Getting through to journalists

Do you know the first four steps in ensuring maximum media coverage?

Is there a successful business, brand or organisation – in the private or public sector – that doesn’t understand the importance of profile and reputation?

I suspect not – but understanding the power of the media and its influence doesn’t mean it is easy to build a profile and get the maximum coverage for your PR and earned media campaigns.

One current challenge is the complexity of media. Over the last 25 years, media has changed beyond recognition. Globally, it is changing at a rapid pace as people want their information where they want it, when they want it and in their preferred format.

So-called 'traditional media', from newspapers to broadcasters, is looking for new ways to fund its content, and the digital giants – Facebook and Google, in particular – are wielding more and more influence as they grow.

Brands like The Times might endure but, in general, there are less journalists in full time roles and so the way they operate has changed radically.

This has major consequences for communicators and public relations professionals as they contact journalists and build relationships to help them get their messages across.

For instance, the average journalist gets 38,000 emails a year, it is estimated, so even if you know who to contact, and have relevant information for them (and, apparently, 78.5% of these are irrelevant), you are facing a lot of competition to even get noticed, let alone considered for media coverage.

And, of course, it is not just journalists who provide opportunities for brands to get their messaging out to the public through earned media. The power of social media has enabled passionate individuals, typically bloggers, to become influencers if they have an engaged audience following their output on Facebook, or Twitter, or, indeed, any social channels.

Take a sector like healthcare. If you have a product to promote, you can be considering opportunities in the specialist media like health and lifestyle sites and press. There’s the national, newspaper and magazine media. And, increasingly, powerful bloggers and social media influencers. In the UK, there are nearly 4,000 journalists alone covering health in some capacity.

Get your message through

At Cision, we work closely with journalists daily. Our media research team are experts and can help from who to target, when, and what content they prefer. Based on what journalists like and, importantly, don’t like, here are the first four steps to building coverage through media relations:

  1. Research: you need to understand the media market you want to operate in, or, at the very least, work with someone who does. At Cision, we offer a database with details of more than 700k journalists on – it details their likes and dislikes. What they want to know and how they want to receive information. And, much, much more. And, please, take a look at the titles you want to appear in.
  2. Target: be ruthless about who you want to approach – and ensure they have the right audience for your message. Not only will this ensure your messages are relevant (no beauty releases to the travel desk) but ensure you get better results from the coverage you generate.
  3. Personalise: show off your knowledge of the title and what it wants, by personalising your messaging and information. Journalists want to understand why you think you have something relevant, just for them.
  4. Relationship: time is precious so it might not be possible to meet each key contact. But, you can reach out to them via other social channels and this not only helps puts your business and you, on their radar, it helps you understand what they themselves are passionate about.

Image: Max Pixel

Cheryl Douglas

Cheryl Douglas is head of media research and jobs (EMEA) at Cision. In February 2010 Cheryl joined Gorkana, which is now owned by Cision. She was brought in to drive best practice and revamp the database research team. Cheryl previously worked for News UK (17 years) covering a number of high level positions within The Times, Sunday Times, The Sun. Her last role within the News UK was brand compliance. Cheryl joined The London Press Club in February 2015 as her commitment to the media industry.