developing a media relations strategy

How to Launch a Media Relations Program: SoGal Webinar Recap

This past month, Ketner Group president Catherine Seeds and I had the pleasure of hosting a media relations strategy webinar with SoGal, a global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors. During this webinar, we provided attendees with key tactics and strategies to consider as they look to launch a media relations program.

We discussed:

  • Why businesses across verticals should consider a media relations program
  • The value of media coverage
  • The key steps to launch a media relations program

The top takeaways:

  • Do your research
  • Get to know your media targets
  • Personalize your conversation with each.

Here are some of the highlights from the webinar:

Why have a media relations program?

A media relations program can drive external awareness for your company through validated third-party sources.  Let’s say your company just landed its first round of funding or launched a new product in the market. If you do not tell your story, someone else will.

By creating a media relations program, you have the ability to tell your story to a member of the media community and reach multiple audiences beyond your own network.

What’s more, a media relations program can help bolster your company’s cache among a particular audience. Let’s say your chief data officer is well-versed in a particular technology within the healthcare industry.

You can generate media coverage by having them provide commentary for a relevant story a reporter is working on. Securing exposure for him/her as an expert on related hot button conversations positions your company as trustworthy and informed. Ultimately, it helps elevate your brand recognition and brings a sense that you can solve tough challenges.

Last but not least, a media relations program can build your company’s digital breadcrumbs. Highly relevant coverage helps you to rise through the ranks of engine search algorithms for your business’ key terms.

Tactics for building the program

As you consider creating the program, you must decide whether to run the program in-house or work with a public relations agency. Depending on what path you choose, we always advise that your company dedicate a single in-house lead. That person, often the CMO, can make sure the agency and internal stakeholders work together seamlessly.

When budget is tight or you’re just starting out, there are many easy and free tools available to help. For media opportunities, HARO and Qwoted are two platforms where reporters look for sources for stories they are working on.

As well, Twitter is an important platform to keep in mind. Identify and follow relevant reporters and engage with them regularly. Plus, they often post to Twitter when they need sources for a story. Sometimes even better, Twitter lets you avoid annoying pitches by keeping up with what they vent about.

Three best practices to launch a media relations program

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin. We often advise these top three best practices to get started:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Identify key conversations you want to drive
  • Do your research and build your top 20 list of media contacts and publications you would like to work with

After that, it’s time to begin your outreach and prepare for interviews!

Get to know your media targets

Many attendees emphasized the value of not just tracking journalists, but building an effective relationship with them. Really, the art of media relations is all about differentiating your company in the eyes of the journalist.

Take the time to really personalize your outreach to each of the media members you connect with. And make sure that the story you offer is relevant. We can’t overstate how much this helps you build an effective relationship in the long run.

As Catherine best put it, “nurturing those relationships will always pay off in the end!”

To learn more, download the complete webinar presentation.

Person reviewing printed survey results at computer

How to Create a Research Survey Press Release That Gets Results

As part of our new webinar series, KG Connects, we recently invited Jeffrey Henning and Tony Cheevers of Researchscape to give attendees an overview of the types of PR surveys and custom research they have been working on during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as their best practices for conducting newsworthy surveys.

As PR practitioners, we know that some of the best media coverage is powered by data that can tell a unique story. In other words, it’s a PR goldmine if you can find those one-of-a-kind nuggets of data that will generate the publicity you are looking for.

According to the Researchscape team – and PR people all over the world – stories that can place a company in the larger context of sweeping changes, backed by recent data, will resonate best with journalists.

There is never a bad time to field a PR survey. In fact, Researchscape has conducted 21,000 surveys since March 1. Three out of four research surveys today have a COVID-19 angle.

But, how can you ensure that you are putting the right information from a survey into your press release or proactive pitch? Better yet, what are the best practices for setting up your survey for long-term success?

