How to Sell Your Story to the Media

By Mark Macias

The best salesman is always the person who is most passionate about his product. He’s the person who loves his product so much that his eyes come alive as he explains why there is no superior product. It’s no different with the media and selling your business to a reporter.

You need to be absolutely convinced that your story is newsworthy. If you have doubts, hold off on pitching the story until you are absolutely sold with the story angle.

How to Sell Your Story to the Media

In Journalism 101, students are taught the five W’s that help them identify the value of a story.

These bullet points help you identify why your story is newsworthy and what is important to communicate to reporters. Here’s a quick overview to help you identify your narrative.

WHO: Who is this story about? Who is the character in the center of the story?

WHAT: What is this story about? You will have more success with your media outreach if you identify the “what” because your idea will be more focused.

WHERE: This should be one of the easier W’s to identify. Where is this story taking place? Does the location have any value or importance in the community?

WHEN: Does your story have any timely components? Will your story take place on a single night or day? Is your story relevant at a certain time of the month? The timeliness increases your chances for coverage.

WHY: Why should anyone care about your story? The “why” could be the deciding factor that determines whether your story is pursued or killed. You need to communicate why consumers, readers or viewers care about your business.

By learning the answers to these questions, your story narrative will be more focused from the start, increasing your chances for coverage.

Macias PR was named the 2016 “Financial PR Firm of the Year – USA” and the 2015 “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. We have launched and led media campaigns for clients in healthcare, finance, tech and the nonprofit sectors. The founder of Macias PR – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.

How to Pitch a Story like a Journalist

By Mark Macias

It’s the one question every person wants to know. How does the media decide which news stories are important? Here’s how to pitch your story like a journalist.

When I was an Executive Producer with NBC in New York, many of my friends quizzed me on whether there was a conspiracy in the media. After all, they would ask, how could it be possible that all of the news organizations would typically run the same stories?

There is no conspiracy and there is no magic formula, however there are ingredients that do make for a news story.

If you want to get your business on the news, you need to first identify what is different, new or unique about your product or service. News is based on the root “new,” which is why all news stories must be timely.

How to Pitch a Story like a Journalist

The more you can make your pitch sound timely, the better chances you have of getting your business on the news.

You can increase your chances for news coverage by answering these questions before you reach out to reporters:

* What is different about my business?

* How does my business help the public and why is that service unique?

* Is there something timely about my business or product?

* Is there a personal story to tell about my business, like maybe a grandfather is passing the 75-year-old family business onto his grandchildren in a public ceremony?

* Is there a new trend arising in my business field that will affect the pocket books of consumers?

* Have any trade organizations recognized my business as a leader in innovation that will help shape the future?

Finding a unique angle is not as difficult as it may sound. You just need to open your mind to timely events that impact and influence sales of your product or service.

The more you understand the definition and value of “newsworthy” the better chance you will have of getting the media to do a story on your business.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR. The company also does financial PR – which you can read more at MarketYourFund.com.

How to Break Bad News to Others (or the Media)

By Mark Macias

You probably don’t realize it, but crisis communications skills are used almost every day in your personal life.

Why were you late to dinner?

What do you think of the new young hire?

Did you follow-up with the potential client?

All of these questions have double-blades that can get you into trouble.

Crisis Communications Advice for Business Owners

Here are a few principals you can apply from my crisis communications book – Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. These are tactics I learned from my media career as an investigative producer when everyone on the other side of the camera was the villain.

Be Transparent

If you project any vibe that you are hiding something, clients will run from you and the media will run to you.

The best investigative stories have conflict and when reporters discover a subject lied in their interview, they have instant conflict for the story.

As a journalist, my radar flashed red lights when I noticed the interviewed subject was avoiding my questions. Be direct with your response. Don’t mince words when asked direct questions or reporters (or anyone else) will become suspicious.

Stay Ahead of the News

It is much easier to put out a fire before it starts and it’s no different with the media.

You can better manage negative news when you are in control of the message.

I’ve run several crises campaigns for nonprofits and politicians where their lawyers were closely involved with the media strategy. Of course, their attorneys wanted them to say “no comment” for legal purposes, and I understand why. But in the court of public opinion, this approach doesn’t work.

