How to Blog Your Way Into the Media

I recently took a tour of the 100 Minnesota based blogs that make up the Newsbobber 100 to get a feel for what people are writing about in this state, and came away with a few observations regarding media relations.

If you’d like to see more of your ideas reach a larger audience, this post is for you.

As regular news consumers know, the media tends to turn to the same subject experts over and over again for comments on news stories. As I see it, they do this for two similar reasons. 1. It’s easy. 2. Many people are hard to reach, which is a problem when you’re working under tight time constraints. So, how can you make it easier for reporters to contact you?

1. Put your phone number on your website. This is by far the best thing you can do. I receive many more media contacts via phone than any other source. Perhaps you could use a Google Voice number if you didn’t want to put your main number on the site. I’ve only received a handful of crank calls over the life of this blog by publishing my cell phone number, and have met a ton of cool people (and reporters) by doing so, so the upside has been huge for me.

2. Answer strange looking phone numbers. Did you know they have phones in Sioux Falls? I didn’t either, which means I didn’t recognize the area code of a reporter who called me from there earlier today.

3. Put your email address on your website. If you’re not comfortable with your phone number, give this a try. This also helps with off-hour requests when reporters may be hesitant to call, or for contacts from people in other countries (I’ve done a few things in Australia recently because of email).

4. Put a photo of yourself on your website. I can’t quantify this one, but it seems likely that you’ll seem more credible as a source for a story if you stand behind your words with a photo of yourself.

5. Use your real name on your site. Have you ever seen someone quoted in a mainstream news source by their username?

6. Make your Facebook semi-public. People googling you may stumble across your Facebook page high in the results. You may receive contacts through Facebook’s mail if you don’t have your privacy settings entirely locked down.

7. Allow comments. Sometimes reporters will drop a comment asking you to contact them. That only happens when you’ve given them no better option. However, you won’t get even that if you don’t allow comments.

8. Mention where you live. This doesn’t mean you need to put your mailing address on your website. Do this because it helps reporters figure out whether a person is local when they’re looking for a local source for a story.

9. Have an opinion. It doesn’t really matter what your opinion is, but it’s not likely that a reporter will riff off something you say if you don’t have an opinion of your own.

10. Use Twitter. Twitter has become the original source for lots of stories. If you see something newsworthy and tweet about it, there is a decent chance a reporter will contact you for commentary in their story. But that only works if you’re reachable via direct tweet, through the website you link to from your profile, etc.

There are ten. Perhaps some media folks can add additional ideas on what makes it easier for them to find sources for new stories?

14 thoughts on “How to Blog Your Way Into the Media”

  1. The phone number and real name are the biggies. I can’t tell you how many people use the blogger platform, and then I click on the profile, and there’s no phone number. No e-mail address. No real name. No hometown. And I move on.

    Maybe people just shouldn’t use Blogger.

  2. I didn’t make the cut. Though they base most of this off of Google page rank/reader subscriptions, so really many of these blogs probably just have their friends following them via feeds. I know for a fact that mine is inaccurate, it says I have 0 Google Reader subscribers and I know that I have at least one (myself).

  3. Great post! Although I’m a little leery about publishing my phone number. Maybe because I’ll expect people to call and when they don’t… oh, what a trip down memory lane this has been ;).

  4. @JG, an Argus Leader reporter was looking for some background on Backpage after stumbling across some things I wrote about the service in the spring. It may tie into a future story regarding your local sex traffickers who appear to have used the site to market their underage sex workers.

  5. @Chase, Newsbobber way under-reports Tumblr blogs. The dashboard reader undercuts Google Reader and reblogs cut into PageRank benefits. But we know that you’re more than just a number.

  6. You’re cool without a phone number if you have a direct e-mail contact that you check frequently. But bear in mind, reporters are often on tight deadlines. They may be assigned a story at 10am. Then do a quick Google search which leads the reporter to your blog. When the reporter e-mails you at 10:30am, especially for TV, they need to interview you on camera (or via skype) by 2:30pm at the latest. It’s a tight window.

    Night reporters get their stories at 2:30pm and typically can do their last interview at 7:30pm.

    Breaking news is obviously different and the deadlines are pushed up to airtime.

  7. Good tips Ed.

    I read this and found myself wanting to write pretty much the exact opposite post: How to keep your personal details/location off the internet.

    Sadly I think that with all the geolocation tools being backed into webservices; filtering these functions and controlling/limiting your exposure is becoming more and more difficult.

  8. After reading your post I removed the call forwarding on my Google Voice number and put it up on my website.

    Thanks for the idea.

  9. @ryanl, good point about privacy. I’ve found that I have more to gain than lose by being reachable and living a fairly public life online, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. However, it’s likely that a person who cherishes their privacy is probably not going to be the type of person who’s going to be interested in talking to the press about something they penned on their blog.

  10. Ed, I can see that these are all good points from the media’s perspective. However, there are some of us who blog under a pseudonym, and want to keep it that way. Why?

    One example is a guy who goes by Brooks of Sheffield and writes a blog called Lost City,, in which he criticizes development in New York City. He’s a freelance writer who (realistically) assumes that his opinions would keep him from getting freelance work. His use of a pseudonym hasn’t kept him from getting media attention (examples of coverage are listed on his blog).

    In my own case, I started blogging as Daughter Number Three because I wanted to be able to say what I wanted without repercussions in my work. I have to admit I was amused by the idea of a pen name, too — maybe thinking that having an alter ego would make it more fun to write.

    I am not truly anonymous: Dozens or even a hundred people know who Daughter Number Three is. I am responsible for what I say to these people whom I know, and whose opinions I care about. If I needed any such motivation, knowing that they read my words keeps me from indulging in the kind of flames we’re all accustomed to seeing in the typical news site’s comment thread.

    The people whose opinions I don’t care about are lawyers for the scam advertisers I sometimes criticize, like the Universal Media Syndicate and its parent company, sellers of Amish Heaters, World Reserve Monetary Exchange coin collections, Trigosamine, and the “Universal” Health Card. Maybe you’ve seen their ads in the Strib and PiPress.

    Because I am just one person writing my opinions, I can’t afford to have and don’t want to have my own legal department to vet everything I write to pronounce whether it’s clearly opinion or may stray slightly over the line. (For instance, did you know that saying a product is “overpriced” can be considered defamatory, while saying “it’s not worth the price” is clearly opinion?) When I got a cease and desist letter from the UMS senior counsel, I can tell you I was very glad I had chosen to blog under a pseudonym.

    I know this is a luxury traditional journalists do not have. But they are also less likely to be subject to intimidation by companies that assume they can shut up a single blogger by sending a letter.

  11. Ed’s post clearly said: “If you’d like to see more of your ideas reach a larger audience, this post is for you.” If you’d like to remain private: that makes perfect sense and is fantastic!

    There are plenty of people who blog under the real name, and don’t make it easy to contact them.

  12. smart stuff, ed. there’s always that misperception of lazy media (which, of course, is sometimes true) when the same experts get quoted and quoted time and time again, but the truth more often is this: those experts are the ones who are easy to google, easy to remember, and easy because they’re happy to answer a strange number on a sunday afternoon an hour before deadline and then riff on whatever the reporter is asking them about. and even though it’s nearly 2010 and people are checking email from the half-dozen phones they carry in their pockets, a reporter on a deadline is always much happier with a phone number than an email address.

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