Over the weekend, a news story broke about a girl who used a code word to thwart a potential abduction. The media and readers of the story all praised the “brilliant strategy” of a code word and how this “top-notch parenting.”
On Twitter, the hashtag #codeword blew up. So I banged out a blog post entitled, “A Code Word Did NOT Save a 10-Year Old from Abduction.” While code words seem like a good idea, Chris Sutton of COBRA-Defense convinced me otherwise. Never teach a child to engage in conversation with a stranger.
I then searched for the hashtags #codeword on Twitter and Google News. Here I could target high traffic Twitter pages like Good Morning America and Tweet my short headline and a link to my personal blog.
The key is that you have to add to the story. You can’t just comment. Bring a different viewpoint from the norm. In this case, the praise for the strategy was almost 100%, so a fresh viewpoint adds to the story. Of course, some people will disagree with me, but I’m used to that.
Reporters are always looking for good stories but are also getting pitched all day every day. To get their attention, you have to make it as easy as possible for them to work with you. That starts with understanding that reporters ONLY want to interact with you if you have a story so don’t forward them a cute cat video.
Make it a Video News Release
Video is king. Even newspapers are running video with their stories, especially on their social media sites. Your odds of getting coverage increase substantially when you include short (Less than a minute) videos. News releases with video get 55% more viewers according to a study by REELSEO.com.
Don’t be Annoying
Work to develop a relationship with at least one reporter from every news outlet in your area. Make a point NOT to send them a constant stream of pitches or they will tune you out. Think quality over quantity.
Rules on Sending a Local Release
When sending a local release out, send it to one reporter at a time starting with the reporter who has covered you the most. You want them to know you are giving them first shot to the story.
If they pass, move to the next reporter.
Rules on Sending a National Release
Getting a national media hit is highly valuable. Because it’s so valuable, reporters on the national level are swamped with pitches. It’s super-competitive and challenging to break into that level. One way around is to leverage your local hits into national hits. For instance, if you’re rolling out a website on how to respond to an active shooter, make sure you have screen captures of all of your local media hits that you can put on your site.
Include links to these pages in your national releases. The more local media hits you have, the more comfortable a national reporter will be in contacting you.
A National List of Local Hits
Often, working with a publicist, you can get hundreds of hits on local media outlets around the country. For instance, if a reporter sees that your active shooter story is on the ABC affiliate in Pittsburgh, NBC Miami, CBS Los Angeles, and Fox New York City, that tells the reporter you are getting coverage.
Do not get upset if you don’t get a hit. There are a lot of reasons for that. For instance, I had a huge profile scheduled with the local ABC affiliate in Tampa Bay. They were going to do a 7-minute bio/profile on me. Literally hours before they were to arrive at my school, a Tampa Bay Buc hurt his back. They turned their van around and drove to the stadium instead. I never got the profile. That’s just the way media works. You can’t take it personally, but instead be understanding and helpful.
If you do get the story, share the links and copy the reporter on your shares so he/she can see you’re helping them get the story out. The more media savvy you seem to be, the more comfortable the media will be for working with you.
Rules on Contacting a Reporter
Email is their preferred delivery method so stick to it. If you call, they will tell you to send it in an email. Calls are no longer as useful or welcome. The reporter knows you want publicity and doesn’t like spending her day fielding thinly disguised phone pitches from company reps trying to get free exposure.
The New Phone Call
Twitter and Facebook are the new phones. Twitter is the most used of the two, but use both.
Follow reporters on Twitter and make a note of what they like and how they work and their lifestyle. Make a file on each reporter with any relevant background that you can use to create a stronger connection.
Sample Local Release [Numbers notes are below the release]
Hey or Hi FIRST NAME,
Here’s a story for you. It’s a preview of an upcoming event that you can find below.  I have a video for it as well.  Feel free to use as is, or edit to your liking. Let me know if you want me to send any individual clips.  I’ll also send you a separate event invite in case you want to attend and cover it. I know that your viewers will appreciate learning how families can gain control of bullying.  So feel free to bring Sally and Joey.  Also, I can introduce you to John Graden. He’s the anti-bully expert who helps your audience deal with bullying at school and work. Anyway, we can talk about that at the event or when we get the chance.
