5 steps to creating a useful media contacts list

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In the PR business, it’s all about whom you know. Like most PR pros, you probably have a modern day Rolodex (a spreadsheet) of your strongest contacts—the reporters, bloggers and influencers you’ve been working with for years.

Layered on top of that is a list of folks you’ve probably pitched many times, maybe interacted with a little, but they aren’t the ones who will pick up the phone when you call.

After that are the rest—the tens of thousands of influencers you’ve never met, but should forge a connection with for that new client, new story or new role.

With so many moving parts and so many reporters, bloggers, analysts and other influencers to reach, building a killer contact list for every campaign can be a full-time job in and of itself.

Thank goodness for interns, right? Get real.

The interns don’t know that Ronnie Reporter hates email subject lines and will do anything for a cronut. They don’t know that you and Betsy Blogger bonded over dirty martinis in ’04.

No, you can’t leave this job to the intern. What is a PR pro to do when it comes time to build a media list?

For quick results, a lot of pros go straight to a media contact database and pull a list using search terms. No one reading this is flacky enough to blast that media list with a single, automated pitch so we won’t go there.

[RELATED: Top journalists get 100+ pitches per day. Learn how to make yours shine through.]

But once you have the list, do you stop there? Negative.

Now is when the real work begins.

Building a great media list should take as much care and strategy as you’d apply to anything else in your job. Let’s go through some proven tactics to help you manage your reporter and blogger relationships the right way.

1. Value quality over quantity

The old idea that any publicity is good publicity is woefully outdated. Pitching as many people as possible—even one-on-one pitching—does not lead to mass quality coverage.

What it leads to is wasted time and potentially burning relationships with valuable contacts.

Make sure everyone on your media list not only could care about your story, but should care about your story. This means doing your research.

Reporters move around a lot, so make sure each and every contact on the list still covers the beat listed in the database or spreadsheet you pulled them from.

For that matter, make sure they are still at that media outlet. Read their most recent articles and social media posts. Find the connection between what they’re writing about and the story you want to pitch.

In other words, don’t be lazy.

It’s vital to explain this to your clients, or boss if you’re internal, so they understand the importance of securing good coverage versus any coverage.

2. Check out your competitors

Hey, they’re probably doing the same thing.

Taking a look at your competitors’ media coverage is a great way to identify influencers who cover the same industry or topics you’re looking to pitch.

3. Ask before you add

It’s amazing how much a little respect and consideration can soften even a cynical reporter.

Seek high-level influencers you’d like to reach out to someday and ask if you can add them to your list for your company or client who is in the beat they cover.

It’s the difference between being just another PR flack filling their inbox and being a considerate resource.

4. Take the time to make personal connections

I believe PR is the original growth hack, and I also believe the key to frequent, high quality wins lies in the power of the relationships. You can’t automate that.

There are certain influencers who will appear on your media lists repeatedly. Pay attention to these folks.

If you are in the same city, ask for an in-person meeting just to get to know them and their pitching preferences. If you are not in their city, ask for 10 minutes on the phone to find out how you can become a valuable resource.

Trade shows and events are a great place to connect with journalists, bloggers and influencers. Coffee is good. Booze is better.

This is about establishing relationships, not giving them a hard sell, so take it easy and focus on finding out how you can help them in the long term.

The effort will pay you back in spades.

5. Stay informed about who covers your topics of interest

Don’t wait until you’re about to start pitching down the list to read up on what these media contacts are writing. It should be part of your daily or weekly routine to follow the reporters and bloggers who matter most to your company or clients.

It’s the easiest way to get into their world, and you’ll be pleased to find that opportunities to connect have a way of organically emerging when you stay in the know.

It’s also a great way to show media contacts that you didn’t just pluck their name from an enormous database, but that you’re someone who actively follows their work. It won’t hurt to engage a little on social media and comment on their posts.

Media relations: It’s not the easiest game in PR town, but it’s definitely the most worthwhile when you manage it right.

Use the right tools, build a great media list and you’ll find the relationships turn into PR gold.

Aly Saxe is the founder and CEO of Iris, software for agencies and in-house PR teams. She founded Ubiquity Public Relations, an agency representing high-growth B2B tech startups, in 2007. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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Is Social Sales About Contacts, Context, Content or Conversions?

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Is Social Sales About Contacts, Context, Content or Conversions?

