Public Relations 2.021 — Part Two of a Three-Part Series

By Kelly Crane Winkler, PR Director at Alpha Dog Advertising


Let’s get ready to pitch. Yes, you are still getting ready. In part II of this series, we will cover:

You’re Only as Good as Your List: How to Build a Targeted Media List
Connecting the Dots: What the Editor Wants, You Have
How You Pitch Depends on What You Pitch
The Editor’s Reaction: Are You Ready to Deliver?

Part I talked about the industry tools — most importantly, your media monitoring software. This tool is key to understanding the media, building on media relationships, and forging new ones. Part I also covered the people and influencers to whom you’re pitching, and the anatomy of the editorial staff, as well as a pitch format that the media seems to prefer. (If you want to catch up, check out part I of the series here.)

A good PR person is a master at building positive symbiotic business arrangements. Editors want news, innovations, an unusual approach to an age-old problem. The PR rep is looking for editorial placement — third-party editorial endorsement.

It’s high-end bartering, really; no physical dollars exchange hands. “I have something I think you’ll like — content for your next piece; you have something I need — a platform where my clients live. The same platform where your clients live. Let’s get together on this.” And there starts the relationship. Now, deliver what you promise and build those relationships with trust.



Part II

You’re Only as Good as Your List: How to Build a Targeted Media List

In part I of this series, we talked about the investment PR firms make with media monitoring software. Let’s liken this to pouring your PR foundation from which to work and build. Having your resources in place is one thing; how you manage them is quite another. 


How Do You Determine Your Target Media List?

Take a deep dive into the industry. Gather up the printed publications and earmark the digital websites that cater to your client’s audience.

If you are starting from scratch, use your media monitoring software to search by industry, topic, content, or influencer to narrow down your potential target media outlets. Be sure your spreadsheet parses out consumer-focused or B2B/trade-focused (does your client sell to consumers or to other businesses in their trade?). Does your client sell their goods and services nationally, or do they cater to a specific region? You can now start to break down your “master consumer” and “master B2B/trade” lists by region.


How Many Target Media Lists Should You Have?

As many as matters. Let’s say your client provides expert timber framing for residential and commercial projects. They sell both to the consumer looking for a timber frame home and to architects and general contractors who are looking for expert timber framers. This client starts with two media lists: a consumer list and a B2B/trade list.

So that’s two “master” lists. Your PR strategy will include fine-tuning and customizing those lists for each project. Example: Your client manufactures building products and has a specialized product line for healthcare facilities. When pitching the healthcare capability or line of products, you will pull additional media outlets to send releases and pitch to — in this case, healthcare-oriented target media.

Start with a master list, and create targeted custom lists based on your content.

A good PR person will know if a media target is healthy and worth pursuing. A great PR person will be able to explain why and provide three more media channels they are keeping their eye on.


Be a Responsible List Keeper

In PR, the saying goes “You are only as good as your list.” Your list includes your personal editorial relationships as well as the contacts you pull from your media database. Please, though, pay close attention to privacy laws and consult your lawyer regarding list usage, as each person on your email list must have opted in to receive your emails. You’ll need to responsibly manage your list for the most successful results.

Quality wins over quantity here. Bear in mind, the goal is for your email to be opened. Hit the wrong target, and you’ll get an “unsubscribe.” Deliver to an address with a typo, and that will affect your overall open rate. Removing duplicate and invalid email addresses, checking for typos in the email addresses, and deleting emails from hard and soft bounces will keep your list clean. The cleaner the list, the more quality emails and potential engagement you will have. is an efficient and fast service for cleaning email lists.

Even with a clean, opted-in list, you’ll need to work on your engagement. An engaged list is a healthy list. Don’t forget the basics: concise and clever subject line, benefits and “why you should read on” listed front and center. And, if you’ve delivered in the past, and your email communications are approached responsibly and respectfully, your list will open your emails time and time again.

At Alpha Dog Advertising, we are proud to boast a 27.5% open rate, well above industry average. Clean, quality, targeted lists = better open rates, better outcomes — and editorial placements. Again, it’s a trust thing. People trust the communication they’re getting from Alpha Dog Advertising and believe it is worth checking it out.

