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Why research is a crucial ingredient in building your media list

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Analysis, Public Relations

The media database is a tool for curation. It provides PR pros the means to find and connect with their ideal advocates. It may even offer some insight on a specific journalist via areas of interest or social media links.

But a database is only as effective as the PR pro wielding it. If you want to stand out from the rest, you need to go beyond the search bar. Never underestimate some good old-fashioned research.

Spray and pray, carpet bombing, or whatever name you know it by, has gone out of style. Every day journalists receive hundreds of emails and simply don’t have time to read irrelevant pitches. The research you do in advance of the pitch, to prove you know who you’re talking to and have made the connection between your story and the journalist’s audience, will keep your email from being sent straight to the trash.

With so much information available at your fingertips, there’s just no excuse not to do the necessary research. Start with these three tips if you’re wondering where to begin.

  • Follow journalists on social media

As a PR pro, you know the power of owned channels and shared media. So do journalists. Chances are they’re on social media and use it as a platform to get greater exposure of their work.

Give them a follow and then pay attention (set up alerts, add them to a list). Start to take note of what topics they write about, what they retweet or share, and what seems to fall within their scope of interest. Pay attention to who they engage with and who engages with them.

  • Understand their audience

Your story is ultimately not intended for the journalist, it’s intended for the audience they write for (or produce for). You need to know that audience, because it’s also yours.

When you understand the audience (demographics, psychographics, wants, needs, motivations), you’ll write a better pitch. The trick is not to convince the journalist that your story is a good one because it helps you or your client out, but to succinctly show how it connects to the needs of their audience.

  • Read what they write

This is an essential part of relationship building, and about as simple as it gets. Read what they write and share it with your network. If you liked their angle on a story, say so. It’s one of the easiest ways to begin building name recognition. It may not feel significant, but relationship building is a long-term game. Help get their work seen and they’ll appreciate it.

Beyond building name recognition, reading their work helps you out too. The more you read the more familiar you’ll become with the types of stories they like to tell, the angles they approach things from and the people they like to interview.

Making the most of your media list

Now that you have a sense of the journalists that could be relevant resources for your brand or your client, you can better build your list. Here are some tips for honing it to perfect:

  • Be picky

There is no need to have 1,000 journalists on a list. Choose only the most relevant journalists and outlets. If you only end up with 14 people, that’s okay. Fourteen placements is nothing to scoff at. Especially if they’re in the right outlets. In the end, it’s the quality of the placement that matters, not the quantity.

  • Personalize your pitches

Personalization is a growing trend in marketing, and it applies to media relations too. People like the personal touch. Remember all that research you did to identify journalists and understand what makes them and their audience tick? This is your time to use it. We have it from a good source that journalists like to know that you’ve read, and better yet, understood and appreciated their work.

Avoid sending them an email that makes them feel like just one of many. Show them that you understand that there’s a person at the other end of the line that wants to do their job well.

  • Research, research, research

Anyone can write a pitch, but it’s the PR pros that do the strategic work at the beginning that get their clients and their brand into the spotlight. Practice your due diligence to maximize the impact of your list and increase the pick-up of your pitch.

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Joy Knowles
Joy Knowles is the Marketing Content Strategist at Agility PR Solutions. Joy has worked in an agency and been part of several internal communications teams during her career, helping to grow the companies’ client and customer bases through strategic communications, content planning and creation, social media management, and project and client management. Her education is in public relations.

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