How can you find exactly the right journalist in Asia for your story? One solution is Telum like it is

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Tim Williamson is Telum Media‘s Asia-Pacific Managing Director. There’s nothing worse than spending hours into putting together a press release only for it to not get attention it deserves, and so this is the problem that Telum Media addresses for companies. Telum Media connects people, organisations, companies, business owners, and PR people who’ve got something they’d like to say and get out there with the right journalists, content creators, and earned media who are producing content in those particular areas, topics, or products. It’s a platform to discover the right people to talk to, and it’s also a community, because they encourage interaction between PR people, content creators, and journalists, and they do that in various ways. Fundamentally, it’s an internet system where you can look up the journalists that you need to engage with and find out, through lots of rich content, whether or not that journalist might be the person that you want to talk to. At the core of their services is a platform where they provide newsletters for the journalist community and the PR community about journalist moves and PR moves. They provide job news, and they work in multiple languages, including Bahasa, Thai, and traditional and simplified Chinese (to cover Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China).

Telum’s best features

Telum Media currently has tens of thousands of journalists on their roster. Due to COVID and significant changes that have taken place in media and in its structure, that’s where the beauty of a business like theirs in Asia lies, because in the Asia-Pacific region, the media is extremely diverse. There are different languages, geography from Australia and New Zealand, which they cover all the way through to China and Taiwan, and it’s really hard for a company to find the right journalist to engage with on their own. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Tim shares that he was actually one of the very first clients of Telum when he moved from the UK to Singapore seven years ago to set up a PR agency, and he considered Telum a godsend, even in the early days when there wasn’t as much data as there is now. It was a window on the Asia-Pacific media that otherwise would have been extremely hard for him to find. Moving on to their client profile, Tim says it’s very diverse. There isn’t a typical Telum client. It’s the full gamut. They cover all sectors, and they’ve got small freelance operators, startups, MNCs, PR agencies, government organisations, and the like. Practically anybody who wants to engage with the media will be a Telum customer.

One of their unique features is that they have country teams or local language teams for each of their markets. Before, in the days of the little black book and Excel spreadsheet, you would literally have to have teams of people constantly updating information about journalists, and that would be just simply contact information. It wouldn’t be what their preferences were, what they were looking to write about next, when to contact them. But at Telum Media, they’ve got teams for all of their main countries that are talking to the journalists everyday. They’ve actually got KPIs, believe it or not, to network with journalists and PR people, and to make sure everything’s not just up-to-date, but really actionable and useful. They’re always keeping an eye out like good PR people do for information that somebody else might be interested in and help them get a piece of coverage or engage better with that journalist.

How Telum helps companies build relationships with journalists

Over at Telum, they believe in meaningful engagement between you and the journalists. They don’t exist to spam email thousands of journalists with irrelevant content. They want to make sure it’s the right content. From a workflow perspective, they have very rich search information, right from the start when you’re planning a campaign, to make sure that you’re targeting the right journalists and putting together the list of the right journalists. Within that, they’ve got recommendation engines and multiple keyword searches. They also have a live list update, so that the next time you log in, it will tell you that this journalist has moved or that you might want to think about these journalists. It eliminates having to go through and manually check your list time and time again. Through the system, you can set up your press release to go out as a BCC or however you want to do it, but it comes from you. 

The final component to it, which Tim thinks is incredibly powerful, is the whole ethos of their company is about networking and relationships, and you can track your relationships with the journalists that you’re engaging with. From a compliance perspective, you might want to keep interactions if you’re in financial services, because you might want a record for when there might be a a crisis or issue, especially if you have, say, a temporary person working on your PR and you want to keep a record of those interactions with journalists when that person’s moved on. You might simply want to do it, so that you have multiple people looking at the latest RSVP lists for a virtual party during COVID. Essentially, they have that ecosystem within Telum. It’s very active. 

When you log in, you will see the latest media requests. These will be live opportunities where journalists announce what kind of stories they’re looking for and how soon they hope to get it done. You’ll see these in Telum’s newsletters as well, so they take care of that component. What they don’t do is some of the other areas like media monitoring, for example. They leave that to others, because they’re quite focused on doing what they do and trying to do it well.

