A few months ago, the in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines, aptly named Southwest: The Magazine, ran a one-page feature on yours truly, which I still find hard to believe.1 A friend of mine who runs a public relations firm told me that the PR value of this is in the range of $150,000, which I found even more difficult to believe. Many colleagues have asked me how this all came about. I’m happy to share, even though this particular set of conditions may not be easy to replicate. I’m also including some tips on how to get some media coverage for yourself and your business.
First, while I have had media training as an ATA spokesperson, I don’t think you need to have any special knowledge to get yourself in the media, although a basic understanding of how the media works helps.
Second, I think it’s important to go after media coverage from a media outlet you trust or are passionate about. In my case, Southwest Airlines has been my favorite airline since 2000, when, as a poor graduate student, I overslept, missed my flight to Albuquerque, and went to the airport in tears, only to find that Southwest was delighted to put me on the next flight for free. I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.
Last year, I started posting photos of Southwest during my travels, as I fly a lot for work. Most of them included positive comments about Southwest employees, including one funny handwritten sign on a flight that read, “Yes, we are full. Yes, we have wifi. Yes, our pilots are single.” I actually had no PR strategy in mind when I posted the photos, other than wanting to let the airline know how much I appreciate it. Sometimes media coverage works like that—it can be unexpected and a result of your online presence. There’s so much complaining about services happening on social media that companies truly appreciate it when you give them some positive feedback, especially if you have a relatively large digital footprint (just another reason to work on this).
Via Twitter, Southwest thanked me for my comments and asked for my address to send me some gifts to show their appreciation. The entire correspondence with a marketing writer happened exclusively on Twitter, and after a few days of friendly exchanges, I casually mentioned that I noticed that their in-flight magazine features one frequent flyer a month, but that it’s oftentimes men in similar industries (think software) and no one in a profession like mine. The marketing writer agreed but was noncommittal. After a few weeks she asked me to send her a blurb about myself, also via Twitter. I didn’t hear anything for months, but then I received the e-mail informing me that I would be in their April issue and that we needed to schedule the interview and photo shoot.
In general, getting yourself media coverage is a great strategy to increase your visibility and potentially your business, even though its effectiveness is very difficult to measure. Here are some tips you might find useful. Just remember that getting this done will require some effort.
Pitch to a magazine or publication you like and that makes sense. Perhaps your university’s alumni magazine? Or if you’ve just given a lecture on how attorneys can best work with interpreters, why not try contacting the local lawyers’ association to see if they would be interested? Perhaps you could reach out to a local business paper that runs features on small businesses? Look for interesting angles and topical connections.
Be brief. Just like translators and interpreters, editors are busy people and appreciate brief communication. Be succinct. Tell them who you are and why they should feature you. Editors tend to like international angles, especially in smaller markets, and we fit right in.
Make it easy for the media. If the editor likes your story, things may happen quickly because they have deadlines to meet, so be flexible in terms of interview times and/or photo ops. Don’t expect the publication to pay for hair or makeup: that’s usually on you if you want that (I paid for my own for Southwest Airlines magazine).
Give up control. One of the scary parts about working with the media is that you have no control over what will ultimately be published. While I liked my Southwest article, I would have stated some points differently, but I wasn’t the article’s author. It’s hard to give up control, but you won’t get to have a say in what gets published most of the time.
I’d love to hear if you had any media success. Have fun!
- “The A-List,” Southwest: The Magazine (April 2018), http://bit.ly/Southwest-Magazine.
This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors. Ideas and questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judy Jenner is a Spanish and German business and legal translator and a federally and state-certified (California, Nevada) Spanish court interpreter. She has an MBA in marketing and runs her boutique translation and interpreting business, Twin Translations, with her twin sister Dagmar. She was born in Austria and grew up in Mexico City. A former in-house translation department manager, she is a past president of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association. She writes the blog Translation Times and is a frequent conference speaker. She is the co-author of The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation. Contact: email@example.com.