More journalists are wired today than ever. According to the latest Middleberg/Ross Media in Cyberspace Study, 93 percent of print and broadcast journalists say they or their staffs use on-line services at least occasionally. Only two percent say they or their staffs never use on-line technology.
But e-mail is a double-edged sword. Many journalists love the convenient communication with sources and readers that it makes possible while shaking in their boots at the prospect of having to slog through countless poorly targeted or non-newsworthy announcements.
E-mail's low cost and convenience, which greatly lessens the barrier to undertaking a big public relations campaign, also greatly increases the chance of misdirecting your message. Journalists hate untargeted bulk e-mail, or spam, as much as anyone. That's why, despite their being connected, only 29 percent prefer to receive on-line submissions rather than paper ones, according to the Middleberg/Ross study.
Still, the Internet can make it economical to reach large numbers, journalists included. To get the best publicity, just be sure to send your message only to those journalists who can use it and to design it for their purposes.
You can obtain lists of journalists' e-mail addresses from various sources. E-Mail: Media, at www.ping.at/gugerell/media, is a free Web site put together by Peter Gugerell of Austria that includes the e-mail addresses of journalists in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and other countries.
Though you can't beat the price, it's difficult to refine or automate an e-mail PR campaign using the addresses at E-Mail: Media because they're presented as a Web listing rather than as part of a formal database.
Another option is to purchase a database from a commercial list developer. The most cost-effective I've found is the U.S. All Media E-Mail Directory, at www. owt.com/dircon. It includes e-mail and other information in comma-delimited text format on 12,000 daily and weekly newspapers, news services, magazines, and radio and TV shows and stations. It's available as an Internet download for $99.
Journalists change e-mail addresses frequently enough so that any list you obtain will have a number of bad addresses. In testing out the U.S. All Media E-Mail Directory I experienced an error rate of around 15percent.
Direct Contact, the Kennewick, WA, company that puts together the U.S. All Media E-Mail Directory, also can create a custom list of media e-mail addresses based on the subject matter of your e-mail press release, send the release for you, or even write the release.
With its All-In-One Disks, Gebbie Press, at www.gebbieinc.com, is another company that sells databases of media contact information. Gebbie's strong point is its coverage of newspapers. The newspaper floppy-disk set costs $100, the magazine set $100, and the TV/radio set $100, while all three sets of disks cost $270. Each includes slightly more detailed information than the U.S. All Media E-Mail Directory.
The Cadillac of media directories is Bacon's MediaSource, at www.baconsinfo.com. The depth and breadth of information provided on media contacts is unparalleled, as is the price. A one-year license will set you back $1,395. Bacon's MediaSource comes on a CD-ROM with convenient software that allows you to identify only the most relevant media contacts for your particular message.
How to Send
Once you have a list of recipients, you'll need to use software to e-mail your press release to them. One option is simply to use your regular e-mail program. Just don't paste a long block of e-mail addresses in the "To" (sometimes referred to as "Mail To") or "Cc" (carbon copy) address lines. This results in an e-mail message with a large header that not only looks ugly but can force recipients to scroll down repeatedly to get to your message.
One trick, if your e-mail program supports it, is to use the blind carbon copy line (typically identified as "Bcc" or "Blind Cc"). By sending an e-mail message to yourself and pasting recipients' e-mail addresses here, you can hide these addresses from the other recipients.
Another option is to use a program designed for sending out targeted and personalized bulk e-mail. Broadcast, at www.brooknorth. com/products/broadcast.html; Campaign, at www.arialsoftware.com; and NetMailer, at www. alphasoftware.com/netmailer are three such programs that provide tools for automating the process.
With their safeguards and warnings, these aren't spam programs. Broadcast, for instance, doesn't let you vacuum e-mail addresses from Usenet newsgroups or hide who you are by falsifying message headers.
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at email@example.com or http://members.home.net/reidgold.