Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I give them the simple answer: “I get people on TV.” This inevitably leads to them asking me …. “But, how?”

The most effective answer to this question is to hire a PR firm, with a history of great bookings and placements in the media. But, if you can’t afford to hire a full-service public relations firm, there are several steps you can take to get yourself noticed in the media.

  • STAND OUT! You need to be able to answer this question in one or two sentences. If you’re a doctor, what makes you different than any other doctor in your field? If you own a social media firm, what makes your firm better than all the rest? In the media, you have to make a case for why you – over anyone else in your profession – should be the one lucky enough to do an interview. If you can’t answer that question easily and quickly … it may be time to re-evaluate your branding strategy.

  • ABP: ALWAYS BE POSTING! Many journalists and producers are currently finding experts and guests via social media. By tweeting or posting about a current news story that’s in your wheelhouse, you open yourself up to the possibility that the media will see your point of view. But great social media is nothing without a great website. Journalists will automatically click on your site to vet you and get further information. Make sure your site is “media friendly” and easy to navigate.

  • STAY CURRENT. Chances are slim to none that a reporter is going to write a feature-length article about the new platform your company recently launched. However, a journalist may want to write about that new platform if it relates to a current story in the news cycle. Always relate back what’s happening in your business to what is on the front pages of the biggest newspapers or being covered on news networks.

  • KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. It sounds simple but I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you’re pitching, for example, Fox News Channel – it may not be the best idea to pitch the new progressive political campaign you’re doing PR for. Spend time getting to know the outlet you’re pitching, but additionally, the exact focus of the reporter you’re pitching, too. Spend time on that journalist’s website and Twitter feed—get a sense for the stories that are important to her or him. It will go much further than sending a general pitch that isn’t personalized.

  • GET CONNECTED. Journalists and producers can get, literally, hundreds of pitches a day. So it’s of vital importance that you figure out how to get connected to the media in a meaningful manners. There are various events and meet-ups happening all the time in major cities that you can attend and try to schmooze it up. Another way is to try to engage with your media target via social media, or over email (it’s easy to find most members of the media’s email addresses). Just be sure to not smother the media … it’s fine to send an email and a follow-up, but if you haven’t heard back … leave it alone for a while.

Of course, hiring a professional to do all this for you is likely to be the most effective way to achieve your media goals. Breaking into the media is extremely difficult and without a lot of time and professionals guiding you, it can be challenging. If you decide to hire a PR firm, make sure to ask for case studies and client referrals to properly vet if the PR firm is the best one for your needs.

– Annie Pace Scranton