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Why it’s important to research journalists and media outlets before pitching

By David Beesley

Good media research improves your knowledge and develops your experience

We’ve said it before - Pitching to journalists is a skill that takes time to hone and perfect. What we mean by this is that you need to spend the time to be targeted and precise, understand the relevancy of your pitch and have a solid understanding of both the story and why it should be of interest to the target journalists. 

You can only do this if you do your research. At ITPR, we understand that the foundation of a successful pitch begins long before any emails are sent or phone calls are made. It starts with researching journalists, the titles they write for, what they write about, and what is being discussed. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to doing this research. Fear not, however, we are happy to share a few tips to help you do your research correctly. 

Why researching journalists and the media matters

It builds relationships: Researching journalists allows you to understand their interests, beats, and past work which you can apply to your pitch and tailor it. This approach has more chance of resonating with a journalist and demonstrates that you’ve put the effort in, increasing the chances of your story being picked up.

You make sure you’re relevant: All journalists will tell you that they receive hundreds of pitches and whilst most might read them all, very few will respond to them all. A well-researched pitch that has relevance to their beats/ interests will stand out. Knowing what they typically cover and presenting them with a relevant story idea will make you stand out. 

It increases your own credibility (& knowledge): If you can demonstrate that you've done your homework, taken your time and thought about your pitch then it shows journalists that you respect their work and time. This will boost your credibility and even if the pitch isn’t right for them or the timing isn’t right, it will still make them more likely to consider your pitches in the future.

So that’s why researching the media is so important. What are you waiting for? Get to it! Here are some tips to make it easier to do your research. 

1. Start with a media database

Media databases like Cision, Meltwater, Muck Rack, Roxhill (the list goes on) are a great place to start, after all, these providers have teams of researchers dedicated to doing the same research you’re doing. They should also show you any recent articles journalists have written, their social media handles and contact information. These are good tools to quickly build a list of journalists and to start understanding who you should be targeting. 

2. Follow journalists on social media

Social media like Twitter/X and LinkedIn are goldmines for understanding journalists' interests and what projects they are working on. They often share their work so following them allows you to see what topics they are passionate about and engage with their content. But don’t just like a few posts and then message a pitch to them. Put the leg work in. 

3. Make time each day/ week to read the publications

Before pitching to a journalist, take the time to read recent articles and the publications they write for. Look for themes in the stories they cover and think about whether they match those of your clients. This will help you frame a story idea in a way that has more relevance and therefore is likely to interest them/ their audience. 

4. Segment your target audience

Much like marketing, sales or any customer engagement, you need to segment your audience. Segment your list of target journalists using criteria like industry, topics, beats, what they write (i.e. news or features) and relevance to your client. This allows for more targeted outreach and therefore more effective media engagement. 

5. Don’t just rely on media databases

Yes, a media database is a good place to start, but it is then your responsibility to make sure that you keep your media list up to date. Journalists move around and/or cover multiple beats and/or write for multiple publications. Keeping your list up to date ensures that you are pitching to the right people at the right time.

Researching journalists will make your job easier

Researching journalists and media outlets is not just a low-level admin task for juniors; it is the cornerstone of an effective media engagement strategy. By investing time in understanding the media you not only enhance the relevance, precision, and impact of your pitches, but you also build up your knowledge of the industry, hot topics and what resonates. This can then be used to pitch story ideas to your clients! Get them to talk about the issues being written about in the press and you’ll uncover some gold content!  

At ITPR, we believe that good media research transforms our media outreach campaigns, which leads to better relationships with the press and clients because we understand each of their different media sectors. 

It might take time, but it’s worth the effort in the long run.

Tags: News, PR, Digital PR, ITPR