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Using measurement to build better media outreach lists

Communicators depend on their media lists, but given the constant changes in newsrooms, most lists are outdated almost as soon as they are generated.

On top of being frustrating, this also means that you might be spending time to research when you’re least able to, such as after sending out a news release and getting a bunch of bounce-backs or failed deliveries.

Measurement can actually help you to build better, more dynamic media outreach lists. Here’s how.

Prior coverage of your company

One of the quickest ways to build a relevant media list is by looking at who has covered you in the past. The first step is to analyze prior coverage, looking at two things: the volume and the tone of coverage. Are there publications that frequently cover your company or issues in a fair or positive way? These should be priority publications. Then, drill down into the coverage and see if there’s any variation in the content or tone of the pieces depending on who the journalists are. Next to the priority publication, make note of which journalists cover your issues—depending on the size of the publication, there could be just one journalist or many—and then rank them according to your current business goals.

For an example of how changing goals can affect a media list, let’s use the example of a vehicle manufacturer. When rolling out a new model—say a new electric vehicle—the journalists to reach out to would primarily be the ones who focus on automotive journalism, environmental news, and consumer products reporters.

Then, in the next year, legislation is introduced that would provide purchasers of EVs a tax rebate. If this incentive passes, more consumers would be interested in buying EVs, so the media outreach focus may shift from consumer reporting pages to general news and policy reporters.

Different areas of focus can mean a different list of reporters, even when targeting the same media outlets.

Prior coverage of competitors

One of the most frequently overlooked paths to building a robust media outreach list is competitor analysis. Taking the time to really excavate your competitors’ coverage can result in better understanding of what resonates with reporters, which in turn can help you to build better media lists.

This means you’ll need to dig deeper than just looking at share of voice (SOV). SOV is the first step, where you learn how much coverage you are receiving relative to your competitors. The next step is comparing publications within that SOV, which will show where your opportunities are at the media outlet level. Then, drill one level deeper and compare journalists. This will show you where your strong media relationships are, and which ones you may wish to build.

Finding the right media outlets

Newsroom changes are having a big impact on PR professionals, especially in local newsrooms. It used to be that if you targeted the right larger local papers, coverage there would lead to inquiries from smaller publications in the region, and depending on the story, news could even disseminate up to larger outlets. Finding the sweet spot to seed this type of media spread has become incredibly difficult as larger media outlets purchase local papers and change how local stories are reported.

One way to address this challenge is to seek out more niche trade publications. These can be print, online-only, or blogs. Because many of these types of outlets have a narrow focus, it may require a better-segmented media list. You can use measurement to build this list by using research to examine interest sectors.

Taking the example of an EV manufacturer used above, a highly targeted media list may have segments that are very specific—say, a blog that focuses on how to maximize tax credits could be a logical outreach target to build support for an EV tax credit. However, you’ll need to bear in mind that this is clearly not going to be an outreach target to announce a new EV model that has increased towing capacity.

In short, a segmented list can help to expand your coverage, but only if you are careful to build it correctly and even more careful when pitching.

Pulling it all together

Newsrooms are being radically reshaped by ongoing financial pressures in the media industry. This means media outreach lists are changing too. Using the measurement tools you have available can help you to build better, more relevant media lists. Developed with business goals in mind, these outreach lists can help you to prioritize which publications and journalists to pitch, yielding better, more relevant coverage.

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