How To Attract Attention From Mainstream Media: Rule #1

Earlier this week, Ryan Caldwell’s College Startup blog hit Digg with a story about successful entrepreneurs who didn’t get college degrees.

I clicked through and discovered some of Ryan’s other posts over here at Performancing, including one in which he suggests that readers who want to build their blog traffic “Target Powerful Eyeballs” such as journalists on FOX News Channel.

I commented on his posting.

It’s a great suggestion. But he didn’t tell us HOW to do it.

I’ve been in the businesses of “broadcast and electronic publicity” for about 11 years now, meaning I get companies, celebrities, authors, products, causes, etc. covered editorially by TV news.

I offered to write a few guest posts, Ryan accepted, and here we are…

So, let me start with the basics.

The single most important question that a TV news publicity-seeker must ask is, “Why would FOX News (or any other TV news outlet) care about my story?”

Another way to ask this is “what makes my story relevant to their audience?”

This may sound like an easy question to answer, but it requires a level of objectivity that doesn’t come naturally to many people.

Far too often, I find myself working with corporate marketing and PR professionals who have not only drunk the Kool-Aid, they’re swimming in it.

No matter what level of the game you’re at… getting out of your own shoes and imagining what the FOX News viewer wants to see is the best way to begin.

RELEVANCE is Rule #1… Now how do you apply it?

I landed a new client this week and rather than just tell you about how to get TV news exposure, I’m going to show you what we do for this specific client on this campaign.

The client is a medical technology company based just outside Washington, DC. They recently went public and their goal is to use broadcast publicity to sell more of their product and create interest in their stock.

It’s a bit of an unusual situation for my firm. Most of our clients come to us through our partners. This one became a client because my son had a medical condition that their product cured and I wanted to tell people about it.

So here’s the backstory…

When he was 5, my son contracted a viral skin infection called Molluscum Contagiosum Virus (“MCV”). It’s an uncomfortable viral skin infection that causes itchy lesions all over the body.

MCV is highly contagious, so my entire family was at risk of contracting it. But as it is considered to be benign, the pediatrician prescribed some topical cream (must be said with South Park intonation) which did nothing.

The lesions were spreading. My son was embarrassed by the condition. So my wife brought him back in to the doctor who said “go to a dermatologist.”

The dermatologist suggested that we freeze off the nasty little lesions (my kid had about 50 to 100 of them at the time). Well, she froze off the first one and my kid hit the ceiling. He was totally traumatized.

My wife took him out of the dermatologist’s office and back to the pediatrician who suggested we wait till the MCV ran its course… which could take 6 months to 4 years.

It wasn’t a great option.

Then he mentioned that one of his other patients had a positive outcome with a product they got online.

My wife contacted that patient and learned about the SilverCure. That night, I went online and ordered the biggest package they had for next day delivery.

For the next 4 weeks, I applied the product to my son’s lesions morning and night. And they all went away. I was very impressed and we were all relieved.

So I emailed the company, shared my kid’s story and offered to publicize their product.

It’s been about a year since then, and I kept following up with the CEO.

Finally, this week, the timing was right for them and we agreed to work together to tell the story.

First step, apply Rule #1 and establish RELEVANCE

Outside of my family, my kid’s skin condition is not news. It is an example, a case study.

How do I make it appeal to FOX News and the 1,000 or so other TV news outlets around the country?

Because it is a medical condition, I looked for a statistic that would demonstrate that this story affects a large segment of their viewing audience.

In this case, there are a number of statistics available. According to various online sources, the incidence of this viral skin infection ranges from 2% to 17% of all children in the U.S. between the ages of 2 and 12.

That’s a pretty big segment of the population but if I use this statistic as the cornerstone of my campaign, many reporters will see the 2% figure and pass on the story because they have a dozen other story ideas available to them that impact a larger segment of their audience.

Ideally, we want our story to appeal to the largest possible share of their TV audience.

How we chose to expand the relevance in this case is by using a technique called, the Tie In.

You don’t have to be a Doctor to see the similarities between MCV and MRSA, the skin infection that has been all over the news lately.

Both of them are skin infections. Both are antibiotic resistant. Both are highly-contagious.

We can use these similarities to draw a few comparisons, and lead with an accurate (albeit slightly misdirecting) headline like this…

“Doctor Discovers Effective Treatment for Highly-Contagious, Antibiotic-Resistant Skin Infection”.

Voila! We’ve tied our SilverCure story to MRSA, making it relevant to the millions of people who have crapped their pants for fear of contracting a “superbug” infection.

How many people have crapped their pants so far?


According to a research report pulled by a vendor of ours, MRSA has been mentioned over 20,000 times in the past year.

That microscopic organism has made nearly 1 BILLION media impressions in the US alone and Paris Hilton is starting to feel jealous.

So, approximately every American has seen a scary MRSA story on TV news 3 times or more.

Interestingly, the vast majority of those stories aired in the past few weeks since the CDC made its announcement that MRSA was causing more deaths than HIV/AIDS.

By tying my MCV story to the MRSA story (by citing the similarities) I have made my client’s story of interest to a huge universe of viewers. That’s the trick in creating relevance.

I understand that most of you who are reading this have not discovered a cure for a skin infection. But you can apply this lesson to just about anything.

Make your story appealing to the largest possible audience.

If the natural audience for your story is too small, look around for possible tie-ins with other, bigger stories that are more relevant.

Until next time,

18 thoughts on “How To Attract Attention From Mainstream Media: Rule #1

  1. Hey Markus, check these grid design sites, the latter is a nice and easy guide and don’t forget to pop over to Yahoo for their YUI resources.

    Design By Grid

    7 Smooth Steps to Superb Grids

    I’m currently researching grid based design for the upcoming redesign of my main site. It’s nice that Travel In Papers (TiPs) has inspired you re: grid based design, that wasn’t its intention but chuffed you’ve found some hidden value in it.

    Anyway, I’ve just launched the blog for TiPs, early days and have a few articles to pre-date the official launch – I started the project on October 10th, launched on November 8th.

    Travel In Papers Blog

  2. Thanks Raj! I will look at the pages in detail later. Looks great so far. My ‘grid design concept’ is aimed at mashing up content from different sources. So it is not only a design thing.

  3. @Garri: “but it sent my head spinning with ideas”

    Just two points: 1. Affiliate shop 2. Add content to single shop items
    Your ‘Travel in Papers’ made me already write a pretty long ‘grid design concept’ for two new sites.

  4. I appreciate the feedback very much. Thanks all!

    Next one coming shortly. A preview…

    This campaign has already gone down the path of many a production, to scheduling hell. And my kid’s pediatrician’s marketing director won’t let him grant the interview.

    Is this story DOA? Will we make our self-imposed, arbitrary deadline?

    In the next installment,

    * How to get Doctors to grant you interviews. The door-opening power of a TV news crew.
    * How to source out a multi-city production.
    * The shot list – what images and interview soundbites are required to tell the story?
    * The interview, instructions for kickin’ it “news style”

    Tune in Thursday.


  5. Thanks for a relevant example of a very powerful marketing method, the Tie In.

    Also, this post is also an good example of the power of stories.

  6. Garri makes a critical point:

    “The good thing about our project is we have now built a simple yet effective framework which enables us to replicate it for other countries (our next move) and other niches ;-)”

  7. I enjoyed the experience of our first pipes foray but it sent my head spinning with ideas, most of which I don’t have the time to exploit.

    But, it has limitations and in our project we needed to pre-process them using a database to get the feeds working how we wanted.

    It also got me looking into desktop apps to mash up feeds – still researching that one.

    The good thing about our project is we have now built a simple yet effective framework which enables us to replicate it for other countries (our next move) and other niches 😉

  8. Good point Garri, Markus… re Yahoo Pipes

    As Ryan commented elsewhere, I “smoke” a lot of (Yahoo) Pipes. Don’t discount Pipes as a research/ blogmastering tool. They’re relatively easy to build and quite useful. See and search for “Yahoo Pipes” for some video tutorial examples. I build custom search tools with Pipes for several niches all the time.

  9. Cheers for bookmarking us Markus, appreciated.

    Can you guess that we’re putting a lot of our effort into trying to attract mainstream media to our cause? 😉

    We got a nice taster when The Guardian mentioned us a few times. They’re fans but we need exposure from other publications, hence this new tool we’ve released.

  10. Great concept and realization. Sent to

    “Interesting concept and realization! Using RSS input, Yahoo Pipes and Google CoOp a prefiltered search engine is realized.”

  11. good advice.

    people look for angles that appeal to them in any news story – so if you make it relevant to the largest possible audience, you’ll have content that mass media will love (because they (more than anyone else) play by the numbers).

  12. Another way is to build something they will find useful. We were messing about Yahoo Pipes and Google custom search a while ago and built a simple site that we ourselves could use to monitor the UK travel press.

    Take a peek: Travel In Papers

    If it’s useful for us, which it is, then it’s going to have a chance to be useful for the travel media too. In fact, it’s useful for anyone involved in the field of travel: journalists, bloggers, pr agencies, tour operators, travel companies etc.

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