Well, I’m here to tell it’s actually not that difficult to build a media contact list AND there are journalists out there just itching to get their hands on your story?
Pfft! And here you were worried about picking up the phone!
How to figure out who to send your media story to
Before you racing off trying to pitch the New York Times with your media story idea, I want you to take a step back and first consider: “who is it I’m trying to target?’’
It’s really important to get clear on what your end result from all this publicity is going to be, otherwise you’re doing it all for nothing. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be sitting on a beach drinking a cocktail and reading a Joe Vitale book than doing a PR campaign for no reason.
So ask yourself: “What is my end goal?’’
Now, this could be:
- Generating revenue
- Getting people to attend your event
- Having people buy a specific product
- Raising money for a cause
- Increase your email list
Regardless of what it is, make sure you’re clear on what it is you’re hoping to achieve.
Once you’ve worked that out, you need to determine WHO these people are that are going to help you reach your outcome. I would love you to get super specific here. Who is your ideal client?
For example: A female entrepreneur, aged 35, named Julie who runs an organising business and wants to increase sales of her organising service and products. She doesn’t have the budget to outsource her public relations to a high end PR agency, so she wants to learn how to do her own PR simply and easily, without sending her into overwhelm. She loves Facebook and Google+, logging in every morning and when the kids go to bed at night. She loves reading social media, marketing and organising blogs, and has started picking up copies of the New York Times to read the business pages. But she doesn’t have a clue where to start with PR.
This is just touching the surface of creating your ideal customer avatar for PR, but you get the gist.
Now determine where that person hangs out. We already know from the above that she’s reading social media, organising and marketing blogs and that she reads the business section of New York Times. We now know WHERE to pitch. So, in this case, it looks like it’s OK for us to pitch a story to the New York Times. But imagine if Julie didn’t actually read the New York Times (which is probably more accurate!). Can you see how that would be a waste of your time pitching there to get to our end goal?
Of course, there might be a reason outside of your ideal client to pitch the New York Times. That would be that you simply want to add some credibility to your website with a New York Times media badge. But that’s a whole other topic for another day.
Finding the right journalists to pitch
Let’s stick with the New York Times example here, because it seems an easy one to continue with.
We now know that to target Julie and get her to attend our event, we need to get mentioned in the New York Times. It would be ideal to get mentioned in the business pages, because obviously that’s what she’s reading. But if you’re really struggling to come up with a business angle, then a general pages story is fine too. Let’s say we’re going after the business pages though.
Who do we pitch?
Don’t just pitch any old journalist, because this is where your efforts go to waste. If you pitch the sports reporter, in some newsrooms that person just doesn’t have the time to forward your email pitch on to the correct person, so they’ll delete you.
Take some time to actually read the publication and pick up on the bylines – that is, the name at the top of the article – to figure out who’s writing for that section.
You may find there are quite a few journalists writing for this section. So your next task is to hone in on the journalists who are writing stories that have a connection with the story you’re going to pitch. If there’s a journalist there that tends to write about entrepreneurs, then they’ll be a better fit than the journalist who writes about corporate America.
Write down their name.
How to find a journalist’s email address
Yes, well, this is the bit where people get stuck. We go into this in more details with tricks and tools in Publicity Alchemy.
In the meantime, I want to show you that it actually isn’t that difficult.
Let’s say we’re trying to look for Jenny Smith at the New York Times. I have no idea if they have a Jenny Smith, but stick with me.
Go to Google and search for “New York Times Jenny Smith’’ and see if contact details come up for Jenny. In some cases, her byline will actually also include her email address. This is gold!
If that fails, go to the “contact’’ page of the New York Times’ website and see if they have Jenny’s contact details there.
If you failed on the first two steps, there is another option. You may see the contact details for someone else on the contact page or via Google. Let’s go with Joe Bloggs, because he’s always popular, right? So, Joe Bloggs comes up as email@example.com Excellent! This is gold for us. Why? Because all we need to do is change the email string to firstname.lastname@example.org and we have her email address. Easy!
