Get press yourself: How to come up with media-worthy stories to get your business featured in top-tier media

Content Marketing Digital Marketing
12 min read
In this Article

There are three reasons that usually hold people back from getting press and media attention for their business:

  1. Most entrepreneurial creators typically think they’re not ready yet for press, so they wait for some mythical “someday” when they are “ready.”
  2. They think there’s nothing special or unique about them that they can share with the media.
  3. If they’re already thinking about it, they think it’s impossible to do it themselves.

Nope, nope, nope.

As a creator with a viable business, you’re absolutely ready, and you absolutely can do a good amount of it yourself. (I mean, no big deal, but didn’t you start and learn to grow your business from nothing?) And obviously, you DO have a story to tell (a lot of them, in fact).

In this article, I’m going to show you how to find those stories already inside you that you can share with the media and the world.

The hidden benefits of press

But first, why do this? Why bother getting press at all?

Honestly, there are numerous answers to this, but I’ll start with the most basic. We all intuitively understand at least one of the benefits of press attention for your creator business:

More press = more eyeballs = more revenue

…uh, right?!

Short answer: Not directly.

Longer answer: More eyeballs and more revenue are sometimes the intended side effects of press, but actually, they are not the benefit that I consider the most important. Allow me to share with you one of the best ways to use press by highlighting my friend and fellow creator Khe Hy’s website, RadReads.co:

What do you notice? Hint: Let me zoom in for you.

Look at all those publication logos: CNN, TIME, Wall Street Journal, and so on! Here’s why that matters.

People are much savvier and more discerning on the internet. With so many creators and experts to learn from, they simply don’t have time to learn from them all. So they look for quick heuristics to decide whom to listen to and whom to trust. These publication logos are one of those quick heuristics.

Logos, especially from publications that your followers would recognize, are a form of “social proof.” These logos implicitly tell them, “Oh, if they’ve been vetted by the press, then maybe I should pay attention to this person/business…” They signal more credibility and authority.

In other words, logos and press are strategic and amplify everything else you do. And that’s when you have other side effects like more revenue, growth, and opportunities like book and speaking deals.

For someone like me, a media strategist and someone who teaches press, my “wall of logos” gets a little… extra.

You don’t have to go this hard. You can start with one logo (and ratchet up from there via my Slingshot Method). And that’s why we’re here. To get into the press, you need to have a story. And not just any story. One that is…

Media-worthy!

A media-worthy story is one that editors pay attention to and would be thrilled by. So I’m going to show you four key things that make a story idea media-worthy. Even if you’ve already been published with several logos, this article still helps you figure out how you can reach out to the press consistently with more media-worthy stories.

4 key things every media-worthy story needs

1. A media-worthy story has a big idea

Almost all media-worthy articles are written for a reason. They’re usually to convey a “big idea” that has some sort of takeaway, a universal lesson, or an emotional payoff for the reader. And, of course, this big idea is best wrapped up in a story.

Here’s an example. Look at this real headline from a popular financial publication:

Wow, so raw and real.

But at its core, this article is much more simple. The basic gist is: “People are not saving enough for retirement. Save more! Invest more!”

Investing and saving more is the “big idea” here. But if that was the headline, who would care enough to read, let alone click it? Not many, and the media wants as many eyeballs as humanly possible.

Here the big idea was wrapped up in an intriguing story and delivered through the lens of a real and relatable human experience. Way more interesting, right? And we end up recalling the big idea more easily.

That’s because we remember stories. We’re moved by stories. We’re not moved by information. Stories are the media’s vessel to deliver big ideas and information.

So ask yourself: What’s the key lesson or message in your story that you’re trying to convey? What’s the big idea?

2. A media-worthy story is specific

When I was an editor at Bodybuilding.com and IGN.com, I often received pitches that asked if I was interested in covering the latest diet fad or their product. Sometimes yes, but most of the time, these pitches lacked the story element. They were simply ideas that I couldn’t turn into a story on the fly, so I’d ignore them.

My takeaway for you here is simple: A story is not the same as a topic.

For example, “starting a side hustle” is a vague idea. It’s too broad for any editor to figure out its key big idea and value for their audience. And most likely, that’s a lot of work for them to think about… so they don’t.

On the other hand, this is an intriguing and specific story:

Here’s another attention-grabbing one from The New York Times:

Ohhh, juicy! Generally speaking, the more specific, the better. Here’s an example:

  • Not specific: How to Gain Muscle
  • Specific: 5 Key Bodyweight Exercises That Build Muscle

Once you have the big idea in mind, you want to get a bit more specific with the story around it to help people understand the angle you’re coming from.

3. A media-worthy story is original

In 2015, I became homeless.

Not what you’re probably thinking, though.

I didn’t have a home. I did not renew my lease. I packed all of my things into storage. Carrying a single rolling suitcase and my laptop stuffed into a backpack, I bought a one-way ticket to Tokyo. And ended up staying on that side of the world for close to a year, bouncing from one temporary home to another.