When it comes to journalism, you give reporters cart-blanch to write any story if you refuse to comment. Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t Lie

You get caught lying and all credibility is lost. It might seem easier to lie your way out of the problem when you think no one will know, but trust me, that is myopic. And if you’re dealing with a seasoned investigative journalist who has prepared for your interview, you are in more danger by lying when the cameras are rolling.

Just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner about that. If you forgot about that lie, it’s on YouTube and will likely be there for eternity. (Here’s an article I wrote on why I suspected he was lying before he confessed. Hint: he forgot.) Yet another reason to tell the truth. You won’t forget what you said years down the road when your story is emblazoned on the Internet.

Macias PR was named the 2016 “Financial PR Firm of the Year – USA” and the 2015 “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. We have launched and led media campaigns for clients in healthcare, finance, tech and the nonprofit sectors. The founder of Macias PR – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.

Publicity for my Business

By Mark Macias

A web TV show recently asked me to help promote their program with the mainstream media. I was flattered by the invitation, especially since the producers also have a media background and are theoretically “media experts” themselves.

Before I had a chance to say, “hmmm, I’m hungry,” they emailed me their press release, asking me what I thought.

I read it and squinched.

It was horrible.

Their press release had no focus, no narrative. It was an announcement for a show.

The mainstream media doesn’t want to do announcements. They get paid to tell stories.

Press Release 101

If you’re trying to get publicity for your small business, you need to focus the message and uncover the news peg before you send it out because you only get one chance with reporters.

Look for the controversy and exploit it. Or, position yourself as an expert.

And look to the future, not the past. In the case with that web program, the producers focused their release on a guest who appeared on their program a few weeks earlier. That’s not even an announcement. It’s old news.

So take your time to make sure the message is in place before you reach out to any reporters, or you risk losing any chance of getting publicity before you even start.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

 

 

 

The Biggest PR Mistake

By Mark Macias

There are many mistakes you can make while running a public relations campaign. Fortunately, most of these mistakes can be overcome and corrected as long as you identify them early.

But, there is one PR mistake you can rarely fix and when it happens, an entire media placement is effectively worthless.

What is the biggest mistake: when a reporter misspells, or worse, doesn’t include the name of your business in the story.

This is why you need to always – repeat – always reinforce the name of your business with a reporter throughout the interview. In addition, you should also be continually dropping the name of your business throughout the reporter interview.

Why Name Dropping Your Business Matters

I helped get a friend on a local TV show in Phoenix and it was a great segment. He was positioned as an expert in his field, but the TV station never put his name or business name on the screen.

He could have avoided this error on live TV if he would have dropped the name of his business at the end of his live segment.

Remember, reporters and producers move at warp speed. Minutes matter in print. Seconds count in TV. Decrease the chances of your name getting lost by taking control of the interview and sprinkling the name of your business throughout the interview.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and author of the book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. You can read more on his public relations agency at MaciasPR

 

 

 

Crisis Communications – The NRA

By: Mark Macias

(This story was originally published in 2013 following a school shooting. Here’s a shortened edited version of that article)

I don’t like the sight of guns. I don’t like the smell of guns. I don’t even like talking about guns, but the NRA is delivering a great crisis communications lesson for any business facing an image crisis.

Here’s what the NRA did wrong and right in their crisis following a 2013 school shooting.

The NRA let time pass

The NRA waited for time to pass. Frequently, I advise clients to get in front of the story or else the narrative will be written by your opponent, but this is a perfect crisis communications case study where that does not apply to ALL problems. The NRA would have been foolish to speak while children were being buried.

That is pretty much one of the few things I believe the NRA did right following that horrific school shooting. Here is a more detailed list of what they did wrong, along with why it was a poorly executed communications plan.

Don’t Cast Blame

Wayne LaPierre with the NRA blamed the media, video games and even crazy people for their PR problem. That’s a mistake. The NRA thinks Americans should have the right to carry assault rifles that were designed for war. They need to take responsibility for that position and not blame others. If you are in a crisis situation, don’t blame the victim or even the shooter. Turn the situation into your favor by presenting why your side has a positive view. The media won’t report the good side of your story unless you present it and it is your job to communicate why your service helps others.