OK, so maybe you’re going after a media outlet that’s pretty tight on email addresses online. Then what do you do? You go to the contact page online again (or even check the contact us page in the New York Times publication itself), find the newsroom number and ring. When the person answers at the other end, let them know you would like to send Jenny a story idea and if you can have her email address. If you can’t be bothered doing steps 1-3, you could just skip straight to this step.
The little known media contact that gets overlooked, but can have a big impact on your business
I want to open your mind to something that gets overlooked a lot when doing your own PR. In fact, it gets overlooked a lot by PR professionals too.
You see, in many newsrooms, the journalists have to come into morning conference or go to the chief of staff with some story ideas they’ve discovered themselves. The better the story, the better they look in the eyes of their chief of staff.
With the chief of staff, they will then determine what their news list is for the day. This is a culmination of the best stuff they’ve discovered and the best stuff the chief of staff already had organised for them.
As a business owner (or even for any PR professionals reading), some look for the most senior journalist in the newsroom. Generally, that person has written about all topics at some point in their career. So people assume this would be a great contact to go after.
The other thing that sways them in this direction is that the senior journalist generally scores the front-page stories and writes about some of the big business people you admire.
However, the thing you probably don’t realise is that senior journalist gets pitched… a LOT. That senior journalist only wants the best stories, because they want tomorrow’s front page story. That senior journalist has already built up some strong contacts over the years who they trust and use as their go-to when they need a quote for a story.
If your story isn’t front-page material, you may struggle getting a look in.
But what about the junior person in the newsroom?
This person also has to go to the chief of staff with stories every morning. The big challenge for this junior person is they don’t have the same level of contacts and can often find this task rather daunting and overwhelming.
When you pitch this junior journalist your story, they’re super excited and will do whatever they can to sell this story to the chief of staff.
That eagerness means they’re also happy to chat to you on the phone when you ring. (Yes, let’s be honest, some journos can be a bit gruff on the phone. I may have been guilty of that myself once or twice when under pressure).
The other thing, especially for you as a newbie entrepreneur or a newbie at doing your own PR, is that the fear around pitching a journalist changes. Because I’m going to let you in on a secret…
The junior journalist in the newsroom is just as nervous about talking to you and, then, getting the story right when it’s published, as you are about talking to them.
The other little secret…
The senior person in the newsroom who has those go-to contacts they like to use? They secured many of those as a junior journalist doing stories on newbie entrepreneurs. Now, that junior journalist is a senior journalist and that newbie entrepreneur is a big business owner.
Working from where you are with a junior journalist can mean developing a relationship that will stand the test of your business and become one of the most worthwhile relationships in business you’ll develop.
If you’re wondering how I know this, it’s because this is exactly what I did as a junior journalist. When I started out, I built up some incredible contacts with people who hadn’t done much media before. They learnt as I did.
As a senior journalist, these are the people I went to first. I knew they’d always give me a good quote for my story – because they knew what I was after.
So, when you’re looking at who to pitch, consider thinking long-term as well.
Creating your media contact list
You finally have your media outlet’s title, you have the journalist’s name and you have the journalist’s email and/or phone number.
So how do you put together a media contact list now?
You want to create an excel document with those details for you to refer back to again and again. Even better, use that excel document to write notes about what the journalist likes and doesn’t like.
Maybe they tell you that they’d prefer you didn’t call at 4pm, because that’s deadline. Can you call at 8.30am? Maybe they tell you that they really don’t like email, because their inbox is already overflowing and can you just phone?
Write all these things down into your media contact list document and continually update it.
This is how you avoid annoying a journalist and build long-lasting relationships with them.
If you follow these steps in order, you will increase your chances of reaching that goal you set back at the beginning of this post. It can have a powerful impact on your business. Try it!
Want to learn how to do your own public relations simply and easily? If you want an action plan that steps you through how to find media contacts, WHAT to pitch them, HOW to pitch them and then deliver an interview they’ll love you for, join Publicity Alchemy – a 5-week self-paced training course that can have you featured in newspapers, radio and TV in 30 days!
Become a media star here.