Guest post by Hagan Blount.
Looking back on the last year, I’ve gone from not having a site for my food musings to being featured in major media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post. I just did what I thought was fun and the press came naturally. But I realized that it must have been more than that when I was updating my press page recently, and paused for a bit of reflection. Narrowing it down, these are the six steps I’ve been using to get more press:
1. Find the popular writers in your niche and connect – get featured on sites that these people are reading
To get to the press, you need to be pressworthy. If you’re not notable, it’s harder to be pressworthy. The one thing I hear from actors and actresses in NYC is that they need work, but they need a résumé to get work, and they can’t build a résumé without getting work first, so they’re screwed.
I don’t think they’re screwed, I think they’re just lazy and won’t put in the time they need doing stuff for free or for little pay in order to build their resume, they want to wait for something that’s “worth it.” When you’re just starting out, you really can’t select the publications in which you’d like to be featured. The easiest way to do this is to start small and work up. I’m not saying you can’t write “To Kill A Mockingbird” and win a pulitzer in your first foray, but this way is just easier.
On a project I did in January, I started connecting with all the food bloggers in Manhattan. I started by accepting anyone who wanted to join, and in the end, I had a critical mass that got press from the most popular food news sites in Manhattan and two of the top five local food bloggers.
So, how do you go about finding the most popular bloggers in your niche? Here’s how I did it:
- Ask the fans – Find some fan/help forums on the subject you’re into and ask them who they read. Who are their favorites? If you’re really into your subject, you’ll get some research done in the meantime by reading some new perspectives on your field.
- Blogrolls - Look on the most popular sites in your niche and see who they link to – talk to those people! Add them to lists, follow, RT, and mention them on Twitter, like them on Facebook. Tim Ferriss said that one extremely helpful way he got noticed early was by finding the thought-leaders in his field, looking at each of their blogrolls, and sending each of them advance copies of his book to review. When twenty of the people that you’re reading tell you to read something, you’re going to read it!
- Confirm your suspicions – Alexa and Compete are two awesome places to go to see how popular a blog is. Type in some site names and you’ll find that Annabel is a bit more popular than I. When you start to grow an audience, make sure you’re investing your time wisely.
I’ve declined a bunch of guest posts on sites that are just starting out and need content. I’m not going to invest my time guest posting on a site when I know no one is going to see it, but when you’re just starting out, if you can grab readers from another audience, I say do it.
Just make sure there’s an audience!
2. Find the individual emails of the press
All press websites have places you can submit tips or ask the editor questions. Unless you’re staging an event where pigs fly, you’re probably not going to get much traction asking people to cover your story on these sites. Even with personal emails, you are still going to get the delete button more often than not.
Remember, these people are just people like you and me. There are very few press superstars, but they are asked 1,000 times a day to cover 999 crappy projects, and their filters have to be on and working overtime. Imagine if your email box was more like an RSS feed – that’s what it’s like for these writers, so make every email count, write sexy and descriptive titles, and don’t send so many that you get rerouted to their trash can!
3. Live in a big city
Bigger press outlets happen to be in bigger cities. I am typing this from a Starbucks that’s less than a mile from pretty much every major news outlet in the world. That means that a great deal of their reporters are here. There are also many smaller news outlets just blocks away from me. Would you rather be huge in Kansas City (Perth) or part of a very popular blogger cadre in New York City (Sydney)?
I started off doing a project in the not so foodie city of Boston, then in the fairly foodie Washington, DC, and then I moved to the hyper-foodie culture of NYC. I moved to the center of the scene in my country. If there is a center for your scene, and you have freedom to move, explore your options. If you’re in the shot already, it’s easier for them to focus in on you.
4. Be First
If you can be the first to review a product, service, ebook, or even if you can make something like this post commenting on a new partnership, you could get picked up by the media.
This goes for everything that you do, but if you’re the first to do something, let everyone know about it! Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. If you don’t toot your own horn, no one can hear the music.
5. Be Awesome!
Go find something that hasn’t been done before and do it. When someone says, “that would never work,” you’re onto something. Don’t write to an audience: write for yourself and your audience will come! Follow what you’re interested in and passionate about and the intensity and desire will come through in your writing.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that most stuff we get excited about is just a mash-up of two things that were interesting before and they got more interesting by being combined. Think of mash-ups that you can make in your field and just do them. My most popular mash-up was a restaurant tournament where people voted on their favorite places – it was time consuming, but for the amount of press I got from that one event, it was worth it. Make a list of ideas, start drawing parallels between them and you’ll come up with something cool.
And now for the final and most important step …
6. Keep your clippings!
Links die. I control my site and that’s it, so I keep all of my important press clippings in JPEG format on my own site. I take screenshots of the web pages and piece them together in a photo editor to freeze the moment in time. If I have an audio clip, I copy the piece, cut it up with an audio editor if I need to, and put it on my website. If I have a TV appearance, I get my friend to DVR it, copy it, and upload it to YouTube.
The people who say they can’t get work without a résumé full of gigs? This is your new résumé, so fill it up!
Looking at this list, you can see that pretty much all of it talks about being pressworthy. Only one bullet talks about actually interacting with the press! Public image and your personal connections go hand in hand with having awesome, buzzable content.
And there’s no substitute for great content. If you only follow one item on this list, my suggestion is to always be awesome!
Hagan Blount is a Foodie, a producer, and a social media maven who’s been featured in The Huffington Post, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal Online, Mashable, The Christian Science Monitor and a whole bunch of local food blogs in NYC. He’s a total media whore.