The No. 1 rule of pitching your story to reporters is that you must think of it as engaging in a public service to teach people something — not promote yourself.
Read these emails some money managers sent to me when I was a reporter at Investor’s Business Daily and try not to cringe:
“I was recently award(ed) by the [industry association] the 2014 [Dead White Guy] Award for a white paper I co-authored… The papers honored with the Award have represented the richness and depth of technical analysis… Would love to talk about it with you for a potential story for IBD. Let me know when might be a good time to chat. The paper can be downloaded on the [website].”
“A little over a year ago you wrote an article on our [financial services firm]… I just wanted to update you on some of the things that we’ve accomplished over this past year. Please contact me or [man’s name] our CIO at your convenience.”
These gentlemen are asking me to call them so they can babble about themselves. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they did not mean to sound like self-absorbed, self-important megalomaniacs. But if they want accolades and publicity for their achievements, they should post it on Facebook or LinkedIn. Reporters are not free infomercial producers.
The painful paradox in the news business is that people who really have powerful insights hardly pursue media coverage if ever. Reporters have to stalk them and penetrate layers of reps just to ask for an interview. I have yet to get an email from Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg.
Media mongers should at least humor us. Pretend to show interest in other people. As Dale Carnegie teaches in his bestseller, How to Win Friends & Influence People: be interesting by being interested.
Focus your pitch around how it would benefit the target audience. Why would your product, service or message be interesting to them? Can it help solve a problem? How would it enhance their knowledge or help guide their everyday lives. Can your expertise offer perspective on a politically-charged debate? Or can you share a personal experience that others can learn from?