We reached a new milestone last week: Over 500 different organisations – commercial, academic and not-for-profit – have now registered to receive journalists requests submitted through the Dot Star Media request form. New organisations are joining every week.
Building a diverse and representative network
The media works better when it represents a wide range of sources and journalists tell us that they want to hear from diverse voices. Our aim is to provide a service that meets the needs of the journalists submitting media requests just as much as it meets the needs of the organisations receiving them.
For this reason we’re committed to providing journalists with access to a diverse range of sources from a well-balanced network of recipients drawn from commercial, academic and not-for-profit organisations.
We’re attracting commercial businesses and academic institutions by offering fairly priced flexible subscriptions. Registered sources can switch topics when they please and to stop and start monthly subscriptions according to their current requirements.
To give not-for-profits an equal footing in accessing to journalist requests, and to help charities get their voice heard, we are providing the media request service to qualifying registered charities completely free of charge under our charities initiative.
Sending a journalist request
If you’re a journalist and would like to send a request to the Dot Star Media network, use the journalist enquiry submit form. It’s free to submit requests.
When running a company like Dot Star Media, it’s impossible to get away from needing to run servers – quite a few servers. We have the corporate site (you’re on it now), we have the application site, and we have quite a few mailers to help you receive your enquiries within about 30 seconds of them appearing on social media.
At Dot Star Media, we care about our impact on society and the environment.
For society, we’re incredibly proud of our charity initiative, which is helping nearly 200 charities get media coverage for their causes.
For the environment, we pledge a percentage of our net profits each year to green causes but want to do more where we can. So this weekend we’re moving our entire hosting environment over to a new hosting provider – Hetzner Online.
When Dot Star Media was merely a twinkle in our eye, we decided it was to be ’email first’ and that there should be few reasons the website had to be used. This drove our design for super-fast email delivery (30 seconds, on average), and straight forward configuring of profile settings.
While over 90% of our customers use email primarily for their alerts (and that being the reason so many have been able to secure media coverage – they arrive so damn quickly!) some do prefer to keep an eye on the recent enquiries page instead, or take one of our digests.
However, as features were developed – especially keyword filtering – and closely integrated with the email alerts and the recent enquiries pages, we wanted a way for people to be able to search for journalist requests which fall outside of their keywords. Perhaps you’re taking on a new client whose interests fall outside of your existing remits – being able to search the archive of requests is massively useful in helping pick your keywords!
Having access to the archive opens up other opportunities. It’s easy to search for journalists who write about certain topics – and the enquiries will be enriched with additional information where we have it. Further more, as our enquiries are only from verified journalists, we’ve removed the significant noise component of searching directly on social media.
So that’s our most recent development. Search. Super simple (single word/phrase search) with choice of how far back you want to look. Currently available from the top of the search bar:
Your new client, Snuffles the Singing Cat, has engaged your services to boost their media profile. They’re interested in providing expert comment on anything singing-cat related, and have a particular interest in Broadway shows – after all, they did study at the BRIT school!
You’re confident that with the help of Dot Star Media, you can keep an eye out for journalist requests which are relevant for Snuffles, and with the power of instant alerts, you can do it without spending all day on Twitter!
You choose your topics – Pets & Animals, of course, and perhaps Entertainment & the Arts – and throw in some glorious cat related keywords (and enhance them with the AI suggested options to be even more effective). Then with a glass of kale juice, you sit back and wait for the opportunities to present themselves.
Gah, what’s this?! You keep receiving requests from Jonathan Griffiths who’s writing for the ‘Cats and Guinea Pigs In Industry’ magazine. From checking his profile, you’re confident these requests will never be relevant. What can you do?
This is the sort of user story which keeps Dan and I awake at night. How can we help make the requests you receive more relevant to your interests? Topics and keywords go a long way, but sometimes more is needed.
Today we’re happy to make this a reality and we’ve added the ability to unsubscribe from requests from specific journalists. By simply clicking on the link at the bottom of one of their requests, they’ll be added to your exclusion list and you’ll never hear from them again:
Added someone by mistake? Click the trash-can by their name and you’ll receive their enquiries again. It is that simple:
It’s been two months since we launched the free journalist enquiry service for charities initiative. The uptake has been even better than we expected. As of today 178 UK registered charities are receiving journalist request notifications – with new charities joining every day.
Media coverage opportunities
We’ve had some great feedback, for example: “Dot Star Media offers a simple, user friendly service which has allowed us to identify opportunities for our campaigns, which we were previously unable to benefit from due to limited resource to search for opportunities” – Franchesca Allen, Macmillan Cancer Support.
