Friday, August 21, 2009

R.I.F. to Success in Media Relations – Part Deux

My blog post earlier this week addressed the importance of reading to be successful in media relations. I talked about how Vocus and Cision only get you so far in your goal to secure coverage. Today’s post will be an ode to Research.

You may be wondering what does research have to do with Vocus and Cision?

Well, consider this – Vocus and Cision sell its database products based on the idea that PR agencies will enjoy unbridled access to complete research on all of the various reporters and editors covering any number of topics. Personally, I don’t know how Vocus and Cision can keep up with the myriad staff changes in multiple industries. But they try.

Here’s a scenario: You are meeting with a new client and reviewing a media list hot off the press – fresh from your Vocus database. Your client, the SVP of Public Relations for a global enterprise software company points out that your list contains the New York Times reporter covering Google. You acknowledge the mistake and think to yourself that the account coordinator just didn’t know how to put in the correct terms to get the correct information. After the meeting you check Vocus for yourself and can’t find
Vindu Goel in the database!

For the record, Vindu Goel is in the Vocus database with an expansive pitching profile, this is just a hypothetical example to make a point.

If you have experienced this frustration, you know that Vocus and Cision will only get you so far. You have to train your teams to do research.

Frank Strong, director of public relations for Vocus, agrees. “You have to understand who covers your area. Technology only gets you to a point.”

Heidi Sullivan, director of media research for Cision said, “We give you the starting point… great PR people do research.”

I think that unless you’ve worked in a PR firm and understand how the business is run and the unique needs of various clients, you can’t possibly create a product that is the “be all, end all” to help me everyday. I’m not bashing all databases. Different agencies or in-house teams have found a great use for them. In a previous life, I was a fan of Bacon’s MediaSource. Although, I have to admit that I was on the phone with the research team at least weekly to correct errors in the database.

There is a new kid on the block in ITDatabase. Former tech PR industry veteran, Travis Van, founded this service that is only focused on the technology sector. Just hearing that makes a lot of sense. If you are focused on tech PR, why buy a database from a company that tries to be everything to everyone? Because ITDatabase focuses only on the tech sector, you can place a stronger reliance on the quality of its research. Connect2 Communications does not use ITDatabase, but several of my colleagues and I have evaluated it extensively. It contains a lot of the same research that we already have in our lists so I trust it.

Our clients appreciate the time we take to read everyday and our research matches up with all of the industry changes. Because of this, we have been able to build media relationships which are critical to our success.

By taking the time to read and do some research in equal measure, you too will be successful in media relations.


  1. Carmen- thanks for taking a look at ITDatabase. And to expand a bit on your point about "taking the time to read and do reesearch" - the benefits of doing so goes way beyond just getting publicity.

    As you know, the tech industry in particuarly is incredibly fast-moving. New technologies, new standards, new start-ups / competitors - these are commonplace events. If a tech PR or marketing person isn't actively *reading* content (and not just mining dbs for contacts for their next announcement), they are missing the clues they need to evolve as a professional in the industry.

    One of the big problems with databases that are more focused on mass transmission and shortcut snippets about authors is that they do NOT direct the user to be in close contact with the author's content. They are designed to have appeal to the broadest range of industries, and therefore do not track any single industry with any degree of depth.

    The bottom line - no matter what industry you are in, tech or otherwise - is that an author's CONTENT constitutes the most important data that you can possibly leverage to understand their preferences and interests. Any tech marketing or PR pro's selection of tools to help them get results and evolve as a professional should first and foremost be based on the solution that brings author content into the clearest view for their respective industry. The smartest tech PR and marketing folks are the ones that have the strongest appetite for reading / analyzing tech content, without exception.

  2. Hi Carmen,

    You make some good points and as PR professional, I agree whole heartedly.

    It’s a pretty safe bet to say journalists take good notes on when they source people and PR pros ought to do the same. What I mean to underscore here is the importance of documenting your interactions and research with media contacts: note their preferences, include links to recent coverage and summarize conversations you have with a given reporter.

    In other words, I am suggesting that Vocus is far more than a mere database – it’s a relationship building tool like a CRM. Whether a PR pro chooses to do that in Vocus, a competitive product or in MS Excel – it’s the process of being disciplined and diligent enough to document your interactions that’s key.

    In doing so, over time you’ll develop a very keen insight into a reporter’s coverage; your pitches will be become more useful and relevant -- and as a consequence, your relationship will grow.

    Kind Regards,

    Frank Strong
    Director of Public Relations