How to Sell Your Story to the Media

Macias PR - How to sell your storyBy Mark Macias

Identifying a great narrative is the most important element behind any successful media campaign, but selling your story to the media can’t be overlooked.

You can have the best idea, but if you sell it the wrong way, your story will never be pitched in any morning news meeting. More relevant, you typically only get one chance to make a first impression in business, and in journalism, it lasts only a few seconds.

During my time as an Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York, tech startups, business owners and publicists pitched me all kinds of stories on topics ranging from consumer tech to medical, health to features.

At the same time, I had to pitch stories on a daily basis to a room full of jaded, experienced journalists who had heard every news idea possible. It’s very hard to reinvent the wheel or spin a square idea with that group.

So how do you sell a story idea to journalists?

Don’t try to tell any reporter that this is a great story, or revolutionary or why everyone loves your product or service. They will read right through it. Instead, take an objective approach and back it up with words that aren’t opinionated.

For example, take a look at that truck in the photo above. It has a story just like you and I have a story to tell. What has that truck seen, or why is it still running years after others have failed? How did it accumulate that rust? What are the stories that took place inside of that truck? Any scandalous cross-country ventures that took place inside the cabin?

That is how you sell a story to the media. And please, don’t use those words or phrases that are on the left box. Every journalist hears those phrases several times a day, so that is the quickest way to get your story rejected before it is even pitched.

Macias PR was named the 2015 top “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. The firm was founded by Mark Macias – a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. Macias is a weekly contributor with CNBC.com and author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media, which has been featured in the NY Times, Fox Business, NY Post and others. Macias PR has run media campaigns for tech startups, financial groups, service providers, nonprofits and politicians.

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.

 

 

 

Get my Story on the News

By Mark Macias

It was one of the most popular questions I heard when I was an Executive Producer with NBC.

“How can I get my business on the news?”

There is no magic formula to getting your service or product on the news, but there are guidelines that will increase your chances.

You can increase your chances for coverage by identifying what is different, new or unique about your business. It sounds simple but a lot of people forget that news is based on the root “new.”

If you don’t have that “new” component, your story is at a disadvantage. You might be able to find a new angle by asking pointed questions:

Is your business contributing to the local community in a unique way we might not expect?

Are you about to accomplish a feat where others have failed?

What is different between you and competitors?

Focus and Clarify your Pitch

The more you can clarify and focus your pitch, the better odds you have of getting your business on the news.

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. If you own a fashion or jewelry store, try to link your product to high-profile events like the Academy Awards or the Grammy Awards. If your business is geared towards a niche audience, like traveling business executives, scan the headlines for possible tie-ins to current events.

Biggest Mistakes Most Publicists Make

Not properly defining the story is one of the biggest mistakes most publicists make. Your success on pitching depends greatly on how well you define that story because in many cases, you may only get one shot at pitching your story idea. You can focus your story by understanding and applying the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How).

Who is this story about?

What is this story about?

Where is this story taking place?

When does your story take place?

Why should anyone care about your story?

How is your story, business, service or product changing lives?

The more you learn and understand the definition of “newsworthy,” the better chance you have of getting your story on the news. And once you successfully make that placement, you are better able to shape the message with the media.

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.

PR for Start-ups

By Mark Macias

The number of start-ups launching in 2015 will continue to grow as the economy expands, which means publicity for your start-up will get more difficult.

If you’re trying to get your start-up on the news, you first need to identify a strong narrative. I’ve written other articles that give guidelines on how to identify and find the story angle needed for coverage, which you can read in Consistent Coverage. I recommend you read those articles before submitting your story to reporters so you can increase your chances for coverage.

Now that you have identified the story angle, here are some websites geared towards start-ups. You still need to reach out to the reporters, but it will help with your initial media research. Links to the websites and their company mission (in their own words from their site) are below:

TechCrunch

www.TechCrunch.com/

“TechCrunch is a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news. Founded in June 2005, TechCrunch and its network of websites now reach over 12 million unique visitors and draw more than 37 million page views per month. The TechCrunch community includes more than 2 million friends and followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and other social media.”

Mashable

www.mashable.com/submit/

“Founded in 2005, Mashable is the top source for news in social and digital media, technology and web culture. With more than 40 million monthly pageviews, Mashable is the most prolific news site reporting breaking web news, providing analysis of trends, reviewing new websites and services, and offering social media resources and guides. Mashable’s audience includes early adopters, social media enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, influencers, brands and corporations, marketing, PR and advertising agencies, Web 2.0 aficionados and technology journalists. Mashable is also popular with bloggers as well as Twitter and Facebook users — an increasingly influential demographic.”

StartupBooster

www.startupbooster.com/submit-site/

“This blog is dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs learn the basic techniques necessary to succeed with their online ventures, share their experiences with others and promote their new startups.”

