Embracing the media with a chutzpah hug
What is chutzpah marketing Pronounced huts•pah
I am frequently asked by other professionals, “How do you get on the news or quoted in the paper so much?” In this chapter I explain how to get “free” media attention. But, before I start I want to let you know up front that media attention is far from free. It doesn’t cost money, but it does cost time.
Early in my career I did not know this, so I built relationships with on-air and print reporters. I found it fun to get interviewed. I enjoyed my very small amount of celebrity. Please let me explain the cost of “free” media.
I was invited onto A.M. San Francisco to participate in a panel discussion on child abuse and its influence on society. In the 1980s, A.M. San Francisco, the local morning news show, followed Good Morning America and was hosted by Fred LaCosse and Terry Lowry. It was a highly watched show as I was later to learn.
I got to the show early and went to make-up. The show was aired live from 9:00 -10:OO AM. It was sweeps week, and for days the issue of child abuse had been getting lots of attention from this ABC affiliate, KGO-TV. The first 45 minutes of the show was a serious look at the issue of child abuse. The last 15 minutes was more relaxed, a piece on the local firefighters’ chili cook-off to raise funds for needed services.
Early on I was asked by Terry, “Give a brief overview of the 3 forms of child abuse.” I happily explained that there were actually 4 forms of child abuse—physical, sexual, emotional, and institutional, and proceeded to quickly define each form. During the first commercial break, Terry told me that she liked my enthusiasm, and asked if I was up for more questions. I told her I was happy to oblige. Over the next thirty minutes I answered question after question. The hosts, or members of the audience, would start their question, “Dr. Copitch, what do you think about…” or “Dr. Copitch, would you explain…”
During the second commercial, Terry leaned over with kind words of encouragement. At that very moment the makeup lady sprayed a cloud of hair spray to control an errant hair on Terry’s perfectly manicured coif. I got a mouthful of hair spray.
During the last 15 minutes of “my” part of the show, firefighters in the backstage area were heating their chili. The aroma was amazing. It quickly filled the studio. It didn’t mix with the hair spray so well, but I happily answered questions, even as my mouth watered.
After the show there was a few minutes of congratulations and thanks for all involved. I had a flight to catch, and as I was leaving, another panelist from the show stopped me in the hall. She was furious with me and explained that I had hogged the spotlight and wasted her time. I tried to apologize, and explained that I just answered questions that were posed to me, but she wanted to hear nothing from me.
I left and went to the airport for a flight to the east coast. When I got seated, the elderly lady next to me was excited about the show she had just watched. As it turned out, the flight crew were avid viewers of A.M. San Francisco and were extra attentive throughout the flight. From San Francisco to New York, I was constantly questioned about family issues. People bought me drinks, even though I don’t drink, and by time we hit the Midwest, the elderly lady next to me, who was happy to drink the free offerings, was feeling no pain. The last two hours she snored and drooled. It was a long flight.
When I returned from my trip, I found lots of invitations to be on other TV and radio programs. I also got many letters. Some from inmates asking for my help for themselves or their children. Some from distraught parents wanting me to help them get their children back from Child Protective Services or the Foster Care system. I also received three letters from angry professionals that thought that I should have slipped in the name of their program.
The reason I tell you this story? For all the time and energy that show took, I got no new clients. Zero. Goose egg. Nada!
It is very important to know what you want out of your media appearances. I’m going to explain how to get media attention, but you must understand that you cannot control what the media does with you. If you purchase an ad in the paper, you have a lot of say about the presentation of your ad. But, if you are interviewed by a newspaper reporter you have no say about how you will show up in print. The same is true for TV and radio advertisements versus interviews.
I often consult with entrepreneurs who are upset that the media outlets in their community are not featuring their story often enough, or at all. Frequently, these complaints are due to unrealistic expectations of the local media role in our community.
It is imperative that you understand that the business of the media is to keep viewers or readers. The more viewers or readers, the more the media can charge for its commercial spots or advertising space. The basic goal of the media is to keep and expand their audience (market share). If your story will not help them do that, you will not get coverage.
