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The 2024 State of the Media Report

Get actionable insight from 3,000+ journalists on what they truly want and need from PR teams.

Find Journalists: Effective Strategies for Media Outreach

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The ability to quickly find journalists and media contacts to get your story or brand out there is a crucial first step when you want to reach the right audience.

Get it right, and you boost your chances of effective media outreach. Get it wrong, and no-one sees your story or brand.

Find journalists with a genuine interest in your topic paired with a relevant beat, and you will significantly increase your chances of getting coverage in many publications.

This guide will show you how it's done, from how to start a press hunt to creating effective pitches.

Find Journalists the Easy Way

Before we look at the process to finding relevant journalists it's important to understand the basics. This focuses on your approach and what tools you need to conduct it. Here's some more info on both:

1) Taking a structured approach

Whether you're searching for freelancers through a media database designed for someone with a job in PR, or looking to connect directly with staff reporters, your approach should take the same structure.

First, consider why you might need a journalist. Do you have a story to tell? Are you trying to grab some attention for a brand? Do you need to correct some disinformation? Or perhaps there's an important story about your industry that isn't being told.

2) Building your toolkit

Next, you need a tool to help conduct your tasks. There are a number of specialist tools and platforms for PR agencies and PR professionals that streamline the process of finding journalists and their contact details, making your press hunt a lot easier.

For example, you can search for reporters who regularly cover stories in your field by utilizing a media database such as CisionOne.

You can also search for journalists on a social media platform such as X, and attend networking events.

Whatever toolkit you use, engaging with a reporter's content and understanding their journalistic style will help you craft personalized pitches that stand out, whether their job is producing radio shows or writing articles published all over the world.

It's also worth noting that establishing media coverage is not about someone from the PR team sending a single pitch or press release; it's about building a collaborative and lasting relationship with journalists.

Understanding the Media Landscape for Journalists

So, how do you find journalists? Well, it's crucial to understand the different types of media outlets available and the significant role social media plays in shaping news and the flow of information.

Where to Find Journalists

There are five main places you'll find journalists and their contact details:

  • Traditional Media: Print newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. Each outlet has a specific format and audience. For instance, The New York Times offers in-depth reporting and analysis, whereas CNN provides 24-hour news coverage.

  • Digital Media: Online news sites, blogs, and podcasts represent the digital landscape. The Huffington Post and Mail Online cater to a digital-savvy audience and often deliver news in real time.

  • News Agencies: Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) are agencies that supply news to various media outlets. They maintain a journalist database for efficient news distribution to their clients.

  • Media Databases: Platforms like CisionOne and Meltwater compile and maintain comprehensive media databases full of contact details for media outlets and their staff, as well as freelancers. These are frequently used by those who work in PR.

  • Social Media Platforms: Finally, social media platforms like X, Facebook, and Instagram have changed how journalists report the news, and how to find them. Journalists are able to provide real-time updates, engage with audiences one-on-one, distribute their content more freely, and stand as 'verified', trustworthy figures.

Identifying the Right Journalists

When seeking to connect with journalists for your story or campaign, a crucial part of the job is targeting those whose specializations align with your subject matter and who have a track record of covering relevant topics.

Here are three ways to find the best journalists for the job:

1) Specializations and Beats

Reporters often focus on specific areas of interest, known as beats. For example, they might write articles that cover mainly technology, health, or politics. Or they may cover the beat of an area, such as the North Side beat of Chicago.

Tap into that beat when making contact, and you're more likely to give them an idea for a pitch that their editor will love.

2) Leveraging Media Databases

Media databases like CisionOne are invaluable for identifying relevant journalists. These platforms provide detailed profiles containing:

  • Journalists' Specializations: What areas are they interested in and where is their expertise?

  • Contact Information: Including email, phone, and social accounts.

  • Recent Work: What projects are they working on right now, which might prove insightful for your story.

When using these media list tools, you can filter your search with keywords to find journalists and editors who are most likely to want to write about or cover your story.

The Importance of Recent Work

As we just mentioned above, a journalist's recent articles and social media updates can reveal their current interests and projects they're working on.

Be sure to look through their recent work and check recent tweets and updates on other platforms. This will help determine if they are the right fit for the story you intend to pitch.

Finding Journalist Contact Information

Once you've found the right journalist for your story or client, you'll need their contact details. A quick Google search doesn't always work. After all, not everyone wants their phone numbers freely published online.

