Do you have a practice that could use a boost? One of the best ways to get new clients is to receive positive exposure in newspapers, television and radio. Perhaps you are excited about this idea and willing to act on it, but have no history of working with the media and don't know how to begin.
The great news is this: the media is looking for you! Newspapers, magazines, television and radio shows have a consistent number of pages or airtime minutes that must be filled daily, weekly or on some scheduled basis, regardless of what is or isn't going on in the world. As a former correspondent and feature interviewer for several newspapers, I remember the rare thank-you one of my editors once wrote to me after I'd handed in a good article. The note said, "I appreciate and applaud your writing skills. The story you wrote was excellent. More importantly, it exactly fit the space I needed to fill!"
Naturally, newspapers, television and radio shows would prefer to fill their space with something both meritorious and fascinating enough to seize the public's attention. What better topic than your practice?
BIG OR SMALL
Most of us are not going to be the subject of a feature interview in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, have our work reviewed on NPR's "All Things Considered," or find ourselves as featured guests on Oprah! The good news is that nearly every community throughout the world has its own newspapers, TV and radio stations, and they are constantly on the lookout for material that will excite and inform the public. In other words, they are on the lookout for YOU!
Even big cities have smaller neighborhood venues. These media outlets are much more approachable than one might imagine. Think about it. They have to be open in order to get ideas. Who would ever call a newspaper or a TV station with a hot lead if the person who answered the phone was cold and rejecting?!
What turns the media on? Answer: A story that is newsworthy or entertaining, especially one with an angle! Presenting yourself as the motivation expert who coached the local high school basketball team for sports success, or as the massage artist who volunteers her gifts at the local children's cancer ward, offers a much more interesting hook than a rambling dissertation on why you think your particular skill or offering is beneficial.
Smaller venues tend to be very community-minded, so anything that serves your local area is of special interest, such as the free stress-reduction sessions you are offering to employees of the town's shopping mall or the healing workshop you are giving as a fundraiser for the local animal shelter.
Hot clue: The best way to get into the media is to publicize an event! Events that are both open to the public and free are almost certain to get media attention, and are a great boost to our profession. (If you plan such an event, make sure that it is truly free and not just a marketing lure to get folks to buy an expensive seminar or back-of-the-room products; such schemes could quickly tarnish your reputation.)
What turns the media off? 1.) An advertisement masquerading as an informative article, or 2.) a blatantly self-promoting individual or business who turns into a pest. Newspapers, radio and television make money selling ads. They are keenly aware of promotional material or advertisements purporting to be real news.
Are you thinking of writing a column about your particular skill or product for your local paper? You might think again. According to Robert Cloud, editor of The County Post, a newspaper in Waupaca, Wisconsin, the least likely way to get something published in a newspaper is to propose a column.
Why? A column, says Cloud, demands the guarantee of a regular allotment of space, something editors are not keen to grant. Another reason has to do with ability. "Most people really don't know how to write a column," says the editor.
He relates how would-be columnists have approached him with grandiose propositions, but with no professional writing background or even samples to show. (Being self-published is not, to most newspaper editors, an indicator that a person has writing skills.) "What prospective columnists often do is express a bunch of their personal feelings, but they don't have a single fact in the entire thing. So what's the point of running it?"
On the brighter side, he states, "If someone turned in an article to me on a subject like hypnosis that was well written, that was factual and that I didn't have to write myself, it would be great! An editor with a small staff loves to get stuff that he doesn't have to write himself. I don't write most of the health news that I publish."
He suggests that prospective writers familiarize themselves with the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling and paragraphing. The article should include both statistics as well as the sources of those statistics, which must be reliable and verifiable. Cloud warns that editors are wary of information which comes from the internet, "because the internet has no gatekeepers."
Before submitting an article to a newspaper, Cloud recommends finding a literate and honest friend to review the article first. He adds with a smile that the person should probably not be the writer's mother.
