Let me start with an open apology to journalists on behalf of the PR profession. Sure, we’re not all bad, but way too many of us treat the media as targets to be sprayed with buckshot pitches hoping one or two hit the mark. Since PR pros outnumber journalists 4.6:1, I know you’re getting bombarded every day with irrelevant, pointless pitches. I am sorry for that.
Advice to those in the PR profession: following a few common-sense guidelines for media outreach results in not only more stories for our clients/company, but also a symbiotic relationship with appreciative media. It’s truly a win-win. And while having a compelling, newsworthy story to tell is a big part of it, the truth is that PR pros usually fail at step 1: building the media list.
Here are five guidelines for building media lists that will result in successful and mutually beneficial relationships with the right journalists for your goal.
Give the Media List its Proper Prioritization
A media list provides a foundation for PR success. No matter how clever your pitch or worthy your news, it won’t matter if you don’t get it in front of the right people. A media list should be built by individuals who have a deep understanding of the news-value of the announcement, the media outlets and contacts that are a good fit, the intended audience of the message, and what outlets are read by and influence that audience.
Align Research at a Nuanced Level
Who is talking about your subject matter? Who is covering your competitors? Invest time to understand a publication’s audience, as well as a specific reporter’s beat, interests and recent relevant coverage. Look at the type of content (case study, product/company announcement, proprietary data, thought leadership, etc.) you’re offering and make sure it aligns with the content the outlet publishes.
Ask Common Sense Questions
Would this contact be interested in my story? If so, why? Ask next level questions in evaluating if a contact is aligned with your pitch. If you’re pitching a story about a mobile app for enterprise resource planning (ERP), don’t just throw contacts on the list who have covered mobile apps. Understand if they cover B2B apps or just consumer apps. Look at publications or contacts that talk to the buyers of ERP solutions. This depends on understanding who those buyers are, as well as knowing the information they want from their sources.
Treat the Media List Like Your Wedding Invite List
Engaged couples go to great lengths to make sure they have the correct address for all recipients, spelled their last names right, and didn’t accidentally send an invite to John and Doris Keller when the couple got divorced last year. Yet, I’ve seen way too many pitches go out to contacts who no longer work at a publication, addressed to Mr. Kris Brown, when Kris is a female, or are relevant to a beat the reporter moved off a year ago.
Pretend Each Email Pitch Costs Money
Every time you send an irrelevant pitch to the wrong media contact, journalists get a little more jaded and resentful of PR people. You also create noise and inbox overload that makes it harder for journalists to find and respond to the few well-targeted pitches they do get. Plus, you may put a bad taste in their mouth next time they see your name in their inbox, even if that next pitch happens to be perfect for them. Pretend that each time you hit send on an email pitch it will cost you $5. How selective are you going to be with who goes on that list?
Today, digital media contact databases make it possible to plug in a keyword or a few criteria and have a list generated in minutes. As a matter of fact, many PR firms view the process of creating media lists as so low-level that they assign the task to the most junior people in the office. This approach fundamentally misunderstands the importance, strategy and nuance of effective media lists. It also gives way too much credit to the abilities of a digital database tool. Hopefully, these tips will help you take the few extra steps that go a long way in creating valuable, effective media lists.