Product

How to build a PR target list using NLP and Machine Learning

Intro

For PR professionals, entrepreneurs, marketers, or just about anyone out there who is looking to connect with relevant journalists, reporters and influencers to cover their press release, the biggest challenge in doing so can often lie in finding exactly who are the most suitable people to approach.

This can be a time-consuming and often fruitless endeavour as many take a spray and pray approach by sending out high volumes of emails in the hope that someone out there picks one up. One of the main drawbacks of this approach however is that mass emails aren’t targeted and are inevitably written in an impersonal manner and generally fail to grab the attention of the intended recipient.

To help streamline and vastly improve this entire process, we’re going to show you how you can use Machine Learning and NLP to significantly improve your PR targeting process. A technique we’ve used at AYLIEN to land coverage in the likes of TechCrunch, The Next Web and Forbes.

Using the AYLIEN News API, we’ll show you how easy it can be to quickly build your own highly-targeted list of journalists, reporters and influencers to reach out and pitch to.

As an example, let’s say you’ve recently gone through a funding round and you’re hoping to get some press coverage and exposure. We’ll start by first identifying the publishers who have generated the most articles mentioning startups and funding in the past 60 days. We will then narrow our search and get more targeted by finding specific people who write  about startup funding, and then finish by giving you some tips and instructions on how to create a highly-targeted search to match your own needs.

Which publishers are writing about startup funding?

To find the publishers that write the most about startups and funding, we’ll use the /trends endpoint in the News API. Using the /trends endpoint enables you to identify the most frequently mentioned keywords, entities and topical or sentiment-related categories in news content. Put simply, it allows you to measure the amount of times that specific elements of interest are mentioned in the content you source through the News API.

By performing the following search using /trends, we can source these metrics for all stories that mention our keywords–startup and funding–and by specifying field=source.name, our results will be returned with a count for each source (publisher, news outlet or blog).

Here’s the query we used;

Our News API returns results in JSON format, and here’s what they look like for this query;


{
"trends": [
  {
"value": "TechCrunch",
"count": 206
},
  {
"value": "Fortune",
"count": 108
},
  {
"value": "Business Insider",
"count": 91
},
  {
"value": "PR Newswire",
"count": 70
},
  {
"value": "Inc.com",
"count": 64
},
  {
"value": "Seeking Alpha",
"count": 62
},
  {
"value": "Forbes",
"count": 52
},
  {
"value": "CNBC TV18",
"count": 46
},
  {
"value": "Entrepreneur.com",
"count": 44
},
  {
"value": "Bloomberg",
"count": 43
},
  {
"value": "BetaKit",
"count": 33
},
  {
"value": "Market Wired",
"count": 31
},
  {
"value": "Huffington Post",
"count": 26
},
  {
"value": "Quartz",
"count": 26
},
  {
"value": "Fast Company",
"count": 24
},
  {
"value": "Business Wire",
"count": 23
},
  {
"value": "Business Standard",
"count": 19
},
  {
"value": "ZDNet",
"count": 18
},
  {
"value": "Daily Mail UK",
"count": 18
},
  {
"value": "Mashable",
"count": 17
},
  {
"value": "The Guardian",
"count": 16
},
  {
"value": "Deccan Herald",
"count": 15
},
  {
"value": "Globe and Mail",
"count": 14
},
  {
"value": "Business Line",
"count": 13
},
  {
"value": "Reuters",
"count": 12
},
  {
"value": "Upstart Business Journal RSS Feed",
"count": 12
},
  {
"value": "The Next Web",
"count": 10
},
  {
"value": "The Wall Street Journal",
"count": 10
},
  {
"value": "Economic Times",
"count": 10
},
  {
"value": "Variety",
"count": 10
},
  {
"value": "Madison",
"count": 10
},
  {
"value": "Times of Israel",
"count": 10
},
  {
"value": "CNN",
"count": 9
},
  {
"value": "CNET",
"count": 9
},
  {
"value": "Globes",
"count": 9
},
  {
"value": "The Verge",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Autonews",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Yahoo",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Irish Independent",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Modern Ghana",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Drudge Report",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Berlin Startup Jobs",
"count": 8
},
  {
"value": "Digital Trend",
"count": 7
},
  {
"value": "Times of India",
"count": 7
},
  {
"value": "Albuquerque Journal",
"count": 7
},
  {
"value": "USA Today",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "Nikkei Asian Review",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "Times Picayune",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "New Zealand Herald",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "Sify",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "Star",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "Malay Mail",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "WCPO",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "The Guardian Nigeria",
"count": 6
},
  {
"value": "The Economist",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Japan Times",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Republican",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Daily Courier",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Sydney Morning Herald",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Gulf News",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Bangkok Post",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Buzz Feed",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "DNA",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Kyiv Post",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Portland Press Herald",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Roanoke Times",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "ALL TOP STARTUPS",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Irish Central",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "CRN",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Haaretz",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Nigeria Communications Week",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Wired",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Kiplinger",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Vietnam Net",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "M Live - 786",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Scoop",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Arkansas Democrat Gazette",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Newsweek",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Stuff",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Yale Daily News",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Anthill Online",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Medium",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Vice Motherboard",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "IT news Africa",
"count": 4
},
  {
"value": "Zero Hedge",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Oregonian",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Philippine Daily Inquirer",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Daily Caller",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Benzinga",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Billboard",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "International Business Times - UK",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Age",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "D Magazine",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Montreal Gazette",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Hill",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "ARL Now",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Canadian Business",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Channel News Asia",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "China Post",
"count": 3
}
],
"field": "source.name"
}


