Arielle Ford’s Guide to Meeting
& Bonding with the Media

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“People in the media are just like you and me, ordinary people who just happen to have a particular job” says Arielle Ford, a seasoned publicity expert who has landed hundreds of spots for herself and her clients on CNN, The Oprah Show, O Magazine, The Today Show, CBS Early Show, and numerous other major media over the years.

Media people are often barraged by dozens, even hundreds, of pitches everyday, so your challenge is first to get their attention, and second to create a lasting connection. According to Arielle, it’s a process that involves equal parts human touch, creativity and professional preparedness.

When talking to a media contact, “you’re better off responding as if they’re a good friend,” she says. Be professional, but “pay attention to their tone of voice.” With a good friend, “you know right away from their voice what mood they’re in. If a media person answers the phone sounding harried, you might start the conversation with, ‘You sound like you’re having a busy day. Is there another time I can call that would be better for you?’” By treating people like friends, Arielle adds, you often “disarm them, and get their attention.”

Another way to attract the attention of busy media people is to “find ways to intrigue them… Have fun with it.” To promote a film about the lifecycle of flip flops in Africa, she once mailed dozens of pairs of $1 flip flops with a DVD and note to read her pitch letter while listening to the song “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. She wrote another pitch to be sung to the theme of The Beverly Hillbillies.

When you can’t get through to the person you’re trying to reach, be mindful that “assistants are gatekeepers,” and can be “your make-it-or-break-it person.” Take the time to get to know them, send a gift, and follow up, since “those assistants may someday become agents or get a job at a major network.”

Ultimately, your approach should be both creative and friendly, so you stand out from the crowd and begin forming bonds with the people whose attention you’re seeking, according to Arielle, who herself has literally made thousands of friends on her road to success.

How to Escape the Voicemail Rut

“If you leave voicemails for media people and don’t get return calls, don’t assume they don’t want to hear from you” Arielle says. “If you know you’re contacting the right person, it probably just means they’re too busy to return all their calls.”

Make each voicemail count!

Each voicemail is an opportunity to make a connection, so be prepared to leave one and know beforehand what you want to say.


Once you have the ear of a media person, you need to hold his or her attention. “When the person on the other end asks, ‘Wait, who are you? Why are you calling?’, that’s when you need to deliver your 30-second pitch, which should be really clear and concise” she says. Practice beforehand, and be sure you “have your pitch down and ready to go” before reaching out, she adds.

For any of your efforts to be effective, however, you first need to “know something about the person you’re trying to contact,” Ford mentions. Be sure to “find the contact who’s most likely to be interested in your story. Look online and research their work.”

Remember that friendship is a two-way street, so if the opportunity presents itself, “ask how you can help them, what other stories they’re working on.” If you know someone with the expertise they’re seeking, make that connection for them. “They may never write about you, but they’ll remember you”—an important feat, since being remembered may someday translate into a referral or other opportunity.

As with any good marketing and PR campaign, your networking should be consistent and ongoing. “Attend one workshop or conference every quarter” Ford advises, and don’t be afraid of other writers doing similar work. “The people you most want to bond with are the people doing what you’re doing,” she says. “They may know people you want to know, or refer a publicity opportunity to you” when they have a schedule conflict.

Ford’s final words of advice? “Be patient. Nobody becomes a bestselling author overnight. I literally don’t know a single one!” she says. As with writing a bestselling book, “there are good reasons it’s a slow-moving process.” You don’t want publicity opportunities until you’re ready to represent yourself and your book well, fulfill the sudden demand that may result from major media appearances, and leverage every media appearance to become even more successful.

Mindset is also critical, according to Ford. It’s important to approach the process believing it’s an “abundant universe,” where “there’s more than enough for everyone” she says. Last but not least, be willing to remain actively engaged in the process over the long haul. Trust that your persistence—and the many friendships you’ve so wisely nurtured along the way—will eventually propel you toward your goals.