How to start your media outreach to gain coverage… without annoying journalists

Contact with the media is an intrinsic part of public relations – if you want attention for your brand, your client or yourself, you’re going to want to get in touch with journalists. And journalists, a busy bunch with non-stop deadlines, need content constantly. Reaching out to them with something they’ll find useful should be easy and very welcomed, right?

Download our white paper How to pitch to journalists.

Well, yes – if you follow these steps. Because, if you take a chance on an early noughties-era ‘spray and pray’, fingers-crossed-someone-can-use-this, approach instead…

…you won’t get the reaction you’re hoping for. Or the coverage. Or any kudos. In fact, you may just get your email address and phone number blocked.

Here’s how to reach out to the media to get better results (and no angry sub-tweets about your latest pitch, either):

1. Sector(s): what media should you be targeting?

‘I want to be featured on the front page of the Daily Mail, or [insert any big daily paper here]’ might be a request from an overly-enthusiastic client or boss, but that’s not realistic, or appropriate for many campaigns (sorry, stakeholder). Journalists only want to hear about topics relevant to their beat that will aid them in turning news and/or features around, to deadline.

Which media do you want to target? National press, broadcast, regional, consumer magazines, podcasts? Your campaign won’t be right for all of them, but a perfect fit for some. After you decide on formats relevant to your campaign, narrow the television programmes or regional papers, for example, down by their focus. Tech, retail, finance, or maybe Brighton-specific? Build a list of outlets with your media database of choice (naturally, our choice is Vuelio) to start:

Big outlets with high readerships/viewerships are tempting, but are they right for your campaign? Check out niche media as well – their focus is likely to be more specific, with engaged and interested audiences.

2. Journalists: which ones are definitely writing about your sector(s)?

You’ve started with the sectors you want to target, but the outlets you’ve picked to pitch to won’t be 100% filled with journalists ready to write about what you’re offering. Have a retail product to pitch? Not every writer on Retail Week will want to hear about it, for example.

Take the time to check out job titles as well as patches for specific journalists – if it’s an outlet with a big editorial team, the Editor-in-Chief isn’t going to want to hear from PRs. A journalist with ‘feature’ in their title might. Being specific and strategic is what’s required here – journalists won’t appreciate this step being skipped.

Where job titles don’t offer enough information, patch will – this is also really useful with freelancers, who are likely to have a myriad of different subjects they write about, that may change by week. Checking their beat – either on a media database, their social media profiles, or the top of their byline – will tell you what they write about, and maybe even include specific instruction on what they’d want to receive from PRs, how and when. If this information has been put out there by the journalist you want to contact in an easily-found place, ignore it at your peril.

Of course, you could also use a recent article search, like we have in Vuelio. It shows you which journalists have recently covered the topics your story incorporates and makes pitching more likely to lead to success.

3. Are your ‘must-have’ outlets and journalists actually accepting PR contributions?

Not all media or journalists use PR contributions – it’s a sad fact. Products, event details and interview opportunities aren’t useful for everyone. If a journalist or publication doesn’t use PR contributions – or does, but already has contacts they work with, and doesn’t want anything unsolicited – they will have noted that information somewhere, so look out for it. As with patch, it will be included in their details on a media database, social media, or a ‘Contact Me’ or ‘About Us’ page.

If ‘no PR contributions’ has been made explicit, don’t take the chance anyway – it would be a miracle if it worked out (and you won’t get a miracle on this one, trust us).

4. Have you considered other ways of connecting?

The alternative to media outreach is putting yourself in the position for the interested media to reach out to you. The #JournoRequest hashtag on Twitter is one you will likely have seen and searched, and there are also groups on Facebook where PRs can mingle with journalists open to their contributions in ‘pitching hours’, such as No. 1 Freelance Media Women.

For requests from UK media to your inbox, there’s the ResponseSoruce Journalist Enquiry Service, and you can find lots of information for getting the most from it here:

How to respond to journalist enquiries
How to tackle vague requests from journalists

Whether you’re reaching out, or putting yourself out there as a PR to connect with journalists, build these steps into your approach. Because the worst thing you can do with a journalist when pitching? Trying to save yourself time by wasting theirs.

For getting starting with effective media outreach, start finding relevant contacts with the Vuelio Media Database – book a demo here.

Want to receive journalist enquiries straight through to your inbox? Try the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

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