According to Researchscape, focusing on the following five processes will set you on the right track:

Set Goals

As with any PR and communications campaign, setting a goal focuses your efforts and saves time and budget that might have gone to extraneous details.

Companies should develop long term goals such as building brand awareness, generating leads or developing content for a content marketing strategy. Executing a PR survey should also have short term goals such as providing support for a product launch or leveraging a holiday or trending story/event for coverage.

Remember this critical first step or risk losing the overall vision of your campaign.

Design and Field the Survey

Now that you have your goals set, the next step is to brainstorm possible headlines that you would love to see – kind of an “in a perfect world” exercise with your team! Researchscape suggests you “let your team’s imagination go wild, envisioning the results that would best drive coverage.”

Once you come up with your dream headlines, now is the time to come up with the questions. This is where academic discipline and a little bit of art in surveys comes to play.  According to Researchscape, the main problems that lead to inaccurate survey results and will reduce credibility with reporters are asking leading questions or encouraging acquiescence bias.

A good rule of thumb: a well-designed questionnaire can provide material for two or three news releases. As outlined in a Researchscape whitepaper, the average survey news release typically reports the findings from five questions (not including demographic questions).

A 15- to 20-question survey can easily provide content for three or four news releases.

Develop Campaign Assets

Most survey news releases simply include a summary of key findings of the survey, without commentary or context. But, with additional effort and detail, you can get far better results.

How to get survey results covered by media:

Include:

  • Exhibits: These include high-quality charts and graphs that can be used by reporters. Don’t forget to put your company’s name in the graphic!
  • Topline Results: These should accompany the press release and include the full list of complete questions and the answers selected for each question. As one reporter says, “I want to see what the questions are and what order they are asked in.”
  • Methodology FAQ: Don’t push the methodology summary to the last paragraph of the release. Create a methodology document or section in the release that answers the questions that journalists are trained to look for in surveys.

Write the News Release

Once you develop campaign assets, it’s time to write your killer press release(s) and make your push to key media.

Rule of thumb: Journalists prefer timely content. Announce your findings as soon as you can.

When writing your survey press releases, pay attention to these common mistakes as reported by Researchscape:

  • Overgeneralizing
  • Being overly precise
  • Claiming a margin of sampling error
  • Reporting on questions with too few respondents
  • Failing to disclose the basics
  • Not linking to resources
  • MISSING THE POINT!

Adapt and Re-Use

You’ve drafted a strong press release, pitched it to your key media targets and have secured press all while building brand awareness and generating leads – now what?

Do it all again next year, of course!

At Ketner Group, we have had clients conduct the same survey for consecutive years with great success. It allows us to do year-over-year comparisons so we can give reporters “trend reports” that provide more than just a snapshot in time. This is one of the best ways to become a go-to expert and thought leader on a given topic.

For more information about the process of creating newsworthy PR surveys, I encourage you to read the Best Practices for Newsmaker Surveys whitepaper from Researchscape that analyzes more than 3,000 surveys done over seven years.

Put Your Ideas in Motion

If you need help designing or getting the most out of your next PR survey project, connect with me at [email protected] to set up a free 30-minute consultation.

How to do media relations and PR during the pandemic

How to Approach PR During the Pandemic

The media relations landscape has never changed so quickly. Virtually overnight, media relations has pivoted to “all coronavirus, all the time,” as editors and reporters work feverishly to understand the impact of a virus that has upended all of our lives.

How can a PR agency communicate in a crisis like this? It can be summed up in a single word. Pivot—and the faster, the better.

In the last few weeks, we’ve worked closely with our clients to quickly adjust their communications programs and meet the needs of editors, reporters and other audiences.  Clients have stepped up to creatively collaborate with us and become part of the media conversations that are changing hour by hour. We’re proud of the way they’ve responded. And in working with media on behalf of our clients, we’ve identified four essential principles for PR during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the room.