This information is the key to your media success. You need to offer the media an eye capturing story that, in the chutzpah words of The Godfather, they can’t refuse.
There has to be a Wow! factor to your story. Something that they can say just before going into commercial, or use as a headline, that makes the viewer or the reader say, “Wow, I want to know more!”
I once was tasked with the responsibility of organizing a charity softball game. It was an annual fundraiser that brought in a nice chunk of change. My goal was to sprinkle chutzpah onto a good fundraiser to make it even better.
In the past the softball teams were gathered from the public: local business playing local business. This was nice but generated little media attention. And without media attention, getting the word out about the event cost money (paid advertising). I changed the teams to San Francisco Bay Area police department softball teams and Bay Area media softball teams. It was great fun and garnered lots of media attention. We got lots of free publicity as well as fun rivalry. My favorite part of the whole event was when the Chief of Police from Fremont California, who graciously agreed to be the Chief Umpire, announced the rules at the beginning of the day long event. “The rules are simple,” he bellowed from behind home plate. “The umpire is always right and the umpire is wearing a gun.” It was great fun for all and no one argued with the umpire.
In addition to the “Wow Factor,” it also helps if your Wow story is unique. If you have a great Wow story, but the same story was done 4 weeks ago, your Wow story becomes old news.
It becomes your job to make a Wow story.
Wilson was a retired entrepreneur who organized a small after school homework program at his church. He also was involved with a therapy program that took companion animals into nursing homes and hospitals. The companion pets were all adopted from the local animal shelter. By combining these two interests he got media attention for both charitable endeavors: the after school program and the local animal shelter.
Wilson organized a blanket drive at his local church. The kids in the after school program provided the muscle, by boxing and delivering the blankets to the animal shelter. This activity, underprivileged kids giving charity to sad eyed pets, was overflowing with “Wow.” If the media had been invited to either one of the important daily activities of either charity program, I suspect there would have been no coverage.
It is important that you think of the visual of your media story. When planning an event, it is imperative that you show the story, not simply tell the story. Kids carrying boxes, and puppies with big eyes and damp noses, are a visual. Show don’t tell.
Often professionals are surprised when I tell them that it is easy to get media attention. But it is! Everyday the editors of the newspapers and the producers of local TV and radio have a lot of space or time to fill. And once the paper is put to bed or the show is over, the process starts all over again. The media is hungry for interesting stories to tell.
Reporters tend to be ambitious professionals. They have high expectations for themselves and tend to work long hours with limited resources. This has become more true in the last five years. All media outlets are cutting back. Less money, less support staff, and less editorial staff. But, the newspaper still needs to be put to bed every night by 3:00 AM so it can be on newsstands at 6:00 AM. The news program needs to be ready for air every weekday at 5:30, 6:30 and 11:00 PM. And then again at 6:00 AM. In the news business the clock is always ticking and the clock is always the unforgiving enemy.
Every reporter has some sort of database where they keep track of their contacts. Reporters guard their contacts because it is a dog eat dog media world. Reporters keep their contacts broken down into subject categories such as, housing, emergency medical, mental health, or automobile repair. The reporters I know have hundreds of specific categories. If you got to look at these treasuries, you would see the unpublished contact numbers of politicians, doctors, lawyers, and the director of the waste management district.
Reporters like to have at least four numbers under each category. Let’s say the reporter is doing a piece on the homeless sleeping on the benches in Municipal Park. After three days of constant interrupted writing the reporter is told by the editor, “Yeah, get a few quotes from someone concerning why the people are homeless!” The reporter has 24 minutes to finish the article and get back to the copy editor for proofreading.
Our mild mannered reporter goes back to her disheveled desk and gets back on the phone. She calls likely sources like the director of the local homeless shelter and the director of county mental health. She leaves messages. She knows she has 17 minutes. She starts racking her brain, who would know about why people are homeless? “I need a shrink!” she tells herself, and then checks that category in her database. She calls her local shrink source -me, on my back line. I answer it. She explains her predicament. I spout a few quotes. She thanks me and hangs up. The next day I am quoted in the paper, “There are many reasons why people are homeless, one major one that is not well understood, is the role of drug abuse and mental health disorders in our growing homeless population.”
