Saturday, August 11, 2018

Robert Lillegard Shares Practical Insights on How to Get Published in Major Media

Yesterday's Twin Ports Social Media Breakfast, hosted by UMD, convened in a rather impressive room on the third floor of Maloskey Stadium. On a perfect Duluth summer day with cloudless skies, the light streaming through walls of glass gave such a welcoming feel that it was hard to get started and hard to leave. A special shout-out to Molly Solberg for organizing these events.

Our speaker for August was Robert Lillegard, founder of Be Our Guest PR who was also a guest speaker in late 2016. His presentation at that time was both practical and thorough, which no doubt contributed to the strong turnout yesterday.

Lillegard essentially presented an outline of his career with each anecdote designed to teach a lesson about the writing life. The title of his talk served as a drawing card, mainly because he's done it: How To Get Into Major Media.


1. We all start somewhere.
He began by sharing how in 2005 he wanted to become a journalist. He shared an anecdote about his first assignment for the campus newspaper, how he went out and began surveying students regarding their level of concern regarding terrorism.

2. Rejection is part of the game.
He next spoke candidly about the numerous rejection letters he received when he first began pitching story ideas to editors. It brought to mind my own experience of sending out queries back in the days when you typed letters and included a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). After maybe dozens of form letter rejections I received a form letter rejection with a hand-written note on it from the editor. It was thrilling to learn that an actual human being had read my pitch and rejected it personally. Editors were real people.

3. Learned about newsroom from inside.
Lillegard landed a job in which he had the opportunity to experience what it was like on the receiving end of pitches. This gave him a number of insights, including the following:
a. Never complain to media
b. Do send nice letters
c. Send photos
d. Send stories well in advance, not last minute
e. Be persistent

4. You can always get better.
He began in 2008.

5. NYTimes published an article about an idea he had had … he never pitched it.
He shared a story about an idea that he had regarding a craft beer event here in the Twin Ports. He was nearly floored when he read a New York Times story about that very same event, as if someone had read his mind. On take away for him was that he was on the right track. His idea was on target. Another lesson is to pay attention to what is being written to see what kinds of stories the media are looking for.

6. Your Content is what is important.
He underscored the importance of content. Editors are looking for stories people want to read.

7. Large Media looks at Mid-Size Media which is looking at Small Media
Media begets media. We can be seduced into thinking that the smaller media are just emulating the big dogs. The reality is that the Times is looking down at the smaller media, sifting for stories that are worthy of a wider audience. Begin at the bottom and work your way up.

He left an extensive time for Q&A and the audience, which had been full engaged, had many practical questions. Afterwards he briefly reiterated his career path and then outline his three step process for getting published in major media.

1. Come up with stories worth writing about
2. Tell editors
3. Repeat

Related Links
Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers from the New York Times
How I Got Published in the NYTimes on My First Try
And finally, there is a Facebook Event Announcement of note: Michael Fedo, author of The Lynchings in Duluth and many other books, is having a book signing party for his newest release from Holy Cow! Press, Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Adventures of a Midlist Author
I mention this only because he will be having a writers workshop preceding the book signing. The workshop will focus on how to write publishable Op-Ed articles. Details on the book signing and workshop here.

Meantime... if you're a writer, write on.

2 comments:

LEWagner said...

Number 1a piece of advice for getting published in the mainstream media should be:

NEVER point out that the official and accepted government/media story on almost any issue is a Damned, Big, Murderous Lie.
I can't imagine Jesus vying to get published in the NYT.
Maybe I'm wrong.

Robert said...

I don't think the official and accepted government/media story on good barbecue in Walker, Minnesota (the kind of thing I write about) is a damned, big murderous lie.. but then maybe the rabbit hole goes deeper than I realize.