The worst thing PR professionals can do right now is send pitches that are tone-deaf or irrelevant. Now is the time to understand and respect the changing needs of editors and reporters, and only offer them the information that matters to them now. Save the routine communications for later; otherwise, you’ll lose the respect of the very people you’re trying to reach.

As one reporter recently shared on Twitter: “Dear PR friends, this is simply not the time to be casually dropping in to see what types of stories I’m working on or telling me about your client’s new skincare product. Please, spare my inbox just once in these trying times.”

Share your insights.

Does your company have unique insights that can help reporters better understand the current crisis? Now is the time to step forward, but only in an unbiased, non-promotional way.

For example, one of our clients, a leading national law firm, created a Coronavirus Resource Center to share insights on legal issues arising from COVID-19; it’s become a rich resource for business media. An ad-tech client created an infographic that advises brands on how to shift their advertising strategies in real time. We wrote an op-ed for another client on managing supply chain crises.  And we’re coordinating media interviews for another of our clients since one of their consultants is a former retail executive who helped his company navigate the SARS and H1N1 crises. We’re working with a number of our clients on media strategies during this crisis, and we’d be glad to share more examples.

Lead with empathy.

As my colleague Kirsty shared in her blog about how marketers can adapt to Covid-19, empathy is essential. Acknowledge that editors and reporters are operating in a high-stress, fast-changing environment. They’re working longer hours than usual, and they’re worried about their families and friends just like the rest of us. Even a simple recognition that you’re emailing them in a time of crisis will be appreciated.

Think beyond the current crisis.

In a webinar on the state of the retail economy today, IHL analyst Greg Buzek said there are two ways retailers will mark time after this year: BC (Before Coronavirus) and AC (After Coronavirus). We haven’t reached the AC phase yet, but it will happen. A new normal will emerge, and communication needs will shift.

We’ve already seen a few glimmers of hope. This week we surveyed key editors and reporters, asking them how we could better serve them as they cover the COVID-19 pandemic. A reporter for a top-tier national publication responded that her coronavirus coverage was actually starting to slow a bit, and she was returning to stories she was working on before the crisis.

There will be a time for new product press releases, customer announcements, case studies, blogs and thought leadership content that’s not focused on coronavirus. We’re not quite there yet. However, now is the time to begin planning, focusing on “AC” strategies, and developing the kind of content and media relations programs that will resonate in the AC era. Companies that do this will be the ones that succeed as we emerge from this present crisis.

Person holding microphone for media interview

Media Interviews: Best Practices for Spokespeople

If your company has ramped up its public relations and marketing program, chances are, your company has been asked to take media interviews.

Whether this is the spokesperson’s first time or their 100th time to take a media interview, their ability to successfully drive the interview is critical to achieving the desired coverage.

When it comes to media interviews, each spokesperson must find their own unique style. After all, a journalist is typically reaching out to a particular spokesperson because they need a subject matter expert. Therefore, exuding confidence and knowledge during the interview process is a must.

Tips for nailing the interview

Though each spokesperson should have their own unique interview style, there are a few things you can do prior to the interview to prepare and nail the talking points.

Do your research

Just as the journalist did his/her research before reaching out, the spokesperson should do the same. Getting to know the journalist’s reporting style will help the spokesperson provide relevant points during the interview. Doing the research will also provide the spokesperson with additional fodder to create a connection with the journalist during their chat.

Keep in mind that journalists receive more than 100 emails a day and take about 3-5 interviews on a daily basis. Therefore, ensuring that you are providing a differentiated point of view and unique data points, will help the journalist explore different angles to the story they are working on.

As well, if you are currently working with a PR agency, the agency should work to gather sample questions ahead of time and provide the spokesperson with a media profile that highlights the journalist’s experience to help the spokesperson prepare.

Talk it out

Keep in mind that the interview can happen in a variety of ways; via phone, in-person, podcast recording or over live broadcast. We recommend having the spokesperson undergo a mock interview training process to identify areas of improvement and hone their unique interview style.

