Back in the day when I first launched McCall Media Group, I had a lot of intimidating situations to deal with and learn from in order to not only build my business, but to become successful while doing it. For example, using the phone was a very common way to follow up on media pitches, and calling editors at The New York Times was incredibly intimidating to me. In fact, I used to have to go for a run first just to deal with the abundance of adrenaline I had coursing through my veins at the mere thought of it.
The good news is that while I heard “no” my fair share of times, I also heard “yes” now and then, and that was enough to get me hooked on this business. I got better at it too. When it comes to pitching and securing your own media, you will get better at it as well, and having powerful stories is one of the best ways to do it.
When pitching or launching an interview, using your own story can hook people and get them to take some kind of action. That might be to buy your book, follow you on social media, sign up for your opt-in gift, or whatever it is that you want people to do.
When it comes to your book and your brand, what is your story? Have you thought about it? What is the story you tell about your work that has people waiting with baited breath to hear how it all resolves? That might be your key story, and if you haven’t thought about it yet, then now may be the time to do so.
Now that you have that story, can you make it newsworthy?
Identifying Story Ideas For Your Book and Brand
Authors who want to get publicity for their books and brands must have a good story to tell. As obvious as this may sound, it sometimes isn’t obvious to the author. Many understand the need for stories from others but when it comes to themselves, often something gets in the way.
To begin with, you need to know the characteristics of a good story…and then you need to know what gets the media excited. Lots of people don’t know anything about this. They’ll pitch the media by telling them they have a book and that media should cover it. Boring. You aren’t telling them why, and you aren’t sharing a compelling story. You are the one who has to make it inviting and exciting – even if on the surface it looks like a boring subject, e.g., filing taxes. How can you make filing your taxes an interesting story?
Here’s an idea that happens to be true. After my first year in business I had to sell my car in order to pay my income taxes. Now, on the one hand, I was lucky to have that problem, but on the other hand, it was an expensive mistake. It never happened again. If one had a book on tax tips, that story could be used to share with new business owners and entrepreneurs the importance of paying enough for your quarterlies.
So what kinds of stories and what elements are the media looking for?
Timing. It’s everything. Topics that are current are always considered. Things that are new have a much better chance of coverage than if the story happened last week. If a story happened today, it’s news. If the same thing happened last week, it’s no longer interesting. (Unless it’s a major news story that will fill the headlines for a good long while. Covid is a story that keeps hanging on, for example.)
Significance. Will your story impact a lot of people? If a lot of people are affected by a story then that is news. Airline prices going up all over the country is news because it will impact a lot of people.
Proximity. If a story occurs close to us it has more significance. The closer the story to home, the more newsworthy it is. This is why getting coverage in your own hometown is a great place to start. Don’t forget where you went to college.
Prominence. Famous people get more coverage just because they are famous. If you break your leg it won’t make the news, but if an Olympic runner breaks his or her leg it’s big news.
Human interest. Some might call them heart warming or tear jerker stories. These types of stories affect our emotions, and therefore the media will be interested. NBC News likes to run something called Inspiring America at the end of its newscasts. It’s a way to end the news on a better note than the rest of the broadcast.
Uniqueness. What is your business, brand, or book speaking to that is different from all the rest? Is there something unique that you are doing or that you have produced?
The local angle. Does your story have a local angle for a national story? If you’re watching network news and there’s a story you can speak to, particularly to your local media, they may want to talk to you.
Piggyback on a news event. Crime in your county has been on the rise. Do you have a book with tips on how to prevent being a target? Maybe there is a shortage of some product in the area yet you have access to a supply for people. Tell the media about it. They will likely want to tell their audience if it can help them.
Tell the media about trends. If you spot a new trend in your industry let the media know about it. They very well may cover you, your brand, and your book.
Offer free advice. This is always big. It’s why Dear Carolyn, and before her Dear Abby, Dear Ann Landers, and Dear Miss Manners, have all been popular. Offer advice that will help other people deal with their problems. The biggest topics that are always in demand are money, health, relationships, and parenting.
Write “how to” articles or blog posts. Offer to write a story about how to do something. Readers love to know how to get rich, get out of debt, lose weight, get fit, or parent their kids better.
Take a stand on issues. Is there an issue you feel strongly about? Find out which reporters cover that topic and pitch them an idea.
Publicize upcoming events. Are you sponsoring an event? If so, make sure the media knows about it. There are event calendars everywhere, so get on them.
Clever contests. Sponsor a clever contest. Sometimes this will get tons of coverage, particularly if you can get social media talking about it. You have to be smart about this so it doesn’t look like a commercial of some sort for your book.
Celebrating an anniversary. If you’re celebrating or tying into an anniversary then tell someone in the media. I had an author write a book about a fatal accident on the mountain that was published around the thirty year anniversary of the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980.
Think about your book and what you have to offer in the form of stories. Stories draw us in and make us interested in what you have to say. Come up with a story as to why you wrote the book, and then create a story around each of its key messages. You will then be well equipped.
To your success!
P.S. And speaking of stories…This song, written by Gwen Stefani, was a comeback to Courtney Love dissing her by calling her a cheerleader. I’d say Stefani wins.
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