,Race drivers, circuits, motorsport series: everybody needs it – media coverage. Even the pinnacle of motorsports, Formula One, needs media coverage to stay on top. After all, there are tons of other sports, games, and activities people can spend their time on instead.
So how do you get in the media? How do you get journalists to interview you and TV stations to give you air time?
Here are six tips that will help you generate media coverage.
Understand how the media work
Before you even consider giving an interview, it is important to learn a few basic rules on how the media operate. Giving an interview for the print press is not the same as for radio, TV or, even a website. The purpose is different, the questions are different, timing is different. So try and get as much information about the publication and interviewer beforehand. Don’t be shy to ask what type of story they are looking for, so you can give them the right angle.
Like there is a ladder of motorsport series, there is a ranking in the difficulty of interviews. So, before you give a live TV interview, get some experience with the print press first. The next step up are radio interviews, then move on to recorded TV. And only when you feel comfortable with all of these, try the queen of interviews: live TV. It is daunting and can be awkward. But you’ll get better – and more confident – with time.
What to say during interviews
When giving interviews, stay with the facts. Don’t lie. Don’t say ‘no comment’. And always remember that there is no such thing as an ‘off-the-record’ comment unless you know the journalist really, really well and are 100% sure you can trust him. Because, once you say something, it is out there. It might not get published (if you are lucky) but it might come back to haunt you eventually.
So, if in doubt, leave it out!
Find the right media contacts
Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Find all media contacts relevant to you (motorsport media, national media, lifestyle, etc.). Then build up your tailored media list and update it regularly.
It takes time to raise your public profile and you have to be prepared for some form of rejection. Journalists might unsubscribe from your media list, they might never call you back when you leave a message or they bluntly tell you that they are not interested. The bottom line is: Don’t take it personally. And don’t waste your time (and theirs!). Find journalists who are interested in your story instead.
Also, build personal connections with some key media BEFORE you need them. A quick chat in the paddock or at the airport might be all it takes.
What’s your story?
Race reports are just the basics, an excuse to write to the media regularly. But race reports will not make you stand out from your fellow racers in the long run. For that, you need to make sure you create other media opportunities all along the way. Think of what you have to offer. What’s your background, what interesting story could you tell about you, your career, your life, that the media will find interesting?
Get your story out
Once you have a few ideas, send your story to the journalist dealing with your subject. At this stage, you only need to give a few main ideas of your storyline, don’t write the full article. That’s the journalist’s job, if he is interested.
If you haven’t heard from the journalist after a few days, it is safe to assume that he or she hasn’t seen your mail or alternatively didn’t find it interesting. You can try sending it again with a different headline. If you prefer the personal touch, you can also try and call them at a suitable time.
Instead of contacting just a few key media, you can also send a press release to your full media list. But make sure that your story is newsworthy or contains some other element that could be currently interesting for the media. Particularly magazines or online outlets are always looking for articles, particularly in quiet times like the summer break or after the season, so you might get some media coverage this way.
Read here how to write a press release and when to send it: Motorsports PR: Why one press release won’t make you a star overnight
Check the results
It is important to check how the media respond to your pitch or press release. It will help you determine what works and what doesn’t. To do so, have a basic media screening in place – a few simple Google Alerts will do in the beginning. You can also ask the media outlet who interviewed you to send you the printed story or tell you when the interview will be aired. Most will be happy to help if your request remains an occasional one.
Dare to be different!
You work in a competitive environment and many of your fellow racers will be able to win a race. So, you need to make the difference off the track as well: with a memorable personality, different looks, an interesting background or simply by saying different things than your fellow racers. If what you are saying is identical to what your competitors are saying, why should the media give you space in their outlet? So, if it fits your personality, say something controversial or just speak your mind (within reason!). When you do, be prepared to stick up for yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable with being controversial, that’s fine too. Instead, find out where you are different and how much of this difference you are prepared to share with the world. Then go for it!
It isn’t easy but…
Generating media coverage isn’t easy. It is based on the journalist’s goodwill and interest. It is based on whether you are able to provide interesting stories. More often than not, it is also a matter of personal relations. It’s a task that takes time, persistence, and a lot of follow-up. But when you see YOUR story published, it will be worth it!