Below are some options that go beyond a simple Google search.

Media Contact Databases

A media database like CisionOne keeps track of contact details of journalists. The database requires a subscription and you'll have access to comprehensive, up-to-date lists with direct contact info such as:

  • Business email addresses

  • Phone numbers

  • Social media accounts

  • Personal website

  • Stories list

Social Media

Journalists often use social media platforms to network and share work. X and LinkedIn are notable for their professional use.

  • X:

    • Find journalists and editors by searching for keywords related to your business or area of interest.

    • Follow journalists and send direct messages, or look for a personal website in their bio.

  • LinkedIn:

    • Enhanced search capabilities help you network with industry professionals.

    • Follow media outlets and journalists to observe industry trends and topics.

    • After connecting with a journalist, send a private message or look under their 'About' section for email details.

Official Websites and Publications

Media outlets usually list contact information for their staff writers and editors on their websites or within their publications.

There may be a link to a profile on a writer's online byline, or you could check if the website has a 'Contact Us' page.

Building Relationships with Journalists

Cultivating strong bonds with journalists can be a game changer for PR professionals. Here's how to build those enduring business partnerships.

Engagement on Social Media

Engage thoughtfully on their social media profiles, especially if they are responsive. Follow relevant journalists, comment on their posts and share their content.

This demonstrates your interest in their work and you're not just trying to court them to share your story.

Long-Term Relationship Building

Commit to a sincere and consistent effort to start building relationships. All top journalists have a book of trusted connections and sources. You can be one of those but you need to put the work in.

Attend industry events where journalists are present or arrange a coffee or lunch to discuss mutual interests. Always be sure to follow up and stay in the loop with whatever article they may be working on.

Crafting Effective Pitches

An influential journalist will receive hundreds of pitches a week and have their pick on what to write.

In order for your story to stand out, any PR pitch must be well-crafted and take into account the following:

1) Personalization

If you're contacting a journalist for the first time then it's important to be personable and knowledgable about their beat. Be open about what you want but also explain what they will get from your story.

Remember, each journalist receives a lot of pitches so why does yours stand out to them?

For example, you're a car dealership in Sacramento and want to make a splash about a new discounted vehicle this fall. You could find a journalist who covers an automotive beat, and offer them a test drive as part of your story.

2) Timing and Relevance

Your pitch should be pertinent and timely. We surveyed three thousand journalists in our State of the Media report, and three quarters agreed that relevance is the number one most important thing when it comes to PR pitches.

When you get to pitching, be sure to also research and include any current events or trending topics that relate to your story or business.

For example, publications and journalists often get PR emails about Super Bowl marketing for food and snacks in the week of the big game.

As for breaking news, get your pitch in fast; journalists often have a quick turnaround on hot takes and related content.

3) Follow-Up Practices

Consider when the right time is to follow up on a story. This could be a few hours if it's breaking news, or a few days for PR campaigns. Be sure you find publications and monitor their output so you can also follow-up on stories when they are published, to thanks your contact.

Avoid excessive follow-ups, which could be counterproductive.

Measuring Impact of Journalist Outreach

Once you've completed your search and sent your story out to journalists, publications and editors, make sure to record the details of any resulting press coverage and keep track of engagement.

Use this data to improve your business contacts and media list, so that you have a list of the best media contacts to kick off your next search.

Here are two aspects to master:

1) Tracking Media Coverage

Create a spreadsheet to log mentions across various platforms. Or, use a tool like CisionOne to record all mentions for you.

This data will help you understand which publications are worth contacting again, and which stories resonate in the press. It could also highlight other sources you might be missing.

2) Analyzing Engagement and Outcomes

You could also review a range of analytics to track how a specific article or mention has performed.

This might cover:

  • Web traffic sourced from mentions in the press

  • Social media engagement rates such as likes, shares, and comments

  • Follow-through on calls to action (e.g. newsletter sign ups)

These outcomes provide you with tangible evidence of the value your outreach is generating, and could be useful for an editor or client.

Chat to Us Today

If you're ready to give a journalist media database a go then why not give CisionOne a trial today and speak to an expert?

Author Bio
Marcelo Javelly
Marcelo Javelly
 SEO and Social Listening Specialist

Marcelo is an SEO and Social listening expert with 8+ years of experience across various industries and joined Cision in 2023. Based in Copenhagen, he is our in-house specialist for all things related to social listening.