Maybe it's easier because I'm a woman, but I somehow manage to get on the news or in local trade journals and newspapers a lot ... for free. No paid advertising has ever brought me even half of the income that results from these free radio shows, public appearances and newspaper write-ups. Maybe it's because women tend to have an aura of trust about us that men have to earn. This isn't fair, but few things are.

Whatever the reason, the media have been a wonderful sales tool for me, and it costs absolutely nothing - if you do it right. Let me show you how.

First of all, let's talk about why media coverage is so much better than paid advertising. Anyone can pay for an advertisement. But if you write an article, or a reporter quotes you, then you present yourself as an expert on that topic - and people want to do business with experts, not advertisers.

The problem is, if you simply call a news station or magazine and ask if they will do an article or 30-second spot on how much you care about your clients, they won't be interested. However, if you approach them in a way that will help them add texture and color to a planned story, or spice up an otherwise boring news week, they will jump at your offer.

First, see if any of your local trade publications have a special "finance issue" or a "health issue" on their editorial calendar. Larger magazines and local newspapers won't necessarily have these special-focus issues. In that case, any month is fair game.

Second, pinpoint a current event (either locally or nationally) that is somehow related to your industry, is a hot topic, and is something you know about. For example, children are no longer allowed to be declined for pre-existing conditions, and their pre-existing conditions cannot be excluded from coverage. Consequently, children's health insurance premiums are - in some cases - going through the roof.

This is a hot topic. People are very concerned with what to expect next. This is a perfect opportunity to call your local news station or newspaper (or send an e-mail) and tell them you have some interesting information. Here is a sample e-mail:

My name is Lydia Fairbanks and I am a health insurance broker in the Neverland area. Last week on the Tomorrow Show there was a story about how health care reform is causing children's health insurance premiums to skyrocket. I don't know if you are aware of this, but health insurance carriers can no longer decline or exclude coverage for children's pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, in some cases, this is causing children's health insurance premiums to go up drastically. My clients are already experiencing this, and the national coverage confirms that the concern extends beyond our own backyard.

If you are interested, I would be happy to answer any questions pertaining to this topic. I know that many people within our community are worried about what is going to happen to their health insurance plans and costs in the coming months and years. It is extremely important that people understand their options - now more than ever before. There are alternatives to either going broke or going without health insurance. There are many options to help people in this situation right now ... they just need to know about them.

If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to call or e-mail me at your convenience.

Approaching the media in this way almost always works. However, it is still a numbers game. Don't send an e-mail or make a phone call to one newspaper and call it quits after your first dose of rejection. Maybe the person you talked to had their plate full with more interesting news stories that week. Instead, reach out to every station and publication in your area, one by one, until you get a bite.

If you need help writing an e-mail, get some - you must know someone who can write well. Give your ghostwriter the gist of what you are trying to say, and offer them $20 to draft a nice e-mail.

In most corners of the sales world I always prefer phone calls or face-to-face meetings over e-mail for the initial contact. However, this situation is an exception to that rule. When you are trying to sell a story - not a product or service - condensing everything you want to say into a well-phrased, succinct e-mail is often a better way of selling it. The editor or reporter is certainly busy and would much rather check a short and sweet e-mail than hear you ramble on about something completely foreign to them. If your short e-mail can sell them on why their audience would find it interesting, you're good to go.

 

Carst is a self-employed broker and consultant. She is the co-founder of Women Insurance Professionals, a non-profit organization that helps women with the licensing process and career support. Reach her at amycarst@hotmail.com.

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