Press access can get you sneak peeks, free trials, and more value for your audience. Here are 11 tips to help your podcast get these special media privileges.
1. Invest in professionalism
Despite the popular advice, many people do “judge a book by its cover.” Even though this may seem wrong, as creators, it only makes sense to make the “cover” match the quality of the contents.
Look at everything that could give a possible first impression about you and your podcast:
- Your logo
- Your audio branding
- Your production quality
- Your presentation skill
These and more things combine to form the brand by which people perceive and recognize your podcast.
It's okay to have some fun and break some rules here and there. And if you want press access, you must demonstrate a level of professionalism that will help others trust you.
You don't have to spend a whole lot of money on this, but you should invest what's necessary to make you stand out—or at least stand close enough to the colleagues in your field.
2. Stay in your niche
This may already be obvious to you, but it's important enough to emphasize. The press access you're pursuing must be relevant to your niche. If your podcast is primarily about video games, it may be difficult to get press screenings for movies.
However, there may be times where your niche is a theme more than a media. For example, my own ONCE podcast covers ABC's TV drama Once Upon a Time. That show is about magic, fairy tales, hope, and other classic stories. So to both my audience and outsiders, it makes sense for the podcast to review movies like Beauty and the Beast, Fantastic Beasts, and Into the Woods because these movies appeal to the same audience and carry many of the same themes.
3. Keep an updated “portfolio”
As they say, “it takes money to make money,” it also takes reputation to build reputation.
When you approach a company and request press access, they will probably want to see samples of your other work, so they can know how professional and relevant you are.
This “portfolio” of sorts can be past episodes or special posts. And you don't need special access to make these things. Review something—maybe even anything—relevant to your niche and do a great job.
As with a regular portfolio or list of testimonials, you want to display your best stuff. So as you get better, update your list so you're always showing off your best work.
And the portfolio can help you reach higher. For example, you may have never reviewed a theatrical movie release, but your DVD and Blu-Ray reviews can help you get there. Or you may have reviews from one field that can help you cross over into another field.
I suggest adding to this “portfolio” often enough that your latest sample is not older than a year. Some places, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, want to see proof that you've been in the space for a while and are staying current.
4. Be timely
When I first got press access to movie screenings for Are You Just Watching? (our entertainment-based critical-thinking podcast for Christians), the representative said movie studios are more interested in getting the word out quickly than necessarily getting it out to the largest audience.
So whether you're reviewing books, movies, products, or anything else, publish your content as quickly as possible. This will not only enable you to help the company spread the word about their new thing (which is the whole reason they would give you access), it also gives you something to promote at the absolute best time to promote it.
5. Talk to the right people
Most big companies already have a process in place to get coverage for their new stuff. They may have a press section on their site, and email list for news and updates, or contact information for media inquiries. In the event you can't find such resources, the next best thing to do is directly contact the company and ask to connect with their marketing department.
The profound truth is customer service is interested in serving customers, sales people are interested in selling, and the marketing people are interested in promoting the new stuff. So it's the marketing team you want.
Some companies will hire a third-party marketing firm. This can often be better for you, because that marketing firm may represent other companies you also want to work with.
If you can find only the name of the marketing firm, you can contact them and ask for who represents the company you're interested in, or even find a specific person through LinkedIn and other social-network searches.
It can also help to talk to others you know have the same kind of access you want. They may be able to refer you to exactly the right person, or find the right person for you.
6. Build relationships
Until you become popular enough for people to pursue you, you have to go out and build relationships. In other words, become known to the company: known for using and liking their products, known for talking about them, known for providing valuable feedback.
To become known, you have to show up and care. So stay connected with the company. If they're at an event you're attending, stop by and chat, even if they have nothing to offer. If they have something to celebrate, congratulate them. If they have news to share, pass it on to your audience.
When they see you engaging with them, it will be easier for them to engage with you.
Plus, don't focus on only relationships with those companies you want access to, start building relationships with the other press nearby. Especially as a podcaster, you may be unique from everyone else covering the same event, and if you build relationships with the others, it could lead to special value for your own audience, or special opportunities for you to get other press coverage.
7. Become a journalist
Companies don't want only opinions, they want publicity, especially to highlight their strengths. Becoming a journalist doesn't mean you have to silence your opinion, be unbiased, or share only the facts. It means being thorough, sharing both sides where possible, accurately reporting the information, and maintaining a standard of integrity.
Along the way, you may need to learn about necessary disclosures. For example, if you're paid for the review, given a product for free, bought the product yourself, and such. This level of transparency, especially when paired with personal honesty, will build trust with your audience and with the companies.
8. Focus on relevance, not numbers
When you're just starting out, you may not have impressive numbers: website stats, podcast downloads, and such. But the raw numbers are sometimes merely a way to filter out the amateurs.
When you can demonstrate professionalism and, most importantly, relevance, your small numbers may not matter as much.
9. Make yourself available
An incredible thing happens with reviews: they compound. When you review one thing, the makers of similar things will often want you to review their thing, too. So you need a process in place for handling such requests. That could be a special contact page, a footnote on all your reviews pointing others to how they can submit something for review, and making yourself reachable for reviews.
As the requests start to come in, it can be tempting to say yes to all of them. But you must remember to stay in your niche and not to overcommit.
Companies are putting a lot of faith in you when they let you review what they offer. So they may impose deadlines, require nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), or place an embargo to prevent information from being released prematurely.
Your compliance with such agreements, legally binding or otherwise, is crucial for both your own reputation and for the company's own success.
Yes, this may mean you don't get to be the one to “break” the story. But a lasting relationship is better than a momentary blaze of attention.
Another aspect of respect is that you are honorable in how you treat the company and their product. Don't damage the product and don't slander. You can be honest about what you don't like, but that's not an excuse to attack the company.
Your mom's advice could be relevant here: “If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all.” If you truly hate the thing you reviewed, consider giving such feedback directly to the company instead of broadcasting the negativity to others.
Lastly, you may do all these things and still not succeed in getting press access. But don't give up!
Check in with the company every now and then—no more frequently than once a month. It could be a bad time for them, they could have limited quantities, or they may not have taken the time to consider how serious you are.
Thank you for the podcast reviews!
- Rhonda Orr, host of The Rhonda Orr Show, wrote on Stitcher, “I love this podcast, and I am admittedly not a techie! But Daniel does a great job on his non-technical episodes … dare I call them “philosophical?” … and I enjoy his point of view. They're always worth considering, and I've applied many of his concepts to my podcast, The Rhonda Orr Show. I think my first episode was the one where Daniel said it was cliche to use an image of a microphone or headsets in your cover art. He was right. So I didn't! Thank you for all your advice.”
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