The next time you want publicity, do two things that 99 percent of the other people who want publicity fail to do.
First, vow that you won’t use the “spray and pray” technique. That is, spraying the same one-size-fits-all pitch or press release to dozens or even hundreds of journalists, and then praying they’ll call you.
Second, target a short list of journalists. And then find out all you can about them before delivering your customized pitch. It’s easy, actually, because journalists are leaving clues EVERYWHERE online about the kinds of stories they think are important, the kinds of expert sources they’re looking for, and how to contact them.
Think of it as a treasure hunt. Do it right and you could strike gold. Here are six places to look for those valuable nuggets, which I shared during the webinar “How to REALLY Use Publicity as an Online Marketing Channel and Zig When Everyone Else is Zagging.”
1. Find out if the journalist blogs
Some journalists blog as part of their job. Others blog on the side because they’re passionate about a topic.
I wrote about how I picked up all sorts of valuable clues by spending a little time reading the blog written by Deborah Kotz, senior health writer for U.S. News & World Report.
I learned, for example, that she’s a penny-pincher and hates bottled water. I also learned that two years ago, she thought about her risk of staying on birth control pills until she reaches menopause, and lamented the dearth of research on the long-term use of contraceptives by women.
If I had spent a few hours searching for clues, I’d find a lot more than that. But I’d NEVER find that kind of personal information in those expensive media directories. Here’s why this kind of research is so valuable.
If you sell a product or service, or promote a cause or issue, related to women’s health, Deborah already has given you dozens of valuable clues at her blog that you can tie to your pitch. Be sure to read the comments at a journalist’s blog, where the journalist often replies and leaves even more clues about topics she thinks are important.
2. Look for journalists on Twitter
If a blog can provide that much information, imagine what you can learn by following the journalist on Twitter. Here are seven places to look for reporters, editors, freelancers, broadcasters, radio talk show hosts, TV news anchors and other journalists:
JournalistTweets.com: Allows you to track what journalists are writing about you or your subject. Includes email alerts. Also allows you to locate journalists on Twitter by subject interest.
JustTweetIt.com: Features more than 175 reporters and editors.
MediaonTwitter.com: Features thousands of journalists in 11 countries by name, Twitter ID, title/beat and media outlet.
Muckrack.com: Features journalists by beats (world, U.S., politics, business, technology, sports, arts, etc.) and media company.
Listorious.com (U.S.): Harry Hoover’s list of more than 250 U.S. journalists, including Rachael Maddow, George Stephanopoulos, David Gregory and Terry Moran.
Listorious.com (Canada): A list of more than two dozen Canadian journalists, compiled by Harry Hoover.
Listorious: Harry Hoover’s list of more than 300 media outlets, including top-tier outlets.
Follow a journalist who you want to pitch. But don’t expect journalists to follow you back. Some aren’t interested in following other people. They use Twitter primarily to find leads and sources for stories. Even so, look for gold in their tweets.
3. Look for journalists on Facebook
Search for journalists by name, or search for the media outlet’s Fan page. You can also use the search box to search by job title such as “reporter,” “editor” or “freelancer.” Journalists frequently use Facebook to issue a call for certain types of experts they need to interview, or let their friends know about the types of stories they’re working on.
4. Pan for gold at their company websites
Many newspapers and magazines have online versions that include many more articles than can fit into the printed edition. Some even have videos. Often, you can leave comments. One annoying feature of many of these sites, however, is that you must create an account and log in with a username and password. But sometimes, it’s worth it.
5. Read the editor’s column
One of the most valuable places to pan for gold in a newspaper or magazine is in the editor’s column. It provides valuable clues about new features and departments, new freelancers and photographers who are contributing to that issue, trends the publication is seeing, and other information the editor thinks is important.
Editors often write about their personal lives, too. One smart Publicity Hound I know responded to a column from an editor and ended up in an article in the magazine.
He’s Dr. Robert Kotler, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, who was reading a copy of American Way, the in-flight magazine published by American Airlines. In the May 1, 2009 issue, executive editor Adam Pitluk wrote about how his circle of friends has changed over the years.
“I sent him a letter respectfully taking issue with some of his contentions and offering an alternative personal viewpoint,” Dr. Kotler told me. “He does not keep long friendships. I do. A la my closeness with my fraternity brothers from our days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1960-64).”
Adam called Dr. Kotler and told him he appreciated the letter.
“When I had his ear, I said, ‘You know, l have an idea for a story regarding how patients are coming from abroad to Beverly Hills for cosmetic surgery. Of course, they should be traveling here on American. I’ll send you an outline of what I think might be an interesting story for your readership.'”
Dr. Kotler followed up and sent statistics about Beverly Hills as a magnet for cosmetic surgery. Not long afterward, Adam told Dr. Kotler he’d probably assign the story and a writer.
“And then it happened. An excellent writer in New York called and interviewed me and Dr. Stuart Linder, another plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills,” Dr. Kotler said. The article, titled Vacationing for a New You, appeared in the Feb. 15, 2010 issue.
Publicity in inflight magazines is a wonderful way to get in front of business travelers and others with a high disposable income. See “Special Report #29: Fly High with Publicity in the Inflight Magazines.” It includes contact information and pitching tips for more than 50 magazines.
6. Subscribe to media leads services
Three free media leads services provide hundreds of leads online, five days a week, from print and broadcast journalists, podcasters, bloggers and others who are looking for specific types of sources.
I don’t consider this “panning for gold” because thousands of other Publicity Hounds subscribe to these services, and the competition is stiff. Even so, you’d be crazy not to subscribe.
Sifting through all these leads is time-consuming, but you can delegate this task to an assistant, or a VA. Here are the services where you can subscribe and receive your leads by email:
PRLeads.com is a similar fee-based service that sifts through the journalist queries for you and gives you only those that pertain to your area of expertise.
Now that you know where to look, grab your pan, and go find some gold! And when you get publicity, please share it with me. I’m always looking for success stories for “The Publicity Hound’s tips of the Week,” my weekly ezine, and this blog.