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How I Snagged an Associated Press Interview [and how you can get FREE publicity for your business]

I’m going to tell you exactly how I got an interview with the Associated Press…
In my more than ten years of public relations experience, I’ve pitched the Associated Press many times. I’ve never gotten a story placement – until now.

A few weeks ago, I pitched an Associated Press reporter who was writing a story about how small business owners use social media. Given that I’m a small business owner who specializes in social media, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I sent a pitch to the reporter.

For transparency’s sake, here is a screenshot of the actual pitch I sent:
When I didn’t hear back by the end of the day, I assumed the reporter had decided to pass.  No big deal. It happens. I moved on.

Lo and behold, I received the following response in my inbox 24 hours later:

After sitting in shock for a few seconds, I immediately responded:

Several emails later, we had confirmed a phone interview for the next day. One week later, the story ran with a quote from yours truly included.

So how can you land publicity for your business? Here are a few reasons why I was successful and how you can be too:

I identified the right opportunity.

 Thanks to a free service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO), I receive several emails in my inbox each day with queries from reporters. Because I know what reporters are working on, I can be confident that I’m pitching myself for the right opportunities. Since I had expertise in the topic that this particular reporter was writing about, it made sense to send a pitch.

The key to securing publicity for your business is to match the right story with the right reporter. So if you’re in the food and beverage industry, it doesn’t make sense to pitch an entertainment reporter. You need to do your research ahead of time to find which reporters are writing about topics in your industry.

I had a catchy subject line.

Reporters receive hundreds of pitches every day. To be successful, you have to stand out from the pack. The subject line is the most important part of your pitch. Why? Because that’s what reporter will see first in his or her in box. If you don’t capture attention immediately, the only thing your pitch will see is the inside of the digital trash bin.

What made my subject line stand out? I spoke directly to the audience the reporter reaches and offered a nugget of advice. Sure, I could have simply written a subject line that said: “An expert for your HARO query.” But what does that tell the reporter? Nothing. There’s no meat to it. By including a tidbit of information in my subject line, I piqued the reporter’s attention and made her want to open my email.

My pitch was brief and to the point.

When it comes to the body of your pitch, brevity is best. In this case, the reporter asked potential sources to answer two questions in their pitches. You’d be surprised at how many people try to impress reporters by including flowery, colorful language that doesn’t actually answer a question. In my case, I answered both her questions in a brief, succinct manner. I gave enough information, but not too much.

Remember: you don’t want to send reporters a novel. Give them enough to hook them and if they’re interested, they’ll follow up with questions or an interview request.

I responded quickly.

Once you send out your pitch, your job isn’t over. Time is of the essence here. If a reporter responds to your pitch, do not (I repeat, do NOT) let a day or more go by without a response. Reporters are on deadline and if you can respond to requests quickly, they’re more likely to use you as an expert. Because I responded quickly to the reporter’s interview request and offered a date/time and my contact information, I was able to snag the interview.

I gave a good interview.

The interview lasted about 20 minutes and during that time, I gave the reporter as much information as possible. I answered all her questions without rambling on and I spoke in sound bites (meaning I gave quotes that were exciting and interesting). I spoke slowly and stopped at the end of each response so she could catch up (most reporters are taking notes while they’re on the phone).

Interviews can be scary, especially if you’ve never participated in one before. But with the right preparation, you can nail any interview. Here’s one tip: take time beforehand to jot down 2-3 key messages you want to convey during the interview. This will give you structure and guidance when responding to the reporter’s questions.

I was available for questions afterward.

At the end of the interview, the reporter asked if she could contact me via email with any follow-up conversations. Of course, I said yes. When she emailed me a few days later to clarify a piece of information, I responded quickly. Again, your job isn’t over until the article runs. Reporters want to get their facts right, so be available for any questions after the interview.

I sent a thank-you note.

 Once the article ran, I sent a quick note to the reporter thanking her for including me. Why did I do this? It wasn’t to suck up to her. I truly appreciated the opportunity (I mean, it is the Associated Press). Reporters are people too – so treat them as such. If you focus on cultivating a relationship with a reporter, he or she will be much more likely to reach out to you in the future. This means being helpful and giving the reporter valuable information – even if it doesn’t directly benefit your business.

As you can see, public relations is very involved. There are many steps to getting an awesome media placement and if you skip one, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.  It takes time to generate publicity for your business, so if you don’t have the knowledge or resources to do it in-house, consider hiring someone to help.

One last thing: when you do snag that incredible media placement, share it with the world! Being featured in an article is great exposure for your business and positions you as an expert in your field. It’s marketing gold – so be sure to take advantage of it.

I’d love to hear from other business owners who have secured media coverage! What worked best for you? What tips would you offer other business owners?

Follow me on Facebook for more tips to get free publicity for your small business!

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