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Becoming a Media Resource

Follow these four steps to win over reporters and boost your sales.

By Michele Bupp

You want to generate buzz and create hype about you and your practice. But it’s a formidable challenge in the insurance and finance world—a world saturated with marketing messages.

The answer may just lie with your local newspaper or TV station. New York City-based public relations strategist Richard Laermer—who has made a career showing entrepreneurs how to successfully promote themselves—believes the media provide the best platform for you to present yourself as a credible, knowledgeable source.

“Positive exposure through [news]papers, television and online news sources is more effective in growing your bottom line than advertising could ever be … Anybody on the earth can get [in the media because] reporters are desperate for a good story and a new voice to tell it,” explains the 30-something author of Full Frontal PR (Bloomberg, 2004 ed.).

“You can create the buzz factor yourself.”

Richard Laermer

Get seen and heard
Seeing your words in print or hearing them on the 6 o’clock news is easier than you think. You can let the media know that you are a valuable resource with a “pitch letter.” (Click here to download a Word file containing a sample pitch letter.) In his book, Laermer, an ex-journalist, offers four steps to develop a media mailing.

1. Tell why you love your job (the “lead” of your pitch letter). How did you come to sell insurance or plan others’ finances? It’s the one thing you love the most; it’s your favorite subject. Be passionate in your explanation. Don’t be formal in your writing style. Make the reporter think, smile, or, perhaps, chuckle.

2. Provide a brief biography. Quickly explain who you are and what you’ve done.

  • Ask yourself: What do my clients value in me? What talent or know-how do my colleagues appreciate?
  • “You will be known for what you make known,” says Laermer, who advises you to choose accurate words not boastful ones. In Full Frontal PR, he writes, “Never exaggerate … and don’t ever, ever lie.”

3. Include any news clipping (no matter how small) about you or one in which you were a source. Include pieces related to your business or community/volunteer work.

4. Offer a suggestion—or maybe two, related to the news. This part should suggest a trend, issue or problem within the industry. Show how you’re going to solve a problem or what you can say about a trend.

Keep in mind that whatever story you pitch, “make sure it hasn’t been said before, or you’ll be passed over by the media,” according to Laermer.

  • Think about your industry. What patterns or preferences regarding insurance buying or investing have you noticed among your clientele?
  • To gauge public interest in your industry, read or glance at headlines in these major media everyday (if you don’t already): The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, The Economist and Bloomberg.com. The subjects they frequently cover are the kinds of stories you should pitch.
  • A topic becomes uniquely yours and more attractive to journalists when you provide perspective, details or a case study that exemplifies or counters an issue. When pitching to a local or special-interest newspaper or newsletter, tailor your idea to serve its audience.

Reporters can hardly call you unless they know you. But don’t blanket the media with your mailing. Target an editor or a news producer whose beat includes finance, money or insurance.

In Full Frontal PR, Laermer recommends: “… [T]hink about your industry—hard. Don’t rule out alternative media. Those biweekly and weekly ‘rags’ are often free, but nevertheless, they are places where people get their news, and yours might be just the mini-profile article that these folks are looking for.”

That all-important call
No, this call isn’t a reporter responding to your pitch letter. As Laermer puts it: “Never expect a catchy pitch letter to reap mounds of press just because you like it.” This is the call you make to each journalist, producer, managing editor, etc., on your mailing list. By following up with them, you find out if they received and read your pitch letter. Then, ask them what they thought of your pitches. A common retort from journalists is, “We aren’t covering those stories right now.” Don’t let the soft-no dissuade you. Without missing a beat, ask him to tell you the stories he will cover.

  • If he suggests a topic within your expertise, tell him so; and tailor your subsequent story pitches to him using those guidelines.
  • If he mentions topics that lie outside your expertise, ask him if he can refer you to a reporter who is a better fit for you.
  • If the call doesn’t get you any closer to your goal, then move on. There are plenty of journalists out there who are clamoring for a financial expert who speaks articulately and brings value to their work.

There is no magic in creating buzz for you and your business. By building relationships with journalists, you can give them the stories they want. When you’re reliable and responsive, not to mention ethical, you’re well on the way to becoming a source for journalists covering finance- and insurance-related news. As a result, your business and your sales have every reason to grow.

 


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