BlogHer 07 | Media Relations | Session Notes | Updated 8.16.07

Updated 08.16.07
Thanks for finding your way here. This post first appeared on July 28, 2007 at my former blog address and now includes other bloggers who covered the media relations session along with BlogHer ’07’s description and my notes. Unfortunately, all comments vanished in the move. But, I’d still love to hear from you if you want to talk . . . 


BlogHer ’07 Media Training Session Description
You’ve gotten yourself out there and noticed. It happens to bloggers big and small with regularity now. You’re in the public eye, and you finally get a big chance to be on TV or quoted in a major magazine or any number of amazing opportunities. It’s not always as easy as it seems, and journalists often try to get you to say something off-the-cuff. We will take a look at a couple of recent case studies of bloggers in the media…what went right, and what went wrong. What are the tactics journalists learn when preparing and interviewing subjects? What are they trying to accomplish? How do you take your self-branding skills to the next level and stay on message? This session will give you basic skills to help you control how you are portrayed. Cynthia Samuels and The Sarcastic Journalist will be the media training experts on hand to answer your questions. Stay tuned for our fascinating case studies.

The first thing to do when the media contacts you is to get their name and phone number. Get them to differentiate with questions. Do you want me to talk from what angle? What’s the goal of the story? The bottom line?

If you want to get publicity on local television, watch what reporters are covering on their topic. Say: “I saw this piece and it was really great.” Always know about 3 or 4 things they’ve written. Get out on their blog. Make yourself visible.

Emails work with journalists about a trend that’s going on and sell as a new ground. Say: We found this on our blog: people have been posting on this and it’s not being covered. You may notice a phenomenon that your blog is evidence of.

Things that have worked in reaching out to the press . . . popping them an email about a story they wrote. “You know what, here’s a missing link that might be helpful. Here’s my book, my blog. Put me on your radar and call me.” It really helps if you present yourself well. State your blog and your area of expertise. Give them your website address, your book, a couple of ideas and ask for their email so you can send them an email.

Most freelancer writers go to ProfNet for resources. It’s a searchable database with links to experts. You can search the topic on the paper and then send it to the reporter, not the assignment editor. 

One person got quoted in the New York Times based on a comment she made in a conference. Use your connections.

In TV, the assignment editor goes to the same meeting as the producers. When someone comes in live, the booker tracks down the three best people. If you can make friends with bookers at local stations, you’ve got great connections. They usually run the list on a Friday newscast – look for associate producers and researchers.

Print is pretty simple. There is an editor in the audience right now. You can sometimes contact the reporter if you want someone to write about your specific story. You can find out a lot about the media if you’re a good detective. Search Google for the editors’ names.

Use GoogleAlerts to comment on articles and get to know the editors. Write personal thank you notes. This is a very high stress job. Say, “I enjoyed speaking with you.” A little bit of graciousness goes a long way. Always remember that the story brings the best truth they can bring. Never act like they’re doing it for you and your blog. They’re writing for the truth, for what America needs to know.

Connect with the media contacts on LinkedIn.

Put out the best site and product that you can so reporters can find you and identify you as an expert. It’s hard to get on the radar, but once you get on the radar – that’s going to help you.

Where’s the line between being persistent and being annoying? When you’re calling the reporter on their cell phone. One or two emails is okay.

Having sound bites is key to keep you from talking too much.

Stories have gone from over a minute to under 15 seconds on TV. It’s really important that you have it down and stay on message.

Message discipline is how people win elections. When you get asked something you don’t want to answer, you say, “That’s really interesting, but you know – “ Then go into the sound bite. Don’t push them to let you say something you don’t want to say. It’s very easy to be impulsive and not think before you speak. Know that anything you say can get used.

Some bloggers are refusing to do live interviews and then they pre-empt the interview by publishing the interview on their blog before it’s published. Emailing is very different than speaking with someone. If you insist on email you’re limiting how good you and the story could be. That puts you in a really odd spot.

As bloggers, some of the best material comes from what you said. One reporter asked if they could do an interview with IM.

Pieces on TV sometimes drop 15-45 seconds off before it’s the air so your quote may get dropped.

People sometimes get their feelings hurt when they open up. When the wall goes down, the reporter has to make a judgment.

Two things about running on in TV interviews: 1. Look at the person you’re talking to – take a deep breath, look at them and try to explain it just to them. There’s nobody else around. 2. Practice. Have a friend ask you 15 questions. You don’t want to sound memorized. It’s like a bookmark. Have your thoughts together.

What do you when someone shoves a microphone in your face that asks you a question? Be polite, take a deep breath, think and find some nice neutral thing to say. Even in a live interview, if you don’t think you’re ready take a breath and think.

On the phone or in person a connection can happen that’s warmer. When you feel like one question didn’t go so well, ask if they could email the questions or ask if you can email them back. Give them other sources – now you’re their friend.

Question about what do you think about social media releases? Presenters liked the idea, but hadn’t seen one yet. They think bullets would work well both in TV and local media.

Why don’t they talk about what I want to know on the news? The fact is, the excuse is, better ratings come from screaming on TV. Every time anything like that gets more ratings, it keeps bringing down the quality.

We can change it and the people in this room can tell the media we’re tired of all the fighting. Get the Benton Foundation’s report to see what the media’s covering.

What if you’re misquoted? The Wall Street Journal published a clip from a personal email to the editor on the front page. Don’t write down anything – even in email – if you don’t someone else to see it. Write a letter to the editor and the reporter. 

The two words press release have been mentioned only twice. Is the press release dead? Send your press release to a name and that is more effective.

Final thing . . . if you’re going to go on television, you need to be ready. It’s not that hard. It has to be that you know exactly what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it. You can turn things closer to what you’re about. Bloggers are rebels. You have to be prepared in advance. Google the reporter before you call them back to see what they’re interested in. All we’re talking about is not that it’s the end of the world. It’s crazy not to be prepared. Reporters are busy. You have to help them.

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