Building a social media list starts with using the right tools

For years, PR professionals have relied on a variety of helpful tools to build media lists for clients. The coveted list, then, consists of traditional print editors and reporters, to whom the diligent PR pro will send press releases and pitches, hoping the process will result in great coverage for the client.

Enter online publications, eZines, eNewsletters and blogs. The content is changing, and so must the “media list.” It’s time to expand the toolbox.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to think about stocking your toolbox with these basic tools:

RSS feeds of online publications and blogs.

The vast majority of print publications are publishing some sort of online content. Take a look at how online versions differs from print, and see who is responsible for the content. If they have a blog, subscribe to the RSS feed and read it often.

Media coverage alerts.

PR pros are notorious for tracking down every last bit of media coverage that mentions their client, but how actively are you monitoring mentions of your clients’ competition or the industry as a whole? There are so many free tools that make this process very simple – there’s really no good reason not to use them. For starters, set up keywords in Google Alerts and TweetBeep. If you’re looking for more options, subscription-based services like Radian 6, or if you’re a customer of Vocus, Cision or PRNewswire, check out options for adding online keywords to your current monitoring subscriptions.

Twitter.

If you got an invitation to join hundreds of reporters and editors at a big dinner party, with the promise that you could have some one-on-one face time with whomever you choose, would you accept? If so, tell me you’re on Twitter, right? Now, I’m not saying to use Twitter as a delivery mechanism for your press releases or pitches (maybe I’ll cover that in a future post) but Twitter can be very valuable tool for getting to know the reporters you may want to pitch. You’ll soon find that you’re saying to yourself things like, “Wow, Joe’s getting on a plane for China this week; probably not a good time to give him a call.” Or, “I didn’t know Jane also blogged about knitting! I should see if she’d be interested in talking with my client who is launching a Web site with pattern downloads.” Heck, like at a dinner party, you may find yourself in conversation with a reporter about family, industry trends, or personal pet peeves – it’s all about building the relationship. And, the next time Jane is writing about your client’s gadgets, she’s going to remember you.

How do you find these folks on Twitter, you ask? First, take a look at existing compilations. Whether you want to admit it or not, social media has been around for a while, and some generous pros like Sara Evans (@PRsarahevans) have started the work for us. Check out her MediaOnTwitter wikki.

Social media networks.

Profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn also may lend helpful glimpses into an editor or reporter’s interests and preferences, and if they have open security settings, go ahead and take a look, but I don’t suggest “friending” or “linking” unless you’ve really built a strong relationship.

After immersing yourself in all of this online content for a while, narrow down the key players. Attempting to reach everyone online could very well drive you insane. Identify the blogs that generate fresh content, have a dedicated readership or that spark insightful comments (these posts often become story leads for traditional journalists). Make a note of the Web sites that accept submissions, guest blog posts or bylined articles. Keep track or your interactions on Twitter and the bloggers/reporters who seem most approachable and interested in your subject matter.

Now, you’ll want to add some names to your media list. Check to make sure your database is ready for new media contacts. For instance, is your intern still tracking down mailing addresses and fax numbers? When’s the last time you mailed or faxed anything? Consider updating your fields to contain things like twitter ID, blog URL, LinkedIn Profile, Faceook URL, etc.

So – open up the toolbox, toss out anything that’s broken, adjust those that need a tweek, and start stocking up on some of these tools!

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