Why Telum goes hand in hand with a PR agency

If anybody’s thinking about engaging with the media, Tim says that’s the time to get Telum, and perhaps to get a PR agency as well, if you have the money to do it, because PR agencies bring a huge amount of value to their clients. It’s value that Telum can’t replicate. Telum is simply complementary to that. When starting out, Telum should be a foundation stone, but you figure out yourself what you want to say, what you want to achieve, what the business objectives are, and then keep note of that. When it comes to whom you should be talking to and how to build up relationships, that’s Telum’s forte. As anyone knows, relationships with journalists need to be built over time. That’s often where some of the best coverage comes from, and it doesn’t always happen overnight. It’s a relationship and a long-term game.

If a competitor or another agency would be able to know if you’re dealing with a particular journalist for a client, only you or the agency can see it. Although in some cases, they would have PR agencies that would want to see what each other are working on within the agency. In some instances, they may find that a PR agency and their clients want to work together and see who’s working on what. But beyond that, Telum can’t see, nobody can see. It has to be secure. All of their business is based on trust at the end of the day. They try to provide a lot of benefits to their two sets of customers: first of which are the PR people or business owners who are trying to market themselves, and their second set of customers are the journalists, content creators, bloggers, and podcasters. What Telum tries to do is create value for both groups, and in return, they place their trust in Telum, and Telum makes sure that everybody hopefully gets a better interaction out of it. The journalist doesn’t get inundated with irrelevant pitches and requests they’re not interested in, and the companies that are engaging with them are able to do so with a degree of insight, forethought, and information that really helps.

Though they can’t disclose the number of press releases that they sound out every month, they’ve made a deliberate choice to not send the actual press releases through Telum. This is goes back to Tim’s point about media engagement. They firmly believe that the personal touch is very important. Within a few clicks of a button, you can have your distribution list set up, and you can send it. Most importantly, it comes from you. A lot of what they’re trying to do and help people with is not so much the broad-brush press release distribution which can be done, but it’s more so about finding that one journalist, putting the pieces together, coming up with a great pitch, sending the message, and getting some publicity.

Telum Media gives you access to journalists’ main contact details and anything business-related. The main mode of contact, however depends on the country. In China, it is done mostly via WeChat. In the Philippines, Facebook is what is used. In Australia and Singapore, communication is via LinkedIn. Twitter, Tim says, is extremely important in Australia as well.

With Telum, you can even download a journalist’s profile and share that with a client if the client wants to have a briefing book to see whom they’re being set up for an appointment with. If you’re a business owner or PR agency, and you want to make sure that the CEO or spokesperson is fully briefed as they can be, then they can see the relevant biographical information, where this journalist has worked, what they’ve covered, video interviews with the journalist, and more, so that you can pick up snippets from that or they can explain what they’re most recently interested in. There are media requests and surveys around the time of day a journalist prefers to be contacted, if they go out for coffees or lunch, if they’re able to take gifts or not, those kinds of things. At Telu, they really try and put all of the good stuff in there, so that you’ve got plenty to work with, and so that you go into that interaction well-briefed.

What makes Telum special

In the Asia-Pacific, Telum is the only company that does what they do. They are connectors, and they do that through their rich ecosystem that they try and provide everybody with. That means they give journalists newsletters on a weekly basis where journalists can get job information. They have PR news for the PR community, so they can see who’s gone where and what. They do lots of in-person meetings, virtual networking, and meetings for their subscribers as well. If you subscribe to Telum, you join them as much for the network as you do for the information that they provide. It might be the connections that get you your next job or your next great employee, as well as, of course, helping you to reach out to the media.

According to Tim, the pricing depends entirely on what you want to do with Telum, as it’s pretty flexible. At its base, you buy regions, of which they have three main ones: Australia and New Zealand as one, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. You can buy a region, and then you can buy seats. If you’ve got a big company or multiple offices, you can buy more seats. Basically, for one region, it’s around $690 a month, and you get an annual subscription for that, and then it depends what else you want to do. Within that, will you get journalists’ data, newsletters, everything that you need from that one region. If you’re in Asia and you’re looking to project to the outside world to top-tier financial journalists or the top tech publications outside of Asia, or likewise, if you’re in London or New York and you’re looking at Asia, Telum can provide you with insight as to how to navigate this diverse, large, and vibrant region.

As you can tell, Telum Media can do wonders for business owners or PR agencies, as it helps you get in touch with the right people and spread the word about your company. If you want to learn more about their services, you can go to their website or social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram). There, you will see their content, interviews with journalists and editors from New Zealand and Australia through to China, and all kinds of information. So, if you’re looking for ways to get noticed in Asia, Telum is one of them.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Cyril Dason

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