Here are the video and preview. 
[This tells the reporter he/she may get two stories out of this; the preview and the event. That is a welcome message.]
[YAY! The reporter doesn’t have to leave the office and coordinate a remote shoot team.]
[This relays that you understand how the editing process works and you’re making it easier for the reporter.]
[This is a Google calendar event invite file that automatically enters the info on their calendar. NOTE: 99% of reporters use Google. Get to know how to send Google calendar event invites.]
[This tells the reporter that you are focused on their audience, not your agenda.]
[You learned on Twitter that Sally and Joey are the reporter’s kids.]
[Here’s a chance to speak with a national expert.]
[Include the release in the body of the email rather than attaching it. Make it all one read.]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Anti-Bullying Expert to Present Seminar for Families
Tampa Bay, FL – Bullying is not going away, yet many families do not have a plan to deal with it. That’s according to anti-bullying expert and author John Graden. Graden will be teaching a seminar that will help families learn how to prevent and take control of any bullying situation. The 90-minute seminar starts at 11 am Saturday, November 22nd, at the Palm Harbor Public Library. [Always lead with Who, What, Where, When, Why]
VIDEO 1 link
VIDEO 2 link
VIDEO 3 link
Editable Video Package link
John Graden Info [website, video, email, and phone.]
When speaking with the media, or a prospect, it’s important to have your sound bites memorized. Here is a key point though. You want to make sure your sound bite is unique from other schools. For instance, the reporter asks, “What can you tell me about USA Karate?” You answer, “We teach more than just kicking and punching. We instill life skills that help our students to succeed in all areas of life.”
There is nothing wrong with that statement. But, the odds are that 80% of the schools in your area would say the same thing and also have a Black Belt Excellence sign over their mirrors.
How can you make your pitch more compelling? Here are a few suggestions that focus more on why than what. Each has a long and short version.
The reporter asks, “What can you tell me about USA Karate?”
Self-defense starts with confidence, self-control, and situational awareness. That’s why everything we teach starts with mental self-defense before it ever escalates to physical self-defense. You win 100% of the fights you’re never in.
We teach prevention first. Self-defense starts with confidence, self-control, and situational awareness. You win 100% of the fights you’re never in.
We make sure our students are in great shape and can defend themselves, but they get a lot more than that. That’s why people are surprised when one of our students answers the question, “Have you ever had to use martial arts in real life?” The answer is, “Of course! I use them every day.” The confidence and self-discipline we teach is invaluable on a day-to-day basis.
We emphasize mental skills along with self-defense. Our students have told us that the confidence and self-discipline we teach is invaluable on a day-to-day basis.
Here in “Your town or city” we’ve seen a steady decay of respect. Our school is on a mission to change that. That’s why we teach our students the value of treating others like they’d like to be treated. It’s the golden rule. We all agree that the more respect we show each other, the better our world will be. Of course, our students also learn to respect the power of the self-defense skills they’re learning and to use them wisely.
For us, respect comes first. Respect for your right to safety. Respect for the skills you use and, of course, the golden rule, respect for others.
It’s pretty amazing really. With social media, we’re hearing back from students who trained with us years ago and moved on with their lives. The most common message we get is, “I’ve never had to punch or kick anyone in a self-defense situation. But, the self-discipline and respect that your school taught me had a massive effect on my life. Thank you, sir!” That’s why we love what we do at USA Karate.
The most common message we get from students is, “I’ve never had to punch or kick anyone in a self-defense situation. But, the self-discipline and respect that your school taught me has been huge.” We’re most proud of that.
What are some of your sound bites? Post them below in the comments.
Nothing is more powerful than the media for elevating your business above your competitors. I’ve been working and pitching the media for decades. I’ve had my own TV show, published a national magazine, and have been featured in many major media outlets including, publications, TV, and radio.
