Gorkana, an introduction

I should probably begin by explaining what Gorkana is. Set up by what I can only describe as a total genius, it is an online database that with a paid for subscription allows you to have access to thousands of journalists’ contact details. From national newspapers, men’s lifestyle to plumbing trade titles – every magazine you’ve ever heard of is listed on there, and it is an extremely important tool for anyone in the PR industry. According to the Telegraph, it got its unusual name as a result of one of the founders being saved by a Gurkha while he was serving in the Royal Gurkha Rifles in Borneo.

And why is Gorkana so important? Because the most vital part of PR is media relations. Strip away everything and without great media contacts, you have nothing.

Taking the next step to develop fantastic media relations and generate PR results

However, although Gorkana is every PR team’s Holy Grail, the online little black book of journalist contacts, media outreach definitely doesn’t end there.

As with most things, despite being very useful, Gorkana is never completely up to date or 100% reliable. Journalists get promoted, switch roles and jump to different subject areas every day – so before you conduct any media sell in, you need to do your own research.

At Brass, we’ll always conduct regular media audits, to really get to know our contacts and to discover what content GENUINELY makes them tick, not just relying on what their Gorkana note says. Yes this can be time consuming, but it’s so valuable and so worth it. If you hate talking on the phone (or even speaking to people in general), PR really isn’t the career for you!

To start with, take the time to read the stories your target media contacts are writing, whether this is scrolling through their online articles, subscribing to receive their news and updates or buying a copy of the publication itself. After investigating their work, consider whether that particular journalist will really want to read your press release or will you just be immediately moved to the spam folder of doom, never to make it into their inbox again?

When you pick up the phone to speak to a journalist for the first time, ask them if they have a few minutes to answer a few questions so you can really gage how they work and when is best for them to receive content. For example, one journalist at a popular home interiors magazine recently told me never to call or email them on a Thursday, as this is usually their busiest day filled with external meetings and briefings. Something that wasn’t listed on Gorkana! Not only does this mean I won’t waste their time by calling them and trying to speak to them when they’re busy, but it stops my team and I wasting our valuable time too.

Other useful PR tools

If you use additional tools such as Response Source and Press Loft, keep a note of journalist requests and downloads, and add them to your media list with useful notes of what they tend to write about and look for. Plus, these tools allow you to build up media relations by reacting to exactly what the journalists need. Through them, you often come across and speak to journalists that aren’t even listed on Gorkana. One of our go-to contacts at Brass isn’t on there but because we contacted her after she downloaded a product image on Press Loft, we’ve developed a great relationship and she even comes to us direct for content now!

Journalists are people too!

Remember, journalists are just people too who are (usually!) happy to hear from us as long as we aren’t wasting their time! Don’t be afraid to offer to meet for a coffee or take them for lunch, when appropriate. This will really build on those relationships and help you to find out more about what they’re looking for and need. From simple things such as ‘don’t ever send me an email with a subject line in capital letters’ to ‘always attach images, never embed’ you’ll discover vital pointers that will help your email stand out in a list of thousands.

So there you have it. Don’t be lazy and just email en-masse to an out of date list you downloaded on Gorkana months ago, pick up the phone and engage with journalists directly. If you take the time to develop a list of great, go-to contacts, it will save you SO much time in the long run and you’ll be sure to generate lots of fabulous coverage for your clients.