Okay. You’ve figured out how to get on a writer’s radar screen and have registered on sites that connect reporters and sources, right? Great. Now, let’s talk about how to attract a journalist’s attention and increase the chance of getting quoted in a story.
THE BEST RESPONSE TO A WRITER’S QUERY
You’re scrolling through your morning HARO email and a query jumps out at you. The writer is “looking for an expert to talk about the health benefits of wheatgrass juice,” a subject that you could discuss in your sleep.
Which of the following do you think is the best response?
A. “Hi, I’m Frank, Founder of Wheatgrass & Co., which serves up more than 200 shots of fresh wheatgrass juice daily to customers all over the tri-state area. I’d be happy to talk to you about the health benefits of wheatgrass juice at your earliest convenience.
B. “Hi, I’m Frank, Founder of Wheatgrass & Co., which serves up more than 200 shots of fresh wheatgrass juice daily to customers all over the tri-state area. I have a Master’s degree in Wheatgrass Juice, from Wheatgrass Juice University, and I’ve been selling wheatgrass juice for the past 15 years. The health benefits of this amazing juice are phenomenal, and I’d love to discuss the topic with you at your earliest convenience.
C. “Hi, I’m Frank, Founder of Wheatgrass & Co., which serves up more than 200 shots of fresh wheatgrass juice daily to customers all over the tri-state area for the past 15 years. Wheatgrass juice has numerous health benefits. Numerous studies have shown that three shot glasses a day can help prevent cancer, boost fertility and lower blood pressure. What’s more, a recent study in the Wheatgrass Juice Journal has suggested that it can even make you sprout wings and fly (I can send you a pdf of the study, if you’re interested). I have one regular customer that says she flew to Canada after drinking a daily shot for only six months. If you’d like to talk more about wheatgrass juice with me, I’d be happy to schedule an interview at your earliest convenience. Or take a look at my blog, which discusses important developments in wheatgrass juice research.
Incredibility of the example aside, C is the response that would grab my attention. (I’m always surprised by how many “A” responses I get.) Don’t rely on your company’s name or credentials alone, and don’t wait for the journalist to ask for an interview to share your pearls. Offer juicy information right off the bat and show a willingness to go the extra mile (e.g., offering to send a document). Remember that you’re not the only one with expertise in the subject matter, or even a degree in Wheatgrassology. So, the best way to prove that you’re the best expert for the story is by showing how well you know your stuff. If you can make the writer think: I never knew that or I never thought of it that way you’ve scored a bull’s eye. Aim for that.
ACING THE INTERVIEW
Okay, you’ve wowed the writer in your response and she wants to schedule an interview. Even if discussing this topic comes to you as easily as breathing, you still should better prepare. Although getting quoted is almost never guaranteed (I’ll discuss what you should and shouldn’t expect from being a source in a separate post), but you’ll boost your chances if you do these five things:
A. Ask the journalist if you can get a short list of interview questions in advance. While some journalists may refuse for fear of receiving stiff, over-prepared responses, many are happy to let you know what’s coming up. Knowing the type of questions the journalist will ask allow you time to gather facts and stories that will appeal to him or her, and develop your message.
B. Ask the journalist in which news outlet the story will appear. This is the usually first question sources ask (hoping the answer is “New York Times” or “Entrepreneur Magazine” no doubt!) But knowing the news outlet can tell you more than where your words may end up: you can get a sense of the style of writing and the type of articles that appear in the publication.
C. Ask the journalist what the story is about. It’s a good idea to know where you and your information fit into the larger picture of the article. It can help you stay on track during your interview. But it also may happen that you have helpful information or connections with respect to other parts of the story that the journalist will thank you for.
D. Review the journalist’s work. Knowing the journalist’s style of writing, preferred topics and, especially, how she handles quotes and experts in her work will give you a clue as to how your words may be used, and the style of responses the journalist is looking for.
E. Provide clear, concise, articulate responses. It’s easy to get nervous during an interview, but try neither to ramble or be so brief that you don’t provide any useable information. Before your interview, consider one or two key messages, create a sound bite (“For best results, you should have three shots of wheatgrass juice per day”), and work these sound bites into the interview when appropriate. If your message is coherent and relevant to the journalist’s story, you have a good chance it’ll be quoted. Don’t, however, limit your interview responses to these sound bites, or continually steer the interview around the points you want to make. If you try too hard to push your own agenda, the journalist may look for a more objective (sounding) source or find your responses irrelevant and unusable.
Next up: Becoming a Journalist’s “Go-To” Source.