Three Reasons Why:
- The media is short of things to cover:
In South Africa, politicians, PR firms, and captains of industry are likely to be on holiday until about January 11. This means that there is not much happening in the public eye. News organisations have less to publish or produce than they usually do.
- The media are short of people and energy:
Journalists take holidays too. Staff rosters are depleted, people are tired. If you put something interesting forward, you can fill a gap, just when it is most needed.
- Readership figures are down:
This might be counter-intuitive. It might not seem to make sense to punt yourself to the media in a time when audiences are low. But that means less pressure on you if you feel less than perfect. Everyone’s so much more relaxed. It’s the perfect time to practise your skills.
Three ways how:
- Think about things you could offer to write about, or talk about: make a list. Examples that spring to mind:
- Offer a retrospective: The top developments in your field over the last year, and why they matter
- Provide a high-level overview: The things you would most like people to know about your field, and why.
- Forecast for the year ahead (first suggestion): Suggest ways in which developments in your field might play out in the next year, and why you think people should care about this.
- Forecast for the year ahead (second suggestion): Ways in which developments in your field will help ordinary people in the next year.
- Filter those things through the lens of ordinary readers: everyone is tired. Everyone wants to enjoy the last bit of their break and hang onto some positivity for the new year before the reality of back to work comes crashing in. Think about ways in which you can offer something that’s kind. That’s quirky, hopeful, happy, or entertaining. (Does this seem unrealistic for your field? Not a train smash. Remember that the closer to “back to work” we get, the more serious the news tone becomes.)
- Make a list of the places you could approach: Is this a story for your local community newspaper? Does it fit better with the online news of a national Sunday paper? Would it be good for a radio station? Which one? Or what about submitting your idea to a regular podcast? Not sure? Think about the audience. The local newspaper will have readers who want to know about potholes in their road; the national news website might want a piece called; “Five things the government could do to improve service delivery in 2024”.
Now, do your research: find out who you should approach. In a radio station, it’ll be the producer of the show you are thinking about approaching. In a publication, it’ll be someone called the news editor. Contact details are always no more than a search, a social media post asking for help, or a phone call away.
The three-step pitch
- Write an email to that person. Outline what you can do – whether it’s an on-air interview, an email question-and-answer, a written article or an interview. Also say what topic you plan to cover.
- Write a simple subject line: Proposed Q&A on potholes in XXXX municipality.
- Write one paragraph outlining your credentials. If you have the phone number, you can follow up with a phone call saying you’ve sent the email.
And then relax. You may get a response – yay! If not, you have a template to try again once everyone is back at work.
And either way, do remember to tell us how it goes, we’d love to hear it.