How to Build a Media List For Your PR Strategy

Your media relations campaign will only be a strong as your media list. It won’t matter if you have the best media hook, the most engaging collateral, or an out-of-the-box PR strategy, if you don’t have a strong foundation for your media list then you are doing both yourself and your campaign a disservice.

Targeting the right outlets and contacts is critical to success and requires ongoing maintenance. Putting the time into creating and managing a smart media list will save you time later when pitching, as well as save time for the reporter on the receiving end of your email.

How do you go about building a smarter media list? I’ll walk you through a multi-step process to give your campaign a leg up to get the best results possible when building a list of print and online media contacts.

Part one: Determining the appropriate Media Tier

Understanding the different tiers of media is the first step in getting the best possible coverage for your product, service, or message.

  • Top Tier — Generally considered the Holy Grail of media efforts, Top Tier media consists of outlets with national reach and high circulation. These are the household names of traditional media such as The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post among others.
  • Regional — Your news may be best served in specific metro markets. When developing your PR strategy, consider what areas of the country may be most interested in what you have to offer. Outlets like The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, or The Boston Globe could be a better fit for your story. More than that, these outlets may have a more specific audience that would make your media placement more significant.
  • Local — When your campaign needs to dive into a specific region with localized news, local outlets are the way to go. These outlets, like The Asbury Park Press, Washington City Paper, and Patch would be interested in news that impacts specific towns or regions.
  • Trade & Magazines — Think about your campaign. Is there are particular industry that would be interested in your story? If so, targeting trade magazines and editorial opportunities in magazines could be the way to go. Picking these reporters ensures that readers specifically interested in your story, despite location, could have the opportunity to see your placement.

Part two: Who’s Who of Reporters

Once you’ve identified your target outlets, you need to make sure you contact the right people!

  • Reporters are employed to report news or conduct interviews for newspapers or broadcasts.
    • Assignment Reporters are contacts that you would reach out to for breaking news in a particular region.
    • Beat Reporters usually cover one to two specific topics and are therefore great contacts for your niche announcement.
  • Columnists are similar to reporters but insert their opinions into the news to make it relevant to the region, industry, etc.
  • Editors oversee a publication or section of an outlet and its writers.
    • Executive Editors are tasked with supervising the entire outlet and publication. Not the best contact for your campaign unless the outlet is very small.
    • Managing Editors oversee the daily operations of a department or outlet section (i.e. The Business Section).
    • Assignment Editors determine which writers cover which stories. These editors are the best contact for your media list.
    • Copy Editors handle grammar for reporters making sure each story is up to standards. I can’t imagine them enjoying your pitch too much.

Part three: Finding The Contact Information

After you identify the reporters, you need to figure out how to reach them. Services like Cision, PR Newswire’s Agility, and Muckrack will help you find preferred contact information. On a budget? Search on Twitter and LinkedIn!

Part Four: building your media list

Now that you’ve done the research, it’s time to actually build “the list.” Simply enough, create a spreadsheet. We use Google Docs so numerous team members can contribute to the spreadsheet, live. To make your media list a valuable resource, you should include the following items to make your media pitching experience seamless:

  • Name of outlet
  • First name + last name (keep separate for mail merge purposes)
  • Job title and beat
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Twitter account, if possible
  • Links to recent coverage
  • A notes section for media pitching updates and reporter preferences.

Once you’ve created your list, it’s your responsibility to keep it up-to-date and relevant. We update our client media lists in Google Docs, in real time, all the time. Treat the list like a living, breathing document. Keep up to date with who is covering your client’s topic. Utilizing tools such as Google News & Alerts and The Skimm will allow you to keep tabs on reporters and opportunities to pitch current news. Boolean searches on Google will allow you to target specific key terms, as well as articles from a specific outlet. Be creative! Thinking of out-of-the-box outlets to pitch your story will help you generate unique media coverage.

Remember, reporters change hands and switch beats all the time—keeping tabs on them will keep you from looking foolish by contacting them once they’ve moved on to covering a completely different topic. To do this, flag and correct bounce-back emails in real time, update reporters based on feedback, and pay attention to out-of-office emails that may say if they have left the outlet.

Your media relations campaign depends on a strong media list. Make sure yours are in the best shape!

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