You're Not Elon Musk or Richard Branson. Here's What You Need to Know About Approaching the Media.
There is a tiny number of very famous entrepreneurs everybody wants to interview and a very large number nobody has heard of.
You don’t have to be some well-known entrepreneur such as Elon Musk; Richard Branson and so on to make an impact on the world or build a business that supports the kind of lifestyle you want to live. In fact, there are many businesses and entrepreneurs that the mainstream public doesn’t know about but are still accomplishing as much as some famous ones.
You could be a rock star at what you do and in your industry, and have the right people know about you. The thing to understand, however, is that what you’re experiencing in your industry doesn’t—and often—translate into mainstream media exposure. Unless you are a better-known entrepreneur—such as the ones that I mentioned—you won’t be able to approach a journalist, contributor, or publication in the same way you would the ones that know you in your industry.
Understanding the media
At least a few times a day, I'm pitched a story to cover or by an entrepreneur (or their publicist) that's looking to get featured in one of the publications that I'm a contributor for. In three years of writing for several large media publications, I've only covered a few stories and those were ones that I specifically sought out.
I say no 99% of the time. Most people understand why but a few get angry. Most journalist and publications also say no and it causes entrepreneurs to get angry. I think it's because there's a little misunderstanding about what a contributor is.
A journalist is normally someone who works for a newspaper or publication and covers current events, profiles interesting people, and gets paid to write content for that paper or publication. They are normally on staff and that's part of their job.
A contributor is normally someone who contributes content for a publication but they aren't on staff and most don't get paid. There are a few exceptions when it comes to a specific publication or specific type of contribution. Most contributors write for a publication to build their audience, brand, build social proof, and parts of their business.
Some contributors cover stories because it allows them to connect with their heroes or get the word out about something they’re passionate about. But, covering stories or entrepreneurs is not the main purpose of writing for large media publications for contributors and isn't the best way for a contributor to accomplish some of their goals.
It is important to understand whom you’re pitching because that will affect how you pitch. It is also very important to understand that most contributors, journalist, or publications won’t have heard of you or your work. Remember, it’s not the same as being famous in your industry. So, your approach has to be one that educates who you’re pitching to understand who you are and what you do but in a way that doesn’t come off as entitled—that will repeal anyone you’re pitching.
A better way to pitch the media.
The art of pitching is all about demonstrating how the story is relevant to the publication and why you’re the person that’s relevant to the story. A lot of people talk a good game but make the story and pitch all about them. No one wants to hear it because they probably don’t know who you are. They want to know what’s in it for them as the consumer of the content.
Once you have a good story and have established yourself as the expert to be a part of the story, you have to determine who and the best way to send the pitch. Know if a journalist, contributor, or directly through the publication is the best way to pitch. Understand that journalists and contributors cannot take money or gifts to write about you and/or your business. That’s a violation of most terms and conditions at all of the major publications and media outlets.
You also have the option to become a contributor at a major publication yourself if you have more to talk about than this one story. If you are an entrepreneur who has a message that can help all different types of entrepreneurs, you can pitch publication with good story ideas and your credentials as an entrepreneur.
Don’t be that entrepreneur who comes off as entitled and doesn’t understand who and where to pitch. No one will care about your business or messages as much as you do. You are probably not as famous as you think even if everyone in your industry knows you. You don’t have to be, but understand that when it comes to pitching the media and getting exposure.