If you want to get coverage in newspapers, magazines and on radio and TV, finding exactly the right journalist to get your idea in front of - the person who can make a decision about whether to run your story - is vital.
So how do you find the right person to send your pitch or press release to? Read on and find out...
First things first
If you’re looking to get coverage in a particular publication or programme, it’s generally not enough to find out the name of the editor; you need to find out the name of the person who has responsibility for the particular section or segment you’re targeting.
For example, if you’re pitching a beauty story to a women’s glossy magazine like Marie Claire, look to see if there’s a beauty editor. If not, try the features editor (the overall editor is likely to have a much more strategic role).
If you’re pitching to radio/TV, find out the name of the producer for the particular programme you want to pitch to.
Do also bear in mind that the person you should pitch to might vary according to the type of story. So if you’re pitching a news item i.e. a short, factual piece about something very current e.g. some new research you’re launching tomorrow, you’re probably best targeting reporters directly.
Sadly there are no hard and fast rules. So the more you can talk to journalists and find out how things work on their particular publication or programme, the better placed you’ll be.
Where to look for contacts
1.In the publication
Many magazines or newspapers include lists of journalists (known as the masthead). These are generally near the front or back of the publication. Radio and TV shows often list their staff online (as do many magazines and newspapers these days).
2.On social media
Most journalists are on Twitter, so if you put the name of publication or programme you’re interested in in the search bar on the top right, plus the word ‘editor’ ‘journalist’ or editor’, then click ‘accounts’, you’ll get a list of relevant journalists. It’s usually pretty easy to work out from their biographies which is the best contact.
It’s also a good idea to create a Twitter list of journalists on your target publications and check in daily to see what they’re talking about.
Not only will you get a feel for the kind of stories they’re interested in (you might even spot requests for help with stories they’re working on), you can also start building a relationship by replying to their tweets and/or sharing their content.
A keyword search on LinkedIn can be great too, as this example shows.
This is usually pretty easy - just find an email address for someone else who works at your target publication/programme and figure it out from there (tip: it’s usually pretty easy to find email addresses for the ads sales guys).
Do bear in mind that journalists will be actively looking for people to talk to on social media. So make sure all your social media profiles are complete, with an up-to-date, good quality photo (not an Ibiza holiday snap). You should also, ideally, include an 24/7 email and/or phone number.
Use your website and social media profiles as an opportunity to ‘show what you know.’ If you’ve done any radio/TV, having a clip on your LinkedIn profile and/or your website will help a lot, as will linking to your blog or any previously published work.
This is often the quickest and most effective way to get journalists’ contact details. It’s also the most underused. Just ring up the general switchboard number and say something like: 'I'm looking for the person who looks after x page/section. Who's the best person to speak to please?' You may get passed around a bit, but you’re far more likely to get the name of the right person to send your story idea to. You might even pick up some useful nuggets of information about things like lead times (how far ahead journalists are working on stories) and what they’re working on in the future.
With the exception of news reporters working on breaking news, most journalists prefer email to phone. Many don't even answer their phones - particularly when they're on deadline (or 'on air' in the case of radio or TV). Don't let that put you off phoning though; just avoid obviously busy times and make sure you have an email pitch ready to send, as you may get put straight through to the person you need to speak to and most will ask you to email over your pitch or press release.
One of the most common questions I get asked is: ‘should I buy a list of journalists' email addresses?’ I generally say ‘no’ as, if you know what you’re doing, most journalists you need to get in front of can be found in a few clicks.
Using contact databases can also lead to a lazy approach to PR. If you’re serious about getting media coverage for your business or brand, you need to be building long-term relationships with the media. But if your idea of networking involves looking up a bunch of journalists’ email addresses and blasting over a press release, you’re probably not going to get very far.
Get free trials of media enquiry services like Response Source, Journolink or Help A Reporter Out which connect journalists looking for sources for stories with people who want to be featured in the media and nab the names and emails of relevant journalists (even if you haven’t got a story to pitch them right now, you might do later). If you have the budget, you may even decide to subscribe to one of these services.
Find out more about media enquiry services.
Once you’ve got the name of the person you need to get your idea in front of, you simply need to work out the correct email format (as shown above).