Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching

June 23rd, 2014
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Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching Johna Burke BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas public relations PR Media Contact List Press Clipping Media Monitoring

flickr user A DeVigal uner CC BY license

Media contact databases have long been considered a critical tool in the public relations pro’s arsenal. But such contact lists must be used with discretion, careful targeting, and common sense.

The purpose of a media contact list is to provide PR pros with contact information for relevant journalists, not to provide a recipient list for an impersonal press release blast. This may sound like Public Relations 101, but when journalists receive press releases that aren’t relevant to their beat, location, or publication, they get frustrated, and it gradually erodes the quality of relationships between public relations and journalism:

 

Media lists should be but one small component of our outreach efforts. Especially in 2014, when within minutes we can call up all the articles a journalist has written, take a look at his or her Twitter, and assess whether our information is of interest. Media lists cannot and should not be a substitute for meaningful, personalized connections.

Here are things you must consider for every journalist before sending them a pitch or press release:

  • Does this pitch pertain to their specific geographic area?
  • Does it pertain to the journalist’s specific reporting areas? i.e. an investigative reporter will have no use for the announcement of a new restaurant location opening
  • Does the publication run the types of story you are pitching?
  • Is this really newsworthy? Yes, it’s frustrating when clients demand coverage for something we know isn’t really news, but sending a journalist an irrelevant release just so you can tell the client you sent it will not help your case when you have something of true value in the future

It’s time to stop taking the short view of just sending a press release to say it was sent to X number of people. If it’s not relevant to most of those people, it’s not only the same as not sending it, it’s worse. Think of the long-term implications of repeatedly sending irrelevant press releases: it trains journalists to tune them out. It’s a classic Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf scenario: no one will listen when you finally have something valuable to say.

Though it might not seem like it, journalists and PR pros are fighting the same battle. We’re all fighting to do more work on less time in a saturated medium. So instead of using the challenge as an excuse, use it as a way to better relate to our journalist counterparts. It can only make it better for all of us.

4 Responses to “Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching”

  1. Buddy says:

    Johna,
    Well said. I’m often confused, especially in the digital world, why some pr people pay for a list and still call themselves experts. At best, ALL lists are a crutch for the work it takes to build good relationships.

  2. Dave Lieber says:

    So well done! Turning into positive. Now that’s brilliant PR!

  3. Johna Burke Johna Burke says:

    Buddy,
    Thank you for the feedback. It’s definitely an age old challenge, but one I hope is getting better with more ready-access to exactly what the reporter covers. After all, progress starts with PR :)

  4. Johna Burke Johna Burke says:

    Dave,
    I truly appreciate you bringing the issue to light. Sometimes it seems hollow when we discuss ‘best practices’ and having your public concern as something to hold out is critical in making the examples real. Nothing like a little ‘don’t let this happen to you’ to make everyone pause and think.

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