Michelle Barry approaches media relations as an art. She has been called the “content wizard” by colleagues and clients alike. She began her career as a journalist in New Hampshire, where she lived for 12 years, embedding herself in the community and covering breaking news. This experience as a reporter gives her unique insight into what is newsworthy and how to tell a relevant story.
For the last 15 years, Michelle has developed and executed creative, high-impact public relations programs for global startups, public companies, nonprofit organizations and private corporations of all sizes. With her guidance and determination, Michelle’s clients have appeared in the pages of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and hundreds more. National television outlets including Anderson Cooper 360, The Doctors, CNBC’s Squawk Box, The Katie Couric Talk Show, Bloomberg TV, and the Today Show have profiled Michelle’s clients.
Michelle is the winner of two New England Publicity Club Bellringer Awards, was a finalist for the Holmes Report SABRE Award, and the recipient of the New Hampshire Press Association Award for her work at Manchester’s independent weekly, The Hippo Press.
In 2017, Michelle founded Mesmerize Media Consulting to better serve the changing needs of her core client base: late-stage startups, consumer brands, and nonprofits. These organizations have limited budgets but need to tap into media relations in order to grow their audience and continue to innovate.
In addition to her PR and journalistic accomplishments, Michelle is a talented writer and performance artist. She brings this creativity to her work every single day. This was the basis for her 2015 TEDx Talk, “Unleash your inner artist.” In 2008, she represented the state of New Hampshire at the National Poetry Slam in Madison, Wisconsin. She is a vocalist and songwriter for the jazz/funk fusion project, Clark Dick and the Cocktails.
Today, Michelle lives in the beautiful Verde Valley area of Northern Arizona with her husband, youngest daughter, and two dogs, Bowie and Zappa.
Media coverage: Why you need it, how to get it
People ask me all the time, “Why do I need media coverage anymore? I have Facebook and YouTube and Google Ads. And then there’s Twitter and LinkedIn. I can use those to reach my customers.”
It’s true that social media and digital content has transformed the media landscape forever, giving brands a more direct route to their customers. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon your media relations efforts and rely solely on new channels. Even with the rise of independent podcasts, social media, blogging, YouTube and self-publishing, businesses still need earned media coverage to reach their core audience and provide third-party credibility.
Here’s why: A story written by a trusted reporter in a publication read by your potential customers (and they still do read) builds two key things: awareness and trust. Earned media is the difference between an advertisement and a trusted expert praising your company.
Think of it this way: how likely are you to order a cooking gadget or nutritional supplement based on an informercial? Most of us would say, “Not very.” Before you ordered it, you’d ask your friends (both in person and online) if they’ve tried it before. It’s the same thing with media relations. Unlike an ad or a message you’ve shared on LinkedIn, it’s not just you out there, tooting your own horn. Media relations harnesses the influence of an industry reporter who has done the research and vetted your claims. That puts a customer’s mind at ease and adds some “street cred” to your brand.
It’s important to note that there’s a process you must follow to get great media coverage. It starts by building relationships over time with reporters and bloggers who write about your industry. So far, they haven’t been replaced by sentient robots, so we need to remember that they are human beings just like us, and approach them as such.
Here are my tried-and-true tips for building great relationships with reporters:
· Be brief. Journalists are busy and don’t have time to read long, fluffy emails or waste time chatting on the phone. The number of reporters in newsrooms all over the world is shrinking, which means the ones that are left are doing a lot more with a lot less. Keeping it brief means you respect their time.
· Be valuable. You want the reporter to see value in what you’re pitching, not just an informercial about your business. This is often the most challenging part of the job. It needs to answer the classic “Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.” If it doesn’t, it’s not news.
· Be reliable. It’s important to establish trust with a reporter. That means do what you say you’re going to do, for your clients and for journalists. There are too many PR hacks out there who make a lot of promises knowing they’ll never deliver. It’s tarnished the industry and makes it hard for reporters to trust. Show that you will follow through on your claims and promises, and you’ve won half the battle.
· Be timely. Before you send that email or pick up the phone, are you sure you’re ready for a “Yes?” Make sure you have the full story, images, client bio, references- everything a journalist could want – ready to go when you pitch. Too many times, a journalist says “yes” to an interview, and then the client’s expert speaker is away on vacation or unreachable on a plane. Those small details need to be planned in advance before you ever pitch the story. This is key for broadcast media opportunities. They’ll want to see video clips of your client to judge how they come across on camera.
· Ask the right questions. If your pitch gets rejected by a journalist, that doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. Ask them, “What are you working on right now? What kind of experts are you always on the lookout for?” Build up a profile on this reporter for next time, so you feel confident that you’re bringing them something useful.
These tips seem simple, and maybe they are. But they’ll take you far with a reporter if you follow them every time.