Radio, newspapers and even some television stations will almost certainly run an announcement of your free event, and if it seems interesting enough, they might even send a reporter to cover it.
In fact, according to Cloud, submitting an announcement for an event is the very best way to get something in the newspaper. He offers this advice: "When sending in announcements, you need to say in the very first paragraph Who, What, Where and When. It absolutely has to have those things. The fact is, most people don't get past the first paragraph or two when they read their newspapers.
"Let's say there's going to be a demonstration of hypnosis in a local school," he continues. "You need to include:Who is doing it?
What are they doing?
When? Give the exact time.
Where? Include the address."
Cloud states that the introductory paragraph in an announcement should be about 16 words long. The second and third paragraphs should be brief and have some description of what is going to be happening, such as, "Bea Crystal will demonstrate hypnosis on audience volunteers." The last paragraph should contain the credentials of the person giving the demonstration.
Cloud cautions against using flowery language in articles or announcements, writing in the first or second person, ("You are invited to my seminar," or "Hypnosis is great! I really love it,") or putting in unattributed quotes ("As one client said, 'I really love hypnosis.'")
"Keep it short and to the point," he says. "You're more likely to get it in the paper if it's short than if it's long."
Radio stations similarly will generally announce an event which is free and of community interest, although their coverage will probably be briefer than that in a newspaper.
April Hall, a producer at WFRV-TV, a CBS affiliate in Green Bay, Wisconsin, suggests that to get an event on television, one can either call or send story ideas to the station.
"There's an assignment editor who reviews press releases, faxes and e-mails," she says. Reiterating Cloud's advice, she adds, "A person sending a press release is always asked to include who, what, when and where; all the information should be in the first paragraph.
"We won't cover it if it's not really affecting anyone, if it doesn't have a large turn-out, if it's non-visual, or if it lacks taste," says Hall. "What we will cover is something that has visual interest, anything that's new, that's exciting-anything that could keep our viewers' attention."
Some newspapers, TV shows and radio stations have regular interview segments, and that is an excellent way to receive media attention. Before consenting to an interview, however, consider the venue carefully and become acquainted with the format. Be wary of any interviewer who might have an interest in bashing your chosen venue. Such shows can be both seductive and deceptive!
Last year I was among several well known hypnotists charmingly courted by producers to be interviewed on a TV show called Bull____!. Having some knowledge of how the hosts of this show had risen to infamy by breaking the magician's code and revealing secrets of magic, I was forewarned that this was not a show on which I would ever want to appear--and even if it weren't for that, the name of the show was a pretty good tip-off! Not all shows will reveal their intent as obviously as this one.
Supposing a venue is honest and has met with your approval. If you are glib and good at ad-libbing on the spot, a live call-in radio show might be just the ticket for you. Are you pretty? TV is visual, and like it or not, producers prefer attractive and trim people. For television, you also need to be able to respond rapidly without appearing flustered, and to condense your information into brief sound bites. Newspaper interviews can handle slower, more thoughtful responses; the better your language skills, the better you will look in print.
Just how does one get the media to interview you? I have been interviewed on television, in newspapers and on radio shows. In each instance, I did not call them. They called me and solicited the interview. I have also been on the other side of the fence as an interviewer. For several years, I wrote a syndicated interview series, and during this time I was constantly on the look-out for interesting people to feature. I welcomed telephone calls and letters recommending likely candidates. I was skeptical and put off, however, whenever people contacted me to nominate themselves for an interview.
My best recommendation for those who would enjoy being interviewed would be this: call some articulate clients or friends who genuinely love you and your work, and ask them to suggest your name to newspaper, radio and television interviewers. If you have a niche that might be of interest, such as past-life regression or working with pregnant moms, make sure they mention that.
Be savvy and smart about the media, and remember: they are looking for you!
Mary Elizabeth Raines, Certified Instructor of Hypnotherapy