Wednesday, August 19, 2009

R.I.F. to Success in Media Relations

Since starting my career in tech PR in 1999, I have created my share of media lists. Back then I used the big green books from Bacon’s (now Cision) or the Yellow Book. In addition to my media list duties, I did media monitoring. Media monitoring required me to read actual clippings that arrived in the mail from Burrelles or Luce, which ironically is now one big happy family operating as BurrellesLuce.

As I moved up the ranks in the agency, I realized that all the reading created some pretty good habits and knowledge. I learned everything about my client’s competitors - from the names and features of its products to the customers they recently signed. Equally important, I had a good handle on which reporters were covering various beats and which analysts were often quoted in their articles. In media relations, that information is golden, if used properly.

Today, it seems like reading has been replaced with a type-and-click methodology. It is very common for agencies to supply their account teams with access to media databases from Vocus and Cision. Both companies boast robust media information and accurate research. If you have used Vocus or Cision, you know how fast you can type in a few words, click and then get a media list with reporter names, outlets, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. With the type-and-click method, it is possible that you will get Joe the Reporter from Food Network Magazine that covers new oven technology. That’s not exactly the person I want to speak to if my client roster is comprised of companies selling mobile technology to the government.

I wanted to get other perspectives. So I went on Twitter and asked, “If you are using #Vocus or #Cision or one of the others send me your thoughts on which is worse.” I got many responses, but one from @PerfectPitchPR stood out. @PerfectPitchPR uses both databases and noted, “Searching is better in Cision for me, and think they have more niche pubs (had to import alot). Distrib. is GREAT in Vocus.”

Personally, I would not blindly distribute anything in Vocus or Cision. The problem with Vocus and Cision is that unless you actually read the profiles that it spits out, you may be running around with an awful list. Actually, I’m willing to bet that your list is 85 percent off. I think Cision and Vocus should carry some of the blame for the reporter angst we often read about – the reporters who cover Windows that get pitches about the iPhone.

My tweet sparked conversations with reps from Cision and Vocus. I’ll fill you in on our discussions in my next post. Cision and Vocus will get you to a starting point, but it won’t get you through the finish line. Overall, there was agreement on my premise - Reading is Fundamental to success in media relations.

1 comment:

  1. A couple of points that I think might also be interesting to your readers:

    1) When creating a new list in Vocus and Cision, once the list is generated, you can then review the contact profiles to determine if you want to include those contacts in your final list. For example, Vocus shows you stories that media contacts have recently worked on, as well as their background, from their education to prior positions.

    2) Vocus and Cision are no longer simply tools to create media lists. Both have evolved greatly giving communicators the flexibility and capability to both manage media lists and also manage entire campaigns. For example, you can store notes about your conversations with each media contact you've pitched, manage clips that have resulted from your efforts and now you can even monitor social media. You can also access and download data that makes client billing and client reporting more efficient, including pie charts illustrating activity.

    3) Lastly, Vocus is a great tool for distribution in that it lets you easily distribute HTML releases (you can include links, photos, charts etc.), and it lends itself more easily to social media release formatting. It's very much like using a program like Constant Contact, but tailored for the PR industry.

    Good luck with your series of blogs on this topic. We look forward to your perspective.

    Best regards, @perfectpitchpr