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Getting Your Message

Ever since the introduction of CNN in 1980, news has fragmented and metamorphisized into neo-journalism. The goal of every good reporter used to be objectivity. That's changed. Journalists, television producers and radio hosts are expected to be story-tellers. They're supposed to give a story a face, show it with details instead of telling about it, give it context and meaning for their viewers, listeners and readers. As story tellers you're one-leg up on the rest of the business world when it comes to promoting your product. You understand the basics of story telling, good characters, conflict and stories with heart that produce an emotional, visceral reaction in your audience. That's exactly what the media want from you.

The same story telling abilities can also be a weak spot for writers. Instead of 80 or 100 thousand words, you have to reduce your message down to fit the instantaneous nature of today's media. The single biggest mistake people make is not knowing their message. In general, authors as authors don't interest media at all. You have to have a hook and be the solution to a problem.

Three strategies will interest media the most:

  1. Identify a problem (Americans often confuse sex with romance.)
  2. Point to an opportunity (Businesses that sell products to women can have an inside edge if they read romance.)
  3. Explode a myth (Romances aren't sex books.)
Of these, exploding a myth gets the best response. The Romance genre is perfect for this. Think of the following myths: romance readers (and writers) don't have a life and are frustrated housewives; romances are only read by women; romances aren't making any money in the publishing industry; romances are all formula writing; romances encourage loose morals and fantasy existence; romances degrade women. By exploding any one of these myths, you can draw in the media, who will gladly debate it with you. Remember, it isn't the truth you are asserting, but the juice the media can get out of it that counts. When pitching a producer or editor, in thirty seconds or less you need to hold up the myth and then shoot it down.

Research has shown an audience will remember no more than three key message points. Everything you say, everything you speak about, needs to connect back to those points.

You need to stop thinking of yourself as a writer, and start thinking of yourself as a media commentator waiting in the wings. Barbara Strisand gets married, why do many successful women wait so long to marry? How does celebrity status change relationships? How do busy people find time to fit romance into their lives?

Once you have this message you can either work with a public relations professional in creating a campaign or do it on your own and create the materials you'll need to interface with the media.

Before you start sending out press kits, book covers or making phone calls, you need to know your audience. You need to be confident your materials will fit the media. Your chances of securing some publicity, will increase dramatically if you know the culture of the media outlet you're targeting.
Culture consists of:

  • Format - guest or host driven for broadcast / daily, weekly, special sections for print
  • Demographics - who is their audience? Young, old, executives, housewives?
  • Orientation - the type of programming or articles they publish (radio - sports or news shows,
  • TV - news, author interview show, talk show, print - news, lifestyle, personality)
  • Pace or style - rapid fire talk radio, quick segment morning show or investigative reporting
  • Tone - authoritative, friendly, obscene
Look at back issues of a publication or watch/listen to a show before you pitch. The biggest complaint journalists have is getting information sent that isn't right for them. Keep in mind that these folks have slush piles larger than most New York publishers and daily, sometimes hourly deadlines to meet. Your hook needs to be tailored to meet the needs of each show's individual culture. Once you have an idea of who your audience is, you can work on getting their attention.


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