The Media Kit ­

The media kit contains most of the information you need to know to build your target media list. You can learn a lot from comparing a media kit from the previous year with a media kit from a current year. (Tip: keep last year’s on file.)

As noted in part I of this blog series, the media kit is developed by both the advertising and the editorial departments, so expect to see the media outlet’s best examples, including their most popular covers and articles, and the testimonials that underscore the media outlet’s mission and vision.


Editorial Calendar

Review the editorial calendar in the media kit. Do the categories and features planned for the year align with your brand story? Does your product, service, or innovation fit in with a topic on the editor’s calendar for the year?


The Numbers

Does the outlet have a decent print circulation and digital reach? Is their audience demographic your customer prospects?


Media Channels

The media kit will include all the ways they reach their audience; you are now pitching to an omnichannel world (print, digital, social media, podcasts, webinars, and events — both those produced by the media outlet and by key industry events with which the media outlet partners).

Research all their media channels. Does the media outlet send e-newsletters? If so, what topics do they cover? Is your media outlet conducting podcasts and webinars where your expert would be a perfect contributor to a panel? Tip: If you are going for a specific channel, tailor your pitches to the specific channel format. Make it super easy for your editor to picture your content in that space.


Terminology and Imagery

The media kit is packed with industry terminology and the outlet’s prime photography/layout examples. If they are talking shop and have an appealing aesthetic in which your content would fit nicely, consider them a target.
Tip: Later, when pitching that outlet, refer to the industry terminology and present imagery and layout ideas that fit their art direction.


As said in part I, the media kit offers key information and understanding of what the media outlet stands for and what their editors deem most important or most influential to their audience. Publishers aim to post their media kits in the fall, when most brands are making media buying decisions for the following year. Collect these kits. File them. Have them on hand when you pitch.

Determining a target media list can be daunting. There are more media outlets and channels — and more content — to navigate today than ever before. Stick to twenty to thirty outlets to start. You cannot be the master of all, but you can be the master of some. Your goal is to know those twenty to thirty outlets inside and out by the year’s end, and the editors have you on their sources list, or, better yet, their speed dial (if that’s still a thing).


Target Media List Strategy

Here’s your focus — your target media lists — but do not affix the blinders just yet. While the target media is your focus, opportunities may present themselves in other ways. A consummate PR pro has their feelers out for new media and unique new-media opportunities.

If, as an AEC (architecture/engineer/contractor)-experienced PR professional, you had your eye on the skyrocketing popularity of Dezeen (launched 2006), you were getting in on the ground level and helping editors with fresh content for their new media venture. Symbiotic relationship? Indeed.


Connecting the Dots: What the Editor Wants, You Have

You have what the editor wants and is actively looking for. It couldn’t be easier, right? The editor needs news and you have it. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough to get you in the door. If it was that easy, well…you know where I’m going.


Get Clever. Get Earned Media.

Today, you must think outside of the box. Remember, you are thinking like an editor. The more clever, the better. Start connecting the dots.

Fun example: In the 1988 movie Working Girl  (warning: full-on ’80s hair and big-shoulder suits), Melanie Griffith’s character, Tess (a secretary), is accused of stealing a clever idea from her boss, Sigourney Weaver’s character, Katharine — an idea that’s led to a multimillion­-dollar contract that Tess has put together while her boss is away convalescing after a ski accident. In the final scenes, Katharine returns to take full credit for Tess’s idea.

The client is pulled into an empty elevator, and Tess gets her chance to explain how she connected the dots. She reveals how connecting a news item in a Forbes article, a New York Post Page 6 item, and a society page announcement that featured the client’s daughter’s charity event was the impetus of the deal. Clearly, Tess, who by the movie’s end moves into her own corner office, has been able to identify the salient points and pieces, associate the ideas with one another, and pitch a “big picture” deal.

Here’s a link to the scene from Working Girl (2:36 min.):

What’s my point? A great PR pro will know which dots are relevant and how to connect them. Stick to the benefits, results, and outcomes when framing your pitch, and explain how you’ve connected the dots. Get clever.


