How to build good media lists

Endless stacks of folded newspapers bound in twine

Receiving unwanted emails can be both irritating and a waste of valuable time. Most of us, at some point or another, have signed up for online mailing lists that we don’t want to be on, and end up hitting the unsubscribe button, or at least I know I do.

Journalists experience the same annoyance from receiving unsolicited pitches that have nothing to do with their beat or the subjects they usually cover. When pitching journalists and reporters, your goal is to get the hook for your client. While this takes creativity, patience and perseverance, your first step is to build good media lists to make sure you’re reaching out to the right people.

Below are some tips to build strong and effective media lists.

Good media lists start with a defined audience

Who are you trying to reach with your story, and what are the best outlets to reach them through? There may be many angles to explore, whether you are selling a product or sharing thought leadership from a spokesperson with consumer outlets or focusing on industry news with trade media outlets.      

Do your research

This is a pretty standard step to any part of your communications plan but conducting thorough research for your media contacts is crucial. You may notice that a journalist’s subject is listed as the healthcare industry in a media database, but their blog or Twitter bio says that they no longer cover this. Sometimes journalists give specific instructions about what they like or don’t like to receive in a pitch, and since the average journalist gets between 5-25 pitches per week, you want to send them information relevant to what they cover. Researching contacts is also a great way to make connections. Keeping up with their recent coverage shows them that you know how your client could be a great resource for them.

Good media lists have local and trade media outlets

While many companies have big goals of securing national press, local press can mean great exposure for your client. It might be coverage for a store opening or even a hometown feature for the CEO. You also never know where that story can migrate to. And for B2B organizations, a trade hit could be far more impactful than a consumer-facing publication.

Add relevant podcasts and radio shows

There are a lot of podcasts out there looking for experts to interview. Even if a podcast or local radio show doesn’t have a huge audience, these may be great opportunities for your client to practice interviewing for their dream TV interview and run through their talking points.

Keep your list updated

Newsrooms shut down, alternative outlets pop up and many journalists and reporters frequently switch beats, so it’s important to have updated information on your contacts. If during your outreach a journalist responds that they no longer cover their previous beat, see if they can share the contact details for the writer who does. This is another benefit of making strong connections.  

Pitching the wrong contacts won’t just be a waste of your time, it will reflect poorly on you as a PR pro. When you build a good media list it can take some time, but having a solid database of contacts who can be instrumental in telling your client’s story is a must.

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