10 tools to help PR pros research journalists

A strong media relations strategy starts with gathering applicable information and knowing the person to whom you’re pitching. These resources can help.

For better media relations, channel your inner detective.

It’s crucial to comb information and pinpoint the right reporter.

Use this guide to research journalists and understand their beats. Doing so will increase interest in your story, alert you to potential conflicts and identify traits that could help you forge a bond with a particular reporter.

1. Cision. The King Kong of media relations directories swells with 1.6 million media contacts (including 300,000 digital influencers) in its searchable database. The bulk of Cision’s data is provided by journalists themselves. You get the basics, such as the journalist’s name, email address, phone number, beat, pitching tips and preferred contact methods.

2. Muck Rack. Here’s a sample Muck Rack profile page on The Wall Street Journal, with clickable links to bios and recent articles published by WSJ staff.

3. LinkedIn. More than 80 percent of journalists boast a LinkedIn profile, offering background on the reporter’s career, educational background and awards. Even better, many journalists post a link to their personal websites, which might promote their freelance writing or a book they’ve published.

4. Twitter. A journalist’s bio often is more revealing than the official newsroom bio or Cision profile. Here’s senior Newsweek editor Ross Schneiderman’s Twitter profile: “Tracksuit enthusiast, Jiu-Jitsu novice and hot collector. Loves Philip Roth and Ghostface Killah. Formerly at WSJ, ESPN and NYT.”

5. Media Bistro. A resource more for writers than for PR pros, this New York-based web community offers portfolios for freelance journalists, along with in-depth interviews . If you’re a PR pro, do not miss MediaBistro’s free “Mastheads and Editorial Calendar” pages, which give one-click access to editorial calendars and lists of in-house reporters at magazines from Allure to Wired.

6. Response Source. Downsizing of newsrooms has led editors at national media outlets to assign more and more stories to freelancers, rather than to in-house staff. PR pros will find London-based Response Source helpful, with its profiles of 8,800 freelance writers.

7. Newsroom staff directories. Major media outlets, especially daily newspapers, post easy-to-navigate directories of staff, with surprisingly revealing bios. The Boston Globe’s health care writer Robert Weisman’s staff page, which includes a video interview with Weisman, his direct line and his most recent articles, so you can assess his interests and tone.

8. Media portfolio sites. Many journalists, especially freelancers, post biographical profiles and portfolios of their writing on directory sites like clippings.me. Here’s the clippings.me directory of business journalists. As was mentioned earlier, they maintain their own websites, such as those for Time’s executive deputy editor for health, Jeannie Kim, and the personal website for Time’s senior food and drink editor, Kat Kinsman.

9. NewsBios has 15,000 dossiers on journalists from “more than 60 sources of public information” and proprietary databases. This Denver-based service promises to reveal “personal and professional background information on each journalist that might influence the prism through which they view the world.” The data about journalists include family relationships, life experiences, hobbies, personal tastes, what their spouses do for a living, and “job-related events that are seldom, if ever, reflected in their authorized biographies.”

10. YouTube has 1.3 billion users in 88 countries watching 3.2 billion hours of monthly video content—and is a powerhouse journalist research tool.

Let us know your favorite tools for understanding the journalists you’re pitching.

Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee. A version of this post originally appeared on MaccaPR with Q&A from Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant and NewsBios founder Dean Rotbart.

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Topics: PR

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