In the past 7 months, I have been featured in two international print magazines, a TV news spot, one newspaper, two web shows, and 15 web articles, all of which were published by internationally acclaimed news sources (I am not citing any self-publications). This was the most unlikely journey I expected to embark upon during a global pandemic, and an incredible learning experience. In this article, I’ll provide a brief summary into some of the more notable press coverage, what I learned from the rejections, and my ‘secrets’ to how you can successfully work with journalists and media outlets.
TL;DR: Every news organization has an agenda. You have an agenda. Press coverage happens when your agendas align.
Successful Press Interactions
On camera interview during the 5 o’clock news
How I landed this interview: Received a text from my neighbor urgently asking me to call Brittany (no last name). I texted Brittany, “Hey, Ella asked me to get in touch with you, about I don’t know what.” Response, “Can I come over, right now?” My response, “OK!”
2-page print feature about myself and my projects with Raspberry Pi.
Features editor contacted me via my personal website, www.carolinedunn.org
How I landed this feature: I’ve published over 50 videos about Raspberry Pi. #DomainExpertise
Web article about the Garmin outage
How I landed this interview: I responded to a tweet and contacted the reporter via DM. AP reporter called me immediately after I provided my phone number via DM and said that his tweet was 2+ hours old and he couldn’t believe no one responded earlier! I established my credibility for the article as a 2018 NYC Marathoner, 2 engineering degrees, and Garmin customer for over 5 years.
Print and web article about GT alumni on the front lines
How I landed this Interview: Alumni Association sent out a text message asking every alumni how they were doing. I replied to the text with a photo of myself 3D printing PPE. Editor contacted me via LinkedIn.
Sunday newspaper feature about providing PPE to healthcare workers
How I landed this interview: Reporter contacted Atlanta Beats COVID through our website contact form. As ABC Communications Director, I am responsible for responding to all external requests. Jimmy Ellis, President of Jim Ellis Automotive, read the published article and told his marketing people to contact ABC which led to a $35,000 donation. I wrote a ‘Behind the Scenes’ story on the Jim Ellis sponsorship here.
Rejected Press Coverage
I learned more from the rejections than I did the successful press interviews.
Huff Post rejected my story.
My friend and acclaimed writer, Nikki Barnes saw a request from a Huff Post senior editor in her private FB writer’s group asking for a pandemic related post that tied into Asian American heritage month. I wrote a short pitch about a racist attack toward me and sent it to the Huff Post Senior editor. She responded immediately and said that she gets a lot of pitches and very few ever get published. She needed to see the entire article to even have a shot at getting published. Nikki worked with me for hours on my full article and gave me true insights on how to get published by Huff Post. I submitted the full article to Huff Post in 24 hours. I was rejected 2 hours later and encouraged to submit my piece to another news outlet.
Why I was rejected: I was submitting for “Huff Post Personal,” where the editor was looking for a raw, soul-bearing, self-deprecating story. I could not self-deprecate. I was the subject of a racist attack. #Don’tBlametheVictim
My interview with Kaiser Family Health News was never published.
When the reporter from Kaiser Family Health contacted Atlanta Beats COVID (ABC) via online contact form, she was working on the foregone conclusion that Gov. Kemp announced the reopening of Georgia even though he was aware there was a huge PPE shortage. I provided ABC’s stats on PPE requests by day. My data aligned with her hypothesis of the announcement of the reopening of Georgia with spikes in PPE requests. As I worked with her on the story, she needed an actual hospital administrator go on record to substantiate her story. With the political climate and everyone in fear of losing their jobs, I couldn’t find anyone to go on record. She ghosted me.
Caroline’s Tips for Successful Press Coverage
These are my top tips for obtaining press coverage.
- Do something newsworthy aligned with the current news cycle. How are you adding value to society, helping those most in need during this time? #BeRelevant
- Twitter is a great place to meet journalists. Follow journalists, like their tweets. Many times, they will outright post, “Hey, I’m working on a story about ___. DM me.”
- On the flip side, make sure your social media presence and your profile reflect your domain expertise.
- Journalists pitch stories to their editors (or are assigned stories), often with foregone conclusions. They take their assignments and try to find credible experts to validate the story they are trying to tell.
- Make it easy for journalists to contact you. Set up a website with a contact form that sends you an email. Always include reCAPTCHA to ward off spammers.
- Respond immediately to journalists. They contact numerous people for their stories and the first to respond is the first to get interviewed. You are at their beck and call.