It’s tough planning for news and breakfast television broadcasts today, especially if you happen to be outside of a major metropolitan area. The few programs available repeat stories from major networks, offer sports coverage, a few lifestyle spots, but you’ve probably seen how little local content there is. This is where you come in! Approaching smaller media outlets and local journalists can get you a lot further than going straight to the big guys. For a lot of writers, sales is scary but a news appearance is enough to make them change careers. Be open to learning instead of afraid, and you can be successful working with the media in no time, and leverage what you learn to help build your author platform.
Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t beg a producer or journalist for an interview. It lessens the value of what you are offering. Be enthusiastic and approach it with your practiced sales pitch. Make sure you anticipate the questions they may ask, and be ready to answer them in a way that furthers your cause while also helping them to do their job easily.
- Don’t assume there will be hair and makeup artists on site. Many journalists look after that (or at least most of it) themselves. Be stage ready, and make sure you look your best when you arrive at the interview.
- Ask a few questions about the set up and what you should wear ahead of time. If you will be involved in video recording for TV or YouTube, avoid stripes, loud prints, and don’t wear green if you’ll be appearing in front of a green screen backdrop.
- Don’t be difficult or make it sound like you are too busy or popular to complete an interview. They could find someone else.
- Be flexible! Prepare to change your schedule to accommodate a high profile guest or an emergency.
- Accept the reality that a news question cannot wait until the end of your day to ask you about a hot topic or breaking news item.
- Be proactive. If you have expertise on a topic that’s pertinent, make sure you are prepared to speak about it. If you are an expert on career transitions, and there is a breaking news story about ageism in the news then you can quickly pitch the media to interview you about the topic. Make sure you share a specific perspective in your pitch and the interview to help with your credibility.
- Take some media skills training, including videography. It’s a great way to see how you look on screen, and to make adjustments before it really counts to present yourself at your best.
- Research the journalist that you will be speaking with so you can engage them. There’s lots of information online, and you may have been to the same school, have a shared interest, or be involved in related causes. This will help them connect with you and remember you. You could also use a well-connected publicist who will help with these elements.
- Remember to look at the host or reporter, not at the camera.
A strong media and public relations strategy can boost your author platform to higher levels of success than you might think. Learn to be effective and make the most of it. In addition to understanding your local news cycle, stations, and papers, remember to include your local media members to attend (make sure you give them plenty of notice and also provide a courtesy reminder). They often love coming to interesting places, and supporting local causes and success stories (in addition to pie in the face moments, of course).
The location of your launch events matters, and interesting places will generate more interest by the media. If your book is about aircraft, ask to launch at an airplane museum. If it’s a war story, get hold of the local legion. Children’s books can have launches in all kinds of interesting places, including zoos, aquariums, or a local sports club. Travel books can be launched in related restaurants (travels across Mexico launched at a Mexican restaurant). Get creative! You don’t have to introduce the book and provide a reading. You can talk about your cause, raise awareness for something the venue is involved with, create a panel with other authors or experts, share insights or tips, sign books for the bookstore.
Best of luck to you!