As a publicity agent and journalist selling stories to national newspapers and television every week I am often asked what people can do to raise their profile.
Many people might have spent hours gaining ‘friends’ on Facebook, begging people to follow them on Twitter and might have written thousands of words on a blog. Some people have devoted themselves to writing a book, sending it to various websites – but despite doing all this, their story has yet to get ‘out there’.
So why despite all the work with social media websites, is that?
Well, unlike tweeting and blogging, publicity gained in the national press carries a huge premium. Space is tight in the mainstream press and so if a national newspaper devotes a page to you, it is saying it thinks you are important enough to devote space to. If a women’s magazine is paying you for your story and giving you two pages to tell it, your story must be special.
Celebrities would not be celebrities (and therefore have their millions of Twitter followers) without their initial publicity from major magazines, newspapers and TV. The tweets from the Beckhams for example only really become news for the masses once they are picked up by traditional media.
And mainstream websites are far becoming THE biggest sites on the internet. MailOnline, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s website, attracts some 80 million monthly users worldwide (The New York Times is currently the biggest newspaper site) – the point is, if you just do one story you can instantly obtain massive exposure for free.
If you are a business, just a mention in a national newspaper about your product can ensure a flood of orders overnight. If you are raising money for charity, one person might come forward with the whole lot after reading it in the morning paper and if you are seeking justice, you might find justice does come your way if your story in a national newspaper causes a national outcry.
So should you not bother to tweet, blog or use facebook? Yes, you should use them as it all helps. Social media is perfect to gain a buzz about you – and gives more chance of your story being picked up by the mainstream press.
Also if you are about to sell your story for publicity I always recommend you have a blog, website or Twitter account in place where readers can go to next. Then sometimes the blog becomes the story – for example, one mum’s blog about how she hated moving away, was serialised in a national newspaper. From there, she was approached by a publisher to write a book.
But don’t under estimate the power of mainstream media – of getting your story printed in a magazine, newspaper or going on TV.
And if you don’t want the exposure of the national press, but still want to sell your story, I can always place your story in a smaller publication instead.
Read more: Real life experiences
Contact me to find out more about getting your story into a mainstream national newspaper, magazine or on TV: Contact Alison.
Well done to Featureworld interviewee Dr Alex Shergold on having her book Chronicles of Michael Part one published.
In 2008 Alex emailed me through the Sell My Story contact form of my Featureworld website. Her husband Michael had been contacted by social services telling him he was the dad of a son he never knew he had. Andrew, five, was born after Michael had split with a previous girlfriend and Michael had no idea he even existed. More bizarre Social Services wanted him to agree to Andrew, whose mum could no longer care for him, being adopted.
As you can imagine, this was a bombshell for Alex and Michael – but in fact Alex stood by him. More than this, they both felt if Michael had a son, they did not want him to be adopted by stranger and he should live with them. However, when they went to social services, they discovered he was already living with the family that wanted him. And social services didn’t even want to consider that Michael and Alex could have him instead (despite the fact they both had other children themselves.) As Alex and Michael looked into this more, they then discovered what they believed was the real reason why social services rang Michael. Andrew had a medical problem that meant unless he had a transplant from a blood relative, he would not live beyond his teenage years.
They wanted Michael to agree to give Andrew this transplant – but bizarrely even if he agreed, Michael would never be allowed to see Andrew. Incredibly, if the transplant worked, Andrew would also never be told it was from his father.
At the time social services placed an injunction on this story to stop it being told. But after a legal battle, this was lifted and I wrote this story for the Mail on Sunday newspaper. You can click on the book cover to read it.
Today Michael is still fighting to see Andrew – and now Alex has written a book about their battle for Michael’s son. It is available from Amazon here.
Do you have a story to sell? Why not contact me here for free advice: Sell my Story advice
Considering selling a story to a magazine or newspaper? While the vast majority of journalists are bona-fide and just want you to be happy when you sell your story, as in all professions there are always the rogues.
So if you do want to sell your story, here’s My Five Selling Your Story safely rules…and some words of warning…
Ensure you want to sell your story in the first place. If you do, then focus on doing it properly and if you’re considering an offer, don’t dither. News moves fast and if you take too long, everyone will have moved onto the next big thing. If you don’t want to sell your story, say so politely and firmly.
Don’t let strangers into your home – the journo might seem delightful, the poor photographer might have waited for hours outside your house in the rain. But do you really know who they are, how your story will be written and where it will go? And even if you do want to sell your story, selling it this way is not controlled.
Only talk to a journalist once you have established which newspaper, magazine or agency they represent. Then stick their name into Google and check what they say. If they claim to represent a publication, and you can’t find anything about them, ring the publication up and ask them.
Agree to an interview once you have sorted the basics. These are which newspaper or magazine, how much money (if it’s not paid at least you go ahead knowing that) and can your story be sold on (syndicated) without your consent (preferably not.) What is the angle of the story and will your quotes be read back?
Get it in writing. Any bona fide agent or journalist will be able to produce a basic contract outlining the above.
And watch out for the ‘scams’…
* Speaking to ‘harmless’ local newspapers who unbeknown to you sell your story to the national press – you won’t be aware of it until you wake up next day and see your story everywhere. And as local papers can rarely afford to pay for a story, you won’t get a penny.
* Signing up to an agreement, which has the words ‘up to in it’ – so legally ‘up to’ can mean they can pay you as little as they want.
* Emailing your story and photos to faceless and nameless sell your story websites. Maybe they’re shy, and they might well be fine, but who knows who they are.
* Doing a full chat and photos with an agency for a one-off (often, small) fee – before they have found your a deal with a named newspaper or magazine. One woman came to me this week after receiving a tiny amount of money for her ‘time’. Her story had then been printed in every single national newspaper and she even went on TV – to find when she asked there was no extra cash. Her story was precious and she was very upset. She wanted my advice but there is no point in being wise after the event.
For free professional advice click here: Sell My Story
Two weeks ago the tragic real life story of how little Morgan’s life was turned upside down was covered by virtually every national newspaper.
Morgan’s parents, Terri-Ann Barnett, 24 and Tom Matts, 29 had just dropped Morgan off at nursery in Hereford and were on the pavement walking home when the unthinkable happened.
A lorry crashed into a low bridge and its load of heavy wooden joists crashed down on them.
Tom died instantly and Terri-Ann shortly after. Needless to say the family are devastated especially as Morgan, just 18 months old, has been left an orphan.
Needless to say, this awful story has attracted a lot of media interest and I will be helping them to deal with that.
Meanwhile, a trust fund has been set up by Terri-Ann’s employers. If you would like to make a donation – even a tiny amount the family will be grateful for! – here are the details: Morgan Matts Fund, HSBC. Sort code: 402411, account number 92028654.
The family also wishes to thank the Midlands Air Ambulance service, which is a charity that runs on donations. The ambulance service gave them valuable time to say goodbye to Terri-Ann in hospital. To find out more about becoming a volunteer yourself to this service or if you wish to make a contribution, click here: Midlands Air Ambulance.
If you would like support dealing with the media contact me here: Advice about dealing with the media
To read recently sold stories click here: Archives