This year for the holidays my family decided to pursue a new family tradition by doing a ‘White Elephant’ gift swap for Christmas. When I learned about this a few weeks ago, I knew I had to find the perfect present. While the premise of the game doesn’t involve a winner or a loser, if done well, your gift will be sought after and fought for during the gift “trades” part of the game.
As I struggled to find the perfect gift that would set the bar high and give me the utmost in White Elephant credibility, I discovered that finding the perfect gift is much like convincing a journalist that your story is worthy of coverage.
Here is my three-step formula:
1.) Grab Attention
To get someone to even consider selecting your gift it has to stick out amongst the pile of boxes and bags nestled under the tree. Perhaps it’s adorned with the perfect bow or Justin Bieber wrapping paper, whatever it is, there needs to be something that sets it apart.
With a constant stream of deadlines, reporters are busy. To read your email they first have to be compelled to open it. Adorn your story idea with a catchy headline that creatively and concisely explains what amazing idea you have to offer.
2.) Eliminate the Obstacles
You know those gifts—the ones that are tightly bound by that wax-covered ribbon that are a struggle to open with fifteen pairs of eyes watching your every move. You want the gift that is simple to open so you can see what’s inside. There’s no need to make it complicated.
In much the same way, after your catchy email headline, get to the point. Clearly lay out your story idea in an easily digestible manner. Leave the industry jargon and intricate vocabulary behind; and just because you can write a novel, doesn’t mean you should. Bullet points, numbers and brevity can help clearly define what you want covered.
3.) Quality Counts
It doesn’t matter how perfectly packaged your woolen, needlepoint sweater is, no one wants an itchy addition to his or her wardrobe. The key to White Elephant domination ultimately lies in the content of the gift—something people desire. You don’t want just to avoid being traded, you want your family to fight for your gift, and they won’t fight for it unless it’s something useful and unique.
If your story isn’t newsworthy, don’t expect to see your idea in ink. Reporters are looking for quality content that provides value to their readers. If your idea is a blatant advertisement, don’t expect a journalist to call you back.
With these tips, you can build good rapport with journalists and get your story covered (not to mention navigate next year’s White Elephant gift hunting.)