What’s your biggest strength as a PR pro? What makes you stand out? We’re all using the same tools, tactics, and strategies. So landing a job or a new client frequently comes down to who you know.
The competition can write a press release just as well as you can. It’ll come down to who has the relationships that the client or hiring company needs.
So if you’re an agency trying to land a client in the health technology space, and know zero journalists in that niche, That is not going to happen. Not when another agency already has a list of perfect contacts to pitch such a client to.
And when a company is hiring for in-house PR, they want someone who knows people to reach out to now, not down the road once connections have been made.
That’s why my PR motto is, “Build relationships before you need them.” Regular outreach to journalists in new niches is an investment in your agency’s future since those relationships help bring in new business.
Even for us in-house PR pros, contacts are everything. With only one niche to immerse yourself in, your boss will expect you to know everything about everyone.
But making contact with someone is just the first step. You can’t go a year between emails with someone and still expect them to care about your clients. You need to keep in touch.
Unfortunately, we have a double-edged sword here. The more extensive your network of contacts is, the more of an asset you are. But on the other hand, the larger your network is, the harder it is to stay in touch with everyone.
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1. Contact Manager
Where do you keep a list of all the people your agency works with? Don’t say “a spreadsheet” or “my Outlook address book” as an answer.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, spreadsheets are simple and old-fashioned, so they’re not the best way to keep track of contacts. For example, it’s a pain to click on a contact’s email address, wait for the link to open your mail app, and then start typing your message. Contact managers can store information about contacts and send the message. Using a spreadsheet adds a step and a piece of software.
The address book in your email app won’t work either, because it’s made for everyone. You should keep track of things that only PR pros care about, like the journalist’s specialty, preferred way to get in touch, and when he or she last accepted one of your pitches. Where are those kinds of fields in Outlook?
Find a contact manager that makes things really easy for you by looking for a tool that was made for public relations or something that you can change a lot.
I’m sure most of you have heard of Newsle, which notifies you by email when something is written about someone in your LinkedIn network. It’s a useful tool for everyone, but PR pros have to have it.
Your agency will benefit in many ways from joining Newsle. For one thing, personalising your pitches and emails will make them better. Your Newsle digests are full of news that you can mention in the beginning of your next email.
But the biggest reason PR pros should use Newsle is kind of hidden in your account settings: That’s right. When journalists you know write new articles, you can be notified.
You should always read the work of people whose work you want to sell. If you know about their work, you can write a better pitch. Plus, telling them how much you liked their last piece won’t hurt their pride. But if you want to keep track of journalists from different beats, niches, and places, you need the organisation that an email digest gives you.
How many PR pros start their day with a cup of coffee and a full RSS reader? Likely, there are too many to count.
But you need to know everything about your niches. You need to read the important publications to know what’s going on in your industry and the industries of your clients. You need to know what certain reporters are writing about. You need to know what your client’s rivals are doing. PR requires a lot of reading and research.
Keep it all in a neat and organised Feedly account so you can keep track of it all. I thought for 30 seconds about how a public relations firm might want to set up their Feedly account and came up with a few ideas:
- Make a folder for each client that is unique. Keep all RSS feeds for that client in the folder. This includes the client’s own blog, competitors’ blogs, industry magazines, and the RSS feeds of reporters you’ve worked with for that client.
- Make a folder for each niche. This might be the easiest if you have a lot of clients in the same field. Sort your RSS subscriptions by general niche. This way, you won’t have the same website in the folders of three different clients.
- Folder feeds are organized by what they are used for. You have signed up for industry magazines, blogs from clients, and individual feeds. This folder method is best if you want to quickly catch up on all of your clients’ blogs at once.
4. Twitter lists
Twitter needs a lot more focus. They are by far the best way for me to organise my own professional network. They’re a great way for PR pros to keep up with journalists.
Since they’ll share their new articles, you’ll be able to keep up with the work of any journalist. But unless their account is just about them, you’ll also learn other things. People are journalists, too. They will also tweet about things that interest them outside of work. React and reply to them on Twitter to get along with them. You can also use those conversations to add a personal touch to future pitches.
Use a bulk editor like TwitListManager or just Twitter.com to make Twitter lists for your business. You can make it easy to follow the lists you’ve made by adding them to the dashboard of your Hootsuite or TweetDeck account.
The tools listed above help you keep in touch with journalists you already know. But what about looking for new chances?
There may be times when none of your contacts are a good fit for the story you want to pitch. Even if this doesn’t happen, what PR professional wouldn’t want more contacts with the press? If you have more contacts, your clients will get more coverage or better coverage.
You can set up Mention alerts to find out when new publications and journalists write about the niches your clients are in.
Make an alert that uses the client’s region or location as a keyword for clients who care about local coverage. This will tell you what local publications are out there and who writes for them.
Create alerts to keep an eye on topics that describe your client’s business to find publications in their niche. I would keep an eye on things like “media monitoring tool” and “social media listening” for Mention. This would show us who is talking about our competitors and other businesses like them.
Mark as a favourite any new mention of your client that comes from a publication or reporter who might be interested in them. Then, once a week or once a month, go through the favourites and reach out to the people who wrote them to build a relationship.