How do I find which journalist or publication to target with my story or press release? This is a question that I get a lot in my PR Power Hours and Ask Me Anything sessions from people that are just starting out doing their own PR. With 1,000s of journalists out there, knowing where to start when it comes to finding the right people to approach can feel quite overwhelming.
The good news: all you need is a bit of common sense. But I'm going to be honest: it does take time and you need to be prepared to put in the work.
Tailoring and targeting
If you've worked with me before, you'll know I recommend targeting and tailoring your story. If you’re sending out a press release, don’t just send it to everyone you can think of. A long press list isn’t necessarily a better press list. In fact, in my experience, the longer your press list, the messier and more out-of-date it’s likely to be. So, think carefully about who your story is relevant to. It’s often better to send two or three well researched and carefully crafted pitches than blasting a generic email to 100 journalists and hoping for the best.
Who is the target audience you are trying to reach? What kind of publications do they read? And do those type of publications cover this type of story? Thinking about these points is going to help you narrow down the type of publications you want to be featured in.
Journalist targets will change depending on your story or goal
Who you want to target may change depending on the story you’re currently working on. Let’s take the example of a sustainable kids’ clothing brand that wants to promote its new summer range to parents. They might want to go through parenting and lifestyle magazines and blogs to see which ones run product roundups. (Top tip: they’d also want to think about their timings. Monthly magazines can work six months ahead. So if it’s already June, the editor is more likely to be thinking about Christmas than the summer holidays).
However, let’s say the same sustainable kids’ clothing brand was aiming to reach potential investors for its next funding round. Coverage in the parenting titles could still be beneficial for credibility and general awareness. But they’d probably want to think about approaching business and start-up magazines that interview founders of exciting and up-and-coming companies.
Read the titles you want to be in
This may sound obvious but the majority of people (including some PR professionals) don't do it: read the publications you want to get into. Once you've read them, read them again. It does take time to get to know one or two key titles well but it also gives you a better chance of spotting suitable opportunities and building up a relationship with the journalists that work there. If you know the titles you want to be featured in and understand the type of stories they run, you’ll find it easier to identify an opportunity to pitch a story from your business that’s relevant for them.
Approaching the regular slots can be a great way in: do they have a regular gift guide that your product could be featured in, a regular Q&A slot or do they accept opinion pieces or guest posts? If you know they run these segments each issue, you know they’ll be looking for content and story ideas for that section.
Finding the right journalist
Once you’ve found the slot you want to target, look for who writes that article. Some publications include the name of the journalist in the by-line. Checking a few issues will help you figure out if the same writer covers that slot each issue or if they work with freelancers. If it’s a magazine and there isn't a by-line, have a look at ‘the fold’ – that’s the bit down the side of the magazine where the pages crease together – and sometimes the writer’s name will be there.
If there isn’t a name attached to the article, you might be able to work out which staff member writes it by finding a list of the editorial team (on one of the early pages of a print magazine or sometimes listed online). The travel features will likely be written by the travel editor, the beauty writers will cover beauty and so on.
Finding contact details
Once you know the name of the journalist you want to approach, you’ll need their contact details. If you have access to a media database – either directly or via your PR agency or consultant – this can be a quick step.
If you can’t access a media database – while a great resource, they can be quite expensive so are often out of reach for smaller businesses – there are other ways of finding a journalist’s email. Print magazines sometimes lists its team’s contact emails within the editorial page at the front of the magazine. Some journalists (especially freelancers) have their own websites which include their contact details. And some include how to get in touch on their social media bio.
There are also media request services and Facebook groups where journalists will share specific requests for content or story ideas with details of how to get in touch if you’re able to help.
Be patient and persevere
It’s no secret that PR does take time and hard work. Journalists receive hundreds of emails each day and often aren’t able to get back to everyone. So don’t be disheartened if you don’t get pick up straight away – be patient and keep trying. And good luck!