Mixing Data with Human Interaction Can Maximize Media Relations

As we know, building relationships with media is a pillar of PR and media relations. Conventional wisdom says relationships are based on human interaction. Indeed, from networking to phone calls, interpersonal communication seems the foundation of media relations.

So, is there room for data-driven methodology in a process deeply rooted in human connection?

Yes, at all levels.

Whom to pitch?

Veteran PR pros usually work with a target list of preferred reporters and publications they pitch. However, let's say you're pitching in a new market, one you don’t know well.

Similarly, assume an assignment calls for growing your media list with relevant contacts and outlets.

A usual first step is locating reporters and outlets via a media directory–but you might find thousands of names and potentially outdated information.

An alternative is employing social listening tools, such as Brandwatch, Talkwalker and many more. These platforms help extract and analyze crucial data from media conversations over a given period.

Such tools use Boolean operators to inform search results. In general, they're user-friendly.

Moreover, they can organize search results in numerous ways, depending on what you need. From arranging articles in order of engagement received to volume-over-time graphs that show patterns of topic volume/engagement.

In addition, you'll soon realize which listening tools work best for you, based on how they organize and display data.

What/who gets tracked?

Social listening can track topics of interest in social and traditional media. Tools also can determine whether mentions or articles are positive or negative and assign them a sentiment score.

By identifying reporters and outlets speaking positively about a topic or a company, you’ll not only have an idea of their viewpoint and beat, but some of the topics they cover.

Knowing coverage sentiment and engagement will help you identify pitch-worthy media. Typically you'll pick those with a history of covering a desired topic and who likely will continue doing so.

Targeted media

Tools also can help determine influential media in a topic area unfamiliar to you. For example, they can track news articles and social posts that are gaining engagement with your target audience.

Assume your company seeks attention from HR managers. As such, tools can monitor topics that interest HR managers. In addition, tools will locate media covering these topics and discussing them on social.  Those outlets and reporters are natural additions for your pitch list.

For local pitching, social listening tools can help compare media conversations by region. This allows pitches tailored for location-specific reporters

What to pitch?

Tracking heavily engaged conversations can inform how you pitch. Say your company is in the climate-action space and seeks coverage for its environmental efforts. As you tailor your pitch, social listening tools can track hot climate topics (pun not intended) that media is covering.

For instance, let's say COP26 is the climate topic du jour. As such, media may be inclined to cover topics highlighted during COP26. By analyzing the metrics around the media conversation, you’re able to hone your pitch to cover timelier elements of the climate-change conversation.

Conversely, if the media is oversaturated with COP26 conversations, social listening tools can spot up-and-coming climate topics for pitching. Based on the type of data organization/visualization offerings of each tool, they can track developing themes, patterns, peaks and falls in the climate conversation.

In sum

For media relations pros, hours of calling/emailing reporters seems an inevitable rite of passage to reach just one almighty TV spot or print mention. Indeed, there's no media relations' silver bullet.

On the other hand, adding the magic of metrics can help streamline pitching without compromising on the goal of getting media coverage.

Tanika Pradhan is a senior account executive at ROKK Solutions