How to Research the Reporters You Want to Pitch

When it comes to pitching reporters, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

While Twitter and contacts saved to your phone replace Rolodexes, much of the work to land impactful placements remains developing solid relationships with reporters. Software offerings can give you a list of potential media contacts in a few minutes, but seasoned pros still caution against blasting reporters with generic emails.

Yet the fact is, these services aren’t perfect, which is why Glassdoor’s senior director of corporate communications, Scott Dobroski, turns to Twitter and LinkedIn for the most up-to-date information. Reporters can update their coverage areas in real-time, not to mention that social media tends to offer an insight into their beats and interests.

“PR people need to be hyperaware and super sensitive to reporter relevancy,” Dobroski said. “There are a number of great software services out there to help build and find the right reporters, but a PR pro should never rely 100 percent on the software.”

While the traditional media list may be a good place to start, Meredith Klein, director of PR for, prefers what she calls “relationship lists.” She's used them throughout her nearly 15 years in PR, keeping them meticulously updated to cover verticals like business, retail, tech, startup, health, mommy bloggers and more.

Social media is a powerful tool for building the kind of relationships that belong on such a lucrative list. For Lana Petruzzo, senior manager of global corporate communications at Hilton, social online interactions can even lead to better pitches.

“Having a good relationship on social and being able to respond and engage with their posts and even reference their work is important,” she said. “It’s definitely good to have a tie to something that’s relevant and timely when you’re pitching.”

She addd that every communicator should be thinking of their lists as living documents.

Both Dobroski and Klein also put an emphasis on not only finding applicable publications, but making sure there’s an in-depth understanding of its style and offerings. At Glassdoor, Dobroski’s team tries to get their lists of media outlets up-to-date, then uses the pitching process to refine Glassdoor's reporter lists.

“What you do want to get 100 percent accurate is your list of media outlets that you want to tackle," he said, "and as you go through your pitching process, you can then check for relevancy.”

Klein specifically visits websites that she’s researching in order to get an understanding of the outlet's reach, site experience, the format of articles and consistency of articles. Only after that does she work on finding who writes the type of article she wants to place.

“I’m much more apt to say, 'Here are ten outlets that I think would be perfect for my pitch,' then focus on format, cadence and the consistency of the reporter writing them,” Klein said.

But there’s another technology that can help make sure your pitch gets seen by the right journalist -- and it’s something that’s become an essential part of every communications effort: analytics.

“Analytics people need to be your best friend,” Klein said.

Petruzzo’s strategy with Hilton can change after researching a publication’s target audience. Are the majority of readers coming from social and quick notifications, or are they going onto the site and reading the whole article? The data will affect the pitch.

“Those types of data points are really interesting,” she said. “Especially with new publications and you’re trying to figure out if it’s the right fit for your campaign.”

Legacy media outlets may carry a lot of clout—everyone loves a placement in a big magazine—but if that’s not where your audience is, you’re better off pitching somewhere else.

“If your customer isn't reading the WSJ for their news, it's a nice article but not one that will foster awareness of your efforts, drive sales for your products or move the needle for your bottom line,” Klein said.

Though it may seem like PR 101, Dobroski says, “we all have to admit that we fall into the trap where we can do better in this area.” By researching smarter, not harder, PR pros can make sure their pitches get in front of the right set of eyeballs.

Learn more pitching pr tips  at our Media Relations Conference, Dec 12-13 in Washington, D.C.