When pitching your brand — especially one that offers products and services — it’s essential to ensure that every media contact you are working with is reputable.
All too often, contacts may offer you coverage in a publication that claims to receive thousands of page views per month in exchange for a sample of your product or service in return. While many of these requests come from honest journalists, it’s also a possibility that they are scammers looking to get free goods.
Here are a few tips to help you determine the credibility of a media contact to ensure your pitch lands the coverage you deserve:
Tip #1: Review the Publication
The first step to identifying if a media contact is credible is to look at the publication they claim to work for. Online publications tend to have the same general layout and make it easy to learn more about the publication, the journalist, and the content they produce. If it is difficult to find this information — or if the website is not particularly active — it may not be a credible publication.
While these details may not always be the perfect indication if a publication is legitimate or not, this simple step is a great place to begin your investigation.
TIP: If a media contact claims to work for a well-known and credible publication, make sure to look their name up in the search engine of that publication’s website to verify the claim. Most publications will also list their editorial staff on their website, making it easy to confirm if a contact is actually working for the outlet.
Tip #2: Do Your Research
The next step you can take to determine a contact’s legitimacy is to spend time researching their digital presence.
Platforms like Cision and Muckrack can be invaluable here, as they allow you to easily access information on millions of journalists with just a few clicks. Finding a contact in one of these databases will provide information such as the publication they work for and the previous articles they have written.
If the media contact you are looking for isn’t in these databases — or if you are looking to get even more information on them — the next step is to complete a quick Google search. A cursory search of the journalist’s name should pull up links to publications they have written for and recent articles they have worked on. If it is difficult to find this information, or if you come across info that is not congruent with the details provided by the contact, then it is likely they are trying to scam your brand.
Tip #3: Search Social Media
Finally, it’s always a good idea to review the social media accounts of the media contact and the publication they claim for work for. The steps used to confirm the validity of a social media account can be used for both the individual and the publication.
While the number of followers is the first thing most people look for, it does not provide the most accurate information about the account, and a high follower count is not necessarily an indication of a legitimate journalist. It’s more beneficial to look at the activity on the account, including how often they post and the amount of engagement with each post. If they have hundreds of thousands of followers but post receive little to no activity, that is a definite red flag and an indication that they may be looking to scam your brand.
After you’ve completed your investigation, if you feel your research came up inconclusive, it is usually better to assume that the media contact is a scammer. Legitimate journalists and their previous work should be easy to identify — and if they aren’t, it’s likely they are just looking for free products.
In the long run, it is much more beneficial to be selective and share your products and services with publications that are likely to result in great coverage for your brand instead of offering them to anyone who asks. Stick to these tips and some great story placements are sure to follow!
Working on building a media contact list? Here are other helpful resources: