The days are long gone when, every Sunday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats captivated Americans across the country. We no longer live in a time when only a handful of television news anchors inform the public about the world. Now, when information is so pervasive, how do we make sure our stories rise to the top?
When information is so pervasive, we have to figure out how to make sure our stories rise to the top. Tweet This Quote
In my twelve years at ABC News, and specifically at Good Morning America, my job was to comb the news landscape for great stories and then convince some of the most interesting—and in-demand—people in the world to commit to coming on television to share these stories. More recently, in building the Girl Rising movement, I’ve had to ask the question, if you have one of the most important stories of our time, how do you make sure people are paying attention in a distracted world? In the process, I’ve learned a lot about how to effectively get your message out. Here are seven principles that guide me.
1. Understand how editors think
Getting your message out to a wide audience requires selling to the editors first. You have to understand what each editor looks for, the kinds of stories they publish, and the audiences they reach. Don’t pitch your story the way you want to tell it—pitch your story in a way you think the editor wants to tell it. In the old days, editors at the evening news filtered stories using a hierarchy that still applies—vital, important, or interesting. First, what’s vital? What’s the most urgent information everyone needs to know? Then, what’s important? This isn’t game-changing information, but it still strikes a chord with the audience. Finally, what’s interesting? You can choose how to frame your product or service.
Don’t pitch your story the way you want to tell it—pitch your story in a way you think the editor wants to tell it. Tweet This Quote
For example, the GEICO gecko sells auto insurance by being interesting and funny. GEICO could show cars crashing with the message that you need protection—this would be vital or important, but not interesting. You will achieve a different reaction from your audience and appeal to editors depending on how you frame your story.
2. Start small and use the ‘ecosystem’ to build and hone
When looking for publicity, start by targeting smaller, local press. Don’t think you need to pitch your story to a national media outlet right off the bat. In fact, the big national outlets rely on smaller publications around the country to find their news and content. For example, when I worked at Good Morning America, I read a variety of local magazines and newspapers looking for great stories and rarely accepted direct pitches. So many opportunities exist to share your story at a local level—see this as a time to hone your message. Then, when larger press does pick you up, you will more accurately represent your voice and vision.
So many opportunities exist to share your story at a local level—see this as a chance to hone your message. Tweet This Quote
3. Distribution, distribution, distribution
Everyone is a distributor today. With widespread access to the Internet, everyone can be a publisher. In the past, a handful of media distributors maintained a monopoly on the kind of information that reached the majority of people. Now, media is only one distribution point—a variety of others exist for you to partner with and take advantage of. For example, businesses reach employees, churches reach churchgoers, schools reach students and parents, and so on. Depending on the change you seek to create, consider how your product is relevant and attractive to these kinds of non-traditional distributors. Who are the people most interested in what you’re doing or making? Ask them for help in spreading your message.
With widespread access to the Internet, everyone can be a publisher. Tweet This Quote
4. Know and nurture your super fans
By understanding your relevant distribution channels, you will discover your super fans. These people are like your political base, members of your movement, or your most loyal customers—they will help spread your message to their communities in powerful ways. Consistently engaging and communicating with them builds a strong community that shares your vision for a better future. Ask yourself, who are the people aligned with my mission who most need my product or service? These people form your tribe, and you need them, too. The world is too big and connected to not harness help wherever you can—especially from the people who reliably step up and respond to your calls to action.
The world is too big and connected to not harness help wherever you can. Tweet This Quote
5. Recruit visible allies
People follow ideas, but people also follow people. This is the power of celebrities to propel your movement forward. Your visible allies don’t have to be national or international stars. They can be recognized people with gravitas in your local or regional community who share your vision. It’s worth the investment to find these people and understand what they need to commit to your cause. However, their fame is not enough. They need to have an authentic connection to what you do. If this person was sitting next to the President of the United States at a dinner party, could they talk with depth and understanding about the work you do? If you align yourself with someone who can’t do this, everyone will know. Here, authenticity is key.
People follow ideas, but people also follow people. Tweet This Quote
6. Every event deserves a ‘step and repeat’
A ‘Step and Repeat’ is the backdrop or billboard, often featuring logos, behind celebrities as they walk down the red carpet. You know how it goes—they take a step, look at the paparazzi, smile, and get their picture taken, over and over. The point is, if you’re going to spend money on an event, make sure you strategically capture it as if it were a red carpet affair. Plan who you will invite, who you need photos of alone, who you need photos of together, what the backdrop will be, and who will be in charge of capturing it all. The right pictures of the right people can keep on giving for months, if not years. You will show these photos to media outlets and potential funders and investors and say, “Look at who we are and what we did.” This doesn’t need to be expensive. If you’re a resource-constrained organization, you need these pictures even more.
If you’re going to spend money on an event, make sure you strategically capture it as if it were a red carpet affair. Tweet This Quote
7. Ask ‘why’ every step of the way
Finally, as you’re building your organization and crafting its messaging, you have to focus on how you spend your time and energy. Before organizing any event or reaching out to any media outlets, ask yourself why. Why do we want to be featured in this publication? Why are we having this event? If you can’t land on a clear reason, don’t do it. Asking why helps you know when to say yes and no. Then, when you say yes to something, you’ll have a better chance of translating that experience into a useful opportunity for your organization. You’ll enter the situation more prepared because you took the time to consider its purpose.
Before organizing any event or reaching out to any media outlets, ask yourself why. Tweet This Quote
I hope these principles prove useful to you in getting your message out. As entrepreneurs working on some of the most important issues of our time, it’s important that your stories rise to the top.