How big should your media list be?

Media lists are just as important as the content – even more so in many ways – so how big should your media list be?

As PRs we often spend weeks focusing on the content; perfecting the press release, pitch and creative. Yet when it comes to outreach, sometimes we only dedicate an hour to building a media list to outreach to. When this is the case, our lists usually fall into the trap of being either too small (because we’ve left it too late so do a quick search and find a handful of journalists), or too long (because we’ve left it too late and send out en masse). Throughout my PR career, I’ve heard people say that lists can never be too long, and the more people you can contact about your story, the better. However this is not the case. Long media lists are, in my opinion, worse than short ones – for one main reason; relevancy.

PR campaigns, whether they be content masterpieces or simple press releases, are never going to be right for everyone. And the earlier in the ideation process you understand this, the better chance you have of delivering a successful campaign for your client or business.

I recently worked on a pitch for a drinks brand, whereby after a successful launch, the owner was looking to keep momentum in the press. Selling exclusively through its website, the challenge for me was to develop ways to drive traffic to the site and keep people’s interest long enough to want to buy the product – no mean feat for a new company which has very little brand awareness! However through multiple layers of ideation, I developed an campaign which allowed not only potential customers to learn more about the brand, but gain insight into and understand the drink’s USPs.

Although the idea was simple (currently under wraps as it’s yet to go live), the campaign has mass appeal, spanning its target audience of women aged 25-45, so is the ideal story for lifestyle, women’s media, and of course food and drink press. A quick search on Gorkana tells me there are nearly 4,000 contacts matching that criteria – but will they all be interested in what I have to say?

Absolutely not!

Sure, thousands of journalists may love your campaign, share it with their friends, buy a product off the back of it, and even Tweet about it, but if it’s not in their field, they won’t cover it – no matter how cool it is.

Casting the net wide might catch you a few fish, but it can also lead to a lot of empty hooks, potentially hindering future relationships and chances for coverage in the future.

In this instance, I’d remove product pages first; we’re not plugging the product here, we’ve got an interactive campaign to drive traffic. All B2B outlets can go; they don’t care about consumer focussed campaigns. The majority of lifestyle writers are interested in the many other areas which fall into ‘lifestyle’, such as fashion, travel, health and well-being, grooming, etc., so most will not be interested in drinks (at least for work purposes). Women’s interest is much the same. Basically operating a non-targetted approach is, in my opinion, the worst thing you can do and mean that you, your business or agency is blacklisted by a whole host of journalists.

To be successful in outreach, and to deliver what you want to deliver, media lists must be created with not only the journalist in mind, but also their audience. Absolutely use a media database to find a top level of contacts, but block out time to go through that list with a fine tooth comb and stalk find out more about each writer’s recent articles through Twitter, their website or Muckrack. If you find they cover fashion and beauty 99% of the time, but have one article covering a new flavour G&T can 6 months ago, it’s highly likely they were covering for a colleague and will not care for a story about an alcohol free drink (at least professionally). Likewise think about where the journalist you’re looking to contact lives/works; does your business or client ship to that country? If the answer is no, consider if you’re looking to drive sales (if yes, remove them), if you’re just after links to help SEO, send away. It really is the most basic task you can do as a PR. And one that takes time, but is worth every second.

Of course we’ve all missed a journalist on a list and sent a pitch to someone irrelevant. We’re human and mistakes are made. But when this is done repeatedly, you become a nuisance or an unreliable source which is adding nothing but work to the journalist, so it’s better for them and their inbox if you’re blocked. It may sound harsh, but journalists receive hundreds of emails every single day, with PRs all over the world vying for their attention.

We must keep in mind that journalists have targets to meet – especially digital journalists. Page lands, time spent on site, and even commercial targets are all factored into account when journalists are writing up a story. So even if they adore your latest campaign, if it’s not going to pique their readers’ attention, it’s not going to make it.

So how long should your media list be? As usual, it depends. But if you have considered audience during ideation and concentrate your search to relevancy, your media list, whether it be 20 contacts long or 2,000, will perform for your campaign.

I do want to highlight that should you make an error and send a campaign out to the wrong person or group, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you get the chance, apologise for your mistake as soon as it comes to light and move on. The world of PR is hard. Building brands, getting links, securing coverage, and coming up with campaigns is not easy. It’s an always on job and one that many of us never switch off from, even when we’re starting out. So instead of focussing on what you did wrong today, last week, last month or even last year, think about all the great work you’ve done and celebrate the small successes. I bet the good outweighs the bad.

Published by Hannah

reader, writer, contemplator.

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