Keep in mind that public speaking is not everyone’s forte and therefore, practice makes perfect. Having the spokesperson run through several mock interviews that go over the nuances of all these forms will only help the spokesperson perfect their style.

For example, if the spokesperson plans to do a live broadcast interview, taping the person during the mock interview process and then reviewing the tape will help the spokesperson identify areas of improvement in clarity, tone and body language. This will help the spokesperson ace the 15-30 second segment that will eventually make it on air.

This will help avoid the scenario Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights found himself in when being interviewed live and he kept raising his hands up to his face, saying to the broadcaster, “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” With a little practice, you can avoid this problem during your spokesperson’s interview process.

During the interview

It’s go time! As your spokesperson speaks to the journalist remind them that everything they say to them should be deemed “on the record.” Key tips to keep in mind include:

  • Provide soundbites. Remember that the journalist may only use a portion of the interview in their story. Therefore, ensure that your comments quickly relay the key messages you want to be published.
  • Provide unique data points, numbers and statistics that you can reference publicly.
  • Be energetic, honest, transparent and yourself.
  • Do not answer a question you do not know. It’s ok to not know the answer to every question.
  • Do not comment on speculation.
  • Do not name any customers that you cannot reference publicly.

After the interview

As the term states, media relations is about building a relationship with each media contact. Therefore, ensure your spokesperson connects with the journalist to thank them for the interview. Additionally, connecting with the journalist via Twitter and LinkedIn will not only help the spokesperson keep the relationship going with the journalist, but will also help to keep a pulse on their ongoing coverage.

As we’ve mentioned before, practice makes perfect! If you have an upcoming media interview, now is the time to start preparing. Utilize the above helpful tips to get started, but don’t be afraid to call in the pros once your program really takes off!

planning a strategy

Three Best Practices to Create a Meaningful Media Relations Strategy

One of the first questions we ask clients is “what does media relations success look like to you?”

As you may expect, the answers vary throughout – and with good reason. When it comes to media relations goals, not all strategies are created equal. Why? It’s because clients across the board have different goals, which makes each media strategy highly unique. As we work with clients on their media strategies, we use the following key points to get the planning started:

Media Relations Question #1: Identify Your Target Audience

Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, identifying your target audience should be the first step. Who do you want to connect with? The publications you go after will vary depending on if your desired audience is the C-suite, baby boomers or Gen Z. While top-tier publications such as WSJ, CNBC and USA Today should be a top goal, it’s important to not discount the trade publications.

Trade publications reach a particular audience that may be interested in learning more about your niche or product. As such, it’s important to identify the exact audience you wish to reach in order to move the needle for your business.

Media Relations Question #2: Identify Your Key Conversation

The next question we ask clients is to identify the conversations they would like to own, be a part of and even stay away from. In the world of media relations, thought leadership is key. Companies can drive thought leadership by offering compelling insights that journalists cannot attain anywhere else.

As a best practice, we ask our clients to be highly targeted within their thought leadership approach. As American philosopher Nicholas M. Butler best put it, “an expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.” By identifying their key conversations, clients can highlight their expertise and garner the type of media coverage that will drive positive exposure.

Media Relations Question #3: Identify Your Top Publications & Media Contacts

The final step is to narrow down the journalists and publications your company will build a relationship with. As the term ‘media relations’ infers, thought leaders should build genuine relationships with key media contacts that cover their space.

Receiving an average of 300 media pitches per day, journalists have limited capacity to sift through every email and pitch. As a best practice, we recommend working with our clients to build a list of the top 20 journalists that they will build a relationship with beyond just a single pitch. For example, going beyond the pitch means that our clients will work to actively follow their columns, connect with them on social and whenever possible, meet with them in-person to discuss different industry trends. The more a journalist knows about a company and its thought leaders, the likelier they are to reach out next time they need a source.

