How can I find relevant journalists to share company news with?
Our last Startup School post explained the kinds of information that you might want to share with a journalist. Once you’ve decided to share something, you’ll need to find a relevant journalist who might publish or broadcast it.
There’s no point sending your news to everybody. That would take a lot of time and, as we’ve described in Who are the traditional media? and Who are the new media?, different journalists focus on different topics. It’s important to target the right people.
There are different ways to find relevant journalists to share your company news with. Some are quick, while some take longer and achieve different results. We’ve described five of the most common methods here.
The good old contact page
The media are in the business of information. They want your news (as long as it’s relevant!) That’s why many of their websites have contact pages that provide means of contacting their journalists. You can usually find these in the website’s toolbar, but a quick Google search usually works too.
Sometimes these pages use simple web forms. Some provide generic email addresses that direct your messages to shared or multiple inboxes relevant to specific departments. Some provide phone numbers. Here are a few examples (you might have to scroll past customer service contact details):
These methods of contact are quick because they require minimal research to find. Often, an organisation has provided them because it wants you to use those specific channels. If you have a bit more time though, we suggest trying one of the other methods we describe below. Using generic contact methods can make it more difficult to develop relationships with specific journalists, which would otherwise help you in the long term.
Scroll the masthead
A ‘masthead’ is a list of editorial employees working at a specific organisation, including their roles, which makes it look a little like the mast of a ship. Some organisations choose not to provide a contact page, but most will provide a masthead.
You can use the masthead to find someone relevant to the information you want to share. For example, you might find the name of the technology editor on the masthead of a national newspaper. Try to choose someone as specific to your story as possible.
Most mastheads do not provide contact details. But once you have a name, you can use social media to find their accounts, which often include contact details (usually in the ‘bio’ section.) There are other tools like RocketReach that will help you find someone’s email address as a last resort. These tools are almost always paid, but usually offer a free trial.
Read, watch, or listen
One of the most effective ways to find relevant journalists to share your news with is to read, watch, or listen to their content. You can then note the names of the journalists involved when you find something similar to the information you want to share. Names for TV journalists can be found in the credits at the end of each episode.
This does take longer than the previous two methods, so we would recommend doing this when you have a bit more time and for more important stories. Doing so will help you find the most relevant journalist for your story because you’ll learn the other types of news that they cover.
You can even use this research as a ‘hook’ when you contact them. You can say: “I read your article about X this week…” Journalists sometimes appreciate this extra effort you’ve made. The same goes for the reverse; it frustrates journalists who receive information that is irrelevant to them.
Once you’ve discovered relevant journalists, use the methods we’ve described in the previous two points to find their contact details.
The future of Twitter is, as we write this, in doubt after Elon Musk’s takeover. But it remains the principal platform that journalists use around the world.
If you don’t already use Twitter, it’s worth setting up an account and following a few journalists who cover topics relevant to your company. You can often find these journalists in ‘lists’ that other people have set up. Reading their tweets will tell you more about their interests. An especially relevant tweet might even offer a route into a conversation with them. Some journalists will even request sources to interview in tweets too, so it’s worth looking out for those.
Finding relevant journalists to share information is not always the simplest task, as we’ve shown. If you hire a good PR agency, its employees will already know all the journalists relevant to your company. Great agencies will have already developed strong relationships with them.
If you’re not ready for an agency yet, there are some tools that you can use to find relevant journalists to share your news with. Response Source is one example. Gorkana is another. These tools essentially work as searchable databases. They can prove expensive though and, if your company’s PR budget is small, we suggest using the previous methods we’ve described above. For a startup, they’ll help you find all the information you need to start sharing news with the media.