The simple answer is, it’s all 4. You need contacts to engage and convert and content to assist you in this process. What is often ignored is context which plays a huge role in defining relevance. It is simply not enough to blindly throw content at customers all day long in the hope that they might find it to be of value. That is a waste of your time, their time, and may even prove to be counterproductive (damaging) to your efforts. Nor is it effective to constantly bang them on the head with a hammer when this delicate surgery may require a scalpel and for you to have the skilled hands of a surgeon.

With that in mind, let’s call our components the “4 C’s” and take a closer look at each …

Contacts

Contrary to some popular opinions, I believe that it is not about the number of contacts that you have. Rather, I think that fewer, yet better, connections will trump the unwashed thousands when it comes to measurable results. It is more about servicing your best customers/prospects/referrers and doing so where the only acceptable goal is to exceed their expectations. This takes time and a focused, consistent, effort.

If you have thousands (or even millions) of people that you are trying to reach (or even if you do not), having the ability to segment them by a variety of parameters, will be tantamount to your success. This is important in terms of discovering, as well as later managing, these folks. It’s not difficult to create targeted lists based on say industry and location but, selling today has the potential of being able to add a social layer to this task. For example, “show me people who are influential in marketing, have a klout score of at least 50, and who work in the dental industry in the Los Angeles area.”

Context

We simply must be able to engage with our contacts and do so in manners that are relevant to them at any given specific time. Let’s start by looking at a common definition for context

“The set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.”

The current status exists due to other contributing factors and these additional conditions point to the context. For example, in sales we talk a lot about triggers Triggers are events that will cause a certain opportunity to present itself and triggers are one of the variables that can be used to correctly identify the context.

Keeping things in their suitable context is about having the ability to interpret all of the surrounding evidence that social sales provides and having that available at the right time and during the right opportunity. It is approaching things with that right context in mind that makes your actions relevant based on the evidence and this includes the content that you choose to share.

The proper context can only be determined by really getting to know people, their wants, interests, and desires and then by building a relationship on top of these foundational elements. It is your goal, your job, to uncover these insights prior to even reaching out to them. You review previous conversations and activities before proceeding in order to ensure that your following steps are taken in the proper context (applicable to their current status). What would you think about a salesperson contacting you about a service that might have been relevant to you but, two years ago? Better yet … you no longer even work in that industry. Impressive.

Much of this information should discoverable from within your well-maintained CRM (even better a Social CRM) and, if you are not using either, you are missing out on these insane opportunities. A good CRM becomes even more powerful with shared contact records that document your team’s’ activities with this account in addition to your own. Your only alternatives are to visit their social profiles individually in addition to your inbox, calendar, and that manila folder that holds all of your post it notes and scraps of paper. How many of us are willing to do that? Probably not many, including me, and certainly not for a lower value deal.

There is one thing that has always made understanding our contacts and their current situations to be an extremely difficult task. None of the insights that we may have been able to gather will remain static. Everybody and everything about them is dynamic and constantly changing. Social sales has the potential to excel in this arena as we now have the ability to monitor these movements that are occurring in the lives of our customers (business and personal) and we are able to do so in close to real-time.

Content

Just throwing content against the wall and hoping that some of it will stick (resonate with your customers) is pretty easy to do. If this method were easy and effective, winner winner chicken dinner but, few effective strategies are that painless. In fact, indiscriminate actions are no strategy at all. On the other hand, using the same search terms outlined in a previous paragraph, will help us to target specific content to specific contacts.

However, it still must be personalized (relevant, timely, and in context) for that specific account. Well, it doesn’t have to be but, you will be more successful if it is. Once again, a quality effort on your part will trump a flurry of ill-planned activities.

It’s not only about the relevancy of the content itself, it’s also when you share it. In order to maximize your success, your timing must be on the mark. Sharing good relevant content cements the fact that you are there to service your customer. This is behavior that would be exhibited by a team member rather than by a vendor and, who wants to be seen as a vendor?

Conversions

If we do everything correctly, the result will be increased conversions. Note that all of our previous activities are centered on education and getting to know and to understand our customers rather than on the pitch. Of course, the pitch will come some time and both that, and the conversion, will become much easier having first earned the right to ask for that order!

Rarely is it about “the close”. The close is the natural culmination to the sales process when the preceding steps have been completed effectively. They call it a sales funnel because the tiny hole at the bottom of it is just large enough for an order-signing pen to stick out of it.

Maximize Social Business

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