Was my quote earth shattering? No, but was it colorful, and maybe a little controversial, yep. Colorful and a little controversial will get you quoted in the media.
So, how did I get my back line phone number into the reporter’s “experts” database?
The best way to get into a reporter’s database is to have short contacts with her over a few months. Remember, reporters are very busy, and you don’t want to waste their time, not even a few seconds.
Read the local section of your newspaper. Over the course of a week or two, you will be able to get a list of the reporters that “need” quotes from you. To begin, pick one of these.
Once you have read a few articles, drop her a written note commenting on a recent one. “I found your article on the volunteers at the Human Society warm and inspirational. Thanks for your concern for the common person who makes our community so vibrant and caring.” Add your card.
A few weeks later, comment on another article. A few weeks later, do it again. After four or five notes to the reporter, add to your normal note, “If I could be of any help in your work, please feel free to contact me. My private contact number is: 123-1234.” This time add your business card, and your business brochure - if you have one.
I have been called after the first note, I simply lucked out and filled a reporter’s needs. “I received your kind note today Dr. Copitch. Thank you very much, I really appreciated it. If you have a minute, can I tell you about an article I am writing on…”
I have also had reporters call and ask if they can give my name to another reporter. “He’s doing a piece on children and pets, do you mind if I give him your contact number?” I have found over the years, that reporters are very respectful of my contact number. I have never had my back line number or cell phone number used inappropriately by a reporter.
Once you get known as a professional who is easy and quick to work with, you will get lots of attention. Earlier, I told you about getting called for a quote concerning homeless people in Municipal Park.
A few months later, a reporter called my office wanting to interview me concerning a local issue. When I asked how she got my name, she said, “I searched the paper’s database. I liked your quotes on the homeless.”
If a reporter has too few contacts in any particular category of her database, she will search her own paper as well as the competition and add you to her database. Getting press gets you more press. I have even had a reporter confess to finding my name in the Yellow Pages. She wanted a quote concerning children and the importance of sleep; she was minutes away from going to press and was frantic. I had to wait until the paper came out to find out what her name was.
At this point you may think to yourself, “Dr. Phil, what a kiss ass!” Please allow me to assure you that I am often referred to as a “pain” but never as a “kiss.” Keep in mind I was building a relationship with a reporter whose work I liked. If I didn’t like the reporter’s work, I wouldn’t have continued reading her articles in the first place. Remember, I have chutzpah, I don’t waste time lightly.
There are times to be opinionated. When it comes to the media, the correct time and place is in the Op-Ed section of the newspaper or broadcast.
Traditionally in newspapers, the Op-Ed page was printed opposite the editorial page. Over time, Op-Ed has been generalized to being another point of view, not necessarily an opposite point of view to the editorial point of view. Depending on the paper, there may be a clear editorial point of view, for example, clearly right leaning or clearly left leaning. Most smaller newspapers tend to be very pro local community. They may tell the national story on the front page, but they know that to sell papers they need to extoll the virtues of the local community.
If you read an article that you disagree with, it is perfectly OK to write a letter to the editor and criticize the article. For the purpose of chutzpah marketing, I advise you to follow a few rules.
When your letter to the editor is printed, drop a nice thank you note to the editor. After the third letter to the editor is printed, add to your nice note, “If I could be of any help in your editorial work, please feel free to contact me. My private contact number is: 123-1234.” This time add your business card and a business brochure if you have one.
Once I read an article in the newspaper concerning date rape. This is a pet peeve of mine, I find the label “date rape” inappropriate. So I wrote a letter to the editor, following the rules above, and voiced my opinion. “Date rape is a misnomer, it is simply and more accurately, rape.”
A few days later, a reporter from the paper called wanting to do a story on the controversy concerning the term “Date Rape.”
