5 Ways to Make your Media List the Best it can Be

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Photo courtesy of blogs.xerox.com.

One of my ongoing projects as an intern at The Abbi Agency so far has been cleaning up and updating their overall media list. Media lists are a common task for Public Relations interns, so this assignment was not a huge surprise to me.

But what was a surprise to me was how huge of a project it became. I am ending my fifth week as an intern and I am STILL working on cleaning up the media list (when I’m caught up on my other projects).

This task has taught me so much about how to keep a media list organized. Here are the top tips I have for anybody working on their own PR media list:

1. Contact people

In our digital age, we are fortunate enough to be able to find most information we could ever need online. Visiting newsroom and broadcast websites has helped me immensely to find contact information lists of each individual news contact. But there is a ton of important information that a news outlet’s website generally leaves out.

For instance, it is crucial for a PR company to know when story ideas are due so that they can pitch stories on time. It also is necessary to know how a person prefers to be contacted. To answer these questions, it is imperative to actually reach out and contact the different news people.

Picking up the phone is the best way to get answers quickly for a media list. However, I prefer email (because I usually get tongue-tied on the phone), which also works. It has taken a crazy amount of time, but I have contacted almost every single person on our Reno media list to find out these details. The information I have received will be helpful to The Abbi Agency as they use the media list in the future.

2. Focus on individuals, not organizations

For a PR agency, it is not very useful to find a general number of a newsroom at a news station. What is useful is finding an individual reporter’s email address, phone number, direct line, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, their beat, their story deadlines, and how they prefer to be contacted.

Make sure that you are looking for contact information of individual people as you build your media list. It will help you directly reach the people who work in news outlets and will give you a better chance of getting real media coverage.

3. Categorize and Organize

Your list is essentially useless if it is not organized and easy-to-use. Make sure you choose a format that works for you and your group as you start putting it together. We use Microsoft Excel for ours, which is great because it allows you to filter columns to locate information quickly. It also is a clear, organized format that keeps your data consistent and clear.

Make sure your categories are efficient and make sense to whoever is reading the list. The Abbi Agency’s list includes Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, but if your group does not use those social media outlets to pitch stories then it is a waste of time to include them on the list. Find what categories of information will help you the most, and use those.

I also recommend that you keep your media list on an open or shared platform. Whether you store it on the public server or save it as a Google Doc, make sure it is accessible to your entire group. This way, people who use the list can update it and add in their own information as they need to.

4. Invest Time

Like I said, I have literally spent weeks working on the media list and am still not finished. It is time consuming to look up and contact every person working in every media outlet in your region, but it is also incredibly worthwhile.

The hours that you spend now on your media list will save you a ton of time later as you are using it to contact media. It will help you reach people directly and with their accurate information, which will make your, or whoever is using the media list’s, job much easier. Keep that in mind as the hours tediously stretch on while you are building the media list.

5. Consistently Update/Check

Even after the endless hours and effort you have put into your list to make it the World’s Best Media List, your work is not finished. People change jobs, titles, emails, phone numbers, and hours all the time, which means that your list could be inaccurate as soon as you finish it.

To keep your list correct and updated at all times, make sure that you check it regularly. I would recommend setting aside time once a month to email your entire list and verify that the information is correct. And, as you contact the media day-to-day and find out new information, add it or update it immediately. Your list will never officially be “done,” but you can take these steps to make it as complete as possible.

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Lessons from this year’s Biggest Public Relations Crises

The Carnival Triumph

Photo Courtesy of huffingtonpost.com.

The Carnival Triumph was stranded at sea for five days in February. The press ran with the disaster, and the “#cruisefromhell” quickly became a top story. During the ship’s five days trapped at sea, thousands of articles, shares, tweets, and mentions circulated, damaging Carnival’s brand. Public Relations disasters are inevitable, and when they happen, our industry is usually tasked with cleaning up the mess. Lately, Abercrombie & Fitch has been under fire from comments made by their CEO, Mike Jeffries in a 2006 Salon interview. But this Public Relations disaster pales in comparison to a crisis from earlier in the year.

In our imperfect world, we can’t completely control disasters like fires stranding a cruise ship, but we can control how we react during and after such a crisis. Let’s review some of the lessons this situation taught us:

Lessons Learned

1. Don’t add fuel to the fire

Carnival’s twitter account, @CarnivalCruise, tweeted 67 times about the disaster as it was going on. Most tweets got 5-15 ReTweets and a couple of replies. But when they tweeted “Of course the bathrobes for the Carnival Triumph are complimentary,” they got 566 ReTweets, 96 favorites, and close to 50 replies.

This tweet was a HUGE mistake for Carnival. It made Carnival look rude and sarcastic, and was completely counterproductive to any other message they were trying to convey.

Never post anything that will give your audience the opportunity to create even more negative buzz. Instead, focus on the positive actions being taken and give realistic updates of the situation. Always use an upbeat and respectful tone.

2. Interact, Don’t Ignore 

In those 67 tweets, Carnival posted links to press releases, statements from their CEO, and updates from the sea. But they only responded to a customer one time. While they did a good job of keeping their social media updated throughout the crisis, Carnival ignored the concerns and statements of their customers.

Social Media is a two-way street. We especially need to keep this in mind during crises. Use your social media platforms to respond to concerns and criticisms when these events happen. It will make you seem more approachable, and will remind customers that you are doing your best to clean up the mess.

3. Take Action Immediately

Carnival did not release a statement from their CEO until almost three days after the disaster began. Because news travels so quickly in our world, most people had already jumped to their own conclusions about the situation by this time. This delay in reaction caused the audience to believe that Carnival was not properly handling the situation, or worse, was ignoring it.

Make sure you send out a statement from the highest possible executive as soon as possible. This is the best way to communicate to an audience that a crisis is being addressed and that a company cares about what is going on. Also, remember to always start with an apology. If your company is responsible for people’s misfortune, you should address that first with an apology and then continue on with the steps that are being taken to avoid future misfortunes.

4. Change The Conversation

Within hours of this disaster’s start, the hashtag “#cruisefromhell” surfaced all over social networks. Over the last few months, this hashtag collected thousands of tweets and posts, and became synonymous with the Carnival Triumph.

Carnival couldn’t control the tweets being published under this hashtag, but they could have created their own to counter the situation. If they had created a hashtag that positively highlighted aspects of the situation, the conversation would’ve been completely different. They could have included pictures of the crew helping guests, or videos of people helping each other while on board.

Try to come up with ways to put a positive spin on the situation, and refocus the conversation with your posts.