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.

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.

 

Get My Story on the News

By Mark Macias

I recently got a Linkedin email that had a catchy headline on the surface, but lacked truth when you looked deeper.

“Publicity is the most under used method to get attention, yet the media is starving for stories.”

I think the Linkedin spammer might have had a better “PR” argument if he said the media is looking for great ideas. “Starving for stories” implies there is a shortage of story pitches hitting reporters and producers and that is not the case.

As an Executive Producer with WNBC, I approved story ideas from publicists, reporters and producers. When I would log into my email at NBC and CBS every morning, I would easily have 300 new emails that were sent overnight from publicists trying to get their clients on the news.

More than 90 percent of those emails didn’t identify a solid news angle and were treated as spam. Those publicists couldn’t find the story narrative even if they had a journalist sitting next to them. And that wasn’t just based on my media experience in New York. During my time as a news producer in Phoenix and Miami, the publicists were actually even more inexperienced.

The media wants to cover stories that have a compelling narrative, stories that impact the public, stories that uncover wrongs or inspire people to do right. Yes – not all news is bad. There is a home for inspiring stories and in TV, we usually call it the kicker.

The news industry is competitive, and it’s not easy to get a solid news story placed unless you have those compelling elements. Here’s more proof of that with numbers. A 30-minute newscast is actually 22 minutes after commercials. Add in sports and weather, and you have a heck of a lot of people trying to get their product inside of 12 minutes of air time.

So the next time you start thinking of hiring a PR firm, make sure you research the publicist or PR firm. If they start throwing out statements like the media is starving for stories – be leery.

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

How to Redefine the Narrative

By: Mark Macias

It’s time for an advanced lesson in public relations.

In journalism and PR, the story narrative is crucial to success. Without a strong narrative, there will never be a media placement, regardless of how many contacts you have in the media.

During my years as a news producer with NBC and CBS, there were many times I pursued a story only to discover that the story I thought I was pursuing, changed. When this happened, we had two options – kill the story or salvage it.

In the early stages, like in your initial pitch to a reporter, it is very easy to kill the story, but when money has already been invested in a story, you learn how to salvage it.

As an Executive Producer with WNBC, I oversaw a very large production budget that funded the Special Projects unit. There were many times when I approved a story idea and we invested money into the story, only to discover half-way through the story that it wasn’t there.

This was when we had to put on our creative hats and think of ways to salvage the story – also known as redefining the narrative.

I recently had to “salvage” a story with a real estate client when I was asked to publicize a residential property that was on the market for $48 million dollars.

I originally assumed this high-end property would have gold fixtures and marble floors, but when I visited the property, I saw it was really a fixer-upper. I knew I couldn’t position this story as a voyeuristic view into the wealthy lifestyle, like I had originally planned. So I redefined the narrative.

The new story became, “take a look at a $48 million fixer-upper.” Then, I redefined my media pitch into what I originally thought: “You would think this property comes with gold fixtures and marble floors, but you won’t see any of that in this property. Only in New York can you buy a $48 million fixer-upper.”

The new narrative was such a hit that we had the New York Post and New York Daily News asking for an exclusive on the story. We went with the larger newspaper.

Here’s how to apply it to your business.

Next time you can’t get traction with a story, try redefining the narrative. Sometimes, the real story is better than the original story. And here’s the story we got on that  $48 million fixer-upper.

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

 

 

Press Releases – Worth the Money?

By Mark Macias

Clients are always asking me what I think of press releases on the PR newswires.

“Will they help us get publicity with reporters,” they ask.

Even a spokesperson with a New York City agency asked me what I thought of PR newswires. She said her agency approved funding for press releases with the PR newswires.

I used to work with her at CBS, so I threw the question right back at her.

“Did you ever once go to the PR newswires to look for a story when you were at CBS?”

Press Releases – When do they Work and Not Work

But press releases can be extremely helpful depending on your media need and strategy.

The various PR newswires are helpful when your business is trying to get something on the record – like a milestone. If your business is growing faster than the competition, you want to announce it to the world and PR newswires are a great place for these.

But press releases on the PR newswires should never be confused as a media strategy.

Notice the emphasis is on “PR newswires” and not “newswires.”

How PR Newswires Differ

There is a big difference the “newswires,” like the Associated Press, Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters, and the “PR newswires.”

The newswires are actually read by assignment editors, producers and reporters. It’s not easy getting media announcements in the newswires because the news threshold is even higher, but if you can get it picked up by a newswire, other news organizations may run with your story.

Paid press releases with the PR newswires can be an element of a larger media strategy, but before you spend the extra money, ask yourself these questions:

Am I trying to get publicity with journalists? If you are, you will be better pitching the story individually to reporters.

Do I want to get something on the record? If your company has achieved a major milestone, signed a major client, hit an impressive sales number, etc – a press release on the PR newswires is a great means to distribute that message.

Do I need exposure for my new website? A paid press release can help with SEO because the backlinks will potentially help you with search engine ranking.

You can read longer, in-depth stories on these topics at www.prhelp.co.

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

Cat and Mouse – Related to PR

By Mark Macias

Why does the cat always catch the mouse? When you think of how agile and quick a mouse can be, he should always be able to outmaneuver the cat. Yet, nearly every time, the cat will always catch the mouse.