The following week, I was interviewed by the local TV news concerning the “controversy.” The first question from the television reporter was, “Do you think that by calling sexual assault between people that are dating, date rape, it makes it harder for the victim to get help?” As we discussed before, the media “steal” from each other. Once you get press, you tend to get more press.
For months after the article and news story, I was told by a colleague that they couldn’t hear the term “date rape” without cringing.
Please allow me to share this admonition. At some point if you advertise at all you will want more for your advertising loyalty than just your ad. You may find yourself saying, half jokingly to the ad sales person, “Are you guys ever going to do a story on my __________?”
If you are dealing with a legitimate news establishment, the sales person will laugh it off and gently teach you that the ad department and the news department are completely separate. If you voice it to an editor, let’s say at a party, “I advertise a lot with your paper, how come you haven’t done a story on my ________?” The editor may bite your head off. (Editors have a reputation for being verbally combative.)
There are some “newspapers” that blur the line between ad content and news content. An example would be a monthly curricular that allows an article on flea care, written by a local veterinarian. The vet’s advertisement directly follows the infomercial.
Before you participate in this type of enterprise, consider the reader’s view of your info-article and subsequent advertisement. Even a well written article may make you look less professional. I also give this warning advice against producing ad copy that is made to look like a news story. I advise against spending money to make yourself look questionable, or even worse, unscrupulous.
The process of writing a press release is easy, in a moment I will explain how to do it. The problem with a press release is getting the media to notice your press release.
There is no conspiracy, just simple numbers. The editor of the newspaper may get hundreds of press releases sent to her every day. In the old days, a press release would have to be mailed. Nowadays most media accept, and even encourage, email press releases. This encourages press releases from around the world.
The public relations engine of every medium to mega corporation is pumping press releases out all day, every day. If one happens to stick, great—free publicity. With email submissions, the cost of the release is almost zero.
Don’t despair, you have chutzpah on your side so you can greatly increase your odds of getting noticed.
First, we will go over the common types of press releases: general and specific. Then I will explain the 4 rules you have to know to write a press release that will get noticed. Finally, I will show you a few press releases. You are a few minutes away from being a press release chutzpah star.
There are many different types of press releases. The major type of press release is called the General Press Release. The rest are simply variations on the general, depending on what you want the press release to do for you. They are all written about the same and there is no consistency in the public relations business on what the types are called. Actually, the names are irrelevant since you never need to label your press release with a name anyway.
A general press release is the workhorse of business to media communication. It is a simple format that allow businesses, profit and nonprofit, to give information to the press. Often this information is not great journalism. It is just information that a company or agency wants everyone to know about without having to pay for media space or air time. The media tends to call this information, filler. If there is room, they use filler to complete the paper or round off a TV or radio news show.
If you want to get your information into a specific part of the newspaper, say the Weekly Business Journal, a feature specific to your local paper, you will need to modify the general news release to mimic the format of your target. For example, if the Weekly Business Journal lists the comings and goings of middle and upper level employees in your community, you may wish to get recognition for your new hire.
What most people do not know, shush … this is a secret … the media will often print or read a press release exactly as you wrote it. This is why it is imperative that you study your target carefully. This is especially true for fillers, if your release mimics the media’s style, you greatly increase your likelihood of being “picked up.” Don’t let the word “filler” hurt your feelings. The square inches in a paper that a fill takes up would cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars to buy. Plus, you can’t buy it. Fillers go in the news part of the page, whereas all you and I can buy is ad space.
There are a 4 chutzpah press release rules that you must follow to maximize your effort:
You have to aim your press release at the correct editor. I am not talking hand grenade type of aim, I am talking precision scalpel type of chutzpah aim.
Six months ago, when I outlined this chapter, my plan was to go to the Los Angeles Times web site and the Redding Record Searchlight web site and compare large city to small city newspaper editorial staff. I wanted to reprint the complete list of the LA Times editorial staff to elucidate my point on the need to aim your press release precisely. The list was massive. Even when I changed the font to 6 point, super tiny, the LA times editorial list filled seven pages. I tend to like to Show Not Tell, but seven pages is too much. However, it does prove the need for the precision aim of your press release. If it goes to the wrong person, it will be lost forever.
