Annoying, relentless and taking up a lot of your space, as most of you have probably guessed; I’m talking spam. We all get them, whether it’s a dodgy email about an inheritance in Africa, a newsletter you signed up to a year ago but haven’t read once, or those “salesy” email blasts.
Of course spam is not always junk – it can also be a well-meaning email simply sent to the wrong person. In PR we often put together media contact lists and it’s tempting to do so by simply searching for a general keyword in a massive media database, pushing out a press release in a mass email and hoping for the best. By doing this however, we would ignore a fundamental ingredient in good media relations – building relationships.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for mutual spam-free harmony:
- Think about who would be interested in your story and fine-tune your list.
- Avoid the common practice of “sticking journalists on the list”. Unless your activities are very niche, your press releases will appeal to different audiences.
- Maintain your contacts! Journalists, particularly nationals, will change subjects and even publication faster than you can say “meed-ya”.
- Listen to your contacts and their preferences. Do you need to mail shoot 10 contacts at the same magazine or is there one journalist who really wants to hear from you?
- Remember that different regions have different trends, culture and importantly languages. The world is more connected, but it’s (thankfully) not all the same.
I can only imagine what an editor’s inbox must look like on a daily basis, with press releases and pitches for articles flooding in. But imagine I do! Paying consideration to an editor’s need for completely relevant content, some hefty research is necessary. Time spent making sure to know the magazine / blog / newspaper, its content and its readers is a first step before contacting any journalist. We still need to put together media contact lists for our projects, but taking the time to evaluate each and everyone on the list and focus on a few key people rather than adding as many as possible, pays back hundredfold.
With today’s open online environment it’s getting easier and easier to research editors and their preferences (finding out what they had for dinner last night would probably be child’s play), but nothing beats picking up the good old fashioned phone or meeting up in person to really get to know them. Between us at bcm, we have built up an invaluable international network of editors and bloggers that we do our very best to maintain an excellent relationship with. Alongside this we’ve built up our own extensive database in which we focus on quality over quantity. You won’t find any “quick search” button in there.
And if I ever get tempted to blast out an email to publications only bordering on writing about the topic involved, I just need to look at my own inbox and the number of emails that goes straight to my spam folder.