In my experience, here is how to get media coverage.
Understand that the media get pitched all day long. Everyone wants the “free publicity” that the media offers so you have to stand out from the crowd. There are two ways you can do that:
Focus on why your event or pitch is unique among the 30 other press releases they received today.
Make their job easy. This is HUGE.
Properly craft, present, and follow up on a press release.
Why is Your Event is Newsworthy?
Before writing the press release, brainstorm with your team or both sides of your brain to come up with three reasons that your event is newsworthy. These are called angles.
For instance, I teach anti-bullying seminars based on my book, Stop Any Bully. Anti-bullying seminars are nothing new. However, the angles I present with my sponsoring host are:
All (or part depending) of the proceeds will be donated to the schools of families attending the event.
The seminar is being taught by an internationally recognized anti-bullying expert author.
The seminar is targeted for parents more than children. This is a departure from the typical instant bully-proof, confidence-building in one-hour seminars.
This is NOT a bully-proof, be kind, show confidence and kick in the ding-ding typcial karate seminar.
How to Make Their Job Easy
The news-media work on tight deadlines. They do not have the time or interest and hand-holding you through the process, so let me do it here for you.
Speak to the Medium
Before pitching a TV station, think about what they need. TV is visual, so paint a picture for the producer that helps him visualize the action.
Years ago, I was called by the local CBS station to be guest on a live noon show for a segment discussing a young American man who was caught with marijuana and sentenced to six lashes with a cane. As a martial arts expert, they want my comments on what that experience might be.
As I was driving to the studio, I kept thinking of how I can make this interesting. While sitting at a red light, I noticed a fruit market with a table of watermelons. I quickly pulled in and bought two of the biggest, ripe watermelons and stuck them in my car next to a bamboo cane that I had grabbed from my karate school. Doesn’t everyone have one?
Why did I buy two watermelons? In order to do what I wanted to do, I had to convince the floor director that it was going to work.
When I walked onto the set with two watermelons, he immediately demanded what I had in mind. I was fine, because I expected this exact reaction. Floor directors are under a lot of stress and some can be quite nasty.
I invited him to follow me outside where I set a watermelon down. I said, “I think this will illustrate what this kid is about to experience.” Then, with all the fake, pre-strike Bruce Lee facial expressions I could muster, I raised the cane high and ripped it through the air and split the watermelon almost in half. Almost was even better because the melon laid their like it was bleeding guts out on the ground. His jaw dropped and he said, “That is f****** cool as s***. I was a hero in his eyes and a regular on the show after that.
That would not have worked on radio so think ahead of how you can maximize your value to show and its medium.
Watch Out For Egos Bigger than Yours!
While most show hosts are easy to get along with, the production crew around them may not be as nice.
The reason I brought two watermelons was because I knew, from experience, that floor directors can be egotistical jerks. One melon was to calm the guy down and the second for the live show.
A floor director is in charge of the visuals. Being a karate guy, my appearances almost always include a demo. This requires finding out where the light ends so that your kata or demonstration can stay within it.
Here is what I learned. If I’d say to the floor director, “Hi. Nice to meet you. Here is what I have in mind…” He would snap back something like, “I’m the floor director. I’ll tell you what we can do!”
In time, I learned to let the floor director take the lead by asking him, “Where do you want us to stay so this looks good?” This made him the boss, and everything fine.
Build Their Confidence in You
This is more for radio and TV guest appearances, but it always applies when working with the media.
The reason that you often see the same guest commentators on TV and radio is simple. They have proven that they can be depended on for interesting observations or explanations. They are good guests who add value to the show.
The media business is cutthroat. If a producer can get fired for greenlighting a guest who bombs. So, once you get on a show and demonstrate that you can be be interesting, concise, and entertaining, you have a much better chance of being invited back. You have become a low-risk guest and will most always get the call over someone with whom the producer has no experience. It’s simply too risky.
Some of best examples I can give you are the famous scientists that we always see on TV. Dr. Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson are masters at taking something that is highly complex and making it fun and easy for the rest of us. That’s why they are called upon over and over again on space and science subjects.
