Oct 16, 2017 / in Executive Insights / by Kevin Akeroyd

We have all been there. We end up on some list or another and start receiving unwanted emails and calls. I think I can speak for everyone when I say, we all HATE this business practice, and while it’s technically not spam according to the CAN-SPAM laws in the USA, it looks, smells, and feels like spam!  For journalists and influencers, this is a huge, ongoing problem and something we take very seriously at Cision.

Bob Evans, who I used to work with at Oracle and highly respect, brought up some good points on Twitter this week about the issues he recently encountered with PR professionals flooding his inbox with irrelevant pitches.

This represents a business practice that is decades old and really does need to change. There are dozens of companies that provide media databases and there are hundreds of thousands of PR/comms professionals that use them to identify the right influencers for their story. When used properly, these databases are incredibly efficient and offer great benefits to both sides. Unfortunately, the “batch and blast” method of media relations is still prevalent in the industry.

Bob’s note is a good reminder that despite much advancement in data, technology, and guidance on best practices companies like Cision have introduced to help on this issue, we’ve still got a long way to go.

As background, Cision’s research department makes tens of thousands of media updates to our influencer database each day, using multiple sources of information and technologies. Additionally, we add new people directly from journalist and/or media outlets, by proactively monitoring changes in the media industry and directly from clients. Anyone added to our database is notified so that they can update their information or opt out, but unfortunately, these messages can be missed.

As the largest earned media software provider, we know accuracy is an issue, and we’re always working to improve our database with the end goal of providing the most value for journalists, influencers and our customers.

Further, we provide rich information not just on how to contact them — but what to contact them about. We show what they cover, what they write about and what they care about.  Also, we recently rolled out Trending Influencers, which shows how influencers are trending on specific topics. For instance, we can tell the PR pro “last year this reporter was trending on cybersecurity, but has pivoted and is now covering internet of things.”

That’s why we invest in key areas of our technology to improve the way communicators and journalists work together.

However, the reality is that while we’re investing heavily in the future of PR and comms, it’s also true that there’s still a long way to go. Our clients know that using a media database is an incredible tool and, as with any tool, it must be used with great care.

With that in mind, here are five highly important tenants of good PR — and quite frankly all comms and earned media — that should help everyone use any media database more effectively and ensure that the relationship between comms professionals and influencers is mutually beneficial.

1. Know the Audience

This is the golden rule. However, many people overlook it when they have a great story to tell and an urgent deadline to meet. Some don’t realize it, but finding journalists and influencers using a media database is the easy part.

The challenging part is first finding the right influencer for your brand. What might be right for one story might not be appropriate for another, so it’s critical to first take a step back and think through some important questions like:

  • “Who will care about this news?”
  • “Is this news timely?”
  • “What value do we have to add to this conversation?”

Important factors to consider are age, gender, lifestyle, buying habits and brand preferences. By zeroing in on the customer, it is easier to find influencers that resonate with depth and relevance.

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s easy to pinpoint your intended audience. Then, and only then, is it the right time to search for journalists and influencers who can help reach that audience.

2. Connect With the Best Influencers for the Story

When communicators know who they want to reach they can thoughtfully put together a media list.

Remember that reach doesn’t equal influence. A good question to ask when searching for influencers is “Who reaches our intended demographic?,” rather than “Who has the most followers?” Or, “How many journalists can I find to send my message to?”

Build lists thoughtfully and ask yourself, “If I were this journalist, would I be excited about this news?

3. Take the Time to Pitch With Integrity and Thoughtfulness

It’s no surprise that journalists want personalized pitches, as they have little time and more responsibilities today than ever before.

Our CMO, Chris Lynch, talked quite a bit about this when our 2017 State of the Media report came out earlier this year. The data from the report was broken out into an infographic that shows the top three things that journalists want to see from PR pros:

  1. Research and understand the media outlet you are pitching to
  2. Tailor the pitch to suit the influencers’ beat/coverage.
  3. Provide information and expert sources.

Not too difficult, right? Chances are that most PR professionals will encounter the same influencers again and again in their industry, so they should treat them well, provide value to them and that will result in great returns for both parties.

4. Help Reporters Tell the Story

Journalists want brands to provide a well-thought-out story with amazing multimedia content.

Think about this: photos and videos add an interactive human touch to the web experience and can be used to communicate complex information in a matter of minutes.

With this in mind, communicators should offer compelling visuals when reaching out to influencers, but never send attachments in email.

5. Embrace Data and Continually Improve

Your company’s news may be enough to peak an influencer’s interest, but data can really help bring a story to life.

Communicators can also use tools and data to listen to what audiences care about, understand who they are and review how they’ve acted in the past. By learning more about the audience, communicators can craft stories that people will care about. And, if the audience cares about it, so will journalists.

Finally, data should be used to measure what worked for any given campaign. What percent of journalists responded to the pitch? Find out who they were and target them again if they are relevant for new stories. If not, remove them from your future outreach. What key messages resonated with audiences? By knowing all of this information communicators can weed out what didn’t work and do more of what did.

It’s not a perfect world, but at Cision, we strive to provide innovative technology solutions and education so that all of our key stakeholders are satisfied. At the end of the day, we want to provide communicators the tools they need for earned media success and we want influencers to get value out of the relationships they forge with our customers.

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About Kevin Akeroyd

Kevin Akeroyd oversees Cision's executive management team across operations globally. He has more than 25 years of experience in reshaping modern digital, social and mobile marketing globally.