Why (and how) you should be looking for people, not websites

  • 2
  • March 10, 2016
Laura Crimmons

Laura Crimmons

Communications Director

This topic is actually a section of my training that I’ve done at brightonSEO for the last few years, and will be included this year too, so *subtle plug* make sure you’ve got a ticket to come along. The main reason that I’m writing a blog post about it is this:

I thought that, since he’s my boss, I should probably follow through 😉

The why

So, first of all, the reasons why you should be looking for people and not just websites:

  1. You can’t build a relationship with a website – I mean, feel free to try, but I don’t see how you could
  2. A website doesn’t publish your content – yes, it’s published on the website, but it’s a person that’s writing, uploading and publishing it

It’s all very well and good to say ‘we want to get published on The Guardian’ (or another publication), but the next step from there has to be finding out who at The Guardian is actually likely to be interested in your campaign or company.

If you don’t find the most relevant contact, you have no way to build a relationship with that person and you’re not likely to get your content published. Sending an email to the general newsdesk is unlikely to yield many results – you need to find the right person, not just the right site.

The how – finding the contacts

There will normally be one of two starting points for you when looking to build your media list, either:

  1. You know the websites your target audience reads and therefore have a site list of where you want to be published
  2. You know the types of writers your campaign will appeal to (e.g. personal finance writers) and therefore want to find a list of those

For the first option, all you need to do is visit each site to find out who will be the best contact for you – i.e. who is most likely to write about your campaign. The easiest way to do this is to search on the site for similar topics to your campaign and look at which journalists come up as having written about that topic a lot – they are probably your best bet (the next section will cover how to find their contact details).

For the second option, there are various tools that you can use to help you find those writers:

Gorkana (media database)

One of the oldest tools that a PR team will use is a media database. Gorkana is our database of choice, but there are many other options to explore. On here you can simply search for a journalist based on the sectors/topics that they cover. For example, if my campaign is related to the EU referendum and I want to find political writers, I could do the following:

gorkana politics

I can then go through to check which ones look relevant to my campaign.


Followerwonk is a great tool with many uses, such as the bio search function, which essentially allows you to search Twitter bios for keywords and refine results by location and other factors.

So, again with my politics example, I could search for the following:



Twitter itself is also a great source of contacts, especially for bloggers. There are certain popular hashtags that you can look at to find bloggers in a certain niche. For example #bblogger for beauty bloggers:


The how – finding the contacts’ details

Now that you have a list of actual people who you want to contact about your campaign, the next step is finding their contact details.

I find Gorkana to be the best tool for finding journalists’ contact details because it’s easy to search for their name and you’re greeted with their email, phone number and Twitter, so you can choose your method of contact. If you’ve used it to pull your list in the first place then you’ll already have the contact details from that.

Twitter is also a great place, as a lot of journalists and bloggers will have their email address in their bio.

A lot of bloggers will have a ‘Contact’ or ‘About Me’ page, which will list their preferred email address for you to contact them.

Finally, if you can’t find their contact details through any of those means, then just resort to a good old tweet to them.

The benefit

After all of the research, you should know a fair bit about their likes and dislikes (especially if you found them through Followerwonk or Twitter). This also provides you with great background information for your reasons for contacting them.

Within your initial email you can include your reason for contacting them, or at least something to start a relationship– this could be mentioning that they’ve written about something similar before or it could be referencing a recent tweet. Doing this shows that you’ve done your research  and you haven’t just sent a blanket mail merge.

Another benefit from searching for people instead of sites is that this way you can find a lot of freelancers as well, and they’re your best collaborators as, if you have a good relationship with them and have something of interest, then they can write about you on more than one publication!