“You’re going on in 5…and relax. You’re only going to be in front of a few million people.”
I wasn’t quite sporting the same grin as the Channel 7 camera guy.
I was about to do a live interview on their Sunrise breakfast program. It was Australia’s most popular morning show. Similar to Good Morning America, but for the land down under I suppose.
Two hours before that I was at an ABC studio filming for FusionTV on the heels of a call with Radio New Zealand.
How the heck did this happen from a single blog post?
Below is the story of how I accidentally got international, mainstream media coverage…without having a big name or massive audience.
I’ll codify the series of events that occurred leading up to this so that anyone interested in how to get media coverage for their story can maximize the chance of this happening…
The Tale of Stumbling Into International Media Coverage
A few months ago, I wrote about my experience of giving up lying for 4 months.
I’d written a lot about my personal experiences and Oprah nor my hometown paper had ever decided to hit me up.
So when I shared this particular story and used the same sharing strategy I always do after publishing (social media, reddit, etc), I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to happen.
And at first, it didn’t.
Comments and social media responses trickled in. A few readers on my mailing list responded with nice notes.
Again, all business as usual.
Then I got an email from the founder of a popular blog. He asked me if he could re-publish the article on his site.
“Absolutely,” I responded. I loved their site and this was an opportunity to reach a new audience.
I was published on their blog and became a happy little clam.
A few hours later, I got another email. This time it was from News.com Australia.
They wanted to republish the article on their site too. Woohoo!
My story went live on News.com.au shortly after I gave them the thumbs up…
Within hours, I had another 10 emails from some more new faces.
This time it was from TV shows and radio stations asking me to come onto their shows to talk about my experience giving up lying. They were primarily from Australia and New Zealand with the exception of Fusion.TV, a new ABC joint venture in the U.S.
At first I was a bit unsure whether this was a good idea…
“Hey mom and Dad, I’m going to tell millions of people about how I used to tell baby lies to make my life more convenient…and how when I stopped my life actually got much better.”
The context was certainly less ideal than saving the whales.
But the whole reason I published this story was to drive self-awareness and inspire more people to stop fibbing.
A quick review of my calculus made me realize that passing up on a stage this big was silly. Not to mention there were the fringe benefits of leveraging this exposure for new opportunities.
Many of the shows who contacted me wanted an exclusive on “my story.”
I asked my Aussie roommate Benji which was the most popular show and he said Sunrise 7. So I committed to film an interview with them in a studio in NYC when I came back from Brazil around Christmas.
When I got back to the U.S., I trekked up to New York and did a TV day.
The interviews went well and I even snuck a non-obtrusive book pitch into one of then. If you want, you can check out the full interview here.
What happened next?
Well I can’t say the avalanche of opportunities I was hoping for came my way (this might be my own fault.)
But a few cool things did come out of it.
Specifically, I walked away with a soft commitment to come back on Fusion.TV after the book was done, I now had a TV reel, and perhaps most importantly, I had a reference experience of how the mainstream media world works.
I want to expand on the last point so that anyone looking to get this type of exposure can have a better understanding of how to accomplish this.
How to Get Media Coverage
For those interested in getting their story featured in the mainstream press, I’ve broken this “how to” section into two elements: content and promotion. Both are important.
Creating Attractive Content
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve written a ton about personal experiments and they’ve never garnered much interest from mainstream media.
My roommates who also have an online presence had publicly given up lying months before and never gotten this type of attention either.
So why did my story grab the attention of mainstream media?
Here’s my hypothesis which you can use to try and replicate the results…
1. The story was time-boxed
The post that started all this wasn’t “how I stopped lying.” It was about what happened after giving up lying 4 months ago.
Interestingly enough the headlines of the re-syndications were:
“Four months ago I completely quit lying. Here’s how it dramatically and positively transformed my life.” – The Next Web
“Scott Britton hasn’t told a lie since August and it’s changed his life” – News.com.au
Each headline contains a time connotation. Considering the publications have the right to rename the post whatever they’d like, this is indicative that they found the time element attractive.
Throughout all my interviews and comments, I repeatedly got questions like:
“Are you going to continue on without lying?”
“What was the first month without lying like compared to the last month?”
“Have you noticed any big changes in your life after this short amount of time?”
All of these questions are predicated by the fact that this experiment was conducted within a finite time window.
Would have been as interested in the story without its time-window? I’m not sure. But the more questions you can get people to ask themselves, the more likely you’ll hold their attention.
Time-boxing is great for this because the frame makes it easier to juxtapose control and variable realities (my life with lying vs. without lying)
One of the biggest takeaways I’ve gotten from copywriting is that the most compelling content meets readers where they’re at.
A big focus of this article is how I thought that I was a really honest guy, but in reality I was telling baby lies.
I supported this claim by including common instances where my actions contradicted this belief. I made sure to select the instances that I thought would resonate with the largest number of readers. I highlighted things like a co-worker asking if I saw their email or a friend asking why I didn’t text back. We’ve all been there.