KillerStartups

http://www.killerstartups.com/submit-startup/

“KillerStartups is dedicated to sharing more than just the hottest new startups. We want to share the stories of the PEOPLE behind the successful companies and their advice for other internet entrepreneurs. Want to share your story with our readers and promote your website?
Fill out our online submission form and tell us about what you’ve got goin’ on.”

StartupWizz

http://www.startupwizz.com/submit-a-startup/

“It was founded in 2009 as a place for entrepreneurs and investors to stay informed about startups on the web. Our goal is to find some of the most disruptive, niche and interesting startups that our peers and investors want to know about.”

Squidoo

http://www.squidoo.com/sumbit-startup

“StartUpLift helps promising startups get featured and receive insightful feedback. People come to the site to learn about new startups and to engage in stimulating conversation. There is no charge simply to feature your startup. However, in the spirit of keeping feedback ecosystem alive, StartUpLift does ask that you provide feedback to at least one of the startups featured on our site before submitting yours.”

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.

 

How to Measure PR ROI

By Mark Macias

Measuring the ROI from a marketing or ad buy is fairly straight-forward, but PR has variables that can make it more difficult to asses the direct impact on the bottom line. But contrary to what most entrepreneurs believe about Public Relations being nebulous, it is possible to measure its effectiveness.

Here are six different methods to help you measure the ROI of any PR campaign:

ROI of Media Placements

In addition to the number of media placements secured by your PR firm, you should look closely at the internal distribution numbers and demographics reached from your media outreach. Many news organizations publish these numbers on their advertising pages, giving you insight into how many or what type of consumers you are reaching. This assessment can give you a measurable look at the number of consumers your PR campaign is reaching. If you look closely at the demographics, you can also determine if you are reaching the right consumer or businesses.

ROI of Credibility

Public Relations is especially effective and measurable when it comes to increasing your credibility in the service sector industries. Consumers want to know that your service has been vetted and is reliable. If you’re a hedge fund portfolio manager, potential investors will assume you are a better money manager if you’re an expert on CNBC or in the WSJ. You’re less likely to be a scam artist if the media is talking about you. This increased credibility will improve your profile with potential clients and lead to more sales.

PR ROI with Sales

It’s very difficult for a PR firm to assess the ROI from sales if the client doesn’t share internal information, however every business owner should be able to identify where their clients are coming from. A better way to keep track of PR ROI is to create a special website link for the media campaign. If customers are typing in this direct link with any search engines, you know your PR campaign is gaining traction. Analytics and Webmaster can also tell you which websites are sending you traffic.

ROI for Search Engine Rankings

Nearly every PR story helps with your website ranking because the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) identify these websites as quality links. In other words, Google believes if the New York Times links to your website, you business must have value.

Here’s another way PR can help your website get a higher ranking with the search engines.

Smaller blogs frequently run stories or snippets from the larger media outlets. If you are able to get a large story in a major newspaper, there is a good chance that you can get other, smaller websites to also do a story promoting your business, which can help your SEO with the additional links.

ROI from Analytics

In October 2013, Google changed its analytics data, making it more difficult to determine key words that are sending traffic to your website. The good news is you can still measure the ROI from PR using Google Analytics. Unfortunately, a successful PR strategy gets your company into the conversation, so analytics can’t measure this aspect of PR, but if more people are finding your website using specific keywords for your company, you can safely assume the PR campaign is converting on its ROI. You can also use Google Webmaster to see more details on how the search engine queries to see if these news articles are also driving traffic to your site.

ROI of Social Media Influence

A successful PR campaign that uses video can become another way to measure the ROI of PR. It might be difficult to measure the exact ROI from these videos but you can measure the reach by video views. Marketing research also shows a video on your website can increase sales up to two-fold, not to mention the added SEO value it brings with search engines.

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

Get My Business on the Local News

By Mark Macias

How do you get your business on the local news? Would you like to publicize a local event with the local newspaper? It’s a much different approach than trying to get your business on the national news.

Local newsrooms operate differently than national newsrooms like CBS and NBC. Likewise, local news markets approach the approval process differently based on the city or region of the country. For example, a local story in Miami will be covered differently than a similar local story in Phoenix or New York.

As a reporter and news producer who worked in Phoenix and Miami, I recommend putting your thoughts in a concise email first. By putting your thoughts in writing, you will have a more concise and focused story idea. Once you put your thoughts on paper, pick up the phone and call. I say put your thoughts on paper before you call because most people ramble on when they get a reporter or producer on the phone. They lose their focus and as a result, lose their one opportunity at publicity.

It should be common sense, but don’t call as the newscast is about to start – or in the middle of it. However, here’s a media insider tip: call as the newscast is ending. This is when the desk and producers are unwinding, waiting for time to pass so they can go home. It is also when they will be most receptive to your story pitch.

And if you’re in a large TV market like Los Angeles or New York, consider targeting the smaller news outlets.

In New York, there are several smaller cable news outlets that operate like smaller TV markets – News 12 and NY1. Just remember, you only get one shot to pitch your story, so make sure you have that story angle down.

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