When I received feedback from a client that read, “Thank you for your advice, we put it into action and it went down a storm! We never thought we would accomplish what we did, thank you”, I considered that a priceless comment!

This company achieved a full-page news article in their local newspaper, based on our advice and input concerning media relations. Never before had they attempted this, believing they weren’t good enough, interesting enough or newsworthy.

They achieved what they deemed to be the unachievable, and also received a huge dose of recognition and credibility – I love PR for having the power to do that.

How did they achieve this? They developed a story that was authentic and relevant to their audience.

Here I share with you 3 PR tips to help you capture media attention, whether its for yourself or your business.

1. Be interesting

How do you make your story interesting but, keep it authentic and rich with content that is relevant to your audience. Be honest with yourself, is the story you are contemplating interesting? Maybe you have a hero in your business, a product that makes your customers’ lives easier, or a quirky service.

Just think of the most gripping stories, they can be exciting, scary or enlightening – but regardless, they engage.

Just think of the most gripping stories, they can be exciting, scary or enlightening – but regardless, they engage. One of my clients didn’t think they had much to announce this month so we got talking about business and developments and it turned out they had achieved new business on a national scale. From a provincial business they had developed into a UK wide business. We were able to develop a piece of communication around this to ensure the audiences they wanted to engage with knew about their capability and credibility nationally.

2. Be unique

Maybe you have a new service or product, or have achieved something unique in your industry. Maybe you are the only company in your industry to reach a particular milestone. Perhaps your recent new starter is unique – perhaps the only male in a female environment? Maybe your product is the first of its kind off the production line.

It isn’t good enough to create corporate fluff dressed up as a good story; think about how you would want to read about you. Only last week we identified a story that demonstrated my clients business performance and innovation in their market with their investment in electric vehicles. This is a worthy piece of communication for my client as they are the first company in their sector to make this investment.

3. Be newsworthy

Putting aside scandal and conflict, which the media love to focus on, ask yourself: Is my story really news? Is it bang on trend, an opinion piece, or hard-hitting? Is it filled with human interest and local interest?

Ensure it is timely – and by that I mean current. Your stories need to be fresh, and relevant to the media channel you are engaging. We easily achieved success for a high school that had organised a school trip to England’s chocolate capital to learn about its history and heritage. No, it isn’t hard-hitting news, but it’s full of human interest, relevant to the geography of the school, and let’s face it – who doesn’t like chocolate?

If you can identify a few of these PR nuggets you’ll be achieving top quality PR results that will connect you to your audience, create more understanding about what you do, and develop your reputation. What’s not to love about PR!

Public relations and social media are central to becoming a well-recognised expert, but the challenge facing many entrepreneurs is figuring out how to make PR work for them.

Every person, brand and organisation has stories to tell that captivate audiences and resonate with people — that’s the very essence of PR. But the trick is to figure out what your story is, how you can share it with others, and how you use it to boost your profile as a thought leader. It’s a challenge, and one that I am very familiar with as an entrepreneur.

Stepping into the world of PR doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and I have narrowed the path to PR and social media success to five simple steps. I call it the Unknown to Expert 5 Star System. It’s a system that I have created from 20 years experience, and one that I can honestly say does work.

By following these five steps, you will be equipped with the tools to boost your profile, become a recognised expert and start opening doors to new opportunities. Like any successful strategy, you only get out what you put in. It takes patience, practice and focus to succeed, but by following the five stages outlined below, success is within reach.

1. Figure out the Why

The key is to be transparent and genuine, and really believe in yourselfFirst things first; in order to become a recognised expert, you need to determine the message you want to convey to the media. The trick is to figure out what your story is and try and see it through the eyes of the media.

Anything from an innovation, new book, or childhood memory has new potential if it’s packaged correctly, but it’s crucial to deliver a story that is compelling enough to hit the newsstands.

Secondly, you need to ask yourself why you are looking to build your profile as an expert. If it’s purely promotional, you will struggle to develop emotional connections with people.

The key is to be transparent and genuine, and really believe in yourself. People will only consider you as an expert if you believe in yourself.

2. Set the Stage

What do you want your audience to hear and remember?After determining what you want to achieve from PR, the next stage is to define your personal brand. Personal branding is central to how people perceive you, so it’s important to pick your niche and stick to it to avoid confusing your audience.

Developing an elevator statement or pitch is an important part of personal branding that clearly explains your role as a thought leader. Not only are they an effective way of making great first impressions, but they can also lead to new business and customers.

