Part two: features and comment
Many individuals and firms are able to build a strong profile in the media despite rarely having news to announce themselves. This is done by sharing their expertise and insights, usually in one of three ways:
* Writing articles on subjects in which they have expertise.
* Contributing comments, either in written form or interviews, that are used in features being written by journalists.
* Providing commentary that adds context to coverage of news events (for instance a surveyor explaining the background to the latest house price statistics).
To do any of these things, however, you first need to make contact with some journalists.
One of the best ways to start featuring in the press is to write articles for publication in magazines and on media websites. This obviously requires a level of writing ability, although you can always employ the services of a ghost writer.
Step one here is to identify outlets that accept contributed articles. This is straightforward enough – just look for publications that include articles written by people who aren’t journalists.
Then come up with a subject that fits in with those they have already covered but is also sufficiently different from anything you can find in their existing archive. Don’t make your idea too complex – most media articles are relatively short, and you need to be able to sell the article both to an editor and to readers.
With whom should you get in touch to sell your idea? This will depend on the publication but if it employs a features editor or commissioning editor they will be your first port of call – otherwise your best bet is usually to go straight to the editor.
When selling a feature idea, as with a news story, you need to keep it pithy and be able to describe it in a single, short sentence. You can then go into a bit more detail later (usually just bullet points) in the email or telephone conversation.
One final tip here: make sure you emphasise that the article will be original, and exclusive to the publication.
Getting your opinions quoted
One of the best ways to find yourself regularly being asked to supply comments to the press is to write plenty of articles and get yourself known that way. Another is to issue lots of your own news.
Beyond this it is often a case of building relationships, which is obviously easier if you are based close to the journalists you wish to get to know and can invite them out for lunch or a coffee. If this is not practical then you need to be a little more creative.
An ever-dwindling number of specialist magazines publish forward features lists that set out, in varying degrees of detail, the editorial features they plan to run over the coming year. These are primarily an advertising sales tool so shouldn’t be treated as gospel but if you do see something with which you might be able to help then contact either the editor or the features editor and make your pitch.
If you have any publications that you would particularly like to target then it is worth asking if they have a features list – most put them together toward the end of the calendar year. Remember that when it comes to features many publications will work at least a couple of months ahead.
Another way in can be to follow journalists on social media, respond to their requests for help and pro-actively offer insights or comment regarding relevant breaking news. You can also send brief comments out to journalists when a relevant story breaks.
In these cases keep your comments short and include a brief biography of yourself, including details of your expertise and experience.