Media databases, such as Vocus and Cision, are great resources for finding reporters and bloggers who cover specific industries and topics. These databases helped augment the day-to-day research that practitioners did to identify, research and verify the best reporter for that particular news story or company.
While these databases have tremendous amount of information, not all of it is accurate or up-to-date. And this is where the problem begins. For companies and practitioners who rely solely on these resources, they cease to be “pr practitioners” and risk becoming “email spammers” as the pitches will be irrelevant and unwanted. Or much worse, being blacklisted by the very reporters they are seeking to reach.
Now consider this from the reporter or blogger’s point of view. Her information has been gleaned from her website, without her permission or knowledge, added to a database, and sold to hundreds and thousands of people. While she may be open to receiving relevant information, she now gets multiple emails with seemingly unrelated content and solicitations. She may or may not fault the media databases, but most likely, she’ll fault you – the PR person who didn’t do his homework.
Don’t get me wrong. I personally use Cision to help me 1. research new contacts at existing outlets, 2. build a media list or 3. to learn more about a particular media outlet. My point is leverage this as one resource for learning more about a reporter. Here are three more tips for knowing your reporter better:
Research Previous Coverage
The best place to begin is reading the person’s previous blog postings or articles. I typically go back at least 6-9 months to determine the type of stories he likes to write, how often he writes, and when he last wrote about my client/particular industry. For example, if he wrote about a trend story about mobile apps for events last month, it’s likely he won’t cover this topic for a few weeks or months.
Review Their LinkedIn Profiles
One disadvantage of the media databases is the lack of background information on reporters. Either to find information or to augment what is available, look up the person’s profile on LinkedIn. As a professional network, LinkedIn is a wealth information – previous positions, personal websites (if available), and location.
While you can upgrade to a pro account to send emails from within LinkedIn, weigh the pros and cons of this carefully. For me, unless we were member of the same group, I would be less receptive to a cold pitch on LinkedIn than via my blog.
Engage on Social Media
More and more reporters are participating on social media (personally, Twitter seems to be a popular choice), partially due to personal interest and partially as part of their job. When possible, I recommend following a reporter. This provides insight on stories he’s writing, types of topics he’s interested in and possible personal information. And when appropriate, you can respond to the reporter; thereby engaging and building a relationship with the reporter before an “official” pitch. In some cases, having a reporter tweet out your story may result in more traffic and word of mouth than an article itself.
These are just three simple tips for getting to know your reporter before the pitch. What other tips do you have? Bonus points for those who can list things about me in your comments =)