One of most important things that you need as a PR is a really great media list. If you don’t have current, relevant journalists to pitch your stories too, then what are you doing?! Here’s a few top tips for ensuring you’re reaching out to the right people…
Media contacts databases
If you have the budget to do so, purchase a subscription to a media contacts database. We, for example, use ResponseSource. I know that if I need contacts for absolutely anything, I can search on there and see who I need to contact. You can search by publication, outlet type, job title, region, even a keyword. It’s a great starting point for all PRs.
Do some research
Don’t rely on just one source for your media contacts because, according The Labour Force Survey (2016), there is an estimated 64,000 people in the UK who would class themselves as ‘journalists, newspaper and periodical editors’ – that’s A LOT of people! And as any PR knows, a lot of journalists are freelancers nowadays.
If you have a story to pitch, one of the best things that you can do is search numerous publications for similar stories and reach out to the journalists who wrote them. The fact they’ve already written about the topic before gives you a pretty good indicator that it’s of interest to the journalist; if it’s not something they cover anymore, they’ll usually let you know so you can be sure not to reach out to them on that topic in the future.
The other great side to ResponseSource is that journalists can send out requests to PRs looking for assistance on stories that they have in the pipeline. They may need quotes, tips, expert advice and even case studies – if it’s relevant to your client, it’s always worth responding to. The bonus here being that you’ll get relevant journalists and, if they respond, their contact details so you can reach out to them down the line with similar pitches to what you already know they cover.
If they’re not relevant, ask who is
If you reach out to a journalist and they let you know that it’s not a story for them, don’t be afraid to ask them why. It may be that they don’t think your story would suit their readers, or in some cases it may be that it’s simply not relevant for the journalist you’ve reached out to – in which case it’s always handy to ask them if they know who it would instead be relevant for. If you’re lucky you’ll get a name and email address/contact number, but at the very least a name is a good start.
Utilise social media
So many journalists these days are on social media and they’re sharing their stories on their own accounts for their followers to read. If you can’t find an email address or contact number for someone, it’s totally acceptable to follow them on social media and drop them a message – I wouldn’t recommend pitching via social media, but I’d definitely recommend mentioning that you’re looking for an email/contact number for them and a very brief overview of why you want to reach out to them.
The handy thing about Twitter, especially, is that if you follow one person, it’ll usually throw up a list of similar or related people that may be of interest to you to follow. I’ve made some fantastic contacts this way – could you add in a bit about creating your own Twitter lists to keep track of journalists and media? Likewise, you can also create Lists on Twitter - public or secret - on whatever you want. If you're following journalists who cover a variety of topics, you could create a "consumer" list, a "lifestyle" list, a "personal finance" list... and the options go on. Or you could choose to add them to lists depending on where they're based (not all journalists are based in London, believe it or not), amongst many other things.
Hashtags are amazing, and #journorequest is one that all PR’s need to be keeping an eye on day in, day out. Similar to ResponseSource where journalists can send out requests, many these days will issue a tweet looking for help and will add on the hashtag #journorequest so that their tweet can be easily found by those who may be able to assist. There are a number of other hashtags worth keeping an eye on, including #prrequest and #casestudy.
Similarly, if you’re struggling to find the right contact for your story, don’t be afraid to call the publications switchboard or news desks and ask them who would be the best person to speak to. If they don’t know, they may be able to put your thought to the correct desk (i.e. sports desk, lifestyle desk, travel desk, etc.)
And don’t forget… keep your media list up-to-date
If you hear that a journalist has left their current position, remove them from your media list or – if they’ve given you their contact details for the next position – update them accordingly. There’s no point consistently reaching out to speak to someone on your list who has left; it’s a waste of your time. And eventually you might end up annoying those who answer the phone.
Equally, whilst updating their details, don’t be afraid to ask who their replacement is and get their contact details. It helps to keep your contacts up-to-date for each publication ensuring you have good contacts wherever needed.
These are just a few top tips for my fellow PRs on how to build a kick ass media list. I hope that this helps, that you’re able to go away and build the best *ongoing* media list and that your stories will get plenty of coverage for those precious clients you have.