Without including very specific examples like these, people might have just assumed that my reference to lying was about evil person things like cheating and stealing, instead of the small lies most people tell to make their lives more convenient.
The time-box also made this article more relatable.
Many people who read this story probably said, “I could never do that.”
Well 4 months ago, I was in their shoes!
Highlighting the time-window reveals that all the amazing life changes I alluded to aren’t an insurmountable time-span away.
3. The Power of Counterintuitive Truth
Counter-intuitive ideas that make our lives better are the most attractive thoughts in the world.
The notion that you should stop telling lies that make your life easier and it will dramatically improve follows this framework.
I didn’t intentionally engineer a story that for this content archetype. It just happened to be how things panned out.
When you tell your story, you want to keep the power of this content archetype in mind. Ask yourself:
How is the story and result you’re sharing contradictory to most people’s beliefs?
This archetype can be summed up by this powerful copywriting framework the guys from The Foundation taught me:
You think (current objection/route to desire)
But really (counterintuitive way to get what you want)
So if you just (counterintuitive activity)
Then you’ll have (end result audience/customer wants)
As you set out to create compelling content, ask yourself if you can juxtapose your story to an alternate, relatable reality or widely held belief.
In my story, this was accomplished by alluding to the fact that most people consider themselves honest and associate baby lies with making their lives easier. Both are actually fallacies.
Promoting Your Way to Mainstream Media
My biggest learnings from this experience fall into the promotion bucket.
This is especially evident when I asked myself “What was different about this post?”
Here’s what stuck out:
1. The right person saw my story
It’s impossible for someone to want to share your story with their audience if they never hear it in the first place.
In this instance, I was lucky enough that The Next Web saw my story and offered to re-syndicate it. This was the catalyst to climbing my way to mainstream media.
I was lucky that they happened to stumble upon my post.
A much more certain way to make sure they saw it would have been to email them.
Once I realized this, I started the practice of emailing relevant writers and blog owners after I published something.
For a post shortly after this one on How to Set Goals, I decided to email some relevant blogs to see if they were interested in republishing it. I wanted to see if I could replicate the re-syndication results…
Here’s the email I sent:
What do you know, it worked…
Now before I give you a more concrete prescription on how to turn a small re-syndication into mainstream media coverage, let me deconstruct what happened next.
But like most things I didn’t actually believe and execute this strategy regularly until I saw it work with my own eyes.
Recall the chain of events that led up to the television appearance:
Can you see how the reyndication and promotion efforts work like a step-function?
I can’t verify with 100% certainty it went down like this, but it appears like the following cycle occured:
1. Larger media publication finds story on smaller publisher
2. Publisher likes story and feels good about the social proof from smaller publisher
3. They decide to republish/retell the story on their own site
4. The cycle repeats itself with a big brother of that media publication
Refer to the image above if you’re still confused.
The key here is to first make sure you get featured on some smaller publications. This will give you the social firepower you need to approach larger publishers and try to convince them to republish your story.
Tactically this is done by emailing the larger publisher and linking to the post on a smaller publication.
Again, I got extremely lucky here, but you can see how this could be engineered.
Tactics I Tried Which Were Less Successful
Here’s a few things I did that didn’t end up working out but might provide you some ideas if you try to replicate this strategy.
1. Once I got a commitment from Sunrise 7 for an exclusive interview, I emailed booking managers at every major U.S. morning show (The View, Good Morning America, etc) letting them know I was coming to NYC and would be happy to do an interview.
I got some responses but no requests to come on their shows.
If these agents had discovered my story themselves similar to the agent who saw it on News.com.au, I think my chances would have been better. In the future, I’ll focus on getting resydnicated on large U.S. news sites once I have some leverage.
2. When the interview was secured, I asked myself “How can I use this stage to my benefit?”
I decided that pitching the book I’ve been working on was the best thing I could do. So I prepped like a madman for ways to answer likely questions in a way that mentioned the book project without coming off like a tool.
“Well actually this whole experiment is part of a larger life philosophy on..I’m actually writing a book on it…”
It worked gracefully for the Fusion.TV interview which unfortunately still hasn’t gone up.
3. After the Sunrise 7 interview was live on the internet, I emailed a few popular blogs including 4 Hour Work Week to see if they’d be interested in covering an updated version of my lying experiment.
I thought the social proof of being on mainstream television might have some added firepower to the story and their willingness to re-tell it…unfortunately no dice.
My friends asked me a question about this experience I love and think we should ask ourselves anytime something cool happens. It motivates me to think about how I can get the most juice out of the squeeze:
“How will your life be different because of this experience?”
Well Oprah and Random House still haven’t given me a buzz…but I do have an amazing reference experience I can use on my journey to become a better marketer.
And for now, that’s something I feel blessed to have!
Have you ever tried to get your story featured in mainstream media coverage? What happened?
What would you have tried if you knew you were going to be on TV to create new opportunities?