Put a face on the problem

Right now the NRA is facing a tough public image problem. It’s guns vs. little children.

That’s challenging because most parents and adults have instincts to protect children from harm. It’s a difficult fight, but the NRA needs to put a new face on this problem. They need to move the conversation away from assault rifles and back to the image of a father and daughter hunting together. As long as the debate surrounds military assault rifles, the NRA loses.

Bring a solution

If you are facing a crisis communications situation, you always want to bring closure to the problem. It lets the public believe (and hopefully it is the truth) that the problem won’t happen again. The NRA tried to bring closure to this problem by saying armed guards in front of our schools would prevent violence. It won’t or as a Facebook friend more eloquently posted, it’s like bringing a “knife to a gun fight.”

It sums up why the NRA needs a better communications strategy if it is ever going to persuade the parents in America.

 “Hey Mr. NRA douchebag…our banks are protected by armed guards and they still get robbed, our president is guarded by armed secret service and still gets shot and even killed. One armed cop on each campus won’t stop crazy folks from going there. Your press conference was a joke, and you are a joke of a man. Blame the video games, movies and music…yet not offer a single solution to try to keep your precious lil gun out of crazy folks hands. You suck!! Oh yeah, said crazy person comes to school with multiple semi automatic guns…lone cop has a pistol…what’s the saying? Bring a knife to a gun fight? Then your answer will be we need cops with semi automatic rifles you douchetard. Way to bring nothing to the table today except more guns, you kind sir are a complete assbag!!”

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

 

 

 

PR Case Study on Credibility

By Mark Macias

It was all over the news. Amazon would soon start delivering products using drones to deliver products. Even established news organizations, like 60 Minutes, reported on it.

Don’t believe the hype or near-term predictions. It was all part of a flawless PR plan executed perfectly by Amazon.

The drone story wasn’t about reinventing the delivery system for Amazon. It was about Amazon creating a strong, intriguing narrative and backing it up with substance.

This makes for a great case study on credibility that you can apply to your own business. But first, a quick personal story.

Jeff Bezos understands the media intuitively, and I first learned that back in 1999 when I was a producer with NBC in Miami. I pitched a profile story on the young, unknown entrepreneur from Miami Palmetto High School. At the time, Bezos was beginning to shake up Wall Street with strong predictions on his company would revolutionize retail.

His hype worked and the stock skyrocketed.

It’s no different with PR. A strong statement usually gets covered but it first needs to have credibility.

Lesson One: Establish Credibility with PR

Every media campaign needs a credible narrative because without credibility, the media won’t cover your story. If you’re a portfolio manager for a hedge fund and you want to get on CNBC, you better have an established record. Likewise, if you’re running for City Council, you need a plan that is believable and possible or the local reporters won’t write about you.

Amazon has proven itself over the years so credibility has already been established. Did you know earlier this summer, Dominoes Pizza unveiled the same “drone delivery” platform? But guess what – you probably didn’t hear about it because Dominoes Pizza doesn’t have the credible track record of Amazon. If you’re going to make a bold claim, make sure you have the operations or history to back it up.

Lesson Two: Build Suspense

60 Minutes rarely buys into hype. They don’t need to create hype because it is an established program with the best journalists. But in the case with Amazon, if you watch the segment (click here to watch video) you will see how Amazon was able to build suspense for the drone unveiling. 60 Minutes opened their show with that unveiling to bring in viewers – proof that suspense works.

Lesson Three: Identify a Gimmick that Reinforces Your Services

The drone delivery unveiling was a brilliant strategic media move for Amazon because it reinforces its delivery service. But this isn’t about drones and Amazon changing the way books and clothes are delivered to our homes. This isn’t about customer service or delivery becoming more efficient. This was about an idea that every consumer wants to believe. It’s a page from the Jetsons.

This doesn’t mean you should create a gimmick that is not true. At its root, I’m sure Amazon and Jeff Bezos believe drones do have an opportunity to change the way products are delivered. Your gimmick should inspire but have a root of reality.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com