Public relations dates back to the 1900s and has always been at the forefront of…
Most PR professionals know the importance of creating a targeted media list and why it’s vital for the success of any media relations campaign. After all, a well crafted media list can not only save you time conducting outreach but it can also help you land a placement in the publication of your choosing barring you have a strong story and angle that fits well with the outlet’s audience. That’s a whole other part to the equation and you can learn more about crafting strong pitches that convert to placements in this post.
For those that don’t know the importance or steps it takes, this post outlines how to create an effective media list including what media lists are, why they are important, what questions you should ask when it comes time to start researching contacts, how to keep yourself organized, and more.
What is a Media List?
In the basic sense, a media list or press list is a compilation of contacts that you want to not only target but contact for the news you are sharing. Many times media lists are created using a spreadsheet or word document. Most recently, PR software companies have joined the mix to help PR pros track contacts and outreach similarly to how sales teams use a CRM.
Why are Media Lists Important?
Media lists are an integral part of any media relations campaign. Not only do they help you organize a number of pieces of information about your contacts including their name, outlet, and email address but also any notes regarding outreach, responses, pitching preferences, follow-up schedule, etc. There are countless reasons why media lists are vital to success and we’ve found the more information you can identify about an individual the better chances you have of knowing if they are a good fit for your brand or client.
Questions to Ask
As with any campaign, it’s important to start asking questions and begin to identify your plan. Jen McGinley said this is how she approaches the early stages of developing a media list:
Conversation with client, purpose, goals, desired/realistic outcomes, deadlines, research and reading.
— JLMStrCommunications (@jenlmcginley16) March 23, 2021
The purpose of any media list is pretty straightforward, however, it’s up to you to determine this and how to proceed. Understanding the purpose, especially when speaking with your client, can help clarify exactly who you need to target and what you will be targeting them with. Lacey Trejo shared this post on The TypeBar which dives into the 4 elements of PR account management which can help give you clarity on handling clients and aligning your teams for success.
Once you know the purpose of your media list then it’s time to start identifying the goals. For example, you might be looking to insert your brand or client into a local publication which means you should be targeting local media contacts and outlets. Or, maybe you’re trying to gain national coverage which, in that case, means your time and attention should be focused not on local outlets but ones with a national presence like trade and top tier publications. You might be thinking of targeting someone smaller, like targeting an influencer, in which case the same rules still apply.
Lastly, what is the message you are trying to disperse? Is it a product or service launch or a C-Suite executive who is available to speak about a trending topic? It’s vital that you have a clear message of what you want to share and ensure all the most pertinent information is compiled AHEAD OF TIME. Journalists have tight schedules and short deadlines and making them wait for you to share more information could easily result in someone else securing the placement instead of you.
Once you’ve clearly outlined your purpose, your goals, and your message then it comes time to start conducting thorough research on each contact you want to target. Believe us when we say this can be daunting and can take hours to spend the appropriate time knowing what each contact writes about, the audience they cater to, and their pitching preferences.
Overseas PR consultant, Sarolta Acs, shared her approach to researching journalists she includes on her media lists:
Honestly? Research a lot. then research more. Collect not only contact info, but links to articles, also I put comments about the journalist’s style, topic preferences etc. Anything that can help me to find the right audience for my pitch.
— Sarolta Ács (@AcsSarolta) March 23, 2021
And we would agree! Countless hours of research and data compilation will help you tremendously when it comes time to start pitching your media list. This is part of the reason we created OnePitch Scores to help PR, marketing, and communications professionals save time and know EXACTLY who to pitch their news to. But, if you aren’t keen on using a service to help you with this then here are some examples of the information you should include in a media list:
- Author URL
- Beat and/or coverage
- Twitter profile
- Notes (see more below)
Only after you’ve asked yourself the right questions, done your research and due diligence should you then start pitching the contacts on your list. There is ample opportunity to contact the names on your list but sending them a cold pitch most often results in no response UNLESS you miraculously contacted the right person, at the precise time, with the most optimal message. Seems like a huge gamble if you ask us.
There are still a number of tasks to complete once you have your list developed and fine tuned. As Sarolta mentioned above, adding notes for each contact can be very helpful for learning more about your contacts beyond their written work. That’s why we recommend including location, for example, since you wouldn’t want to pitch a journalist on the east coast at 7 pm PST. Not only that but it’s also helpful to identify any preferences or styles to pay close attention to. Many journalists provide a snippet of this on their Twitter or within their author bio.
Equally as important as note taking is tracking your conversations. While you may not have tools to know who opened or read your email, you can still document your initial date of interaction as well as any subsequent follow ups. Piece of advice: limit your follow ups to 1 or 2 maximum. If you still haven’t heard from the journalist by then chances are they aren’t interested at that specific date in time.
One of the most daunting parts of creating a media list surely is keeping it up to date. Most of us know PR professionals seriously outnumber journalists and we’ve all seen the dreaded Twitter posts from a well known writer announcing they’ve been laid off by their publication. One resource we refer to often is Cision Media Moves which provides daily updates on role changes and new hires within the media and journalism industry.
The good news is creating a media list doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass and a number of free tools are available to help you along the way. To learn more about OnePitch Scores and Media Lists, check out our explainer video and create your free profile today!
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