Finding the Right Person to Pitch: A Media List is Just the Starting Point

Working Journalist by Esther VargasWhen you log into MyPRGenie or any other PR platform and search for media contacts, you’re taking the first step toward identifying the right people to pitch about your company, product, or service. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that the list of several hundred potential media contacts is a list of appropriate pitch contacts.

What’s the difference? Like other media databases, MyPRGenie’s database relies on a variety of sources to identify what a journalist is interested in. Sometimes, a publication will provide a “beat list”. Other times, a MyPRGenie client will add interests when they upload a list to our crowdsourced media database. And sometimes a journalist, blogger, or editor will add topics that they are interested in when they complete a form or survey.

But just because someone checks a box and says that they are interested in widgets – and your company makes widgets – doesn’t mean that they are the perfect person for a pitch on your brand new widget.  You need more information, more context, before you pick up the phone or fire off a personalized pitch.

Why? Because it matters (a lot) whether the person is a news writer, a producer who books guests for a talk show, a feature writer, someone who reviews products, or the managing editor who assigns others to those tasks. Each person is looking for specific kinds of information when they make their decision, and if you don’t know what their interest is, you can’t possibly provide the right information.

There’s also the question of bloggers who accept compensation for their writing about brands. It’s perfectly legal in the U.S. to offer a blogger free products to give away, in exchange for a review, or even hire a blogger to write posts about your products or company (as long as the right disclosures are made). There are even companies out there who match brands with bloggers looking for paid gigs. But approaching a blogger who doesn’t accept payment for blogging with such an offer is likely to blow up on a hapless PR person, resulting in more unfavorable PR than any company wants – while approaching a blogger who expects to be paid with a request to review or cover your product and result in a surprise for both sides.

So start with the media list, and use that as a guide for press release distribution. But before you pick up the phone to start making targeted pitches, consider these additional steps.

Look Beyond Traditional Media

Take a close look what you are pitching. Whose endorsement will mean the most to your audience? Don’t assume it needs to be a journalist.

For example, if you’re pitching a stylish new lamp, a write up from a blogger on the HGTV site or a designer with a blog about refreshing without spending a fortune may hold more influence over target buyers than a blurb from a writer at a more traditional home magazine.

Take a few minutes to investigate who’s written about similar products – a search engine will tell you who they are, and what sites their work is on. You need to read what the blogger or journalist has written before you craft your pitch. If you don’t, you’ll miss the mark.

Don’t Overlook Influential Social Media Users

A person with 30,000 Twitter followers may be just as influential in helping your company as a traditional journalist, even if they “just” tweet and never writes more than 120 characters.

The key is to focus on the individual, not their title or the prestige of a media outlet. An associate editor can be just as important as the editor-in-chief if the associate editor is responsible for the column or feature you want to get into. And the website for a trade publication read by someone who may be your biggest customer can be far more important than the New York Times to a company that sells business-to-business (B2B) products, because the audience for the trade publication is far more focused.

It’s far more important how well a person’s audience matches your target customer than the number of followers or title.

Do You Trust the People You Pitch?

Whether they intend to or not – and most journalists actually do not intend to – when someone writes about a product or company they are providing a kind of third-party endorsement. When you are researching the people you plan to pitch, pay close attention to how their followers react to their stories and tweets.

Does the audience trust them?  Do you?  If so, then your potential customers will, too. A great example of the trust factor is a new media website called Re/Code. It’s been around for less than a year, but it’s already one of the most influential sites online for technology product reviews and news, and it’s also among the most trusted.

How did a brand new site outstrip older, larger, better-funded competitors? Just take a look at who started Re/Code. The founders include former Wall Street Journal writers Walt Mossberg – one of the most trusted, influential journalists in the world of technology products for over 20 years – and Kara Swisher, former LA Times writer Dawn Chmielewski, and a roster of other top people. Everyone of them has a loyal following who trusts them for accurate, timely, informative writing. And they deliver.

Check to see how often a writer’s stories are shared online, and how often they are retweeted, liked, etc.

Yes, It’s Time Consuming – But It Works

Yes, it’s time consuming to take the time to research a short list of contacts you want to reach out to with your pitches. But it works.

More importantly, failing to do your research, and blasting your pitch out to hundreds of media contacts most assuredly does not work.  Miranda Tan, CEO of MyPRGenie, says that the biggest mistake PR people make is failing to target their pitches.  Check out her short video on the art of targeting, and why it’s so important.

Photo credit: The photograph of the working journalist was offered by photographer Esther Vargas on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
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1 comment for “Finding the Right Person to Pitch: A Media List is Just the Starting Point

  1. C59
    March 7, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    nice post, thanks for sharing with us

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