Dr. Oz did the same on the Oprah show. He made enemas entertaining.
Rather than give technical answers to technical questions, they make them easy to understand with answers that start with, “It’s like a….” Or, “It’s as if…” Or, “You know how you do this, this is like that times 50-million…” They make comparisons that we can all understand.
COBRA-Defense Founder Chris Sutton has a catalog of sound bites that he created to explain his self-defense program. For instance, “When you need self-defense, nothing else will do.”
Where can you take a common but complex issue and make it as clear as a cane splitting a watermelon? In other words, how can you make enemas entertaining?
If you want to stand out above your competitors, here is a strategy that can result in you getting the phone call from media for expert advice.
To get your website to rank, you have to convince Google that your content has value and authority. The following strategy is designed to give you both by commenting on crimes in your local area. This will start to position you as the local crime expert.
It should also improve your search rankings when Google sees local IP addresses click to your blog. Be sure to include an RSS feed that people can subscribe to in order to get alerts when a new post is up.
This is the RSS logo on the right side of MATA’s blog posts.
Step 1 Find and register a free account on local community websites that welcome guest/members posts and links. For instance, here in Tampa Bay, the TampaBay.com website has a PR service that allows posting your articles for free. You can include up to ten photos (label the photos with your article keywords)
Other sites might include the Chamber of Commerce, NextDoor.com, Craigslist.org, community organizations and civic groups, local papers, local TV and radio station websites, college newspapers, crimestoppers.com, non-profits, colleges, and universities etc… Some may require a donation to post. That’s up to you, but it’s something to consider if you’re serious about standing out.
Step 2 Each day, look for the news about local crimes that you can comment on and provide tips to either prevent or defend against.
Step 3 Write a “Self-Defense Analysis” blog post about the crime and provide tips or resources to help readers prevent or deal with the crime in the future. Post this article on your website’s blog.
The important part is this. The news article describing the crime will provide an address of where it happened. Be sure to include that address in your article.
Over time, the accumulation of all of these local addresses on your blog make your site more important in Google searches.
Keep the article short and to the point WITHOUT any promotional copy for your school.
Step 4 Email your list directing them to your article. Encourage comments.
Step 5 Post either the article or a link back to it on the network of websites you created in Step 1.
Example Article One Person Shot Dead in Hillsborough Home Invasion Tampabay.com – July 12, 2016 (always date and source the article)
(Copied straight from the article) TAMPA — One person was killed in an armed home invasion at a mobile home park in Town ‘N Country late Monday, deputies said.
Three people burst into a home at 219 Baywater Drive, Tampa according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and shot one man inside. He later died at the hospital, and investigators did not immediately identify him.
Crime Stoppers Tampa Bay is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Tipsters can call 1-800-873-TIPS (8477) or report information anonymously at www.crimestopperstb.com.
7 Tips to Prevent and Defend Against Home Invasion by (your school) USASelfDefense.com Expert John Graden Comments on the Crime (your article)
This tragedy illustrates a key distinction between robberies and home invasions. Robberies are typically carried out during the day when a home is empty. This way, there are no witnesses. Home invasions happen more often at night when people are home. In many cases, the fact you are at home is attractive to bad guys with violent intent.
1. Keep your doors, windows, and garages locked at all times. 2. If you have a gun, practice with it once a month. 3. Never open the door to strangers or solicitors. 4. Have a rehearsed escape plan in mind for your family. 5. Don’t fight over your property with an intruder. Let them have the property; it is not worth your life and can be replaced. 6. Make sure your bushes do not cover up your windows. 7. Do not depend on a sliding glass door lock. They easy to get around. Get a reinforced sliding glass locking system instead. Home invasions are terrifying. Decrease the chance of it happening to you with good prevention and increase your chance of surviving with a little bit of family planning.
John Graden is the Owner and Chief Instructor at USA Self-Defense in a local town. Phone. 727-644-3384 Email: email@example.com Address Website USASelfDefense.com