By importing our results into a visualization tool such as Tableau, we can quickly get an idea of which publishers are writing most about our selected keywords.

Note: The chart below is interactive. You can hover over and click the various bubbles to see more information.

Straight away we can see that TechCrunch dominate our results, generating almost twice as many matches as the next top result. What does this tell us? It tells us that TechCrunch are more than likely a leading publisher when it comes to writing about startup funding.

Which reporters are writing about startup funding?

Now that we’ve established the top publishers writing about startups and funding, we’ll look to find out which specific reporters/influencers are writing the most content around this subject area.

Similar to our previous query, we’re once again going to use the /trends endpoint. This time, however, we’ll look at field=author.name. Here’s the search query we used;

Here are our visualized results for the query above;


If further proof was needed that TechCrunch are leaders in reporting about startup funding, check out the top ten authors from our results, and who they write for. TechCrunch reporters make up half of the top 10, but top of the list is Erin Griffiths of Fortune.

  1. Erin Griffiths – Fortune
  2. Steve O’Hear – TechCrunch
  3. Lora Kolodny – TechCrunch
  4. Kia Kokalitcheva – Fortune
  5. Sarah Buhr – TechCrunch
  6. Ingrid Lunden – TechCrunch
  7. Sam Shead – Business Insider
  8. Connie Loizos – TechCrunch
  9. Jessica Galang – BetaKit
  10. Tas Bindi – ZDNet

What now?

Now that you have a list of reporters who you know are writing plenty of content around your area of interest, you can focus your efforts on contacting them individually, rather than sending out blind and impersonal mass emails.

Reporters generally have a profile or portfolio of their work on their publisher’s website, and so by citing this relevant work as a reason for contacting them specifically, you are showing that you have done your homework and have intentionally reached out to them.

Further narrowing your search

Depending on your own precise search criteria, there are a number of options available to narrow down your search and pinpoint exactly what, and who, you are looking for.

Search by article title

While searching for mentions of startup and funding gave us some excellent results, perhaps you have a niche product or app and you would like to find a reporter who has previously written about your exact field of expertise. Searching by article title is often the most accurate method of sourcing content that is specifically about your keyword, rather than just mentioning it somewhere in the body of text.

Previously, we found that 5 out of our top 10 search results for startup and funding write for TechCrunch. But what if we want to be even more targeted and find a reporter who specifically writes about fintech startups and funding?

