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Quality over quantity: determining a journalist’s coverage

Services that promise more aren’t necessarily promising better

CisionBlog frequently discusses how to target the media effectively without using ‘spray and pray’ tactics. Social media has given voice to journalists who are now bringing attention to deep-seated bad habits of some PR professionals. Basically, journalists want you to read what they write, understand what types of pitches they are looking for and know their beats and writing styles. Just take a look at a few selected quotes from top journalists in Cision’s database:

Lawrence Armour, Fortune: “Please make sure you know what I cover before making any unsolicited pitches.”

Therese Poletti, MarketWatch: “Do research before you pick up the phone.”

Barbara Staurch, New York Times: “The best thing PR people can do is to get to know which reporters cover what, and try to develop a relationship with that reporter, giving them useful tips on real news.”

This stuff is important. Journalists tell us day in and day out that their biggest gripe is untargeted pitching. I know it sounds basic, but it still happens all the time – and I still hear about it every day.

At Cision, the importance of targeting is why we devote so much time and energy talking to journalists directly to provide you with the best pitching tips, direct contact information, contact preferences and more. I thought it might be fun to give you a glimpse inside Cision’s research to see the footwork that goes into each and every contact. Check out this video of two of our research editors, Ben and Anna, talking about how they conduct research:


Recently, a service launched that provides a list of journalists who have mentioned a particular topic in an article they have written in the past. They claim that their service will provide you with more contacts than a media database. After reviewing a public screenshot, I can tell you that journalists are included in the list who have mentioned a particular topic, but Cision knows and understands that these aren’t a part of their true coverage. That’s why reviewing recent articles and reading our pitching tips are really important.

I always say that you can take a pitch, pull a quick list of 300 journalists and send the pitch to the unvetted list and probably return 2 or 3 hits. However, you risk burning bridges with the journalists who weren’t really right for that particular pitch or story angle. But, if you take the time to read what each journalist covers and how they want to be contacted, you can whittle your list down to 10-15 great contacts and still get those same 2 or 3 hits – developing relationships along the way.

Remember, when it comes to targeted pitching, rule #1 is Quality over Quantity.

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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