Our 5 Fave #FreeTools for Building Relationships with the Media

When Maggie and I started working in PR, we didn’t have all that many options for building relationships with journalists. We used a combination of emails, phone calls and even fax to send in story ideas, and we attended events in the hopes of informally connecting with journalists covering our clients’ industries.

In just the last five or six years, it’s gotten so much easier to connect with journalists. New tools are constantly being developed, and free options supplementing, and in some cases replacing, the expensive databases that publicists have traditionally relied on.

This doesn’t only benefit those of us in the business — you can take advantage of these new tools, too!

No where is it written that only PR pros and publicists can connect with reporters. They love hearing directly from potential sources, who can tip them off to cool new products, budding trends and provide last-minute quotes when they’re rushing to meet a deadline.

Here’s a round-up of our favorite free tools to make sure that source is you!

1. Google Alerts

Your first step in connecting with journalists is figuring out who’s driving the conversations you want to be having. When you’re starting out, this can feel daunting, so we like to recommend a simple hack using Google Alerts.

All you do is set up Google Alerts to send you weekly digests of articles around keywords relevant to your business.

So, if you’re launching a new line of textiles like my friend Megan Auman, you might come up with keywords like “spring accessories” or “patterned leggings.” If you’re a coach like Kate Swoboda, you might add the names of top coaches like Martha Beck to your keyword list. You might want to play around with the results or consider limiting your results to “News” or “Blogs” so it’s not overwhelming.

Once a week, scan the headlines, and if there’s an article that makes you think, “I should’ve been in that piece!” note the media outlet and name on the byline (if there is one).

Voila! You’ve started a media list.

2. Feedly

Speaking of RSS readers, I’m obsessed with Feedly. I keep a media folder to organize the  outlets I’m researching for clients (and for our own firm!), because it’s so quick and easy to stay in the know. Once a week. I scroll through the headlines and see if there’s anything I should read or watch.

From here, I might choose to share an article, leave a comment or add a new journalist to a media list.


When you’re ready to start engaging with media contacts, Muckrack is your first stop. The site operates a free directory that connects you with journalists on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Quora, Google+ and LinkedIn. Their database of media outlets is just as diverse as the social media I just listed, too. Want to connect with the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition — here she is. Or maybe Fast Company’s more your flavor? Here ya go.

You have to sign up for an account, but it’s free to use the social media directory — and infinitely more useful than many of the paid resources we’ve had the displeasure of using.

4. Hootsuite

When  cultivating a new contact, the most important thing is to consistently provide value to the person you’d like to get to know better . . . tweet it!

If you want to add value to a journalist, this can be as simple as Tweeting her articles or watching her stream to catch a call out for a source. 

Hootsuite simplifies the process of monitoring and connecting. Simply add journalists to a list, and add the list to your dashboard. Make it a habit to send a Tweet or share an update from at least one journalist on your list, and you’re well on your way to making a new contact.


We weren’t lying when we said media want to share your stories just as much as you want to get them out into the public eye. HARO is proof. Sign up for the free subscription, and you get three emails a day with inquiries from reporters who are looking for sources to share their top tips and case studies.

You’ll find all kinds on HARO — from bloggers to national magazine writers. You won’t find a perfect fit in every email — or sometimes for weeks — but if you’re patient the subscription pays off.

You may find yourself with a mention in The Chicago Tribune (Maggie landed this story for Aspire and Deloitte through HARO) or in like Pat Romain did after she took Your Media Map, which is the predecessor of our mentoring program.

Before we go, we want to bring up one final free tool — your email account!

There is nothing a journalist loves more than getting a love note from a fan.

Whether you simply want to say, “I loved your article,” or “I think you’d love to look at this link,” it can be incredibly effective to reach out to a journalist with a simple note months before you submit your own story idea.


Your 11 Step Checklist for Promoting Press Success

Is there a system I could follow to promote my media successes with the audience I already have, specifically: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and my Enews list?

I’d also love a plan for publicity I’ve gotten in the past. Instead of feeling embarrassed that it’s been 8 (or 10 or 15 … or 20) years since I got that press, how can I reintroduce it to all the people who either never saw it or have forgotten about it?

–Deborah Henson-Conant,

First, congratulations on your press success! Public relations isn’t just about the one-time media hit. It’s also about building credibility with outside audiences and those you already have. The right plan for sharing media success energizes your current audience and woos new visitors to your website…with ripple effects lasting long after the initial story is forgotten.

I’ve written a checklist for you on how to promote each media win.

Ideally, your promotion should start at the time of your interview.

1. Ask permission to pre-promote the story. When you sit down with the producer or wrap an interview with a reporter or blogger, casually ask if you can let your online channels know about the interview and when the story will run.