Working Toward Meaningful Coverage

Cracking the media relations world can be a tough task without the proper knowledge and direction. However, by working to answer the first initial questions, companies can set the foundation for a strong media relations strategy that drives meaningful coverage. Learn how to drive meaningful coverage for your business by asking these three questions about your media relations strategy.

PRSA Corner: Breaking Through the Noise and Reaching Your Target Audience

ClpsEJ3UYAAqeNFWe recently attended and were the official sponsor of the June PRSA Austin Chapter Luncheon. The luncheon titled, “Media Relations: Insights from the Newsroom,” featured three journalist panelists who discussed how media has evolved over the years, the integration of skills and technology in media relations and how PR professionals can (and should) break through the noise to reach target audiences. Here are some highlights:

Tara Doolittle is the Viewpoints editor for the Austin American-Statesman and is in charge of the editorial pages and online commentary. She began as a rookie reporter in 1997 and has worked with the newspaper’s reporting teams covering education, city hall and lifestyle. As many journalists do, Tara receives over 400 emails a day, which means getting her attention is no easy task. Although she gives first priority to local pitches over others, she tells PR folks to send short pitches, know who you are pitching and focus on the journalist’s interests, and course, always be sensitive to deadlines. Other key take-aways from Tara:

  • For hard news and community engagement pitches, Tara recommends doing research on how other publications (in other areas) report certain trends and how those trends might play out locally. Look for ways to tell the local story. As well, Tara says PR professionals should “think broadly” because the Statesman is not just a print newspaper, but a multimedia content platform.
  • According to Tara, the digital space is the way to go, especially with social media and sharing. She recommends PR professionals think about this when it comes to pitches. Photos and videos are a great way to keep people on the website for longer periods of time – it’s a win-win for everyone!
  • Tara said the biggest struggle she faces as an editor for a daily local newspaper is serving three sets of readers because they all want different things: folks who don’t pay for online content; folks who do pay and read online content; and full subscribers.

Erin Quinn-Kong is the editor-in-chief of Austin Monthly and the editorial director of Austin MonthlyAustin HOME and austinmonthly.com. A Missouri native, she attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism and worked in New York City as an editor at Allure and Us Weekly before moving to Austin in 2008. Compared to the Statesman, Austin Monthly operates with a smaller staff who has to work very hard to keep up with daily and monthly deadlines. It’s a fast-paced environment (with a small staff), which definitely makes it hard for PR professionals to get the attention of the editorial team. Knowing that, Erin says it is critical for PR professionals to know why the story would work in her publication, and know who you’re pitching to and why. Other key take-aways from Erin:

  • Pitches come into play when they make a connection to something that relates to the local area, or that may have appeared “buzz worthy” on social media. That is the sweet spot on pitches!
  • Erin recommends asking them to coffee. As editors, she believes it is part of their job to know the PR people in town. Having the opportunity to be “face to face” with PR professionals is a much better way to connect than an email.
  • Her biggest challenges as the editor of Austin Monthly include creating boundaries between her job and life and the struggle of small budgets and staff combined with high expectations.

 Haley Cihock is Executive Producer for KXAN. With 15 years of experience in broadcast news, she writes, edits and manages a team of producers, anchors, editors and field reporters working on the noon newscasts across two channels. According to Haley, the best stories come from community engagement – listening to the buzz around town, hearing what local citizens are talking about – and then figuring out how to cover the story. She believes that Austin has an engaged audience and people in the city really want to talk. At KXAN, social media is a huge tool for listening for potential stories. Other key take-aways from Haley:

  • Make no mistake, there is limited “on air” time, so Haley recommends that PR professionals pass story ideas and news to the digital side to get more bang for the buck. Using multichannel media is a great way to disperse the message, and it is how stories evolve, especially when it is resonating with people. Haley also says the evolution of media means that things are moving faster and faster, things get lost, so PR folks should try more than one platform to tell their story.
  • As an on-air journalist, Haley has to think of the bigger picture, but often times receives “micro” pitches from PR professionals. Pitches have to be bigger than just one thing. It is important to think beyond your client or your one story – try to make connections that could turn into bigger feature stories.
  • Her biggest challenges as an on-air journalist is always trying to be the first with the story, but to also to get the story right and do it better than anyone else. Erin believes that, for TV journalists, the challenges haven’t changed much, but the ways of approaching them are changing. Her two biggest pieces of advice is to not send video to the newsroom (they have to shoot their own) and to not send gifts to on-air journalists.

