4 Ways to Build Your Own Media List

Skip the costly databases and learn four quick tips to start a media list

“Do you have contacts?” It’s the age old question public relations firms receive from prospective clients. In fact, it’s often the reason why many people seek out PR professionals: to help get their name in the press. They assume the PR firm has an in-road to key media outlets in which they want to be featured.

Yes, it is true, PR pros – from the nation’s top PR firms to boutique agencies and freelancers – do have “contacts,” but they also use databases and good old fashion research to identify members of the press with whom they want to build relationships. It is a time-consuming process but, when done right, it is the foundation of a successful media relations program.

If you are a start-up or business looking to launch a media relations program, but aren’t ready to look to a PR firm for support, you should start by building a media list specifically tailored for your business.

Now, what is a media list you ask? It is your go-to list of the reporters, bloggers, editors and producers that have a predisposition to cover your business or report on your industry. Many public relations firms use media databases like Cision or Gorkana to research outlets and reporters by topic and build lists within the software program. But if you are just starting out and don’t have thousands of dollars a year to spend, you can easily start a media list without the bells and whistles offered by costly databases. In fact anyone can start to build their own media list with something as simple as an excel spreadsheet. Start by creating a template that identifies the name, outlet, email, telephone number and areas of interest covered by your media targets, and then include an area for notes. This will be the framework for your media list, as you begin the research phase to populate your list with the right contacts. Then, you can start on the road to media list success.

4 Ways to Build a Media List

Become your target audience

Reading, watching and listening to the publications in which you want to be featured is the best starting point for building your own media list. Be an active consumer of the news and you will start to get a better feel of what your target outlets cover and who they assign to cover it. Many outlets include the email addresses of their editorial staff following an article, both in print and online, which is an easy way to garner contacts. Now, it is important to mention that you shouldn’t mine contacts and spam reporters with your company information. By actively engaging in media monitoring to build your list, you should gain a clear understanding of who is appropriate to add to your database and what information they should receive.

Pick up the phone

Yes, I acknowledge that we are living in the digital age and an email or text often takes precedents over a good old fashioned phone call. But picking up the phone is an effective way to build your media list. If you are looking to source a contact but don’t know who the appropriate person is, call the newsroom. If you don’t have that information call the outlet’s main number and asked to be directed to the newsroom or editorial department. Then, you can explain that you are interested in sending information about restaurants, real estate, new business announcements, etc. and you would like to know who the appropriate contact is for said information.

Google It

Not sure who is covering your business or industry? Use the Google Search and Google News functions to find out. Conduct a search for industry news, topics or keyword phrases that pertain to your business and study the publications and reporters that populate the search. By doing this, you can discover new publications, blogs and outlets you may not have originally identified when you started the process. It is also a great way to identify freelancers who contribute to multiple publications, but more on that next.

Be Social on Social Media

What you may not realize is that reporters and you have something in common. You both want people to see and engage with your news. As such, you will find myriad members of the press on social media channels like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook amplifying their content. Look at trending news on social media, follow your target publications, and see what news they are sharing. Take this a step further and identify if a target publication has a specific hashtag they use to amplify their coverage. More times than not, this will lead you to staff and freelancers who are generating the news and, in turn, help you expand your media list.

By creating a media monitoring ritual using the four steps above, you will soon find yourself with an evolving and expanding media list. This practice will be your foundation for media relations activities like sending press releases or pitching story ideas; the research you conducted will help inform the type of correspondences that you send. It’s truly a win-win, and a very accessible way to build the path to a successful media relations program.