ONLINE PR – THEORY AND PRACTICE, PART FOUR by Richard Hoy

Print Friendly

Well, after a few weeks of delay, I’m finally able to bring you the last in my series of articles about online PR. If you forgot parts one through three, you and refresh your memory by going here:

ONLINE PR – THEORY AND PRACTICE, PART ONE – 07/25/01

ONLINE PR – THEORY AND PRACTICE, PART TWO – 08/01/01

ONLINE PR – THEORY AND PRACTICE, PART THREE – 08/08/01

In part four, we’ll talk about setting up a PR program. In particular, how to build a database of media contacts.

Let me start by telling you a story…

When I started my career in public relations 10 years ago, I was an editorial assistant – the lowest person on the totem pole. One of my many pedestrian duties was to collect and organize contact information for reporters.

This process was actually quite important because through it we built a database of reporters who could be interested in the news our press office distributed. And that is important because the biggest complaint journalists have of PR people is that they send them news about subjects they simply don’t cover. It just wastes everyone’s time and angers the journalist, who will then completely shut out anything you say to him or her in the future.

So the first step in any serious PR program is to have a process for building and organizing profiles of reporters who might be interested in your news. The key to this is to quantify the kind of news a particular reporter covers for a particular media outlet. Then you only send that reporter news which matches what they typically cover.

In traditional PR, building a database containing what reporters cover was a gargantuan task. It required you finding paper copies of stories. But with the advent of the Internet, it has become much easier because I can, in many cases, search archives of a publication right online.

For example, if I go to News.com and enter “Brian Livingston,” a reporter who writes a weekly consumer advocacy column for that publication, I get every article he’s written since March of 2000. By doing this I can build a profile of the type of news Brian covers and then make sure any news I might send him fits that profile.

I can not only do this with a reporter’s name, but with a keyword as well. Type in “Windows 98” and you’ll get all the articles containing that phrase. Look at the bylines and context of the phrase in the article and you can get a good picture of which reporters cover that topic.

So finding who writes about what online is pretty straightforward. But now I’m going to hopefully broaden your definition of what a “journalist” is.

The whole reason that the field of media relations – i.e. dealing with reporters – came about in Public Relations was because journalist have influence over a large segment of the public (their readers). A favorable mention in a story by a few high-profile reporters can reach far more people than the PR person could reach on his or her own. This is still pretty much the case today, but the Internet is adding a whole new dynamic that is able to circumvent the power traditional media has to influence the public.

A simple example of this would be this very publication you are reading – WritersWeekly.com. I can guarantee you that few traditional media – or some publications that catalogue the media – have ever heard of us. Yet we reach 56,000 writers on a weekly basis.

Such scales of influence are common online, you just have to think outside of the box of what a media outlet is traditionally defined as. In addition to email newsletters, you have discussion lists, web sites and message boards that are read by the public.

So when you are collecting data for your media database, don’t just think about Time Magazine or your local television station. Think about who controls the email newsletters, discussion lists, web sites and message boards you might want to be on, too.

Next time I’ll talk about how to construct the message and send it out to the right media outlets.

Type at you then!

Richard Hoy is the co-owner of Booklocker.com, the most author-friendly epublisher online offering up to 70% royalties on ebooks, 35% royalties on print on demand books (the highest in the industry), and non-exclusive contracts. Booklocker.com strives to help authors make money by combining epublishing with Internet marketing.