Norm Brodsky, Inc. Magazine's contributing editor and multi-time Inc. 500 company owner appeared alongside Rod Kurtz, the editor of AOL's small business section on Monday, March 23, 2011, to share with the greater New York business owners community strategies for attracting media attention. The setting was Inc. Magazine's New York headquarters and the conversation was kicked off by Norm Brodsky whose message was plain and simple:
Press coverage will not happen exactly when you want it. Instead, you have to cultivate relationships for a long time and well in advance of your needing them. Norm shared his relationship development principles which he's successfully applied for the past two decades to attract media attention:
1) Network all the time. (In an interesting exercise, Norm asked the attendees how many of them had introduced themselves to more than a few other guests--almost no hands went up. But when he asked how many people had met Norm just that morning, almost every hand went up.)
2) Pick out a few people to follow up with -- someone with whom you have some connection or reason to develop the relationship further (Norm had already asked four attendees to follow up with him.)
3) Do any reasonable favor for anyone who asks. And ask for nothing in return unless you need something down the road.
Norm pointed out how his application of these three principles had played a part in all the critical connections which led to his media activities.
Rod Kurtz of AOL helped several audience members fine tune their pitch in a live brainstorming session by encouraging them to focus on the human interest aspect of their story. For example, one attendee who had hired a friend to work for him watched the project--and the friendship--fall to pieces. Both Norm and Rod pointed out that a story about mistakes made and lessons learned are always a tempting angle for a business journalist.
Some other helpful rules of thumb:
1) Reporters don't like to repeat stories. Don't call a reporter just to tell them that your company is exactly like another company the reporter recently wrote about. This is not a reason for them to write about you…it's a reason for them not to write about you.
2) Don't tell a reporter about all the other places that you've gotten press unless you are presenting them with a new angle or new story about your company which hasn't appeared anywhere else yet.
3) Do your research when you pitch a reporter. Who's their audience? What kinds of stories do they write about? All too often, PR companies send out publicity blasts that are too generic to be valuable to a reporter. But when the rare pitch arrives which sounds on-point to the reporter -- timely, relevant to his/her audience, and includes a human interst angle-- it stands out.
Finally, there's no better person to pitch your company than you. Your trials and tribulations are character-defining moments and that's what makes for compelling story-telling! Entrepreneurship can be very interesting and colorful. But most business owners pitch the most self-serving version of their story: "my company's great and here's why…". On this, Norm and Rod were in total agreement: The audience needs to hear what's really interesting about your story, something that they can relate to. They need to hear the emotional component that helps them learn from your mistakes and your successes. When pitching the press, keep the audience in mind.
Thanks ever so much to Rothstein Kass' David Kaufman and Craig Rothman, who participated as sponsors and shared their business wisdom with the attendees.
And thanks to Rod Kurtz and Norm Brodsky for bringing their A-Game and leaving it all on the court!
LEWIS SCHIFF is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.
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