Charities often support a single and specific cause. When it comes to monitoring #journorequest (and other hashtags and tweets by journalists) for media coverage opportunities, having a focus on a specific cause inevitably means that most requests are irrelevant. The keyword filtering option “is great because it aggregates all the journalist requests that are specifically relevant to you, so you don’t have to trawl through Twitter and wade through irrelevant content.” – Sarah Swaysland, The Volunteer idea
Journalists seeking comment
Journalists seeking comment from charities – and other organisations, such as universities, PR firms and businesses – can submit detailed and direct requests for free using this submit form: dotstar.media/submit (we also scan Twitter for requests posted there)
The next step for Dot Star Media is providing an option for journalists who want to contact our growing network of charities, universities, businesses and public relations agencies without having to post requests on social media.
A direct journalist enquiry form means that journalists who want to send more detailed briefs than Twitter allows, or prefer to avoid the public nature of social media, can use Dot Star Media directly. The form is ready to use here: dotstar.media/submit
We know that building up a network of journalists will take time. While we promote the new service to journalists and build request volumes we have decided to distribute direct requests free of charge to all subscribers. The instant request notifications sourced from social media are still only available with a Dot Star Media subscription.
Just a few months after launch Dot Star Media has improved the way organisations monitor social media for journalist requests. We’re helping hundreds of individual subscribers jump on the ‘quick reaction’ media opportunities available on Twitter, without spending all day on Twitter.
Innovation in media requests
We’re also pleased to have introduced these innovations to the journalist enquiry service market:
Automated near-instant alerting for most requests, because speed is crucial
We will continue to work with subscribers when developing further improvements.
What Jonathan and I are most proud of, however, is the free ‘media request service for charities’ initiative. This is making a real and positive difference to the media relations activities of over 100 qualifying charities. Franchesca Allen from the press office at Macmillan Cancer Support said:
“Dot Star Media offers a simple, user friendly service which has allowed us to identify opportunities for our campaigns, which we were previously unable to benefit from due to limited resource to search for opportunities. It’s also allowed us to create and build new media relationships across consumer titles such as Refinery29, LadBible and VICE.”
Keyword filtering is a powerful way of streamlining exactly which requests make it into your mailbox. It’s a feature we added just a week after launching, and is incredibly popular with our customers who have email alerts enabled.
As well as email alerts – an industry staple for decades – Dot Star Media has pioneered the use of the workflow management tools MS Teams and Slack as a delivery mechanism, and it’s growing in popularity amongst our users.
Because these delivery methods are at the organisation level, they were developed only with topic filtering in mind; keywords were not considered appropriate at the global (organisation) level.
From the feedback we received, this was an incorrect assumption! Keywords are desirable when using workflow management tools.
So (and you must have known this was coming): You spoke, and we listened.
Organisation keywords are here! The page looks remarkably like your personal keyword page and it works in the same way. The only difference is the keywords entered are only used for enquiries which are delivered via MS Teams and Slack. This does make it a Gold level only feature:
Since we opened up keyword filtering for everyone, nearly 25% of our customers are using the feature. It’s an incredibly powerful way to streamline the journalist requests you receive in your mailbox.
However, there are challenges to crafting a good keyword list: not everyone thinks the way you do.
For example: Perhaps you or your client are in the vodka making business. You’re eager to hear about opportunities for your latest summer blend, you add a keyword of ‘vodka’ to your keyword filter.
A few days later, a request comes in through Twitter which would be PERFECT for you:
Sadly it doesn’t include your magic word, so the opportunity never hits your mailbox. Gah! If only you’d thought to add ‘drink’ too.
This problem has been on our minds a lot – we’ve spent time with a number of clients working on their lists and we thought there must be a better way to do this. So we’ve been hard at work in the Dot Star Media Laboratory seeing what we can conjure up to help everyone in this situation. We think it’s ready for Prime Time and so it’s just gone live.
From today, when you add a keyword to your list, you’ll see some suggestions presented:
If you like the suggestions, add them. If not, they can be ignored. Every time you add a keyword, the total number of matching enquiries from the previous week will be displayed so you can see how effective it’ll be:
Now for the small print: We use a AI-Powered Semantic Network Robot for determining related words. Usually it does a good job, but sometimes it takes a tea-break or engages ‘Friday Mode’ and will return some silly answers. C’est la vie.*
*(if anything particularly incongruous comes up, let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org – there might not be much we can do but all feedback helps us develop new features for you).