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Make Sure You’re Barking Up the Right Tree

Public Relations

Make Sure You’re Barking Up the Right Tree image A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about walking the fine line between being persistent and becoming a nuisance when it comes to pitching a story to the media, but there’s another consideration that goes into that – making certain that you are barking up the right tree.

One of the rules of thumb that guides the efforts of our affiliated PR agency inmedia Public Relations is, you can’t put much faith in online directories, which are notorious for being out of date. As I said in my previous post, there is simply no substitute for primary research of publications and their websites, looking up editors and journalists and qualifying that they do indeed cover the kind of story you are looking to fire at them.

Nonetheless, until you have actually engaged in some kind of exchange with said journalist, you can never be sure that they are, in fact, an appropriate target for the story you have. Even the online staff directory of a publication can be outdated, failing to reflect a recent departure, a new hire or a new area of focus for an existing journalist.

This is why it is crucial to add breadth as well as depth to your media list. Suppose you have researched someone who appears to be the ideal target for your pitch, a software story and they write all about new apps. But who else might be interested in that story? Is your software enterprise or consumer focused? Is it for a particular platform, such as Windows or Mac? Is there an editor who serves as a gatekeeper for all software-related content who you should also target?

There may in fact be three or four different people at a given publication for whom your story has relevance. They should all be on your mailing list to ensure today’s news isn’t left to fade into obscurity in the wrong inbox. When it comes to following up, in those precious hours after the dissemination of your media release, perhaps you want to focus on only the couple of individuals whom you consider to be the most bang on match for your story. But if a day or two (how long is a judgment call based on the shelf life of your story) goes by with no response at all to your voice messages and emails, it may be time to cast your net wider and start phoning those other extensions.

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Always remember that you are first and foremost on a reconnaissance expedition. Sure, immediate coverage is desired and justifies your existence to your boss or client. But you are also seeking the opportunity to simply have the conversation that will allow you to verify who the appropriate contact is and what kind of story appeals to them if it isn’t the one you are pitching today.

This is where relationships begin – relationships based on value. This is not to be confused with what legions of mediocre PR practitioners define as relationships. Those folks will try to sell prospective clients on the idea that “we know all the media that you need to reach.” When in fact, every story is unique and will appeal to a different group of people, even different journalists in the same shop. The quality of a strong PR practitioner isn’t defined by who they know, but by the initiative and persistence they demonstrate to reach the ear of whoever they need to know. And who that is can change substantially with each new client engagement.

And no media list, no matter how well vetted, can be allowed to become a static document. Old publications die, new ones spring up and even among those that endure, staff turnovers and changes of ownership (which can often change email domains) are common. I’ve seen a media list that hadn’t been updated in 16 months be almost 50 percent out of date. This is a dynamic document that must be constantly refined.

Researching, vetting and updating a media list is one of those tiresome activities central to an effective PR function. Unfortunately, the time and effort this requires often goes unseen and unappreciated by those who are covering the cost of the PR budget and concerned only with top tier coverage in major media outlets. But in many ways, this process is no different than the investments made by a sales team to generate, qualify and nurture leads – an activity that demands a certain level of committed effort to achieve the desired outcome.

Image: Management Thinking Blog

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer. 

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