This is the story about how just one mention in the media can radically change your life.
Within a year she had become a best-selling cookery writer, a columnist in the Guardian newspaper, a successful blogger, and a regular face on national television and radio discussing not only food but also political issues close to her heart.
Jack herself credits a single article in the Daily Telegraph as having a transformational effect on her life.
A talented and prolific writer, Jack had begun her blog “A Girl Called Jack” (now re-titled cooking on a bootstrap), in February 2012, initially as a way of getting involved in local politics. But although she returned to that theme, her writing soon developed a focus on nutritious recipes produced on a micro-budget. Having been forced to quit her job in order to look after her young son, Jack was faced with coming up with ways of getting food on the table for just £10 a week. Remarkably she was able to turn that budget into a menu of fantastic food that not only tasted great, but was also a truly healthy option.
Her recipes, combined with her engaging story and passion for changing the world struck a chord with a lot of other people in a similar position. But crucially Jack started to find a wider audience too, who admired her for her personality and really enjoyed her food.
By the time the Telegraph journalist Xanthe Clay came calling, Jack’s hard work had resulted in 16,000 regular readers of her blog and a healthy following on social media. It might have been that even without the exposure from the Telegraph it was only a matter of time until Jack Monroe became a nationally prominent figure. But there’s no doubt that the article alerted not only the public, but also the wider media to Jack’s engaging story. Following on from the Telegraph article offers for further media appearances poured in, Jack’s blog readership went up, and so did her presence on social media (as of late May 2015 she has 58,000 fans on facebook and 73,000 followers on twitter). Her obvious authenticity has only further endeared her to her audience and Jack’s remarkable success deservedly continues. Just as a way to show how much Jack is in demand here’s four clips of her on four different media platforms (BBC, ITV, Sky News and Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel).
Why was the Daily Telegraph interested in Jack Monroe?
It’s very difficult to get publicity or feature in the press just off your own back – even if you have a relatively successful blog as Jack did in March 2013. But what makes things a lot easier is if you can position yourself as part of an existing media story. Xanthe Clay’s article about Jack is a classic example of using an unknown example to shed new light on well covered topic . Take a look at the first paragraph of Clay’s article.
Within three sentences Xanthe has put Jack’s story within the context of not one, but two big media stories that were constantly in the news in early 2013.
The first story was the scandal surrounding the finding of traces of horse meat in beef burgers sold in UK supermarkets. The second story was the UK government’s policy of austerity that was causing public finances, including benefit payments, to shrink quite dramatically. By bringing these two themes together Xanthe Clay was able to hang Jack’s already appealing story on two familiar narrative hooks. Xanthe knew the British public was really concerned about what was really in their supermarket-bought, processed foods, and she also a lot of people were concerned about how they were going to feed their families on dwindling budgets. In Jack Monroe, Xanthe Clay was describing an admirable person who was providing a solution to two of the most pressing issues of the day via her super-cheap and super healthy recipes.
2) She’s Unsual
Journalists love the unusual and in Jack they found someone who was truly different. For a start she (as her blog title points out) is a girl called Jack. Secondly a lot of people in the position Jack found herself in would have crumbled under the pressure. But Jack consistently turned her negative situation into positive action – a trait many long for and admire, but few feel they truly embody.
3) Human Interest
It’s so much more interesting to write a story on a big subject like austerity by using an engaging human example – and the narrative of single-mum-does-good is undoubtedly powerful. Jack’s struggle against the odds below the poverty line was an angle that Xanthe Clay knew would grip her readers.
4) She was active on twitter and easy to find
Xanthe originally contacted Jack via twitter – a platform that Jack was, and still is, active on. Journalists as a rule are extremely active on twitter themselves, so if you can build up a good amount of attention on that platform, the chances are a Journalist will notice you.
Jack Monroe’s hard work, passion for her dual interests of food and social justice, and talent for writing is, of course, a huge part of her success. But her work also made Jack a fantastic figurehead for a larger media narrative, the potential of which was cleverly spotted by Xanthe Clay. So if you’re looking for publicity think about how you can hitch your wagon to a big media story. There’s no telling where it might take you.
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