Three years ago, The Honest Company, Jessica Alba’s fast-growth consumer goods empire which, at the time, was valued at over $1 billion dollars, started to face a string of lawsuits and product recalls. I was on-site at a client photoshoot when I received an email from Fox Business asking me how I thought these setbacks would impact her brand. I blinked a few times, wondered if the email had reached me in error (I was 26 at the time and had a surging case of imposter syndrome), then ultimately thought, “Oh, what the hell? I’ll give an opinion because I have one.” Twenty-four hours later, I was a quoted expert in a news story.
At the time, I didn’t think anyone would pay much attention to my quote aside from my immediate and extended family who all received links to it (I’m shameless). But to my surprise and extreme delight, phone calls started coming in. I received all kinds of inquiries– from CEOs who were going on reality shows needing assistance with their personal brands, to companies asking me if I could host workshops for their employees about how to build personal brands. Being quoted as an expert in a news article shot my credibility and my exposure through the roof in ways I hadn’t anticipated at all.
I knew if getting quoted as an expert in a publication had that much of an impact on my business and my bottom line, then it will certainly have the same impact for others. So, two weeks ago, I interviewed Jade Scipioni, the journalist who asked my opinion on that story and several others, what journalists are looking for when they look for sources, exactly how to find/approach them, and the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when looking to get published.
A bit about Jade:
Jade is a senior reporter at CNBC’s Make It and interviews business titans and personalities like Martha Stewart, Andy Cohen, Whole Food’s CEO John Mackey, and more. Prior to joining the CNBC team, Jade was a News Reporter at Fox Business Network, a producer at Bloomberg, a Producer at CNN, and an associate producer at CBS News. So yeah, she knows her stuff in a big way.
Here are some of the top learning lessons I took away from the conversation:
- It’s not all about the “big guys.” In fact, journalists are looking for “average entrepreneurs” just like YOU.
People are tired of reading about the same CEOs over and over again. They’re hungry for learning lessons and stories from everyday entrepreneurs building growing companies. The emphasis here is stories. Jade made it VERY clear that if you’re reaching out to get a product plug or to promote your business’ services, it’s a turn-off. Says Jade, “I want to know about the journey of building your business. Even with the big guys, I start by asking them about their starting point.”
It’s the journey that people find intriguing, so lead with that.
- GET TO THE POINT.
If you send paragraphs of information to a journalist, they’re going to do what we all do when we see a lengthy message from a stranger…their brain will fire off an “information overload” signal and they’ll file it into the folder of “Things I’ll never get to.” Journalists are BUSY. They are interviewing sources, they are finding stories, they are creating content, and they are dealing with a 24-hour news cycle and constantly feeling behind. Do yourself and them a favor and get straight to the point of how you can help them.
- How to effectively message a journalist
If you mass blast journalists with the same message, just like mass blasting prospects, your success rate will be low. Journalists are humans. They want to be acknowledged for the work they do, and you BETTER have done your research before reaching out to them. Jade suggests looking at the type of stories they cover, looking at how they cover those stories and leading with something simple like:
“Hi Jade, my name is Kait LeDonne and I’m a personal branding expert and founder of LeDonne Brands. I read your story on how the Pepsi commercial debacle could adversely impact Kendall Jenner’s personal brand. I would love to provide an opinion on your next piece if a celebrity or business owner finds themselves in hot water with their personal brands. You can reach me here (contact info). Thanks, and I look forward to staying in touch and reading more of your work.”
- Speaking of staying in touch…FOLLOW them on social media.
Journalists, like any other human being, live on social media. Find them on LinkedIn and connect with them. Follow them on Twitter. Engage with them on Instagram. It takes about 8-12 impressions for someone to form an association in their mind. Every time you like or comment on a journalist’s content, you’re making an impression and letting the know you value their work. Plus, Jade said they are typically pretty open and responsive to social media outreach. Again, we are living in 2019, email is NOT the only way to connect with these folks.
- Leverage local news outlets.
Jade’s inbox is flooded with business owners from around the world because of the scale of CNBC’s platform. (Although she did say if you look at their site, especially the “Small Business” section they are always trying to cover “regular entrepreneurs”). Regardless, she has a LOT to wade through. Guess who doesn’t have that volume of inquiries? Your local journalists and producers. They are HUNGRY to meet with and get stories. It’s very relevant to have local experts published and on their shows. Bonus: You can leverage your local coverage to then pitch yourself as an expert to larger publications and outlets.
- How do journalists find “experts” and what qualifies someone as an “expert?”
No surprise here, journalists are human beings, and like every other human being, they use Google to find experts. Jade said she’ll typically use Google to query things like “Branding Expert” or “Fitness Expert” to write a story. The next logical question is, how does she verify that this person is, in fact, an expert? Answer: It depends. Sometimes it can be accreditations and certifications (she’ll go to universities) and sometimes it’s experience. She shared how one of her articles featured a fitness expert who has a roster of celebrities. Even though that person didn’t get specific degrees for fitness, their experience in working with celebrities matter to people, so that can make them an expert.
I think my biggest takeaway here when it comes to connecting with journalists is this:
Building relationships with journalists is like building relationships with anyone else. You want to lead with value, you want to get to the point about how you can help them, you want to do your homework on what’s important to them, and you want to cultivate your relationship over time.
Now, you may be reading this and think, “That sounds easy enough! I’m ready to start building these valuable relationships, but where in the world do I FIND these journalists?”
Well, there are a few options. You could Google media outlets and stories and start making a list. The problem with that is you’ll typically find the big ones everyone finds and reaches out to. When I started doing this, I would look at publications like Entrepreneur, Inc., and Forbes because that’s what I (and everyone else) is familiar with.
However, there is a HUGE number of industry-specific publications, trade magazines, local publications, blogs, influencer platforms and more that can actually skyrocket your credibility. Why do these work so well? Because they have niche audiences who are incredibly invested in reading their content.
Those can be a little harder to find and locate, but there are thousands of them looking for experts JUST LIKE YOU.
Fortunately, we have a relationship with one of the largest databases of journalists in the world that source media coverage and journalists’ contact information, along with preferences of how these journalists like to be pitched and what stories they write about.
- An excel database of journalists who cover your area of expertise and need sources. The database allows you to filter and prioritize outreach based on criteria like publication size, subject matter, etc.
- A briefing book with longer explanations of how each journalist likes to be pitched.
We will then hop on a Zoom call with you for 30-minutes to strategize how to reach out to these journalists and start building relationships with them so you can expand your influence and credibility. The best part? The database is yours to keep forever.
Typically, a subscription to this database costs over $5,000 annually, but for the next week, we are running a special program where you can get the excel database, the comprehensive briefing book, and the 30-minute strategy call for only $997.