How to know which publications and blogs to pitch

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I recently had drinks with a friend of mine who was the CTO of a hot venture-backed company that went on to be acquired by a large silicon valley company. One of the beautiful things about being a CTO is you don’t have to worry about marketing strategy and execution, and his old company had lots of PR-savvy talent. 

He’s now striking out on his own with a very cool product that he’s building as a solo entrepreneur, so for the first time he’s doing his own PR. In true lean startup fashion, he smartly did lots of user testing and even brought in a professional facilitator. In the process they discovered the people who were drawn to his product the most are female professionals age 20-35. This insight should help him immensely in targeting his marketing.

He asked me which publications and blogs this demographic reads. Being (only arguably professional) guys, neither of us had any idea. I said why don’t you just ask female professionals age 20-35 what they read? It seems so obvious in retrospect — but he admitted he and his facilitator never once thought to ask during all the user testing what people read.

Lesson learned: During user testing, ask subjects what they read, follow and watch.

Even better, ask prospective users and customers for their:

  • Twitter handle: Check out which journalists and publications they follow. This is publicly available at https://twitter.com/username/following (replace “username” with their username) so you can do this on your own time
  • Facebook username: You can view who people follow on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/username/subscribedto but viewing it from another account is more complicated, so you should try to do this in person
  • Tumblr following: While logged on to their account, ask if they’ll show you who they follow at http://www.tumblr.com/following. Some Tumblr templates display this publicly. 
  • Most visited websites: There is often a big difference between what people say they read (e.g. The Economist, The New Yorker) and what they really read (e.g. TMZ, Gawker). After you’ve asked what they read, ask if you can see their “most visited websites” as calculated by their browser history. (You can easily do this in ChromeFirefox, Safari and IE by simply opening a new tab.)

Once you’ve made a list of the target publications and blogs your prospective users and customers reads, figure out which journalists you should contact using Muck Rack’s free directory of publications, or even better use Muck Rack’s Advance Journalist Search  (requires pro subscription) and filter by publication.

For example, let’s say we made a new travel guide iPhone app and used the above methods to determine our target customers read Fast Company, Vanity Fair and Vogue the most. We could run a search like this to figure out which journalists at those publications tweet and write stories the most about travel guides:

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Once you’ve found the right journalists, add them to your media list and determine the best way to reach out, which we’ll cover in future blog posts. Like us on Facebook and make a free Muck Rack account to be notified when we do.

GG

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