“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” Steve Jobs



How You Pitch Depends on What You Pitch

So, what are you pitching?


Pitching a Theme

If you are pitching a theme — a bigger idea that will require many sources and examples, say, a feature-length piece — having the ear of the editor-in-chief is best. Those features, while also pitched by the reporters, editors, and contributing editors that work for the media outlet, will be decided by the editor-in-chief and their deputy and executive editors. Be bold here. Go to the top.

If you are pitching a theme, include real sources that will enable the editor to tell the whole story, such as your case study that proves the points, hi-res imagery clearly labeled in a Dropbox, two or three additional (non-competing) sources that will help bring the narrative home. Include ideas for other sources and examples. That shows the editor you know what they are up against.

Furthermore, don’t drop your goods and run. Stay with the project and check in with the editor, and, by all means, if you find another source that may help illustrate your editor’s angle, send it off. It does not hurt to pitch your idea as another example; they may use it in a follow-up piece or a complementary article on their website, where there is more room for examples like yours.


Pitching a Product

These usually get small treatments online and in the printed book. Package your product into a concise and informative blurb of sixty to ninety words. Easier said than done. But here’s where one can start to exercise the elimination of those overused superlatives. (Puh-lease!)

Tip: Ask your client if you can be in the sales meeting where they are describing how to sell the product. You’ll get the salient points and key benefits to use in your blurb.

Look for media outlets that do product roundups and end-of-year “top products of the year” features and map out the issues and editorial due dates. Shame on you if you miss these opportunities — this is PR you can plan for (refer to the editorial calendars in your target media’s media kits).

Tip: Before you submit your product pitch, check out how your target media handles product descriptions and organize your information to fit the format.


Pitching a Project

These pitches should be crafted much like a case study: What was the challenge, how did your client overcome the challenge, and what were the favorable results? What aspect(s) of the project did your client have a hand in? Projects reveal the many layers and players involved, and this is a great way to showcase how your company works with other partners to achieve goals.

Storytelling in project pitches is key. Projects lend themselves to lots of parts and pieces. Look for the most interesting nuggets and plant them in your pitch.


And Now That You’ve Seen Our Projects…Pitching a Company, Holistically

Referring to Alpha Dog Advertising’s recent blog post “Are You Marketing Your Product — Or Your Category?”, your brand position should sit squarely in every pitch, every press release, and every public relations play.

When you think of coffee, does the Starbucks siren pop into your head first?

Let’s say your client is launching a new product. Are they known for developing new products in this category? Your primary lead for the release is about the key benefit of the new product, but a secondary, underlying angle should be why any product from your client’s company is worth taking a look at. You’re constantly positioning your client as the category leader.


The Editor’s Reaction: Are You Ready to Deliver?

You’ve just received an email from the editor you pitched last week, showcasing your client’s latest and greatest product (without using the words “latest” and “greatest”), and you’ve gotten a reply: “Yes, I’d like to learn more.”

Are you ready to deliver?

Your pitch got you in the door. Your product descriptions, case study, angles carefully crafted in bullets showcasing benefits, hi-res imagery, and additional sources, ideas, and contact information are due now. Right now. (Tip: At the time of the first pitch, tee up the “assets and deliverables” email so when you get the “Yes, send more info” reaction from the editor, you can quickly review your package and hit send.) Be thorough. Be quick. Be reliable. Your editor is on a deadline.



Hopefully, you’ve gathered a few tips herein that will help you with determining your media targets, keeping your eye on new media, connecting the industry dots to create editorial placement opportunities, and building a “trust is a must or your game is a bust” mentality in all your media relations.

In part III of “Public Relations 2.021 — A Three-part Series” we’ll cover how to write an effective press release and how the industry is reporting and measuring public relations ROI. We’ll also talk media road shows and let you know our thoughts on the future of the pitch, keeping in mind that how you influence today is very different than a decade ago.

Meanwhile, let this marinate: “Content builds relationships. Relationships build on trust. Trust drives revenue,” says Andrew Davis, marketing keynote speaker and author.

At Alpha Dog Advertising, we could not agree more.