Benefits of targeted PR

November 8, 2022

Recently, I was chatting to someone about a press release that they were planning to send out. Everything was ready to go and – they casually mentioned – they had a press list of about 1,000 people and were just going to spray and pray. I always recommend a carefully targeted PR strategy and in today's blog post I'm going to explain why it's worth investing the time in this.

Spray and pray

You might have heard that expression before. It’s when someone blasts a press release out to as many people as they can possibly think of and hopes for the best. The idea behind it – I suppose – is that PR is a numbers game. So you need to send a press release to as many people as possible to maximise the chance of reaching the relevant journalist.

I hate this approach. It really winds me up. Sometimes, there will be an occasion when you have a large media list because you have a huge story that needs to go out to lots of different publications. But, on the whole, when people use this ‘spray and pray’ approach, they aren't doing thoughtful and targeted PR. As a result, they often aren’t getting the best possible results.

Drink the free booze and leave

I tend to recommend a targeted PR approach. That is, contacting a smaller group of journalists that you know are more likely to be interested in your story. This is because you need quality leads to get quality results. 

If you were organising a fundraising dinner and want to raise as much money as possible, you’d want to invite the best possible people. A targeted approach could involve carefully curating a list of 10 high-net-worth individuals who you already know are passionate about your cause and send them a personalised invite explaining why they’d enjoy the event and how it’s relevant to them. Not all your invitees would necessarily be able to make it but those that did would be likely to make generous donations.

If you went with the ‘spray and pray’ approach for the same event, you could go to the town centre with 1,000 flyers and give them to everyone that passed by. You might get 100 people at your fundraiser instead of 8 but they may well just drink your free Prosecco and leave. Perhaps a few would donate a tenner on the way out.

Smaller, more relevant lists

What I'm saying is, it isn't always a numbers game. This is true of PR too: just because you've contacted more journalists, doesn't mean you're going to have a better chance of getting quality coverage. It’s best to spend the time finding and contacting the right people.

In my opinion, it's much better to contact a smaller list of people that you genuinely think your story is relevant to. Because blasting an email out to everyone you can think of and hoping for the best is going to annoy more people than it helps.

A while back, I worked with an organisation to help them build a press list. I shared my draft and they sent over several additional titles that they wanted me to add into the list. When I had a read of the titles they’d suggested, it became quickly apparent that they’d run a specific search term through their media database and pulled off a list without checking whether any of the publications were relevant to their business or our story. A couple of them didn’t even cover the same industry even their titles included terms that suggested they might. Had I sent the release out to these additional 20 titles, I probably would have annoyed at least 15 of them for being completely irrelevant and wasting their time. 

Cluttered inboxes

By sending a story to someone when you know it's not relevant to them, you're cluttering up their inbox and flagging that you haven’t read their publication and don’t understand what they cover. If they then remember you as someone unhelpful, it could hurt your chances of coverage in the future when you do have a relevant story for them. Think carefully about who you’re sending your story to and if you know someone wouldn’t be interested, don’t contact them this time.

Spray and pray or targeted PR

The spray and pray method seems to be common in organisations looking to promote their sustainability credentials. People often think that because they have an eco angle within their story that the sustainability press will be interested. But this isn’t always the case. There are nuances within the different eco titles. Just because a title covers sustainability, that doesn't mean they cover it in the same way as another publication or in a way that is relevant to your story. Also, because they’re leading the way when it comes to sustainability, you often need something ground-breaking to get on their radar – announcing your sustainability commitments, unless they’re something really special, probably isn’t going to cut it. Can you truly say you’re doing something that no other business has done in the sustainability space before?

That doesn’t mean there aren’t still suitable targets for you but talking about your eco actions doesn’t necessarily mean you should approach the eco press alone. For example, a sustainable tour operator could get lots of traction in the travel press while a new jewellery company made from reclaimed ocean plastics might be of interest to the women’s fashion and lifestyle magazines.

So no, it's not a numbers game. If you use the spray and pray method when sending out a story, please stop. Next time, think about a tailored and targeted PR approach for your next press release. It is worth investing the time in building meaningful connections with relevant journalists and could result in some stellar coverage further down the line.  

If you're interested in chatting about your PR strategy and how I can help, feel free to get in touch.

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