Build Your Media List
Welcome back! You are still here—this is great!
So now, we are going to get to the most important part of your press toolkit: the media list otherwise known as your journalist database, or bible.
Kickstart Your Journalist Database
I’ve often had clients talk to me about my rolodex or black book of contacts. However, I believe a good publicist should be able to pitch a story to a stranger and make it land. You just need to be giving them the right story and demonstrate that you understand their readership and why the story is compelling to their readers, listeners, or viewers.
When taking on a new client and researching the relevant slots for them, I take those torn-out sheets and input them to a spreadsheet. If you don’t like Excel, you can use a table in whatever program you like, but generally, these are the columns I would say you need:
• first name
• job title
• name of column
• background information (including Twitter)
• title of sell-in
• phone number
Most of these titles are self-explanatory, but some are more crucial than others and I’ll explain why.
Background information. So, a tiny bit of a perfectly respectable stalking goes here. Don’t be creepy, though! I just mean googling them to see what other articles they’ve written. Is there a theme to the types of stories they write?
Maybe they have written about a competitor or a similar topic. Include the link to the article in your background information. Get to know them.
Also, check them out on Twitter, as this is a gold mine for looking into journalists. You don’t have to have an account, but do see what sorts of things interest them. They may even provide tips on the types of stories they are looking for or how to pitch to them.
Title of sell-in. You might go to the same journalists about more than one story. So, each time I’m pitching out a new story, I create a new column. Let’s say in this instance, the story is, “App launch.” This would be my header, and then I put the date and notes: “12/02—Lucy pitched on email for the ‘App of the Week’ column. No feedback as of yet.”
This way, if you get a response, coverage, or feedback, you can log into one place with it all together. This helps because you may then think, “Well, it’s been two weeks, and I’ve had no feedback, so now I’m going to send one email to follow up or try a different angle to see if this works.”
Unless you have a photographic memory of your sent items, having this spreadsheet will keep your pitching organized.
Telephone numbers. A word of caution here: The jury is out on whether to phone a journalist or not. In my experience, I try not to phone unless it is particularly newsworthy and relevant for that day.
For example, a recent story in the press has been about a KFC Chicken shortage; this could be a good idea for a rival restaurant to do a stunt around offering free chicken for KFC aficionados. In this instance, the shelf life of the story is short, so I might phone if there’s been no response to email, to see if it would work for that day. The week after the KFC story has broken would be too late.
Sourcing Contact Details
But hold on—you might be asking, how do I find this information about the journalists? Well, every magazine has a contact page that has the name of who looks after each section, and the same is true for online publications.
If it is not clear who looks after a column, it is perfectly fine to phone a magazine switchboard and ask who the best person is to email for XX column.
Also, more often than not, the name of the journalist will be next to the article or column.
A quick Twitter or LinkedIn search should provide any additional information you need, but we shall talk more about this tomorrow.
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