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5 Rules of Thumb to finding Reporters, Following Up, and Establishing Relationships

June 27, 2011

Finding the right journalists to target for your news may be a challenge to some, but it is one of the most vital elements in PR. Pitching journalists stories that aren’t relevant to their beat shows a few things: lack of research, laziness, and missing effort. Of course it’s bound to happen in your career, especially with journalists being replaced, switching departments or being laid off. You can score big with journalists when you take the time to do the groundwork and by following a few simple rules you can ensure you are always pitching the right reporter.

RULE 1: Do not depend solely on Media Atlas, Cision, Vocus, etc. With the turnover in newsrooms these days, I cannot stress enough how important it is to go to the outlets Web site and check out recent stories. If the past five stories aren’t relevant to your news, don’t bother!

RULE 2: Consider the readers. Yes, journalists rely on us to give them stories, and it is key to consider their audience. First, focus on the outlets and their readers and then move on the journalist and their beat. If all pieces of the puzzle fit you have yourself a great reporter to target, and your story is more likely to gain their attention.

RULE 3: Do the legwork and start with a good foundation. Making a well-organized and easy to follow media list is vital. This will avoid double pitching, and will help capture the reporter feedback and stay organized for your follow-ups. If you don’t take notes when you pitch, you are likely to make mistakes and potentially ruin relationships.

RULE 4: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Follow-up is key to obtaining coverage around your story and establishing relationships. By doing so, you show journalist you really care about the story and what you’re pitching. Send your press release in the body of the e-mail with your pitch, not as an attachment and follow-up. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, it shows you are making an effort on behalf of your client/story.

RULE 5: Drill the well before you need the water. The key word in PR is RELATIONS; so don’t reach out to journalists only when you want them to cover a story. Take the time to establish relationships before you have a story; this will help in the long run. You can do this by following and reading what reporters write and sending them an e-mail here and there saying key, I just saw your story on, Relationship building is a two-way street. Do yourself (and journalist) a favor and show that you value the relationship, not just when you want them to cover your story.

Media list building and targeting journalists is the most important foundational element in effective media outreach. Find the right reporter and follow-up, but don’t follow-up just for the sake of saying you did so. Know your material inside and out and be ready to answer any question that comes your way. Offer something of value and it’s easier to get your news covered.

The pressures on reporters are greater today than ever before. They received hundreds of pitches and press releases a day, are constantly inundated with stories they wouldn’t cover and have to produce more than ever before. Make your story relevant/valuable and I guarantee a reporter will look to you as a valuable resource, a good step in building a strong relationship.

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