The next question is, which editor is the correct editor for you to aim your press release at? We will cover this under #3 Wow.
When your press release gets to the editor’s office it has to be sorted. The first sort is the one you can protect yourself from.
Many editors believe if you do not know where you are sending your press release, you can be ignored. Thus, it is common for the first sort to be the name and title you address your press release to. Make sure you spell the editor’s name and her title correctly.
Bod Smith, city editor, is not the same as Bob Smith, City Editor.
You want to make it through the first culling, spelling counts!
Congratulations, your press release is in front of the correct pair of eyes. An assistant to the editor or producer, commonly an intern, is reading your work. You have seconds to Wow her or your press release will be tossed in the circular file or deleted from the assistant’s computer.
No pressure, all you have to do is get her interest, get her to pass your information onto the editor. You have to Wow!
This is where your chutzpah training comes in. When you develop your press release you do it the same way you did your business card, ad copy, and 9 second speeches. You write your copy speaking to the editor’s needs. Not your needs, her needs. You solve problems for the editor. You help her put out an amazing newspaper or news program that will help her get market share and the recognition of her peers.
When writing Wow copy you need to solve the reader’s needs. If you are aiming to get your press release in the city section of the paper, pump up the local, city angle of your release. If you are aiming for the business section of the paper, extoll the local business angle.
For example, when I write a press release for the book you are holding in your hands, I will tailor it to the editor’s needs.
Dr. Copitch’s book, Chutzpah Marketing: Simple Low Cost Secrets for Building Your Business Fortune, was written in northern California. When asked why, Dr. Copitch said, “My wife and I moved to Redding to raise our family: with good schools, amazing vistas, and a low crime rate it was ideal for us. After living here for over 20 years, we can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
As the economy forces every small business to maximize productivity, Dr. Copitch’s latest book, Chutzpah Marketing: Simple Low Cost Secrets for Building Your Business Fortune, shows small business owners how to compete in an ever changing business environment.
When asked why he wrote Chutzpah Marketing: Simple Low Cost Secrets for Building Your Business Fortune, Dr. Copitch said, “By taking my training in psychology and my understanding of business, I knew I could teach others how to have great success in business. This is good for the business owner, their family, and their community. After thirty years of experience I finally tell all the secrets of how to market a small business.”
When writing your press release make sure you “show” how the article or interview can be presented. Give it your Wow slant!
I have had editors and reporters “lift” my quotes right off the press release and place it in their article. It is common that the questions from a TV reporter will lead you directly into the quote that they have read in your press release.
“Well Dr. Copitch, why did you choose to write your latest book in Redding, California?”
“With your training in psychology and thirty years of experience in business, do you have secrets to share about how to market a small business?”
This doesn’t mean the reporter is lazy. It means that she liked the Wow slant.
A few days after you have mailed or emailed your press release you need to call the editor’s office and follow up.
Remember, editors are busy. The reason for your call is to confirm that they got your release. Don’t waste their time, just simply ask, “Good morning, this is Dr. Philip Copitch, I sent you a press release concerning my new book. Did you get it?”
Then answer any question the editor may have. Do not ask another question. You need to truly respect the editor’s time. Editors are under astronomical time sensitive pressure.
If the editor says, “No, haven’t seen it yet.” You politely say, “I understand you must be very busy. Would you like me to send you another copy?”
If he says “Yes,” you say, “I’ll be happy to. Goodbye.” Then softly hang up the phone. You then send another copy by express mail ($10), directly to the editor. On the outside of the envelope write, “As requested via phone at 10:42 AM” and the date.
If the editor says, “I haven’t had a chance,” you say, “Thank you for your time, sorry to interrupt your day. Bye.” Then softly hang up the phone.
