In the late 2000s, author and former Wired editor Chris Anderson took to his blog to shame the PR industry. In a post titled “Sorry PR people: you're blocked,” Anderson listed the email address of every PR person who more or less spammed him with a pitch or press release and stated had added each address to his block list in Outlook. While listing everyone’s emails was a bit extreme, Anderson was not first - nor would he be the last - reporter to discuss his hatred of unsolicited pitches.
Something we pride ourselves on here at Ditto is our relationships with the media. When we send a pitch to a reporter, there is a really good chance we already know him or her. The reporter at the receiving end our email is a person - not a story generating robot. If we send something that’s off the mark, the reporter might not bother to read the next thing we send or pick up the phone when we call.
It’s great to have relationships in place, but there are times when we start working with a client that comes from an industry we don’t work with often and don’t have relationships with reporters who cover them. In those cases, we do our homework to find the right reporters. That doesn’t just mean pulling a list from Vocus and sending out a mail merge. After building a relevant list of reporters, we’ll research each one and his or her outlet to see what’s been written about recently as well as if there might be someone else who’d be a better fit to contact there.
Depending on the number of reports who cover a specific topic, there are deeper levels to go to determine the best reporter to target. What’s his or her social media following? How many people read the publication’s website each month? Does the publication often link back to companies it is writing about?
Want to go even further? Social advertising on Facebook and Twitter has gotten so good that you can make an extremely small ad buy to target very specific reporters to reinforce your traditional outreach.
Too often PR people rush to get their pitches out without doing their homework. The dirty phrase in PR (and journalism too) is “spray and pray.” If your PR firm is doing this they’re not only hurting their business, but you are essentially paying them to hurts yours as well. Even though Chris’s list is old, if your PR is on it you may want to ask about their targeting process.