4 min read

Why prospecting is your number one skill in Digital PR

Often teams get bogged down in spending hours trying to find the smartest content piece for their clients with all the bells and whistles included. However, when it comes to pitching this shiny piece of content, it lands flat.

It can be confusing to those who are new to digital PR why such a good piece of content failed. In my experience, any piece of outreach content lives and dies with the media list.

First things first – what is a media list?

A media list is a collection of all the relevant journalists that could be interested in covering your content.

The most important things you need for a journalist are as follows:

  • First Name and Surname (spelt correctly)
  • Publications they work for
  • Email/s
  • Topics of Interest
  • Location (if doing international or regional specific outreach)

Personally, I prefer to build my media lists into a tool called Buzzstream. In my opinion, this is by far the best project management tool for PR campaigns, it can really improve your speed and efficiency when it comes to building up your team’s own media databases, and keeping all those separate projects contacts all in one place.

If you don’t have access to a tool like Buzzstream, then a spreadsheet will do the trick, however, if you are working with multiple clients with very different topic interests your media contacts can become harder to keep organised. So bear this in mind when setting up multiple lists.

You have your project set up and ready to fill – so where do you find the contacts?

Here comes the most integral part, and I will give you a clue, to create a successful media list, you DON’T just copy and paste an entire database of contacts from Gorkana and press send on your pitch.

This does still happen and often it will not yield quality results. More than likely you will have bulk sent emails to journalists that have zero relevancy to your pitch, and after that reckless sending, they will not want to deal with you in the future.

Media databases can be useful but are not the first port of call for a media list build.

Time restraints can be the biggest reason why the above scenario can happen, you may have a client that wanted results yesterday. So you panic. To avoid this, planning your time for a campaign is important. You should spend at least 4-8 hours sourcing websites and names for your campaign before it is launched. The more time you spend now. The easier the project will be to manage once launched.

Ways to search for contacts:

  • Google your topic – as obvious as it sounds, a quick google of your topics news will get you lots of relevant contact names as well as websites
  • Find similar digital PR campaigns and check their backlinks – unless your campaign is really unique the likelihood is the idea would have been done in the past. If you can find these pages, check their backlinks you may come across some sites you didn’t think to contact. You can use tools like AHREFS to do this
  • Also, check the backlinks of your client’s competitor sites – they may also have done campaigns and have relevant sites in their backlink profile
  • Databases – this can be a helpful way to find websites in your topic field that may not have shown up on google – check out the website and what they cover and check out who has written their latest articles. As databases aren’t always up to date with contact information
  • Use Twitter, tracking #journorequests and following journalists can allow you to organically see the needs of individual journalists and keep them in mind for your clients

Research is your friend

As you find names to add to your list, make sure you research the journalist fully. Some of your searches may be bringing up articles that are over a year old. The authors of these topics may no longer be relevant for your current outreach project.

You can make the assumption that the journalist will either a) still cover that subject matter or b) still works at the publication. It is best not to make these assumptions. Take the further step to find the journalist’s Twitter or most recent articles to see if they are still indeed working at the publication and are still writing about your topic.

Doing research on every journalist may seem time-consuming and it is. However once the research has been done, the likelihood that the next time you come across the same journalist’s name you will have an innate awareness of whether they are right for your current project.

This is when over time you become your own database, you will automatically have a feel for a “type” of journalist or “type” of publication as well as being able to visualise names of journalists you researched for older campaigns in your head as soon as an outreach brief drops on your lap.

Buzzstream is great for this level of organisation. Each outreach project starts with a fresh database ready to be filled in. Buzzstream allows you to add tags to your journalists and more in-depth notes if needed. The tags give an overview of the general topic themes a journalist covers for example “personal finance” or “UK” and “Business”.

The tag system is something a team collectively has to partake in to ensure that journalists are correctly tagged, but once this is in flow it makes media list building a lot simpler.

Expand your lists

Once you reach this stage, it allows you the time to find new websites to cover your clients rather than starting from scratch each time.

Building on prospecting is a skill for any digital PR, no longer are PRs schmoozing journalists to get to know them better, so arming yourself with enough information to navigate your contacts is key.

As time goes on you and your team will be armed with so much knowledge on your journalist pool, the links will come rolling in as you will always be contacting the most relevant people.

Ultimately saving you time to build the best outreach projects and rewarding you with the time to find those all-important new websites.

To summarise, the key to efficient prospecting:

  • Prep your project in a spreadsheet or database of your choice
  • Research your project topic themes – which type of publications do you want to target?
  • Research your journalists – always find their most current articles
  • Organise your project – tag your journalists and publications correctly
  • Expand your lists – look beyond the major nationals and international publications
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