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A guide to building an excellent media contact list

Tag: PR tutorial

PR and Media Relations are a crucial part of marketing strategies, but some of the activities involved are very time-consuming. One of these is building your own media contact list. The more accurate and well-thought your contact list, the better results you'll get in the long run.

First of all, why don't you just buy a full list of contacts? Give it a try and see how it goes, but usually it isn't an effective strategy.

The best time to start building your list of contacts was yesterday. The second best time is today. How do you get started though? Here’s a step-by-step guide to find relevant contacts, manage them in lists and engage them in an effective way.

Define your goals and audiences

What’s your main goal when building your list? What do you want to achieve eventually? Getting press is not a goal in itself. What kind of press are you looking for, and why? Are you going after niche publications with a small, very focused audience? How much do you know about the people that will receive your messages?

Not only journalists

Media relations is no longer restricted to journalists. There are many more influencers out there. Many bloggers have built up an established community of followers who can be targeted with content that is specific to their subject of interest.

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Where can I find the right people?

Make a list of the media channels your audiences get their news from. Find interesting leads and add them all to your presslist on pr.co. You don’t have one? A spreadsheet will do. The more you find out about these people, the more complete and helpful your list will be.

1. Start from acquaintances

Your network is a perfect way to start from. You can ask directly for introductions. If someone you appreciate is recommending something to you, wouldn’t you pay more attention? Even Robert Scoble would.

2. Search on Google

This may be a no-brainer, but it’s really worth your time. Common queries are related to keywords of your industry or your competitors’ names. Check the first results: who wrote the articles? Write down the journalists’ names to dig deeper later.Another common query is to use advanced operators, such as “site”, to check which editors cover specific areas for a magazine you want to target. So, who covers NFC at Gigaom? Who writes about startups at Forbes? Who does what on TechCrunch?It’s always a journalist who covers you, not a whole magazine.

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3. Set up Google Alerts

Set up a Google Alert for the most relevant keywords for your strategy. You will receive emails containing links to the most relevant new results indexed on Google. Attention: you will only get the most relevant results, not every single result with that keyword indexed by Google. Then, you can find the writer's contact information and add them to your CRM.

4. Monitor everything on Mention

Mention is Google Alerts on steroids. You can monitor any public source, from blogs to Social Media accounts to news sites. You get real time notifications or daily digests.

5. Listen and engage On Twitter

How do you engage people on Twitter? How do you find influencers in your niche? You can run some advanced queries with your usual keywords, find some interesting people and follow them. Afterwards, start interacting. Read this guide to find out more about both topics. Sometimes reporters tweet out requests for information to find sources for stories they are working on. You can find these in real time and help out. Twitter lists are also helpful to group people by category and follow them more carefully. Oh, public lists are also flattering for the people you add.

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6. Try blog aggregators

Alltop is an aggregator of blogs and magazines on a particular subject. You can use it to keep up with current trends and discover new sources. You can use dedicated tools to search for blog posts on any subject.

7. Find conversations on LinkedIn

Start from LinkedIn groups: what are the most active groups in your industry? You don’t need to start from the bigger groups. Sometimes it’s better to join a small group with many active participants, than a bigger group where nobody interacts. Basically, any kind of business lead can be found on LinkedIn. Read this guide to get further hints on this topic.

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8. Help A Reporter Out

HARO is a service that connects journalists with sources. You get 3 emails a day with queries from media outlets. Whenever you find a topic you’re an expert in, you can reply. Use it to keep track of journalists and bloggers that regularly cover your subject areas.

9. Go Local

Local media outlets thrive on anything that is local. Contact your hometown magazines, your new town's blogs, present yourself as the local angle of a bigger story. Whenever you find your local angle, you have the perfect way to join a bigger trending topic.

Get the journalists' beat

You need some information to decide how to approach the people in your list. What topics do they usually cover, and how? What's their writing style? It's good to customize your pitch with personalized input, such as showing how your pitch relates to a specific topic that's relevant for them.

Let them know who you are before the pitch

You can read a lot of articles on the Internet about how to be a journalist’s BFF and so on. This is not strictly necessary though. You can develop an effective professional relationship just by showing respect. Here’s Jeff Bullas’ formula:

“Show through your actions that you respect their work, business, time, and privacy”.

You can start by adding their publications to your RSS feed reader (Feedly, anyone?) and take some time every week to keep up-to-date with their articles. Share the articles, leave comments, ask them questions on Twitter, connect them with other people. You'll find unexpected ways to be helpful.

Find any email address

Many journalists make it very easy to contact them. They feature their email on their Twitter bio, or maybe in their author widget after their posts. Many times, if you mention them in a tweet you'll get their email address. Still, you need to be selective: what sort of people do you want on your list? Think about quality, not just quantity - a large list of the wrong people has not much value. A smaller amount of well-targeted contacts can be priceless. Guessing an email address is also quite easy nowadays. Check this video to find out how.

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Write custom email pitches

If you’re not happy with your pitch yet, you can just start from this 1-sentence template by Adeo Ressi of Founder’s Institute:

My company (name) is developing (offering) to help (target audience) (solve a problem) with (a secret sauce).

Have your newsroom ready

Your newsroom is everything you need to back up your custom pitch. Keep your online newsroom up-to-date: it's the perfect one-stop-shop for media, partners and customers. It features your press releases, presskit, clippings, contacts and company info.

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Find the best time to reach out

69% of journalists prefer to be pitched in the morning, according to BuzzStream research. Try to be the most recent email in their inbox when they check their email. The first time you pitch by email, you’ll make an educated guess about the timing. When someone gets back to you, it’s ok to ask for their preferences so you can refine the data in your CRM and stop guessing.

Hit 'Send'

Don’t let your most important outreach campaign be the first one. Prepare in advance and be ready to fail a few times before you understand what works for you. It’s like applying the idea of the lean startup to your media relations.

Answer promptly

When you finally get some traction, try to be available whenever a journalist needs you. If you stick to a 9-to-5 office routine you may miss the opportunity to help a reporter out when the deadline is close. Also, it doesn’t look too good to pester someone during office hours and never check your email on evenings and weekends.

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It’s ok to ask

Once you exchange a few emails with someone, it’s ok to ask for their preferences. Is it true they prefer to be pitched in the morning? Is email the best way? How should you link to additional resources like presskit, press release, etc? Any personal preference can be added to your list for further reference and can give you insights about journalists and influencers in your industry.

Be respectful

Sometimes you don't get results, for whatever reason. Get over it and move on. Ain't nobody got time for useless emails and pitches, right?

Keep refining the list

Your list is not something you do once and use forever, it’s an ongoing project you need to refresh often. Use networking moments to enlarge your list, take some time to read and comment the latest articles by your favourite bloggers and journalists - they’re all in your feed reader now.

If you do this on a weekly basis, you’ll also notice when someone gets a new job, or a new magazine launches, or there are news about the editorial staff of your favourite magazine. Every change goes directly to your amazing list of media contacts.

Or we could do it for you..

Not too long ago we started testing a new feature called Match. Match analyses your press release and pairs it with journalists and bloggers who have written about your topic. Our machine learning algorithm will find you hyper-targeted media contacts, with just the click of a button. Do you work in the technology industry? Then try it out! You can sign up for Match here:

Do PR in half the time

We started this company to scratch our own itch, as publishers. It’s now grown to a full PR toolkit with killer features we couldn’t dream of. It makes everyone’s work shorter, easier, and hell, better.

Patrick de Laive
Co-founder, The Next Web

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