As PR professionals, the media list may arguably be one of the most important components in your outreach process. Working in PR can be overwhelming and taking the time to building a successful media list can often fall off your list of priorities. However, taking the extra time to build a comprehensive database of well-researched and targeted contacts will help you better develop relationships with media — which will ultimately lead to results in the form of earned coverage.
Most journalists will tell you that one of their biggest pet peeves is receiving pitches that in no way relate to the topics they cover. By upgrading your media list and truly targeting your pitches, your outreach campaign will yield higher response rates and will end up saving you (and your media contacts) time.
Here are three tips to upgrade your media list.
Make The Most of Your Media Database, Work Smarter Not Harder
Media and influencer database platforms can now do more than just find an email address — they can gather multiple streams of information on a contact like their recent articles, Twitter feeds and similar reporters all in one place. When deciding if a contact is a right fit, take advantage of these advanced capabilities because they will simplify your research and eliminate the need to have multiple tabs open on one specific reporter.
Before you begin your research, create a list of key terms that relate to your pitch that will help to better determine the right reporters talking about similar topics. Some media database platforms even allow you to search databases through a “talking about” filter, taking you directly to the reporters you want.
Additionally, it never hurts to go directly to an outlet’s website, search for the key terms relevant to your campaign to find out who has written about similar topics. Reverse research is also an option to expand your search. Instead of searching for a reporter, search by target location to discover new outlets. By using the tools available, you have a higher chance of finding the best contacts.
Make Your Media List Comprehensive And Pitch Ready (And Don’t Let Your Research go to Waste)
As PR pros we know collaboration is often an important part of the job, which means making sure your media list is pitch-ready for anyone on your team. Research is a key step in the process of building a successful media list, not only to help create a personal pitch but to maintain credibility with your media contacts and outlets. So when compiling a media list, make sure it is comprehensive and includes the basics: the contact’s name, beat, email, etc. But also take the extra step to include your research: the contact’s relevant past articles and other relevant info such as their phone number and Twitter handle. Even though email is typically the preferred means of contact, you never know when you might need to pivot your outreach strategy to broaden your reach. While you’re at it, make sure to follow the reporter on Twitter and occasionally engage with their tweets so your name is familiar once your pitch is in their inbox. The more you can establish a relationship with a media contact, the more likely you are to get a response.
Once your media list is complete, don’t jump straight into pitching without cleaning up your list. Use tools to alphabetize by outlet to organize your list. Luckily, if you use tools like Cision® you won’t have to worry about duplicate contacts, and because the media industry moves fast contact information is constantly updated.
Never Blast Your Pitch — Use Your Research to Make it Personal!
After you have taken the time to carefully curate a perfect media list, the biggest mistake PR pros can make is to blast your pitch, bcc-ing all of your contacts in one email. While there’s a small chance you might get lucky, it’s not worth it in the long run, and it can damage your relationship with a potential contact. Never forget that newsrooms are often open spaces. If you send a pitch to multiple reporters at the same outlet at once, there’s a chance it will be sent around and become newsroom banter.
Think of the last time you received a “junk email” message or even received a random cold call. It’s obvious when you’ve been contacted by someone who hasn’t done their research, and it’s unlikely you will respond in a positive way. Always remember that reporters are individuals just like you, and can tell the difference between a lazy blast and a thoughtful message. A reporter is more likely to respond (even if it’s a “no”) when you send an individual email, highlighting their past coverage or interests and showing them you’ve taken the time to understand why they might care about your pitch. And if you have created a comprehensive, detailed media list at the onset, crafting a personalized pitch will take a fraction of the time.
As the responses roll in and you build relationships with your contacts, use note-taking tools on platforms like Cision Communications Cloud®, to keep track of your experiences, including any feedback you receive or coverage you secure. Most importantly, keep the conversation going with reporters. If you land a story, make sure to thank him or her, share the piece on your social media channels to help improve visibility and offer to be a continuous resource. Even if the journalist passes, it never hurts to respond and find out what other stories they may be working on or offer other ways in which you can be a helpful resource.
As you begin developing these “upgraded” media lists and utilizing them in the proper way, you will ultimately find more success in the form of earned media and gain credibility with your media contacts. The next time you have to reach back out to a new contact or add them to a different media list, you and your colleagues will have a useful resource on-hand. Taking the extra steps to upgrade your media list will not only save you time, but will bring you one step closer to building valuable relationships with media and securing coverage for your organizations.
About Elizabeth Harmon
Elizabeth Harmon is a coordinator at Scott Circle (@ScottCircle), a full-service communications, conference and event management firm based in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter: @elizabethegypt.