Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Public Relations Basics: Keep Your List Of Press Contacts Updated

A few years ago, Wired magazine editor-in-chief caused a
ruckus when he announced he was banning public relations
consultants from his email inbox. "I get more than 300
emails a day and my problem isn't spam, it's PR people,"
Anderson wrote. "Lazy flacks send press releases to the
Editor in Chief of Wired because they can't be bothered to
find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be
interested in what they're pitching." And that was only the
start of Anderson's tirade against public relations
professionals who keep sloppy, out-of-date lists of press

"So fair warning: I only want two kinds of email: those from
people I know, and those from people who have taken the time
to find out what I'm interested in and composed a note meant
to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that's why
my email address is public). Everything else gets banned on
first abuse."

Anderson went on to provide his readers with a list of
dozens of email addresses that he had banned. Among the
banned are public relations representatives from Edelman,
PBS affiliate WNET New York, Cisco Systems, Weber Shandwick,
and Sony. The comments section on Anderson's post then
exploded. Some people cheered him on, others said he acted
immaturely by posting the email addresses, which can easily
be harvested by spambots.

The moral of the story is a simple one: Keep your list of
press contacts updated and targeted. The question is, how do
you go about it?

1.) Target Journalists with Press Releases

Press release services such as -- the publisher
of PR Fuel -- don't just distribute press releases, they
target journalists who have signed up to receive content
related to specific topics. This is the easiest way to reach
the right press contacts because the journalists actually
opted to receive your release.

2.) Subscribe to a Media Database

Companies sell access to a database of journalists. Though
these products can be pricey for small public relations
shops, one-person organizations, or small businesses, you
get your money's worth because the database of press
contacts is constantly updated. This is important because
journalists often change beats, jobs, and contact

3.) Do-It-Yourself

The DIY approach is the most time-consuming way of keeping
track of your press contacts, but also the cheapest. I've
maintained my list of press contacts for years simply by
visiting the web sites of potentially beneficial media
outlets and then poking around to find the right contact. I
also utilize a Google News search on specific topics. When
one of those topics shows up in Google's search, I get an
email from Google with links to the story. I then add the
journalist to my media list if s/he fits the target profile.

A few years ago, my company sprang for option No. 2, the
media database. It was not cheap, but it was a nice way to
build an initial list of press contacts. We only used the
product for a year, then maintained the list manually. We
also use targeted press release distribution to ensure that
our press releases are getting into the hands of journalists
who actually want them. A combination of options No. 1 and
No. 3 is what I suggest for anyone on a budget.

Why is it important to regularly update your list of press
contacts? Well, you don't want to alienate or annoy
journalists -- or editors like Mr. Anderson -- by bombarding
them with spam press releases. You also want to ensure that
your message is getting through to the people that matter.
An outdated list of press contacts is not going to bring you
the returns you want.

As for Anderson, he should make sure his own public
relations department heeds his advice. When I was a
journalist, I received plenty of random email pitches from
the firm that represented Wired Magazine. I never
complained, just deleted the emails. (For the record: I did
bite on one pitch from Wired's public relations firm, mostly
because my editor made me.)

Anderson should also push his peers in the media to make it
easier for public relations consultants to contact
journalists. Many media web sites do not provide easily
accessible contact information for their writers. If the
information is there, readers are often in the dark about
exactly what beat the journalist covers. This is the perfect
time for public relations pros to update their list of press
contacts, and for media outlets to update their contact

Squirrels and salamanders,

Mickie Kennedy
CEO, &

Toll Free: 800.990.5545
Phone: 410.931.2966