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Finding and contacting journalists is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn how to get your writing or business featured with these top tips on how to find the right journalists for the job and deliver a pitch they will love!


It’s common knowledge that one of the main jobs of any PR professional involves contacting journalists (of course, they would prefer to call it “relationship building”!). What is less commonly known is that some of the usual tactics used for doing so can have you stricken off a journalist’s address list faster than you can say “Mark as Spam.” A better way of thinking about it, then, is this: one of the main jobs of any PR person is to contact journalists without pissing them off.

In a past guest post, we had a journalist give guidance on how to DIY your own PR as a start-up or SME in order to maximise your chances of getting coverage. This post is going to go a bit deeper to focus on just how to find the journalists you want to contact – and the best way to reach them.

As we have said before on this blog, journalists rely on PRs less and less in the social media age. After all, they have Twitter and various other information streams to rely on for sourcing ideas, so placing stories is much more competitive for you as a PR operative. That’s why your approach to a journalist should always be targeted. Don’t waste their time (and yours) by casting a wide net hoping for a few bites. Don’t email the editor in chief of a magazine because they’re simply way too busy to email you back. Getting it right – and reaching the right person who is most likely to pick up your story – on the first time is key. Here’s how to do it.

Tips for dealing with journalists in the digital age

  • Using a targeted approach

The first step in contacting the right journalist in the right way is to find the kind of coverage you are after. Do you want a gadget review in a Sunday magazine? Or a business feature on an industry-focused website? Do you want a founder interview for a tech blog? Or a mention in a larger trend piece in a major newspaper? The journalist who writes each of those pieces is likely to be a different type, so make sure you are reaching out to the right one. To do this, find some examples of the type of coverage you want to get and make a note of the by-line, which tells you who wrote those pieces. Then, instead of pitching to the over-stuffed editor or generic submissions inboxes of those publications, pitch it directly to the journalist who you know does the type of coverage you want. Even reference that piece in your pitch, “I really liked your piece about X, and I thought you might consider doing something similar with Y.” The more tailored, the better.

Another way to find the right journo is to use Twitter or LinkedIn to reverse-engineer your search. If you want to find journalists who cover ‘fintech’ in London, for example, simply type “fintech journalists” into the Twitter or LinkedIn search bar. You should be able to deduce from their bio who might be a good fit by seeing what they’re tweeting and writing about.

Finally, a productive use for the social media stalking skills you’ve been cultivating!


  • Finding journalist contact details

So, once you have found the journo in question, you may be wondering: how do I find that journalist’s contact info? This is just plain detective work. The first place to look is Twitter, where some journalists will either have their email listed, or link to a personal website where their contact info is. If you strike out there, try and find the email format for the publication they work for. If you deduce from other journalist’s available emails that it’s, then it’s likely you have your answer. Also try the obvious (it may work) and simply Google the person’s name + email - it can also be a useful technique.


  • First contact

While it’s entirely okay to email unsolicited, you should probably resist the urge to just call them, whilst our team of professional PRs do this, they are generally calling people they know and have a way into the conversation.

Consider the chances of getting through to a journalist who is sat at a desk waiting for the phone to ring?

Believe me it doesn’t happen!

If you get through by chance, he or she was in the middle of something - writing probably - so make sure you know exactly why you are calling - spit it out without lengthy introduction - cut to the ‘key reason why you are interrupting’ and don’t be surprised when they say “so what” or hang-up. You have to have answered the question ‘so what’ before you pick up the phone - if you can’t, don’t ring! You are just ensuring you will not get coverage. If you don’t p*** off a journalist by wasting their time then you still have a chance of coverage with the right story at the right time. Try and sell them nonsense or talk bollox and you are guaranteeing no further conversations (and that means coverage) with that person!

Now, consider any other way that you can of getting in contact and gaining a time and date to speak to them. If, however, a journalist has invited or asked you to call them to discuss an idea or specifics, a call is entirely appropriate.

Lastly, if you cannot find an email, try reaching out via Twitter. You can do this in a Tweet by mentioning them, or via a direct message (though note that some people have their DMs set to private, so they will have to be following you already in order to receive a DM from you).

It’s also a good idea to build up a database of reporters that write in your field and follow their work on an ongoing basis, instead of just reaching out when you need or want something. Tweeting and sharing their stories when it’s relevant to show you are a fan of their work is always a good move – after all, flattery works. If you are struggling to build up a database, using subscription services like Response Source or Help a Reporter Out can be helpful, but don’t rely on those completely as they tend to contain a lot of spam and paid-for content.


  • Set-up your database

Once you have a solid database working in your area, organise them into a single “list” on Twitter and look out for their requests. Often journalists will use the hashtag #journorequest or #HARO (help a reporter out) when they are on the hunt for sources and leads. Responding to these requests with thoughtful ideas is a great way to get coverage without coming off as desperate.


As you can see, a lot of work goes into pitching to journalists before you have even written a press release or pitch email. However, putting in the legwork to show that you respect a journalist’s time and inbox is the best way to get a positive response. (Watch out for another blog on this topic real soon!)


If you want to learn more about knowing your journalist in the PR world, how to deal with journalists in the digital age, how you can use Twitter for business, and how you can hack your own PR, please see these blogs below:

Knowing your Journalist in the PR world

Tips for dealing with journalists in the digital age

How to use twitter for Business: An SME & Start-up guide

Dear Tech Bros: Some advice for hacking your own PR


Tip #10: When it comes to engaging with and contacting journalists, be prudent with your approach and ensure you do your research. Be polite, save their details, engage with them on social channels where and when appropriate, and most importantly of all, don’t p*ss them off! (They are human and probably have better memory and recall than you by the nature of their job).


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