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Your story is only as good as the people it entertains, and those inspired to share it with others. So let’s assume you have a great story to share, and have crafted a great pitch to get it out the door. Now… how do you make the media care?
1. Construct a Highly Targeted Media List
Media list building and research is the foundation for which your pitch will either thrive or crumble like a shaky tower of Jenga. I can’t tell you how many complaints we’ve heard of ‘blast’ or ‘spammy’ pitching from folks who pull media lists from databases (such as ours, CisionPoint) without doing their research. A good database is only a starting point; the best PR pros take the time to check search engines and blog directories such as AllTop to further refine and research their media contacts, ensuring each contact meets their need. Effective PR pros take the time to carefully search for media contacts that best fit their target angles. For example, if you have a pitch about a new medical device, you may start with health-focused reporters and bloggers, but good PR pros won’t stop there. Why? Just because someone covers health doesn’t necessarily mean they cover medical devices. Taking (what may seem to be grueling) time to fine tune a list of precise targets will be the best investment of your whole pitching strategy. When it comes to pitching, quality is much more important than quantity and will also help you build strong media relationships.
2. Track Website Traffic AND Social Influence
Tracking the circulation, viewership or unique visitors per month (UVPM) of an outlet helps PR pros decide which outlets to target and how to weigh each in regards to their effort and success. But these metrics aren’t the most accurate indicators of a website’s audience, especially as more and more impact comes from social sharing. Because of this, we recently developed a new proprietary formula which we’ve christened “Digital Reach”… because it’s exactly that. Current UVPM figures are simply an estimate of the number of individual people who visit a site in a given month. Digital Reach looks at a sample of sites and examines the relationship between each site’s UVPM and corresponding social media share counts. The result is a statistical model that mathematically expresses that relationship. The Internet is ever changing, as are the habits of its users. Factoring in sharing activity from more social platforms improves the accuracy of Digital Reach scores by giving PR pros an expanded view of a site’s global audience.
3. Make it Personally Compelling
You’ve done your research. You have solid angles, a targeted list of contacts and you’re tracking the relevance of these outlets based on how users are not just viewing, but also sharing, the content from these outlets on the web. Now it’s time to pitch. But since good pitching is about quality and not quantity, effective PR pros make each pitch personal. Given the digital age we live in, we have no excuse for not doing this. In a matter of seconds a quick Google search can pull up a reporter’s last few pieces, bio, Instagram and every social network in between. A tool such as Newsle (which was recently acquired by LinkedIn) is a great resource that can keep you updated on what your network – which could easily include media and bloggers – has been up to recently. And speaking of LinkedIn, the professional network itself is a great way to learn more about target media and bloggers, especially now that they are rolling out their publishing platform to everyone. Take a moment to read a couple of recent articles and information about each media contact, and tailor your pitch accordingly. For example, a friend of mine recently noticed a contact on her outreach list used an old picture of SPAM (the canned meat not the emails) in an article. The PR pro referenced the SPAM image, making a lighthearted joke about the vintage can and how her family in Hawaii would consider it an antique (since SPAM is highly consumed in this state… but that’s a story for another time). Within a couple minutes she received a lighthearted retort from the reporter along with an expressed interest in the pitch. Just like us, media are busy sifting through emails while still trying to get through a stressful workday. So why not show you’ve gone the extra mile? Nine times out of ten it pays off. What other media outreach tips do you have for PR pros? What metrics do you use to measure an outlet’s relevance? Do you have success/horror stories to share? Please do!
Heidi SullivanNamed as The Hub’s “Individual Influencer of the Year” for 2014 and one of PRWeek’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is currently Senior Vice President of Digital Content at Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database and the company’s content marketing strategy.