How to Get Free Media Attention for Your Small Business
Emmy-winning TV producer and business owner Paula Rizzo shares her proven methods for earning TV and radio spots.
By Liz Willits July 18, 2018
Imagine your business featured on live television or radio — for free! It’s just a pipe dream, right?
It doesn’t have to be, according to media expert Paula Rizzo. The media is searching for people just like you to share their stories with the masses. You just need to know how to tell it.
During my recent interview with AWeber customer Paula Rizzo, a business owner and Emmy-award winning television producer for nearly 20 years, I learned the ins and outs of landing free media spots. Keep reading to discover Rizzo’s proven formula for delivering a successful media pitch and how she uses the media to grow her email list.
How small businesses can earn media attention
Rizzo founded and owns two successful businesses — List Producer and Lights Camera Expert. But her businesses weren’t always full-time gigs. For years, Rizzo worked as a television producer for a news station. Her entrepreneurial journey was just a side-hustle that she hoped would take off. But she quickly realized that she would never be able to do them full time if she didn’t get media attention, she says.
To make that happen, she knew she had to establish herself as an expert in her niche: productivity. She started a blog where she explains how people can live a more efficient life through to-do lists, checklists, and lists for almost every occasion. By writing about topics such as optimizing your to-do list and how to use lists to be more efficient, she was able to demonstrate her expertise online, which played a huge role in landing media spots. When she would pitch the media, she could reference her blog as proof that she’s knowledgeable within her niche.
She recommended this same plan for small businesses who want to earn their own media spots. Create educational content within your niche, publish it to demonstrate your expertise, then go out and pitch the media.
“You don’t need to be chosen by the media. The media is looking for great experts and great stories all the time,” Rizzo says. In fact, they need content to fill a 24/7 news cycle. They’re craving new stories, and you have their next one.
If you don’t currently create content, Rizzo recommends starting with a blog. Or, if you don’t like writing, try video. Keep your videos under 2 minutes so they’re short and “snackable” for your viewers.
However, as you seek out media spots, you must keep in mind that they aren’t an advertisement for your business. Instead, they’re your opportunity to serve the audience and make a connection with them.
“It’s never about your product or book. It’s about how you can serve them. What could you give them today for free so they can walk away and say, ‘I learned something.’?” Rizzo says. Producer’s won’t feature your story unless there’s a takeaway or learning for their audience. This means that your pitch must be educational.
This may make you wonder, How do media spots help my business?
While media spots don’t often lead to a direct sale, they help your business grow in numerous ways. For example, they can help you earn:
- Social proof. You can highlight the media spots you’ve earned on your website as proof you’re an expert.
- Speaking gigs. Media spots put your brand in the spotlight, which can lead to tons of other opportunities, like speaking gigs.
- Higher quality clients. You can acquire more prestigious clients through media spots. When big brands see you on TV, they may be more likely to reach out and work with you.
- Awareness. Ultimately, media spots make consumers more aware of you. And once they know who you are, they may visit your website and interact with you.
The 3 elements of a pitch
To earn media spots, you’ll need to actually pitch the media with a story. This means reaching out to producers, websites, newspapers, radio stations, magazines, podcasts, and even blogs to explain what value you can provide to their audience and what story you’ll tell on air or in writing. While this may sound intimidating, Rizzo shared her proven, 3-step formula for writing effective pitches:
- The hook: The beginning of your pitch should have a hook that grabs the producer’s attention. To write your hook, ask yourself two questions: What makes this story exciting? Why should people care about it?
- The twist: Your pitch should have a unique twist that makes it different from every other story out there. When incorporating a twist in your pitch, ask yourself: How is what you’re saying different from what your audience has heard before?
- The takeaway: Every good pitch has a key takeaway for the audience. This takeaway should be something valuable for your audience. To find your takeaway, ask yourself: What is my audience going to get out of this?
How to get a producer’s attention
Once you’ve used Rizzo’s formula to craft a convincing pitch, you’re ready to share your pitch with the media. Rizzo told me that this is where businesses often make their first media mistake. They don’t treat their media contacts like people. And because they don’t take the time to build a relationship with producers, they end up getting ignored.