I was a “digital nomad” who found a way to work remotely and live in seven different countries. Because remote work wasn’t as normalized as it is now, this was an original story. I put my own unique spin on it because it was based on my own unique experiences. I told the story here:

And here:

And again in The New York Times:

And actually, many more places. But the point is, this is the power of drawing from your experiences and life and telling the story in different ways.

Maybe you’re like, “Okay, Steph, maybe you have a cool story like that, so how in the world can I come up with an original idea that gets published in so many places?!”

Hey, creator, breaking news: You have TONS of stories right under your nose. In fact, you have stories that you can tell to the media RIGHT NOW.

Think of your life experiences, the lessons you learned, and the trials and tribulations that shaped who you are today. You don’t even have to go that far into the archives. As the heroine of your own story, you’re guaranteed an original take on the same topic. And best of all, it's a story that only YOU can tell.

Here’s a quick framework for your story that I call the War Story Formula:

  • Think of a challenging time in your life
  • How was it uniquely challenging?
  • How did you overcome it?

And here’s a real example of the story using the above framework:

Just like I did with my digital nomad story, you can tell a story from an interesting slice of your life in an infinite number of ways. There's always another angle and another part of your story to unravel and tell to the world.

4. A media-worthy story passes the editor’s “sniff” test

I shared with you one key thing editors want in a story: originality. Next up, they’re looking for a reason to publish your story.

Why does this story need to be told? Above all, why does it matter now?

This is the editor’s So What? Test.

If you want them to accept your story, it needs to intrigue them… but it also needs to cater to their readers and what they would like and want to read. Think of it this way: an editor is very much like us content creators: we care about reach. And reach in the media is determined, but not limited to, the following:

  • Relevance
  • Impact
  • Popularity

Let’s talk about these with a few examples.

Relevance: As a news business, editors obviously care if something is relevant to the news cycle or a part of the current conversation. That means their readers care about this topic or at least have shown an appetite for it. Example:

Very relevant during tax season!

The caveat here is that since a lot of people are talking about this same general topic, the best way to approach relevance is to add a fresh perspective or angle that no one has talked about yet (AKA original).

Impact: With impact, you want to think about whether your story affects a large number of people (e.g. the general population) or a smaller, niche audience. This is a big difference, especially when you’re aiming for top-tier media like The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, etc.

Example from CNN.

Popularity: Of course, when something is popular, it’s a part of the cultural zeitgeist, and editors (to an extent) are always interested in what’s popular (and therefore relevant). For example, if something is trending on Twitter or TikTok, you can count on the media to be there making news about it.

This TikTok video got over 11 million views!

For the sake of simplicity, the most important thing is to consider the impact of your own original story. Is it something that a lot of people can relate to or learn from? Or just a few? This is what needs to be clear to the editor.

Now, it’s down to you…

Your media-worthy story (not topic!) needs to be specific and appeal to the editor’s search for relevance, impact, and originality. That’s a lot to remember, so here is an idea “checklist” to help you sort it all out:

  • What’s your “big idea”? This is your key takeaway with your points and story built around it.
  • Is your idea specific? Specificity helps you come up with clearer and more valuable stories that give editors and their readers a lot of value (and that’s what they want!).
  • Is your idea original? Sometimes you should double-check that a similar story to yours wasn’t recently published. So Google “” to bring up all relevant articles on that site and then check your idea to see what new perspective you can add.
  • So what? If an editor asked you, “so what?” would you be able to tell them WHY it needs to be written? For example, is your idea popular, relevant, impactful, or all of the above? Doesn’t have to be all, but one of these needs to be made clear to the editor!

You have so many great personal and original stories already inside you. Here are some questions to help you think of more:

  • What’s a personal challenge or lesson you’ve learned recently (or that you remember very clearly)?
  • What drives you crazy about your topic, niche, or industry?
  • What do you wish people knew about your topic, niche, or industry?

Write them down. Here are examples for each:

  • “I traveled recently and made healthy choices even while I was at restaurants and didn't have access to the kitchen.” (This would be a great idea to write about if you were a fitness coach, for example.)
  • “I wish people would stop thinking that online dating apps were their only option to ‘be out there.'” (This could spin off into something if you helped people with their relationships.)
  • “Having a good style doesn't mean you need a closet full of clothes — it's quite the opposite.” (This could be great for a personal stylist.)

Got it? If you’ve written anything down, congrats, you have a story that’s media-worthy-in-the-making!

Wanna see a real pitch?

When you’re done thinking about your own story ideas, you might be thinking, “Okay, how do I pitch this?” The exact pitching principles are outside the scope of this article, but one way to learn is to “study the winners.” Take a look at an actual successful cold pitch to Entrepreneur.com and see how it was written. I break it down in detail. Grab it here.

Good luck to all the creators pitching their ideas to top-tier publications! I hope you find these insights valuable.

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Stephanie Lee

Stephanie Lee is founder of Clout Monster, a media education company that teaches entrepreneurial creators how to build more authority through PR and various media features, and use it to grow their business. If you want to learn how to get featured in top-tier media, sign up for Clout Monster’s quirky “TL;DR Newsletter” to get insights, tips, pitch breakdowns, and more. Try it at cloutmonster.com

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