PR Crisis Management: Always Be Prepared

photo credit: PR Pret-A-Porter, Crisi Management: Titanic Case post

Over the past several months, my Netflix account and I have been BFF’s. After listening to my colleagues go on and on about all of the great television series I’ve missed out on over the past, oh, eight years, I decided it was my mission to become more cultured in my television viewing, and ditch shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. I started with AMC’s Mad Men, then made my way through NBC’s Friday Night Lights – television at its best in my opinion.

Most recently, I’ve started watching ABC’s Scandal and AMC’s The Walking Dead and realize that both shows have a common central theme – crisis management on steroids! Both shows deal with crises in very different ways – obviously taking down zombies is much different than taking down a dirty politician in Washington D.C.  But, the chosen profession for the main characters in each show very clearly includes “crisis management” in their job description.  Olivia Pope on Scandal is a political “fixer” which means she is a lawyer/PR specialist who handles the problems of the rich and powerful in Washington D.C. Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead is a local sheriff in small town Georgia, leading a rag tag group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world and constantly tries to figure out how not to get overrun by herds of hungry zombies.

But, in the real world, crisis management involves more than a highly paid TV writing team and good actors.  You need to have a plan. If you don’t have a crisis management plan solidified for your organization, there are plenty of resources available online for professionals in all industries. For PR executives, I suggest taking a look at the blog “10 Steps to Managing a PR Crisis” written by Marc Cowlin of Meltwater News.

Marc’s blog includes his playbook of crisis communication best practices that he’s learned over time.  His tips for a seamless PR crisis include:

Take a deep breath. When a PR crisis comes about the first thing you need to do is: nothing.  Stop, close your eyes and take five slow deep breaths. We make better decisions when we are calm and in control than we do when we are panicked.

Circle the wagons.  Take a few minutes to get in touch with all customer facing employees (other PR team members, the social media team, customer service, etc.) Brief them on what happened, the steps you will follow to react to the issue, initial instructions on how/if they should communicate externally, expected timeline for reaction and how they can help.

Investigate what happened. Now that you’re calm and everyone’s informed, you need to get the full story. Use your connections in the organization to determine exactly what happened. You need to know the entire story from an internal perspective, and how your customers perceive the incident externally.

Understand business impact. Is this PR crisis having an immediate impact on business? Will it have a future impact on the business? Before you react, it’s important to know how your decisions will impact the business, revenue and your brand reputation. 

LISTEN UP! Use your PR and social media monitoring tools to take the pulse on the reaction of the media and your community. This step will tell you if the crisis has made it to the attention of your customers or media yet. From there your goal is to gauge the significance of the PR crisis: just how big is this issue?

Decide on corporate position and messaging. Armed with the full story, an understanding of the business impact, and a complete picture of the reaction so far, you will have a clear idea of the position your company should take. From there you can write up a quick messaging platform and get buy in from your executive team.

Make decisions on channels of distribution. Based on your corporate positioning and overall messaging, you need to determine the channel/s that best deliver them to your audience. These days there are many channels to consider: you can post on your corporate blog, through social media, in a press release, directly to the media, or a combination. When making this decision, keep in mind the basic differences in each channel. Every situation will be different, and you’ll need to use the info you’ve gathered so far to decide on the best distribution.

Get the word out. You’ve done your homework, gotten the buy-in on messaging, and have decided on distribution channels.  It’s now time to get your message out to the channels you’ve chosen.