To prevent this mistake, Rizzo explained 4 ways you can build a relationship and get a producer’s attention:
- Make connections with producer’s on social media. Follow the producers or media contacts you’d like to pitch on LinkedIn and Twitter. Then, share their content and comment on it. They’ll appreciate this help and may remember you.
- Pitch the right story. Understand the producer or media contact you’re pitching well enough to know what kind of stories they’re looking for. Tailor your pitch to their needs and audience.
- Write a compelling subject line for your email outreach. If you’re sharing your pitch via email, keep in mind that a producer’s inbox is inundated with hundreds of pitches. To stand out, your email subject line needs to be more interesting than the other pitches in the inbox. Include a counter-intuitive fact, a surprising stat, or a timely subject that you’re an expert in.
- Ask friends or contacts to make an introduction for you. If you know someone that successfully landed a media spot, ask them to introduce you to the producer via email. This is a great way to quickly gain their trust.
Make your brand stand out
One of the best ways to easily land media spots is by standing out from the rest, Rizzo explained. Your company should be so interesting that the media can’t resist talking about you.
You can accomplish this is by sharing a pitch that’s unique and different from everything else people have heard. This could be information that’s contrary to what people currently believe. For example, you could provide research which explains that bacon is actually good for you, Rizzo says.
But your business’s brand story also plays a huge role in standing out. People want to get to know and like you. Sharing why and how you started your business is a great way to make this happen.
“Don’t underestimate the power of your own personal story. Because so often people bury that. That’s what people want. People want to like you.” Rizzo says.
How to tell your brand’s story
The best brand stories are the ones your audience can identify with, says Rizzo. You can then connect with your audience through your story.
Rizzo says that a great example of this is the fitness company ConBody. ConBody landed media spots through a compelling personal story.
As a result of sharing such a great personal story, ConBody earned media spots in The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Men’s Health, and more.
Acing your first on-air interview
Rizzo now offers one-on-one and group training to help authors and experts prepare for their upcoming media interviews. While you may get jitters when you think of being on TV, Rizzo shared two simple ways to ace your first on-air interview — be succinct and know you’re talking points.
Plus, lead with your headline, or the most impactful point you have to share. “Give me the headline that if I walk away and only hear that one sentence, I got something out of it,” says Rizzo.
How Rizzo uses the media to grow her email list
The media attention Rizzo earned helped her build awareness for her business. It did something else as well: It grew her email list.
When companies heard about Rizzo through her media spots, they began reaching out to her with speaking opportunities. During these speaking gigs, she used a text-to-subscribe service to allow people to easily join to her email list. She simply shared a number that the audience could text to subscribe. In exchange for subscribing, she gave them a free ebook.
To do this yourself, you can use a service such as Textiful or Call Loop. Give your audience an incentive or freebie for subscribing to increase your growth.
Beyond speaking gigs, media spots also grew Rizzo’s email list because they drove people to her website and email sign up form. People could easily join her email list right from the homepage of her website.
Rizzo’s top 2 email marketing tips
Rizzo explained that email has played a huge role in transforming her media relationships into sales. “Having my email list is really the only way I’ve been able to sell,” she says.
According to Rizzo, her email marketing success is due to two strategies she follows religiously:
- Rizzo segments her emails. By sending personalized emails to subsets of her audience, she’s been able to boost her email engagement.
- She sends emails regularly. A routine email schedule keeps her in the habit of sending.
For more from Paula on how to grow your business with email marketing, pitch the media, and be more productive, tune in to our full podcast interview with her below.
Try the email platform Rizzo uses to grow her business
As Rizzo said during our interview, email marketing is an essential part of selling her products and services. Want to try the email marketing platform Rizzo uses? Get a 30-day free trial of AWeber and start growing your business with email marketing.
Rizzo says, “AWeber helps [me] reach [my] goals because I can target who I want to target. That way I’m able to zero in and talk to that person about that one product.”