s the irony that I love so much about the media. When you’re actively not trying to promote yourself, you can actually achieve a greater degree of self-promotion.
Back to answering the media’s question: “Who really cares?” The secret is to remember the one driving truth of life in the media. It’s not about you.
It’s never about you.
It’s always about the audience and what you can do for them.
Article reprinted with permission by Marsha Friedman, EMS Incorporated.
About Marsha Friedman
Marsha Friedman launched EMS Incorporated in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity. For more information about Marsha and EMS Incorporate, visit emsincorporated.com.