A major element in any public relations campaign is securing earned media coverage. Whether yours is a digital, broadcast or print outlet, third-party coverage by an established and well-regarded journalist is often regarded as validation for a company.

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And it's almost always much more effective than a paid advertisement.

But securing effective media coverage is a lot more complex than simply sending an email blast to multiple reporters. The key is to pitch only the relevant ones and individually tailor your pitches and story angles. There is no short cut. This task takes research and patience. Here are five tips to ensure your pitches are going to the right people:

1. Keep up-to-date with your reading

You must keep up with developments, trends and what’s being written regarding your industry. That means you need to know the publications and reporters that cover your space, and should read them on a regular basis.

Keeping up with what reporters are writing about in key, relevant publications to your industry allows you to see what stories have been covered and what new angles can be presented.

When you approach a journalist with a pitch for a story, you should be creative and differentiated in the angles and ideas you present. The only way to know how to craft your pitch most effectively is to read publications and stay updated on what has already been published.

2. Maintain a database of links to useful articles.

Keep a spreadsheet of links to your favorite industry articles -- with regard to both style and content. Also keep links to articles written by the journalist or journalists you want to write about your company. Then, when you pitch specific reporters, you can refer to a couple of their best-known or recent articles as your favorites.

Certainly, everyone likes compliments. But, even more than that, mentioning reporters' past work shows you have done your homework and understand which beats they cover. That goes a long way.

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3. Build a media list, with contact info.

Once you have determined the specific publications and reporters that are relevant, build a media list, with contact info. Whether that includes email addresses, phone numbers (which many reporters these days prefer you not use) or social media profiles, having some way to get in touch and an address to send your pitch to is crucial.

In our modern age of pervasive access and 24/7 accountability, you can often contact journalists via social media. It is highly unusual for reporters not to have a social media footprint. So, if you can’t find an email address, then reaching out on social media is another option.

4. Choose the right 'angle.'

Sometimes it takes a bit of prodding for a journalist to see the potential of the story idea you are proposing. Think of a unique and interesting angle that will appeal to his or her readers, one that obviously features you and your company as part of its subject matter, but is not overly promotional or self-serving.

A concise, clear pitch note is all that is needed at the outset -- and it shouldn’t be too long. But be sure to have very detailed information and materials to follow up with, should the reporter show interest.

5. Be helpful and respond quickly.

A reporter working for an established publication or media outlet will most likely get dozens, if not hundreds, of pitches thrown at them every week. So, if he or she does respond and show interest, you should be ultra helpful when requests are made for more information or interviews, and respond as quickly as possible.

Responding to an interested journalist's inquiry should become a major priority. If this person is serious about doing an article concerning you or one of your clients, you will likely have only a short window of opportunity before the topic becomes old news and the reporter moves on to the next possible article.

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However, if this journalist sees you as dependable for comments on subsequent stories, not only will he or she consider your next pitch, but you'll have a sure-fire way to establish a long-term relationship.