Golden Guides Press and I have been on a mission to publicise my new book What To Do When You Win The Lottery.
We've generated a little bit here and there - some nice radio opportunities and some local press, which is my natural home. I started working at the West Sussex County Times nearly ten years ago and was delighted when they agreed to cover the book, going with the 'former reporter writes Lottery book' angle I pitched to them. My local paper, the Streatham Guardian, has also been kind enough to feature the book, and there are other bits and pieces in the pipeline.
It has been eye-opening being on the other side of the process, and I have learned a good deal from the experience. I also got a chance to put into practice some media training I was given at PRWeek as part of a feature, and some of the learnings I took from some media training I carried out myself for a PR agency.
Here are some of the main learnings I have taken from the experience:
1. Be prepared to be disappointed. I have been interviewed by The Sun and promised a paid page six piece in the Daily Star. Nothing appeared in The Sun and the Daily Star piece simply never happened. It's galling beyond belief. How many times have I, in the reporter's role, interviewed somebody and then not used their story or their comments? How many times have I said 'oh yeah that'd be a great piece' then simply not followed up? And how many times have I scoffed to colleagues about the upset phone calls or emails afterwards? Now I know how it feels to be spoon-fed my own medicine.
2. Be prepared with a photograph. I wrote an entire eulogy on the importance of relevant and well-taken photography in Brilliant PR. I have even had professional photographers offer to shoot me for free, in return for a bit of exposure and goodwill.
But when The Sun asked for a photograph could I find one that fulfilled all the criteria? When you dismissed the umpteen billion photos of me with Cherry, and of me heavily pregnant, and of me looking like a brick shithouse carrying an extra stone of baby weight - there really wasn't a lot left to work with.
3. Be prepared to steer the interview. This was a realisation for me on two levels. Firstly, it's entirely true that modern journalists are simply too busy to research a small human interest story like mine. I don't know why I found it surprising when a journalist opened an interview with a simple: 'Tell me about the book'. For some reason I had been expecting laser-honed questioning. Instead I was given a golden opportunity to completely steer the tone and feel of the piece. Whether I capitalised upon that or not is another matter - but in future I will be well aware that the opportunity is there for the taking.
The second realisation was more unpleasant, and related to my own skills or lack of as a journalist. There have been more times than I care to remember that I have winged an interview with zero preparation, thinking 'if I just ask them to tell me all about it, and conclude with 'is there anything else I should know?' then I have all bases covered'. Turns out, people do notice a lack of targeted questioning. (I am of course not saying any of the journalists that interviewed me had zero preparation, however, as above, most are too busy to thoroughly research a piddly little human interest fluff story).
4. Remember you are the expert. This was something I began to appreciate when I took part in media training for a feature at PRWeek. Despite having years of experience as the interviewer - and as above, knowing perfectly well that the journalist is not always that well-prepared, my instinct is to let the journalist lead. In fact the reason I am being interviewed is because I am the expert - I use 'expert' in the loosest possible sense - so it's up to me to provide the facts, soundbites, opinions and insight to make the piece a good one. I can't sit back and rely on the journalist to do all the work for me. They have enough to do.
5. Your angles are not necessarily the right ones. Fiona and I have both been pushing the 'Twitter book deal' angle for coverage of the Lottery book, as we thought it was a great story that I landed the deal using social media. A couple of people have expressed an interest, but most coverage has focused on the 'mum writes book' angle and enjoyed the human interest story of me writing a book whilst pregnant, rather than the Twitter angle.
6. Be armed with material for box-outs, facts and stats. You will generate twice as much coverage if you have a few handy little facts, snippets and interesting stats to hand, as these are perfect box-out fodder. The piece above in the West Sussex County Times demonstrates this beautifully - and you can guarantee the Did You Know box will be the best-read part of the entire piece.