Newsrooms in the U.S. saw an estimated 88,000 employees in 2019 — a number that only continues to fall as media outlets across the country grapple with declining readership and pandemic-related budget cuts.
That’s not a whole lot of journalists available to read press releases anymore, given that there are more than 32.5 million businesses nationwide.
So how can you ensure that more journalists read — and accept — your press releases and PR pitches? It starts with a media list.
What is a media list, you may be wondering? Read on about how this easy tool can transform your brand’s marketing strategy.
What Is a Media List?
Think of your media list as a living, breathing address book in the 21st century. Basically, it includes the names and contact information of reporters, bloggers, and social media influencers who can help get your brand the coverage it deserves.
The people on your media list are ultimately who you’ll want to send your press releases to.
The more specific the media list, the better. You’ll want to go beyond the basic names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Your media list should also include what topics each person covers, as well as the publication they work for and where it’s located.
You can even take it a step further by including links to their recent work, social media profiles, deadlines, and preferred contact methods.
Media lists are relatively easy to build using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. There are even templates you can purchase and download online. Some of the templates may be blank for you to fill, and some may already be complete with local and national contacts.
But there are a few benefits to building a media list of your own.
How to Build a Media List
Relevance is key to an effective media list. For example, if your business falls into the fashion industry, you probably won’t need media contacts from publications about pet grooming or auto mechanics.
Buying pre-filled media lists may not suit your individual needs as a business. Luckily, it’s not hard to create your own.
Identify Your Target Audience
Start by asking yourself what audience you’re trying to reach. What is their age group? Their demographic? Their geographic location?
Next, you need to determine how your target audience consumes their media — that way, your stories are more likely to reach them. Are there any websites they frequent? What about blogs? Newspapers?
If you’re not sure where to start, identify a list of topics and story ideas that are relevant to your business. A quick Google search can reveal the websites and publications that have previously written about those and similar topics.
Those publications are going to become the key to the next step: tailoring your media list to your audience.
Research the Movers and Shakers
Now that you’ve identified several outlets and publications that are relevant to your business, it’s time to start tracking down the people who contribute to them.
This can be trickier for some outlets than others. For example, a blog post may not have a name on it if it’s written by a staff member. If this is the case, see if you can find similar blog posts with names attached.
If there are no names attached to the blog posts, it may be a blog run by a single author. Look for an “About” or “Contact” page on the blog for more information.
And if that doesn’t work, it may be best to steer clear of that publication. You want your media list to include real people you can engage with.
Most newspapers and digital news sites include author names near the top of the story. The author’s contact information may be included at the bottom, or hovering over the author’s name could direct you to a dedicated author page with their contact information.
In the beginning stages, it’s best to shoot for mid-tier publications before you aim big with national outlets. These publications will help you establish your credibility, and if you pitch too many times to a bigger outlet, you may end up being ignored.
Organize Your Media List
Once you’ve done your research on who covers the topics relevant to your business, it’s time to start organizing. As a reminder, you should include the following general information, at a minimum:
- Topics covered
- Geographic location
- Email address
- Phone number, if applicable
- Social media, recent work, and other relevant details
But how you choose to organize this information is largely up to you! You may decide to alphabetize your media list. Maybe you want to group it by location or publication type. Maybe you just want to color code it, so it’s easier on the eyes.
No matter how you organize it, your media list will become an invaluable tool. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the formatting, you can even use it to keep track of how many pitches you’ve sent to each person, how many were accepted, the average turnaround time for acceptance, and which topics worked and didn’t work.
Make It a Tool, Not a Crutch
Remember that every successful business strategy has a personal element to it. Just because you send someone emails regularly doesn’t necessarily mean they trust you or even notice you.
As harsh as it may sound, remember that their inboxes are probably flooded with emails every day. The reality is, they may not have the time or the energy to keep up with every single one.
So how will you make yours stand out? It starts with a conversation. Introduce yourself and spend a few weeks or even months getting to know the contacts on your media list.
Understand each other’s roles. That way, when the time does come to send that pitch, you’ll already have the rapport that makes your pitches more likely to be accepted.
Leave It to the Pros
Media lists are indispensable in marketing, as they allow you to reach new audiences without the hassle of tracking down new contacts every time. And as traditional newsrooms across the country only continue to shrink, it’s important to know who your contacts are and how to reach them.
Now, you’ll never have to ask yourself, “What is a media list?” again.