Most people can guess what makes news, but I had a request this week asking how you know what features are coming up. So, building on article I wrote for State of Search almost a year ago now, here are 10 good places to start.
1. Editorial Lists
Some publications still publish features lists/editorial calendars, mostly for the benefit of attracting advertising.Look at the publication’s website. There will often be a copy there. If not, tap up the advertising department for what they know.
2. Media Databases
Do you have a media database like Gorkana or Cision? Many of them also track forward features as an ‘add on’ package, and are generally a good place to start. My experience of them has often been poor/variable, but different packages have different strengths in different sectors.
3. Get to know the Features Editor
Does the publication – on or off line – have a features editor? Find out what they want and get onto any circulation lists for advance warning.
4. The Advertising Department
Tap up the advertising department for what they know. (Remember they are there to sell advertising, not do your PR for you.)
5. Regular Features
What are the regular featured sections in the publication? For example, is there a regular five minute interview, my greatest moment, or profile section?
6. Regular Writers
Who are the title’s regular writers? Get to know and understand them, especially any regular freelance writers (if the title still has a budget for this kind of luxury!) so that they come to you/your client first for comment, and add you to email circulations for calls for information for features they are writing. Watch those writers’ Twitter accounts closely for calls for help.
7. Writer & PR Forums
Join writer/PR forums relevant to your industry, where journalists will often post details of what they’re working on.
8. USA Coverage
If you/your client cover the US as well (and only if you cover the US) subscribe to HARO (help a reporter out).
9. Twitter Hashtags
Follow the #journorequest and #PRrequest hashtags on Twitter.
10. Placement Opportunities
Consider a service like FeaturesExec. Again, it varies with sector as to efficiency, but it’s still well worth a look.
Make sure you adopt best, rather than spammy, practise. There is no excuse for not approaching people properly. Bear in mind that anyone who has published a features list may have created it months ago, and they could well have changed in the interim. It’s incumbent on you to ensure that you handle your pitch properly, in the right terms at the right time. One size never fits all!
Poor practise may ensure the journalist won’t answer calls from your number, or simply sets up an Outlook rule putting any information you send from your email address, or even domain, straight into ‘Deleted items’. As with so many things, you could damage things for everyone. If journalists get sudden deluge of poor quality pitches from SEO as well as PR people – yes, we’re not perfect either! – you’ll find that even fewer titles continue to let anyone know in advance than do already.