How To Build A Media List That Actually Works
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
You've written the perfect pitch, drafted the perfect press release, compiled the perfect media kit—but how do you get it in front of the perfect media contact?
Building a great media list is like an art. More than simply a list of names and emails, a targeted media list is one of your greatest tools to generate hits (that’s PR talk for media placements).
Whether you’re a publicist trying to land a cover for your client, a communications director distributing a media alert, or a freelance writer trying to pitch an editor, knowing how to build a targeted media list is essential to landing any story.
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What is a targeted media list?
A targeted media list is a thoughtful collection of media contacts (e.g. reporters, editors, producers, bloggers, podcast hosts, influencers) usually laid out in a spreadsheet that's categorized by outlet, contact details, media market, etc.
Notice how that definition includes the word "thoughtful." That's because a targeted media list contains contacts that you truly believe might cover the story you're pitching them, not a list of 100 random reporters you pulled.
How can I tell if a reporter might cover my story?
READ THEIR ARTICLES. That’s right, it’s as simple as that! The past few stories a reporter has written should give you a good idea of their beat (the topic they cover) and style. You can also check their Twitter, reporter bio or personal website to see how they describe their interests and experience.
PRO-TIP: Before pitching anyone, thoroughly research their previous stories to make sure you aren’t sending them something they’ve already covered or a topic they openly dislike.
How do I find a reporter's contact details?
There are several media databases that public relations professionals use to find contact information such as Cision, Muck Rack and Meltwater. These services are great because they provide access to reporters' email addresses, phone numbers, social media pages and more. They also allow users to search for outlets and contacts based details like location, readership, title and topic.
When you’re exclusively in the media relations business, it might be worth investing in one of these databases; however, these programs can get expensive (think upwards of $6,000/year).
If you don't have $6k to shell out for a media database, fear not! You can still search for contacts by using some good ol’ fashioned Googling.
Luckily, nowadays most people and publications have an online presence that tells you exactly how to reach them. You can start your search by visiting an outlet’s website and checking their Contact and About pages, which may contain a directory (here's an example from The Miami Herald). You can also check the reporter’s bio page, which usually lists their email or links to their social channels. If you’re still coming up short, try looking at their Twitter bio, LinkedIn contact info or personal website.
If all else fails, ask a friend! You might be surprised to find out who knows who.
Don’t be shy!
Once you've compiled your targeted media list, don’t be shy, hit send on that email! Reporters are oftentimes looking for leads or sources, so long as you're pitching them about something relevant to their beat. But remember, don’t abuse your power either. Pitching media is all about relationship building. One or two well-timed follow-up emails or calls are acceptable, but leaving 10 voicemails a day will likely get you blocked—and rightfully so!
Your media list will only be as good as how much research you put into it. Knowing who you're pitching and why your story makes sense for their coverage will make a world of difference in your media outreach efforts, and will likely determine whether or not you land a story.