To do so, we will use a previous search query for startup and funding from above, but we will now add a parameter to search article titles for the word fintech. Here’s our updated query;

JSON results;


{
"trends": [
    {
"value": "Oscar Williams-grut",
"count": 9
},
  {
"value": "Erweiterte Suche",
"count": 5
},
  {
"value": "Andrew Meola",
"count": 3
},
  {
"value": "Natasha Lomas",
"count": 2
},
  {
"value": "Steve O'hear",
"count": 2
},
  {
"value": "Tas Bindi",
"count": 2
},
  {
"value": "John Rampton",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Roger Aitken",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Aaron Aders",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Tx Zhuo",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Lisa Rabasca Roepe",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Richie Hecker",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Mileika Lasso",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Peter Nowak",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Par Sophie",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Spencer Israel",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "John Detrixhe",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Julie Verhage",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Jessica Galang",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Douglas Soltys",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Ara Rodríguez",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Jessica Vomiero",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Valeria Ríos",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Amy Feldman",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Ameinfo Staff",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Kevin Sandhu",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "George Beall",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Par Delphine",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Caitlin Hotchkiss",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Robert Hackett",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Nathan Sinnott",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Eliran Rubin",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Lee Roden",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Piruze Sabuncu",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Danon Gabriel",
"count": 1
},
  {
"value": "Rachel Witkowski",
"count": 1
},

As you can see from the JSON results above, Oscar Williams-grut has recently written 9 articles matching our search query. A quick look at Oscar’s profile on Business Insider confirms that he writes about finance, specializing in fintech, business, markets, and politics. He would certainly top our list of contacts if we wanted to reach out about a fintech startup funding press release!

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 15.14.16

Location and language

Our News API scans content from thousands of sources and RSS feeds worldwide, in multiple languages, meaning you can narrow your search to locate content in specific languages and from specific countries. As an example, you can add the following parameters to your search query to locate only sources from Portugal, that are also written in the Portuguese language;

  • source.locations.country[]=pt
  • language[]=pt

Social shares count

One of main reasons for finding relevant reporters and bloggers in the first place is to gain as much public exposure as possible. One way to help ensure this is to source reporters based on the number of shares their content receives on social media.

You can be quite specific here by choosing the social network(s) that interest you most. For example, perhaps your content is best suited for distribution on Facebook. You can therefore find out which reporters tend to generate the most shares on Facebook by adding a minimum share count for that network. Here’s an example query that will do just that, by only sourcing authors who have generated over 10,000 shares on Facebook in the past 60 days;

At the time of writing, this query is returning the names of four reporters, each of which have generated over 10,000 Facebook shares with content containing our keywords startup and funding published in the past 60 days.

Of course, the further you lower the minimum number of shares, the more results you will obtain. We changed the above search query to contain a minimum of 5,000 shares and our results almost trebled.

Alexa rank

Similar to how we defined a minimum number of Facebook social shares in the example above, you also have the option to define the minimum and maximum Alexa rank of websites that you source.

Why is this useful? The Alexa ranking system is compiled to analyze the frequency of visits on websites and rank them against each other according to the volume of visits they receive. Alexa’s algorithm is pretty simple – it is calculated by the amount of website traffic generated over the past 3 months.

If you’re looking to maximize your exposure, you will naturally want your content to be featured on sites with the highest visitor traffic, and you will therefore be looking at sites with the best Alexa ranks.

Try the search query below. It is the same as our earlier search for publishers, but we are now narrowing the search to only include sites with an Alexa rank of 1-1000.

Click here to learn more about sourcing and filtering news content by Alexa rank.

Conclusion

It took us less than 5 minutes to source and visualize the top publishers and reporters writing about startup funding, which could potentially save hours of time scanning the web and social media in the search for suitable influencers to reach out to about your press release.

Ready to try the News API for yourself? Click the image below and sign up for a free 14-day trial.

 




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Author


Avatar

Noel Bambrick

Customer Success Manager @ AYLIEN A graduate of the Dublin Institute of Technology and Digital Marketing Institute in Ireland, Noel heads up Customer Success here at AYLIEN. A keen runner, writer and traveller, Noel joined the team having previously gained experience with SaaS companies in Australia and Canada. Twitter: @noelbambrick