2. Take photos. If her answer is yes, whip out your camera phone and get some shots behind-the-scenes of your media opportunity. The best photos will include you and a camera or recognizable talent interviewing you.

3. Share pictures or anecdotes on social media. Pick one photo for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Tease your story with something like, “Check out these photos from my interview with… I discuss… To hear more, tune in …” or “Just wrapped an interview with… for a piece on…!”

In the three days leading up to the story, check-in with the media outlet and your audiences.

4. Double check with your contact on the run date. A few days before your story is slated to run, verify the story is still on track with your media contact. An air or print date is never guaranteed. It’s best to check-in close to the date.

5. Send an email to your key stakeholders only. You don’t want to send a mass email out to your entire email list, only to watch as the story gets bumped because of breaking news or — horror of all horrors — the story is negative. Send an email to your inner circles ONLY. Give this key group the details, including what the story is about, what media outlet it’s with, and when they should look out for it.

6. Post reminders on your social media channels. Social media is more forgiving than email. If you’re confident about the story and run date, feel free to share on your social media channels days before and again the day of the story. Ask your tribe to tune in.

Your story’s public, and it looks great! What now?

7. Share on social media the same day it’s live. Social media is all about what’s happening now. You want to be one of the first people to share the story and interacting with others who are doing the same.

8. Email your list within a week. It’s finally time to share your story with your whole newsletter list and on your blog. Feel free to tout your press success. Take a screenshot of the story, run an excerpt and share the direct link. Also, provide your “insiders” extra value with a tidbit from your interview experience or an equally exciting surprise.

9. Add the media masthead to your website. The sooner you crop the publication logo and put it on your homepage and sales pages the better. Make sure you add hyperlinks that open a new window for visitors to view the story when they click on the image.

When people see a credible media masthead on your homepage, they trust you before they know  you . . . tweet it!

Fast forward several years to sharing old news with your current audience.

10. Bring back news highlights to celebrate milestones. Your business anniversary or the new year is the perfect time to tout old news. Message it as “Media highlights from 10 years of performance!” or “My top media wins from 2013.”

11. Use current trends to share retro reports. Another idea is to jump on the flashback Friday bandwagon. According to #tagdef, #flashbackfriday is “used by people to share a memory from last week, last month, or 15 years back. Mainly used on the popular iPhone app ‘instagram.’” Use the hashtag to inspire a Friday series across all your social media platforms that highlight those big press wins.

Your tribe wants to celebrate successes with you! You may not want to brag about your accomplishments, but being too modest is a huge mistake. When you land major media you get instant credibility with outsiders and a boost of trust from your current circles. Plus, touting media coverage can lead to all kinds of opportunities like landing that client, customer or collaborator you’ve been aspiring to.

Bloggers will thank you for this

Last week I interviewed Srinivas Rao, host of the popular podcast BlogcastFM and creator of Instigator Experience, for the upcoming Blogger Outreach Bootcamp. Early in our talk, he shared what he’s always screening for.

Will you come to give to the audience, or do you want to take?

People who give

Srini’s mission is to share real stories about real people doing extraordinary things. If you tune in to an episode, this is immediately obvious. But too often, Srini gets pitches from subject matter experts who only want to promote their latest book or share their Top 10 Tips For ____.

Let me be clear on this. There is absolutely nothing wrong with promoting your work or sharing your knowledge. But that’s not what Srini’s audience tunes in for. They listen week-after-week because they want to be inspired by the stories Srini is curating for his audience.

In this context, if you send Srini an email saying you want to share your best practices on branding your blog, you’re getting filed away as a taker. This type of content doesn’t give the audience what they’ve come to expect, and it’s immediately obvious you’re not paying attention (ie. taking). Instead, give Srini a glimpse at your personal story and let him know what you can give. Maybe you’ve become a popular health guru, because you’ve struggled with illness.

This isn’t the only gem in our interview, but I just had to share it with you, because the idea that you need to give to get is the cornerstone of the approach I’ll be sharing in the Blogger Outreach Bootcamp.

If you want top bloggers to share your message, your first step is to get clear about, “What can I give?” . . . click to Tweet

American Thanksgiving is nearly here, and this is a question I’ve also been asking.

So I’ve decided to offer you something special if you sign up for the Blogger Outreach Bootcamp in the next three days. If you register before Thursday, November 28th, I’d like to extend you an invitation to submit one of your draft blogger outreach emails to get direct feedback from Maggie and me.

This bonus pitch review is included in your registration fee. All you need to take advantage of this offer is to click here and register before November 28th.

Happy Thanksgiving!