That’s not just a fun question. It’s actually a way of thinking that applies to public relations.

First off, I don’t claim to be an expert on mice or cats. I have never owned a cat and I hate mice, so I am not skilled at analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of mice and cats. But as a person who lives in Manhattan, -and every New Yorker will tell you – “if you have mice, get a cat and the problem will go away.”

There must be some strategy behind a cat’s approach. There is and here is how it applies to public relations and business.

What Cats and Mice Teach us about Public Relations

A cat traditionally studies its prey before it attacks. It tries to understand the mouse’s movements and agility in advance. The cat is more patient. It takes his time approaching the mouse, waiting for the right moment to pounce while the mouse is busy sniffing the ground.

Now let’s take a closer look at the mouse. I’ve watched mice move on the streets of Manhattan and I will never understand why he loses to the cat. The mouse is faster and more agile and should run circles around the puffy paw.

Trust me, I couldn’t catch a mouse on the streets but I guarantee you I could catch a cat if I needed to. The mouse – on the surface – has every natural talent to win the household game, but it doesn’t because he is afraid.

In the world of PR, you should study and understand the journalists you want to pitch because you only get one chance. If you fire off that story idea before it is completely developed, you risk losing an opportunity for coverage.

Many clients want to see results quickly, and as a business owner, I understand. I want to see a high rate of return as well on my investments. But if the execution of the strategy is rushed and sloppy, you risk losing out on solid media placements.

Fear of Failure Destroys PR Campaigns

Fear is another failing item that can’t be associated with public relations. A creative media strategy requires confidence in an idea and strength with the execution. You can’t be afraid of creative ideas when pitching reporters. Sure, I’ve come up with some crazy publicity stunts and not all of them worked. But a good majority did. If I was afraid of failure, I would have missed out on the home runs. The same applies to your business. You can’t be afraid like that little mouse.

Finally, the mouse fails because he doesn’t think. If you have observed any mouse in a kitchen after turning on the light, they don’t react to change well. Their bodies scramble without direction. It’s like they are immobilized by the sudden change in environment. As a publicist, you need to be able to adapt quickly to change. If you are getting multiple rejections from reporters than it is highly likely your strategy or media pitch is off and needs to adapt to the moment.

If you’re trying to succeed with media placements, you really do need to think like the cat but move like the mouse. If an idea doesn’t seem to be catching on, listen to the feedback of reporters. Are you missing an element with your idea? Does the reporter need more evidence to support the story? Be nimble and respond to their questions. Be like the mouse – fast, agile and quick to respond.

In the cartoon, Tom & Jerry, the mouse always won because he out-thought the big, slow cat. Of course, that is the land of fiction, but since the Tom & Jerry narrative was created by a real person, I can now understand why little Jerry won every time the two battled wits. The publicist or business that out-thinks the competition, usually wins.

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

 

Who are the Best PR Firms

By Mark Macias

How can you find the best public relations firm for your business? What traits make for a great publicist?

I worked with a ton of publicists throughout my journalism career with NBC and CBS. Now, as the owner of a PR firm, I speak with business owners, entrepreneurs and large companies about their publicity needs. One of the major trends I’ve discerned is most people ask the wrong questions when it comes to finding the right PR firm.

If I were to hire a publicist, here are the questions I would want my publicist or PR firm to answer.

Can you give me a publicity strategy for my business?

You question reveals how the publicist thinks on his feet. A great publicist will have his or her own ideas. He will be able to explain a strategy off the top of his head because he understands how the media works and what will get traction.

How do you see my industry?

This question reveals how well the publicist understands your business. This is a valuable revelation because every publicity campaign will need to identify the unique angle that makes your business different from the competitors. If the publicist doesn’t understand why your business is different from your competitors, he will be at a great disadvantage when it comes to pitching the media stories.

Tell me about your clients and media placements you have secured?

A diverse portfolio suggests that your PR firm knows how to identify a solid news story. It takes a special talent to secure media placements in various industries and if your publicist can demonstrate that with his or her portfolio, you are likely getting an experienced publicist who will perform at the highest level.

Many business owners like to work with a PR firm that specializes in their industry. This can sometimes work against you in the world of PR because ideas quickly become stale. If a publicist has spent a lifetime solely in fashion or tech, they risk becoming complacent with their thinking or creativity.

Will I be working directly with you?

You should meet with the publicist or account executive who will be selling your story to reporters. Does he or she accurately represent your business? Whether it’s fair or not, journalists will associate your product or brand with how well your publicist presents it.

What if we don’t get along? What if I want out of the contract because you can’t deliver results?

Every PR firm hates these questions, but it’s a valid point to raise during your initial discussions. If you’re working with a publicist and the chemistry is bad or he/she doesn’t get along with you, you should be able to get a new person or get out of your account. It’s okay to have a difference of opinion with strategy, but it’s another challenge when you just don’t get along with the person. Make sure you get insurance in case this happens to you.

How long before we get to see results?

This answer can vary by the complexity of your campaign, but the PR firm should be able to give some guidance over a time frame.

What is your media experience?

Experience matters when it comes to figuring out how to frame a story or pitch it to the media. If I were hiring a publicist for my future business, I would ask him or her to sell me on their experience. This will also give you an idea of how well your publicist can sell your stories to the media.

You can read longer versions of these articles at www.prhelp.co.

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