Article at a glance:
- Local media can position you as a celebrity and expert.
- A hometown fan base can help you grow.
- Look for shows, publications that are a good fit.
I admit, I’d be on the first red-eye to New York City if I thought I’d land in the chair next to Matt Lauer on the Today show. Imagine! An audience of millions and Matt Lauer’s hand on my arm!
But while national TV exposure is great, you won’t hear me sobbing if he never invites me to his set. (Well, maybe a sniffle or two – hey, he is Matt Lauer.) I know that local TV and radio shows, newspapers and magazines can also position me as an expert and a celebrity. They can help me build a solid fan base that will help carry me to national prominence, if that’s what I want. And they’ll give me a chance to polish my message, so when the big time’s ready for me, I’ll be ready for it.
And local media are far more accessible – even more so than just 10 years ago. With state, national and international news now available from myriad sources online, many local outlets are focusing on their community. Stories and segments about hometown people, events and issues are the one thing they have to offer that can’t be found on a million websites, so if you have a good story to share, you’ll likely find more receptive listeners.
How to get started? Here are some suggestions:
- Look for radio and TV shows that have a format for guests. Search online for the stations that broadcast in your area and take a look at their websites. Look over show descriptions and if past shows are archived online, take a minute to listen and/or watch. If they’re not archived, jot down the times and days they air, because you definitely want to experience the show to see if it’s the right fit for you and your message. Pay attention to the topics, the host, the kinds of questions asked and the guests. Think about whether you can tie your message into that format.
- Look over local newspapers, magazines and online publications for opportunities. Read the columns and the articles; what sorts of content do the various editors select? What topics, tone and length? How polished is the writing? Can you provide content that would fit in well? If your message is about animal welfare and the publication is about business, can you craft a column, article or tips that will resonate with that publication’s readers? Or, if you think a reporter might be interested in writing your story, look for the appropriate beat reporter. If you’ve got a new cookbook and a related story idea, i.e. three great Crockpot recipes with just three ingredients, find the name of the food writer.
- Think about what you’ll say before you call or email. Your job is to catch the interest of the editor, show host or producer, or reporter, so it’s important to think through what you plan to say. You can start by showing that you’re familiar with the show or publication: “I have a topic that would be perfect for Dottie Dolittle’s show about relationships,” or “I’d love to write about how I lost 100 pounds for your ‘Real-Life Losers’ column.” Explain your segment/story idea as succinctly as possible and provide a phone number where you can be reached at any time during the day. If you start with a phone call, follow up with an email a few days later and vice versa.
- Remember, you’re providing content, not selling. The media will fall in love with you if you provide great, interesting content that resonates with their audience. They will fall out of love – just like that! – if you use the platform they give you to pitch your book, product or service (that’s why they sell commercials and advertising for)! The payoff for you being a guest, writing an article or being featured in an article is that you will usually be identified by your name, claim to fame and website: “This is Crazy Joe from Crazy Joe’s Coffee, www.crazyjoecoffee.com.” And that’s where celebrity begins.
If you dream of someday dancing with Ellen Degeneres or being interviewed by Howard Stern, don’t give up! Instead, start working toward that now by plugging into your hometown media. Where do you think those big national outlets get their ideas?