Once you’ve figured out how to wow people with your introduction, the next step is to figure out what your key messages are. What do you want your audience to hear and remember? It’s also important to craft yourself a winning biography that sells yourself to your target audience, the media and conference organisers.

Finally, figure out who your target audience is. This will vary depending on your profession, but it’s important to define your audience from the beginning and keep it in mind while you progress through the five stages of the Unknown to Expert 5 Star System.


3. Turn on the Spotlight

A good tip is to follow up with everyone you meet and keep in touch.At stage three, you’re starting to shine. You’ve done your planning and it’s now time to illuminate your role as an expert and thought leader.

The first step is to create a personal website where you can promote yourself. A great website will not only increase your exposure online, but you will also gain more control over your online identity.

Blogging is another great tool to increase your profile and allow you to connect with your audience in an engaging way. Blogging takes time and effort, so be sure to do your research and consider your audience before taking to the keyboard. The key is to write often, and write well.

Another step to becoming a recognised expert is to network and build relationships with your audiences. Attend functions, connect with local businesses and make yourself known to anyone who’s interested. A good tip is to follow up with everyone you meet and keep in touch.

One of the most effective (and arguably most nerve-wracking) ways to boost your profile is to take to the stage. By raising your profile as a valued speaker for events, you will improve your credibility, create new opportunities and step closer to gaining that expert status. When researching potential speaking opportunities, consider where your target audiences are and what they are interested in.

4. Use the Media to Shine the Light

Interesting story angles may never see the light of day without a well crafted media releaseBy star 4, your role as an expert will start to take shape. By this stage, you will start to use the media to share your expertise and reach the people that will influence your success.

Approaching journalists can be a daunting task, but the best way to get your story out there is to shape it in a way that’s attractive to the media. Journalists often only pick up stories which they consider to be newsworthy, so it’s worth taking the time to create a great angle. Creating strong relationships with journalists, knowing the publications your pitching to, and sending it to the right inbox is also worthwhile.

Interesting story angles may never see the light of day without a well crafted media release. The key is to keep your target audience in mind, make it newsworthy and concise, and keep it simple.

One of the best ways to catch the media’s interest is to come up with a story angle which is relevant and engaging to their media outlet, but it has to be delivered to the right person at the right time. However you pitch your media release, follow up with the journalist or editor within the first 3-5 days so they keep it front of mind.


5. Own The Light

your objectives will help you to figure out which portals… will help you to achieve the best resultsThe final stage of the transformation from unknown to expert is to step into the social media spotlight. Social media is a critical step in developing your profile as a thought leader, and it’s an essential tool that allows you to communicate directly with your audience.

Before jumping into the deep end, take a moment to think about your goals and what you want to achieve from social media. Having a goal will help you to determine which platforms will be the most effective for boosting your profile, and to manage your time online.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are the most popular social media sites, but your objectives will help you to figure out which portals (whether it’s one or all of them) will help you to achieve the best results. The key is to keep it simple and engaging, and to post often. That way, you will stay connected with your followers, keep them interested, and open doors to new opportunities.

So there you have it; you have progressed from unknown to expert in just five steps. Congratulations! However, it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning.

The Unknown to Expert 5 Star System illuminates your path to success, but it’s a path that is ongoing. In fact, it never ends because success is a continuous cycle. Bios, media releases and speaking topics change over time and take a different shape as you evolve as an expert.

But by finishing the Unknown to Expert 5 Star System, you are illuminated and you are truly a known expert.

Featured image: tinto

Pollard_C14-100About the author
Catriona Pollard is the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as influencers in their field. www.UnknownToExpert.com

Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.


As complicated as dealing with the media can seem, your success in securing media coverage will really come down to these three things; the right timing, the right angles and the right relationships.

While it won’t guarantee that your story ideas will get a run, having good relationships with key media personnel will greatly improve your odds; journalists are far more likely to come to you for comment rather than your competitors, give you feedback on unsuccessful pitches, and share insider information with you to improve your chances of getting covered.

Overall, when a journalist likes you and sees value in what you’re doing, they want to cover you and will work with you to make it happen.

There are three sure-fire ways to really peeve a journalist right off:

  1. Being a serial pest by following up incessantly and at the wrong times
  2. Constantly sending the wrong types of story ideas to the wrong journalists
  3. Having the wrong attitude

Here are some of the secrets to making friends with journalists and influencing the media that I can share, coming from both my experience as a journalist and as a publicist:

Before you do anything else, introduce yourself

If you’re yet to send off that first email or make that very first phone call to a reporter you’ve never spoken to before, halt! Let’s make sure you get off on the right foot right away. Instead, send an introductory email before sending any story pitches. It should be brief, include your name, title or position within your community, a little bit about your business, and, most importantly, ask the journalist what rounds (or types of stories) they cover, when their deadline is, how long they would prefer you to wait before following up, and whether they prefer a follow-up by phone or email.

