Friday, June 26, 2009

Huge Breaking News

If you were watching local newscasts or news cable channels yesterday, you had a textbook case of an evolving story. The jargon, much overused these days, is "breaking." It means it's big and it's happening so moment-by-moment, reporters cannot give you the whole story.

First we heard that the King of Pop had collapsed and gone to the hospital. Then, depending on which network you were watching, we heard that he had cardiac arrest. Then, he was in a coma, and then several sources confirmed that Michael Jackson was dead at age 50.

Kudos to ABC. I was so enthralled with the coverage on that network that I didn't channel surf as I usually do on big stories. This morning, Robin Roberts said that Jackson provided "the sound track for a generation." What an apt description.

But what happens to you as a newsmaker when big, breaking news happens? Most of the time, your interview will get scrapped. The best course of action is to be gracious because there is nothing you can say that will convince a producer or guest scheduler to change his or her mind. Follow up when the story seems to die down and remind your contact that you were canceled due to wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson (or whatever story that took priority over you).

Be nice and you will likely be re-booked if your story is still timely.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Newsmakers can take advantage of social networking sites to get publicity. Reporters research blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others to get story ideas and spot trends. Sometimes a short message such as, “I’m going to be on CNN tomorrow” will help a reporter realize that you have a message for her outlet, too. In fact, I saw an entry like that from a friend on Facebook and didn't even know he had expertise on the timely topic. When I found out, I scheduled him on my morning talk show.

Here are some tips:

1. Keep in mind that what you’re writing is fair game for a reporter. Would you want to be interviewed on your notes and tweets?

2. Consider establishing two accounts--a personal and a professional account. Only the food critics care what you had for lunch.

3. Watch the abbreviations. Although journalists can translate the acronyms, they are trained and drilled in grammar, spelling and punctuation. So an entry too challenging to read may have them glazing over your content.

4. Offer solid content—not just personal observations. Be helpful and become recognized as a resource.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Keep 'em Talking About You

Recently on our talk show, a guest brought coffee cups with his organization's logo and presented these to us on the air. Appropriately, his cause is The Kindness Revolution, and the coffee cups had an infectious Smiley Face. In fact, the cups were so cute, so visual, we kept them on our set and referred to them and the organization the rest of the morning. This guest was on for 12 minutes, but he got many more mentions and free publicity the rest of the day.

This past week, Blue Bell Creameries visited and brought plenty of samples of new flavors. The reps had several bowls on the set for my co-host and me... but they also set up in the nearby break room and served station employees for half an hour--until very generous supplies ran out. The reps left coupons and lots of good will. The next day, we talked about how nice that was and how great the ice cream tasted... so again, more mentions and more free publicity.

What can you do to leave people talking? Here are some pointers:

1. Make it relevant. People do bring gifts that don't get mentioned. It's not the gift--it's the fit.
2. Go above and beyond. We expect people to be nice to us--we're on the air. I'm impressed when you're nice to the folks behind the scenes.
3. If you're selling food or other products, bring lots of samples and coupons.

At least one person asked me, "You mean people lined up for ice cream before 9 in the morning?" Yes, they did, and as one who had at least two scoops -- hey, it was part of my hosting responsibilities--it makes a delicious breakfast.


Clients are asking me about using news media principles to take advantage of grass roots exposure on social networking. We are in exciting times... times when we can all be reporters and publicists. While for the forseeable future we will continue to get news in traditional ways... economic pressures, technology and creativity are changing the nature of news gathering and news reporting.

Be on the forefront of this cultural shift by getting a Twitter account to publicize your book, your services or products. It's easy: go to and sign up for a free account.

You are welcome to follow me! I will give short "tweets" on news and soundbites. Click here and follow the instructions.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Details that Derail

When you're trying to get publicity, pay attention to the details. Here are a few turn-offs that immediately tell producers you're not ready for prime-time:

1. Mistakes in your emails or press releases. Proof-read. If you can't get it right on a document that you've had time to work on, why should producers take a chance on you to get it right on live TV or radio?

2. Low energy telephone call. When you call to pitch, be just as high-energy, fun and peppy as you will be during an interview. If you speak too slowly and sound bored, the producer figures that's how you will sound for the guest spot and be afraid to book you.

3. Guest does not fit the format of the show. Do your research. A publicist pitched me for a book last week saying it was like "Sex and the City." When I laughed politely and said then it wouldn't be a good fit since a Baptist pastor owned our TV station, she replied, "Oh, I'm so embarrassed." I'll be very careful about taking her pitches in the future, since I realize she doesn't know who our audience is.

4. Distracted or disorganized. Be on point when you call a reporter or producer. They work in minutes and seconds for a living and will only give you a few seconds before losing patience. Talk quickly and tell them immediately why you are a good fit for their program.

Take care of the details and get positive publicity!