Be a Media Maestro

Q: I see many industry peers appearing in the media, and I realize this could—and should—be me. But I don’t know where to begin to generate coverage of my company’s area of expertise.

A: I’m a weekly contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America, but I didn’t start there. I worked my way up from the bottom of the media chain, and you can, too. But know this going in: Getting noticed by the media takes time and persistence. And you need a plan.

When I started Women For Hire 15 years ago, I knew that unless I got the word out about my career expos geared toward women, no one would attend. I had no advertising budget, so I focused on free editorial coverage from local radio and TV. The trick was to offer these outlets something other than, “Please tell women to come to my events!”

So I pitched myself as an expert on women’s employment. I offered to talk in a segment or an article about timely subjects such as the hottest current jobs and salary trends because I knew the first thing writers and producers ask is, “Why now?” Around graduation time, I offered five job-hunting tips. For Mother’s Day, I would give five tips for women re-entering the workplace. During slow news days—such as a hot summer Friday when everyone had taken off for the pool or the beach, leaving reporters desperate for copy—I would pitch a story about what never to say on your résumé or during a job interview.

I laid it out in a short pitch that journalists could quickly digest—no heavy lifting. I researched the outlets I was interested in, and then I called or looked online to figure out which reporter or producer to contact with my pitch. (You’ll probably get no response or a frosty reception if you pitch busy reporters on a subject they don’t cover.) In all my pitches, I would comment positively on a story or article they had done: Everyone likes to be flattered, and referring to their past work showed I had done my homework.

You can follow my model in pitching ideas related to your area of expertise. Focus first on exactly what you have to offer, and then develop a list of desired outlets—from small radio shows and blogs to national TV and magazines. Figure out who covers your beat, and follow and chat with those outlets and contacts through social  media.

Be sure to perfect your website and pitch materials before you begin this process. If you’re especially interested in appearing on TV, create YouTube videos that showcase your expertise and gift of gab.

You should subscribe to HARO (Help A Reporter Out at to receive free daily public relations queries from a wide variety of media outlets looking for experts on every topic imaginable. Follow the advice in the site’s tutorials, which will guide you to success.

Finally, don’t be discouraged if you fail in your early attempts. Becoming a trusted media source takes time and persistence. I’ve been working at it for 15 years and still have far to go!


Tory Johnson is CEO and founder of Spark & Hustle, a weekly contributor on ABC's Good Morning America and a contributing editor of SUCCESS magazine.

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