Finding the Right Reporter

We’ve seen the stats: There are far more of us than there are of them.

By us, I mean PR professionals; by them, I mean members of the media.

Because of that hard truth, the already tough task of pitching ideas to the media has been made even harder as our industry has grown and theirs has shrunk, thanks in part to many former journalists coming over to the PR side as I did more than a dozen years ago. Remember, more of us means more PR pros fishing in a lake with fewer fish. And we’re all competing for attention in a reporter’s ever more popular inbox.

That’s why it’s paramount to pitch the right reporter.

Finding the right reporter starts with research.

It’s not enough these days to put all your trust in one source. As newsrooms have been decimated, beats have merged, reporters have moved, editors have changed. The media databases still are a great place to start. But taking the time to verify that the contact still is the perfect fit can help prevent an awkward exchange or terse response. Check the Twitter or LinkedIn accounts. Search the masthead. Google the previous few months for stories. In short, act like a reporter vetting your pitch: Vet the reporter before hitting send.

It continues with relationships.

How many times have we read in a Cision or Vocus media profile to read the publication or the reporter’s work before pitching? The relationship may start or end with that simple piece of advice from the reporter – you may find out quickly that the outlet or reporter aren’t a match, which saves everyone time and energy. If you are a match, it’s worth that time and energy to consume what the reporter has written. Maybe it will make sense to mention some of those pieces, or maybe it’s just as important to find a connection from something they’ve tweeted. Maybe the fact that you’re that baseball guy who likes the Dave Matthews Band will resonate.

And, it often includes repetition.

It’s possible you’ve done all the right things and still aren’t getting any reaction. It might be because it’s not a fit. It might also be because your email is one of 500 emails from PR pros the reporter got that day. Instead of giving up on them entirely, keep researching their work. But, consider beginning to research other possible matches in the hopes of starting a relationship.

Finding the right reporter doesn’t guarantee a placement. But it will enhance your chances of getting your pitch seen.

(Image source: Flickr/Roger H. Goun)

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Sean Ryan

A former print journalist, Sean joined The Hodges Partnership in 2003 and leads Hodges’ media relations team. He manages media relations strategy and helps place client subject matter experts on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. Sean regularly helps place op-eds in top-tier papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

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