When a journalist likes you and sees value in what you’re doing, they want to cover you and will work with you to make it happen …

Most of the time, you will get a reply. Not only are you gathering important information, you are demonstrating that you respect the journalist’s time and you’re letting them set the ground rules for future interactions. Cement the trust you’ve started to earn by strictly adhering to the ground rules the journalist sets.

When you already have a relationship with a journalist and things aren’t going too well

Maybe you’ve already sent a few pitch emails and you’ve never had a reply. Maybe you typically get a brief reply to let you know that they’re not interested. Maybe you’ve been doing follow up phone calls and emails and you just never get a positive response. Ever.

It’s never too late to turn things around – unless you’ve been specifically asked to never contact a reporter again (in which case, I really can’t help you). Instead of the introductory email I described earlier in this piece, send a request for feedback email. Your first chance to send this is when a reporter responds to your pitch email with a “thanks, but no thanks”. Reply by thanking the reporter for letting you know your pitch was unsuccessful, and then ask if your angle was wrong, if your timing was off, or if there is any information about the types of stories the publication likes to focus on that the reporter could share, so you can be more helpful in future (adopting a mindset of serving the journalist’s needs will go a long way).

Send a request for feedback email. Your first chance to send this is when a reporter responds to your pitch email with a “thanks, but no thanks”. Reply by thanking the reporter for letting you know your pitch was unsuccessful, and then ask if your angle was wrong …

If you don’t have the opportunity to send this request for feedback as a response to a recent email, you can send it off as a fresh email, or make a phone call. In my experience, this type of phone call is actually well-received. Begin by introducing yourself and reminding the journalist that you’ve sent a few email pitches to them recently, and you wanted to get some feedback about what you’re doing wrong. Always ask if they have a few minutes, don’t keep them on the phone for too long, and have the email dates and subjects in front of you so you can help jog the reporter’s memory and find your emails.

How to follow up in a way that wins friends

If you’ve done the groundwork and sent an introductory email, you should have eliminated 99% of your anxiety about following up. Of course, you’re going to follow the instructions the journalist has set out for you. If you haven’t done the ground work, your safest bet is to follow-up by email.

A journalist is not obligated to run your story or reply to your pitches. Be respectful of a journalist’s time …

In all email follow-ups, forward your original email – don’t send a fresh one. Don’t recount your original email; summarise your pitch in a couple of sentences and ask the journalist to make a decision about something. If you’re following up because you have new information, include it. Here’s what an example might look like:

“Hi John, I just wanted to let you know that we can make our CEO Jack Maximus available for a photo next week. Did you want to go ahead with the interview with John about why the price of fish has been steadily rising this year?”

And that’s it! If you don’t get a response, now you can make a phone call. Leave a message if that’s your only option. Once you’ve followed up by phone, it’s time to let it go.

When a journalist won’t call you back

Unless you’ve got an award-winning story on your hands, or a journalist has already confirmed that they’re going to run your story and the interview process has been set in motion, a journalist isn’t likely to call you back. If a journalist hasn’t given you the slightest indication that they’re interested in your story and you’ve already left two messages – stop calling. It’s time to put down the phone, and move on to another idea.

Approach with the right attitude

Adopting the mindset that you’re here to serve the journalist, and not the other way around, will put you in good stead for cultivating good relationships. Never ask a journalist to cover your story; you’re simply letting them know that you have some information they might be interested in. A journalist is not obligated to run your story or reply to your pitches. Be respectful of a journalist’s time; avoid sending long-winded emails with lots of attachments – keep your emails to four or five paragraphs at most.

Be resilient to rejection and don’t take things personally; it’s not about you or your business, it’s about what is and isn’t news.

If you found this information useful, you might enjoy a one-day PR and Public Speaking workshop I’m co-hosting on October 11 in North Sydney. Register here: http://www.pitch-pr.com.au/pr-public-speaking-workshop/


Featured photo credit: citirecruitment via photopin cc


Ilona-Marchetta-Leaders-in-Heels-profile-picIlona Marchetta
Ilona Marchetta has more than ten years of experience in communications, spanning journalism, public relations, digital media, marketing and copywriting.

Founder and owner of Pitch PR, Ilona runs workshops and offers one-to-one coaching to help women entrepreneurs get the right publicity. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.