I understand that this is difficult for most people. You are having to verbalize, “Pick me, please, please, please, pick me!” But with such chutzpah comes great rewards.
As you read these conversations, I want you to understand the editor’s world. You may be the only polite and respectful voice she has heard in hours. It is not uncommon for editors to get cussed at or have the phone slammed down in their ear. You were even aware of that, and placed the phone on the cradle gently. (Not a problem with cell phones.) You were pleasant to have contact with. You respected the editor’s time. Personally, I think your kindness should be normal. However, your kindness is abnormal, making it the exception. This makes you stand out in a positive light.
I have been thanked by reporters and editors for my phone etiquette. This actually says more about society than it does me. My mother would not have expected anything less.
A press release has the following parts. The order counts, you want to put the information the editor, reporter or production assistant is looking for where they expect to find it.
This is the date you would like the information to be made public. It is common to write in all caps, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE if that is what you want. (12 point Times, plain text. Why Times? Because it is easy to read and a common font found on most computers.)
If you are attempting to get attention for a big event, you may need to start a month ahead of time to land a feature article. It is common that there are press releases at different stages of an upcoming event. Sometimes, even after the event to generate a mention about crowd size, or tax dollars generated, or who won the grand prize in the drawing at your wonderful event.
This is the contact information. Give the company’s name, the spokesperson’s name, their position along with their business address, phone number and email address. (If you have a professional web site, give that information also. A reporter will always check on a source. It is common for them to Google the company and the spokesman. If you do not have an impressive web presence, you should. See the accompanying white paper, Chutzpah Web Site Marketing for Professionals.) This phone number must be answered. If the reporter calls, she wants to talk now. People in the media are always on deadline. If your name is not easy to pronounce, help them out with a pronunciation key. For example, Dr. Philip Copitch (like a police officer with poison oak, cop itch) or (cop•itch). (12 point Times, plain text.)
If you are granting interviews, giving a press conference, or promoting an event, a brief overview of that information also goes here. You will have room to expand on this information in the supportive information later in your press release.
This is your proposed title for the article or interview.(12 point Times, bold text.)
This is a short compelling statement that supports the title. (12 point Times, bold text.)
In this section you give a few snappy paragraphs supporting the title. Don’t be modest. Start with your best idea, then your second best, and so on. Make sure you answer the who, what, where, when, and why questions. Reporters in all forms of media are trained to answer the who, what, where, when, and why’s of every story.
Paint pictures with your words, clearly explaining the benefits to the reporter’s audience.
At the end of your press release you need to indicate that you are done. By placing three pound symbols (###) at the bottom of your press release you are letting the reporter know that she has all your information. This as a quick way to let the reporter know that she hasn’t misplaced the next page.
This first example is a press release requesting a feature story. It may also get picked up as a filler:
This press release is a typical filler:
This press release is aimed at a specific location, the Business Happenings log in a specific newspaper. This press release mimics the style of the short business blurb that is typical of this section.
The future is now. With the 24 hour news cycle and the lower cost of digital video, chutzpah press releases are going high tech.
If you want to get attention for an activity that is visual in nature, for example a non profit martial arts school, you can add excitement to your press release with a small video clip.
This is simple to do. With a quality video camera ($250 and up), take exciting footage of your activity. Edit this down to :30 to :60 seconds (no more than 5 minutes) of amazing footage and upload it to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/). It gets stored there for free.
All you need to do now is add the link to your chutzpah footage to your press release. If the editor is interested, one click and you’re showing moving pictures inside your press release. If you are over 25, this may sound complicated or even hard. But it isn’t. YouTube will teach you how (http://www.youtube.com/youtubeonyoursite):
Whatever presence you have on the Internet—a large website, a blog, a social network page, or pretty much anything else—there are many ways to integrate YouTube into it. From simple video embeds, to our full-powered APIs, you can integrate video at all levels of technical expertise.
The same process that you used to add video content to your blog or web site, works for your email press release. If your subject is visual, this is your press release future. And don’t forget, YouTube is completely free!
The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
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