In order to get responses to your pitches, you first need to create a solid media list
There are several factors that play into a successful PR campaign, the most obvious component being actual news or ideas to share that are timely, relevant, and interesting to your target audiences. PR professionals put a lot of focus into writing a perfect press release and pitch, as they well should. Communicating your news and framing it in a way that will be of interest to the reporter is, in the end, the best way to get your story covered. However, your media list should be equally prioritized.
All too often this component of PR and pitching strategy is created quickly with little thought or effort. If we are being honest, most of us don’t love creating media lists. It can be a very mundane, time-consuming process. However, it should receive just as much attention as the pitch. You may have the most earth-shattering news in the world, but if you are pitching the wrong person, you won’t get the coverage you deserve. You wouldn’t go through all the trouble to make a cake from scratch and then not put it in the oven, right? Don’t create a pitch only to send it to a bad list, just like the cake your results will be half-baked.
We’ve covered the basics of finding media contacts in the past, but for seasoned pros, there are quite a few nuances to consider. Would we all prefer to have a quick fix or easy button when generating our media lists? Heck yes. But that’s not the nature of the beast. A solid media list, and the resulting improvement in press coverage, is worth the time and effort. Here are our do’s and don’ts for advanced media list creators.
Don’t just pull a list from a database
There are many media list-generating software options available for PR professionals such as Meltwater, Cision, and Muck Rack. These platforms generally work by allowing you to input a few parameters, say geographic location, publication type, contact role, beat, etc., and then will generate a media list for you. They can be quite useful in certain scenarios, particularly when you are searching for a specific contact and just need to find their email address (however, be mindful that the contact info isn’t always accurate or up-to-date). Are they easy to use? Mostly (they all are nuanced and it can take time to understand exactly how the platform works). Can they generate a list of 500 contacts who are somehow relevant on the topic of “health”? Yes. Are those 500 people all going to be the right contacts? No.
Though these applications are very useful as a starting point in media list creation, they should never be treated as an end-all-be-all. Here are several key areas where they fall short:
1. Not all publications share their contacts with these databases. Frequently media databases will include a publication, but you’ll find that there is no contact information for the staff. Or they’ll include a list of staff, but will only share generic email addresses for the contacts. For example, the parenting editor for a national publication will have an “info@” email address listed as their contact. Though this email goes to someone, it probably isn’t the person you are looking for. Unless you are working with a tiny community paper or small trade publication, you should assume that each contact will have a uniquely identifying email, just as you do.
2. Not all publications or mediums are included in these databases. Smaller publications, publications based in different countries, and different mediums such as podcasts tend not to be included. If you are pitching a niche subject or looking for a podcast, an organic search can be a better option.
3. Reporters change jobs frequently and these databases tend to be behind in updating contacts. Always double-check that a reporter or contact is still current. Databases are known to be weeks and even months behind in updating their contact lists, so just because a reporter’s name pops up on your search, it does not mean that person still works there or holds the same title.
4. The nuances of a reporter’s beat are often not readily apparent in the contact listing. For example, a listing for “Susy Reporter” may say that she covers health, fashion, parenting, gardening, and sushi. As a result, if you typed any of those keywords into your search, Susy Reporter would show up as an appropriate contact. However, if you review the publication and see what Susy is really writing about, chances are just as high that she is a food & beverage writer as they are that she covers mental health.
Do adjust your media list creation strategy depending on the medium
Who you are pitching and what type of coverage you are looking for will determine how you go about creating your list. Using a database will be more effective for some types of pitches than others. Generally speaking, databases are fairly reliable for larger-scale and nationally reaching publications and news outlets. They are generally unreliable for podcasts, contributed content, and influencers. When creating lists for the latter three categories, adjust your list-building strategies:
- Podcasts: Some podcasts will be included in media databases, but most will not. The most effective way to find podcasts is a Google search on “the best” or “most listened to” podcasts on your particular topic. Then go through each one and research their actual content and find a contact via their website. Some will have a dedicated producer to pitch, some you will pitch to the host, and some will have an online form to fill out.
- Contributed content: Not all publications will accept contributed content, so prior to pitching your byline, it is important to first determine if the publication will accept what you are pitching. Typically, publications that do accept contributed content will have a dedicated editor and this information will be hidden on their website, sometimes within the “contact us” page, sometimes within the “editorial policies” section.
- Influencers: Similar to podcasts, you may find some influencer contacts on your media databases, but likely not too many. Influencers can be found in the places they influence us – their blogs and social media accounts. Find them there, reach out with direct messages and your pitch.
Don’t assume your old list is still relevant
If you went through the painstaking process of creating a media list one year ago, six months ago, or even three weeks ago, do not assume this list is still relevant. Publications change content focuses, reporters change jobs and beats. The older the list, the less likely it is to still have the appropriate contacts. Make sure everyone on your list is still covering the same beat or writing about your area of expertise. Reporters jump from outlet to outlet frequently and sometimes from beat to beat within the same organization. Though your emails to these reporters wouldn’t bounce, you likely won’t get a response if their beats have changed.
Do research each individual on your list before you pitch
Though it takes time and energy, it is always worth the effort to research each individual on your media list. Check out their recent articles and reference similar stories in your pitches as areas of follow-up. If they’ve moved jobs, determine if they are still covering a relevant beat for a new publication. Further, research their replacement, will that person be covering your business category?
At the end of the day, knowing your reporters’ areas of interest and verifying that you are pitching the correct contact will save you time and will result in greater coverage opportunities. When you have something important to say or news to share, getting your pitch into the correct hands is what will yield results.
Diana Crawford is a seasoned public relations consultant with more than 15 years of agency, consulting, and in-house experience. She joined Orapin in 2013 and manages account services and client communications strategy development. She has worked across a variety of industries and has expertise with professional services, food/alcohol, health and wellness, lifestyle, sports, education, tech, and non-profit organizations.