Ever want to be interviewed by big time media?  I'll tell you the two secrets to getting your message out.  I'll be talking about the Project Calliope extreme DIY satellite project on NPR's "All Things Considered" this Saturday (July 24), sometime after 5pm.  And while I honestly have no idea what the final edit will sound like, I'm insanely pleased to have been invited.

How did I get on NPR?  How can you?  I will tell you the 2 secrets I've learned to getting noticed by the media.

First, here's the details on choosing a 'popular' project that the media will love.  Don't even bother.  Predicting the tastes of the masses is a foolish pursuit.  Let's instead assume that you are doing work that you find personally meaningful, and that you're pretty darn good and what you do.

So that suggests you have enthusiasm and confidence. Those are 2 useful skills.  But those aren't the secret, either.

Ionosphere photographed from ISS (Courtesy: NASA). Me: you don't need a pretty picture to get on radio.

Networking and having luck?  The first is required to get anywhere in life, and no one can predict the second.  But they're also not the secret.  They are not items you can fully control.

No, let's assume you're doing good work, doing well at it, and you're bright and earnest.  This already distinguishes you from the other 6.8 billion people on Earth how?  Even if you're one in a million, there's over 6000 people the media might want to talk to instead.  So here comes the two secrets.

Here are the two things you can personally control, that will increase your chance of being noticed.
While it is always best to believe in one's self, a little help from others can be a great blessing.  [Uncle Iroh, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" series]
First, you need a critic.  You need an editor, or gatekeeper, or someone who can give you the 'intelligent no' from time to time.  They should understand you, love your work, and be willing to frequently disagree with you.

Face it, you're too close to what you do.  It's hard for you to tell what is meaningful and what's trivial.  An outsider who 'gets it' can give you the feedback that lets you learn and understand what makes your work better.

For this, I have Hank, the Science20.com gatekeeper.  He doesn't edit my work.  I have full say on what I write.  But he does get to chose which of my stuff to feature on the front page, and which is just (to him) "meh".  He's been enthusiastic about Project Calliope from the get-go.  So if I can't get him to think something is interesting, why should I expect the media to care?

A good critic is worth their weight in gold.
One today is worth two tomorrows.  [Benjamin Franklin]
When the media calls to ask when they can speak with you, you call them back.  Right then.  Not tomorrow.  Not when it's convenient for you.  Not after your current meeting ends.  You get back to them quickly.

The story will run whether you were there or not.  Remember how there are 6800 other "one in a million" tales?  Even if you have everything perfect-- you're witty, brilliant, give great soundbites -- you can't stop the presses.  The media have deadlines, and they're good at their job.  A story will be written.  If you want to be in it, you accept the invitation immediately.
Who knew NPR, like me, would find this box so interesting?

This isn't a power thing, or saying their deadlines are more important than yours.  You don't blame a train that leaves on time if you were late, do you?  (If you do, you need stress counseling).  To be part of the story, you have to be there for the story.

So that's my two secrets of getting on the media.  You should always endeavor to be good and to pursue meaningful tasks.  Networking-- talking to people without an agenda, just to share and learn-- is worthwhile in all contexts.  And you can't control luck.

But you can make yourself better by having an ally who will give you criticism when you need it, and support the rest of the time.  And you must call back the moment luck does favor you.

Good luck,

Tuesdays at The Satellite Diaries and Friday at The Daytime Astronomer (twitter @skyday)