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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

So, you want to be featured in national news? Here’s how. 

Being a go-to source for reporters takes time, patience, diligence, and consistency.

So, you want to be featured in national news? Here’s how. 
[Vane Nunes/Adobe Stock]

After 15 years in the PR industry, here’s a question I finally stopped asking new clients: Which news outlets do you most want to be in?

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I already know their answer. It goes something like this: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, broadcast like CNBC would be nice, maybe TechCrunch, sometimes Bloomberg.

Now, more seasoned and wiser, I ask this question instead: What do you have to offer these news outlets?

Here’s a hard truth. Landing tier-one media coverage is tough. Really tough. If it were easy, I wouldn’t have a job. Yet the disconnect I find with some clients is that they aren’t willing to put in the work necessary to make it happen. Isn’t their innovative product enough? Shouldn’t the PR agency be able to make a few phone calls and voila?

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Well, no.

Here are my top five tips (or rather, requirements) for getting your name in the news. If you can execute on one of these, you might land an interview or two. But to truly be a thought leader, to be someone who reporters proactively call when they need commentary, you must be willing to act on all five.

Have a unique stance.

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I’m listing this first because it’s the most important. Unless you are of such prominence that anything you do or say is newsworthy (think Elon Musk, Warren Buffet), you must be willing to share a unique, controversial, interesting, or provocative viewpoint. If you just agree with the majority or are simply Captain Obvious, reporters will roll their eyes.

I’m currently working with a CEO of an electric vehicle charging technologies company. The CEO is a dream to work with because he disagrees with the majority. His ideas are fresh. He challenges the status quo. He gets on the phone with reporters and they say things like, “I’ve never thought of it that way before.” Reporters know he has something interesting to say, so when news hits, they email us and ask, “Can your CEO provide a comment? His opinion is always valuable.”

Go for quantity of coverage.

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Nothing is more frustrating than clients thinking they can come out of the gate with news coverage in the Wall Street Journal. You must start small and put in the work. Jennifer Aniston didn’t start on “Friends;” one of her first roles was in a horror movie called “Leprechaun.” Start with accepting most opportunities that come your way, whether it’s a small podcast or trade outlet, to gain credibility and kickstart momentum. I once pitched a client to a Yahoo Finance producer and she said, “It sounds like an interesting story, and he seems great. But I can’t find any previous media coverage he’s been featured in, so I am going to pass.” Start with quantity, and the quality coverage will follow.

Take informational meetings.

Before they quote you, they need to know you—and trust you. PR professionals often work with reporters to secure what we call an “informational interview” which is essentially a “get to know you” chat to see if you have anything interesting to share (see point #1). You must be willing to accept these chats, even knowing that they most likely won’t result in immediate news coverage. Instead, the purpose is to build a relationship with the reporter so when they do need a source, they call you.

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Be fast.

Once, I had a producer from “The Today Show” call me and ask, “I’m working on a story. Can your client do a short video interview ASAP?” I frantically called my client. I texted. I emailed. I may have even sent an Instagram-direct message. Radio silence. Finally, when I got a hold of my client, she said, “I’m so excited! But I’d really prefer if we could do the interview tomorrow. Are they able to share the questions in advance?”

The ship had sailed. When I finally got back to the producer, she confirmed what I suspected: “Oh I filed my story hours ago. I got another source. Maybe next time.” Reporters—especially in broadcast—are on tight deadlines and if you want to be featured, you need to be quick and flexible. In many cases, there won’t be time to extensively prepare.

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Stay active on social media.

Can you be featured regularly in the news as a thought leader without an active social media presence? Maybe. But it’s rare. And I don’t recommend it. It starts with following key reporters on social media—many will follow you back. From there, it’s an opportunity for reporters to see how you think. What kind of posts are you sharing? What comments are you making on their articles? Some reporters will even check your social media before determining if you are a good source to feature in their article. If you have two Twitter followers, that’s not great for your credibility. But 10,000? Now we’re talking.

THE FINAL WORD

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Being a go-to source for reporters takes time, patience, diligence, and consistency. The key is to do everything you can to be top of mind for reporters and to make their jobs easier. If you can execute on these five areas, your dreams of landing that Wall Street Journal placement are more likely to become a reality.


Shannon Tucker is the Vice President at Next PR, a national tech PR agency. She lives in Denver. 

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