Monitor reaction and react as needed. With your message out in the world, you need to circle back with your public facing teams. Is your PR crisis still a crisis? What happens next will ultimately depend on the reaction of the media, your community and in social media. There are no hard and fast rules and you’ll need to make the call in real time.

Learn from the process. Everything you learn will help your company understand how to avoid future crisis and will help you to efficiently managing your next crisis. Take what you’ve learned and apply it to the next time you have a fire to extinguish.

As PR professionals, it is our job to be prepared to help guide our clients and teams through a crisis quickly. According to Brian Ellis, owner and executive vice president at PadillaCRT, the first 48 hours of any crisis are crunch time. “If you are not ahead of the crisis by that timeframe, it’s likely it will run you over,” says Ellis.

On the flip side, with any given crisis, there is always opportunity. John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

Here’s hoping that the “danger” part of your crisis doesn’t include zombies!

Spambots? I don’t think so.

I can’t think of a single person that likes to receive spam of any sort. It’s particularly obnoxious when it stacks up on your dining table, or backs up your inbox on an already hectic day. I hate it, you hate–we all hate spam.

One of my least favorite parts of being in PR is being considered spammy—say someone feels I have spammed them, when I think I reached out to them in good faith. I’ve done my research; I thought there was a connection. It’s a fairly common (mis?)conception of the public relations industry that as a whole we sit around plotting ways to send a release to as many people who DON’T care as possible. This begs the question, though, of why we would do that? It’s a waste of our time to reach out to people who are outside our clients’ interests. Maybe for true spambots it’s done out of laziness, but it’s a fact that individuals/outlets directly interested in a piece of news are the easiest coverage to secure, and low hanging fruit is the easiest fruit to harvest. It makes no sense to purposefully target anyone not interested in your topic—it yields no desirable response and serves a very poor ROI on time, indeed.

We take media relations very seriously at KG; in fact, building relationships with editors and writers in the verticals we serve is one of my most favorite parts of being in PR. We meet a lot of truly wonderful individuals and count many of them as friends. We build our media lists carefully, a combination of organization knowledge based on personal relationships built over time, and time-consuming publication- and individual-specific research based on industry and topic. In addition to day-to-day updates, KG goes through our active lists in their entirety annually, if not more often, to make any additions or deletions necessary as our clients’ products and services evolve and media outlets’ coverage areas change.

Of course, we’re not perfect. Here lies what I consider to be one of the challenges of modern-day, long-tail PR, where everyone has a website and/or a blog and everyone’s contact information is in the public domain–it simultaneously grows both more and less difficult to perfectly target the most relevant audience. It’s easier than ever in the Internet Age to search for and identify someone who covers your topic, let’s say Self-Propelled Gizmos, but it can also lead to more mistakes. The long tail benefits PR folks since there are so many niche outlets to cover your specific topics, but the niches become so, well, niche, that it’s all-too-easy to inadvertently reach out to someone who covers Green Gizmos but not Self-Propelled Gizmos.

Just because someone has written about Gizmos before, doesn’t mean they still cover them, and can sometimes take offense that you don’t know they now cover Doo Dads exclusively—of course Google can’t broadcast internal editorial decisions, and unlike the newspapers of yore that were trashed at the end of the day, past (and sometimes very recent) coverage of Gizmos lives on online, occasionally leading well-meaning PR folks astray. Someone’s name can make it onto a registered press list for a Gizmo show, when in reality they’re not press at all and couldn’t care less about your Gizmos. The myriad of ways one could inadvertently contact the wrong individual is enough to make you paranoid.

In the end, I find the best solution is to just be human, after all, we are human, not spambots. Do your best to research and reach out to only relevant media contacts. Respond sincerely when a media contact lets you know a mistake has been made. Fix the issue so as to not repeat the mistake. Know you did your best and that sometimes these things happen, and you will do better in the future. Amen.