Maybe you’re an entrepreneur or public figure with a story that you’ve recently been trying to share. Have you been pitching your company or person to journalists but haven’t been hearing back? You wrote to hundreds of journalists at this point, so one should’ve responded by now—but none has. So, what’s the problem? Keep reading to discover the mistakes you’re probably making and the proper and effective way to pitch to a journalist.
On a recent episode of the Making Bank Podcast, guest Josh Elledge draws on his experiences as a public speaker, journalist, and founder of Up My Influence to discuss how to break into media. After serving in the Navy, Elledge embraced the serial entrepreneur life, surviving a series of bankruptcies and foreclosures before founding a company that now makes over 6 million dollars in revenue with media appearances and very little spent on advertisement.
Through Elledge’s experiences, particularly the most difficult ones, he learned how to claim and present personal authority and how that can make you marketable to journalists. Before Up My Influence, he landed 700 TV appearances in central Florida and 2,000 media appearances total for one of his companies.
So, how did he acquire over 2,000 media appearances for a company that’s not even his most successful one to date? Keep reading to hear his perspective from both the public figure side and the journalist side.
One of the first issues many people fall into is that they go about approaching journalists in the wrong way. Elledge relays that most people “blast out” hundreds of emails, believing that “blasting out some spam or press release to 5,000 journalists is going to be 500x better than sending it out to just 10 journalists.” He asserts that “being a spammer” doesn’t work because journalists get spammed all the time. Due to this, journalists oftentimes have heavy spam filters, meaning, they might not even get to see your email in the first place as it goes to their spam folder.
Instead, Elledge suggests taking the time to craft personal and attentive emails. Although you may send out fewer emails, each one will be more effective and more likely to initiate a response.
Personal Authority and Your Website
If a journalist does read your email, the first questions s/he will ask is: who is this? They want to make sure that you are worth their time, not just for the initial email, but also worth the potential time for a follow-up. The first thing that you need to do when inquiring is to assert your personal authority on the subject you’re wanting to share.
What Elledge means by this is establishing to others that you have the authority to be an expert on your subject matter, whatever that subject matter may be. This is important as personal authority is “today’s currency.” Elledge expands: “life is just easier when you have more authority” as people are more likely to listen to you and pay money for a service or product if they trust your expertise. This same concept applies to journalists: they are more likely to give you time if they feel you can offer a more valid opinion.
The first and simplest way to assert your personal authority to a journalist is to make sure that your signature is a clickable link to your website. Once they are at your website, you need to accomplish a few things, even if it’s just a one-page site. You must make your website look professional, no matter how little information is on it. Elledge says, “As long as it talks about you as a subject matter expert, that’s what a journalist or other influencer or other content producers are looking for.” Elledge advises that the best way to make sure your website is professional is to go on Facebook and ask people to roast it. He says don’t ask people if it looks good because they will then just give you reassurance. Ask them what is wrong with it and you will get honest feedback. He explains that “they’re going to rely on your level of branding. They’re going to rely on you communicating yourself to be a subject matter expert.”
Presentation and Photograph
Along the lines of your website, Elledge stresses the importance of your social media image—but metaphorically and literally. One of the first things a journalist or any sphere of influence will look at besides your website are your social media profiles. Elledge imparts the significance of your social media content, but particularly your photograph and what it conveys.
It’s important to identify what message you want to convey: if you’re a young entrepreneur, you want to signal that you’re serious. If you are a creative type, perhaps you want your photo to look less corporate and more artistic, while still maintaining an air of authority.
Like with your website, Elledge suggests posting on Facebook and asking people to critique your photo. He offers the free website, photofeeler.com in which you can upload your photo and people will rank what you convey in terms of trustworthiness, perceived authority, intelligence etc., in return for you ranking other people’s photos. From that site, you will get important data that you can incorporate into your photo. Once you have found an image that works best for you and your message, make sure to upload it across your platforms for brand consistency. He also encourages you to look at the leaders in your field and study their profiles.
Elledge touches on an important concept with the idea of your website and photo. He is talking about not just presentation but the idea of being able to properly promote and communicate who you are. This applies beyond attracting a journalist’s attention, but to the outside world, as it’s imperative in excelling in your field. As Elledge says, “it’s not always the best person that wins, but it’s usually the person that promotes themselves best who wins.”