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How to Build an Effective Media List

June 6, 2019
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To secure media coverage on behalf of your brand or client, it’s important to remember that 20 percent of your outreach efficacy is based on the content of the pitch and 80 percent of efficacy is based on who you’re sending that pitch to. That’s why crafting a selective media list that reaches highly relevant reporters is extremely important. Creating an effective media list helps you assess your audience and evaluate how you approach every editor, journalist, or blogger so that they see value in the coverage while providing you value and relevance in return. Perfect your PR outreach process and take a look at some general tips for building an effective media list below.

Tip #1: Use Media Databases Wisely.

Use media databases like a phone book, not an encyclopedia. Media databases at their most basic are directories with contact information. Most offer categories that allow you to filter by specific beat, topic, region, media type, or outlets and publications.

That information is a good place to start, but it’s not nearly enough to garner any real insights about a journalist, reporter, or other kind of influencer to cover your story angles. Databases don’t speak to the quality of an influencer’s writing or content, nor do they always include every single influencer. Writers freelance and contribute to outlets all over the internet and in print. Read what they write. Media databases are best used for staying organized throughout the outreach process but don’t rely on them for everything.

Tip #2: Use Google As Your Starting Point

Always use Google searches as a starting point in your research. Google’s search function is an invaluable tool that gives you immediate access to some of the top trending journalists and outlets. Media databases are extensive, but they won’t include every single person that you may want to reach out to.

If you don’t have access to a media database or otherwise aren’t sure where to start, look up your keywords via Google and click the “News” tab. You should see what other media outlets are writing about along with plenty of bylines. This opens up a whole new world of opportunities and helps to build up your media list further.

From there, use Google to look up any influencers. You should be able to find portfolios, clips, and previous pieces and content, all of which gives you a better idea of the quality you’re getting and the specific angles and topics that they specialize in.

Tip #3: Keep Track of Competitors

Track media coverage from your competitors and form important media relationships with reporters who are covering those competitors. This can give you better insight into reporters’ works while helping you understand current trends and angles that you can either run with, build off of, or avoid entirely when you’re considering topics you want to pitch.

Add any relevant articles that you find and the writers reporting those articles to your master media contact list along with a link to the coverage. That way, if you do end up reaching out to the reporter, you have the article on hand to refer back to.

Tip #4: Use Twitter Lists

As you build your media list, keep track of the online activity of target journalists using Twitter lists. Twitter lists are perfect for keeping track of any new pieces that are filed and published by target journalists, allowing you to stay up to date on new angles and expand pitches.

More importantly, Twitter lists allow you to create a living stream of any reporters you might be interested in. This can go hand in hand with your media list. While the media list gives you all the necessary information to get in touch with people, Twitter lists offer perspective, context, and life to those names. Media lists won’t give you the immediate, real-time thoughts and sentiments of relevant journalists and influencers the way that Twitter lists will. Considering the speed and immediacy of the modern news cycle, most journalists will live-tweet initial impressions on news announcements before they even start writing or filing a piece.

Granted, social media comes with its own self-curation and issues, but it’s hard to fake human thoughts and interactions. Combining your media list with Twitter lists helps you develop meaningful connections with reporters that you can trust and rely on for thoughtful, valuable content.


Tip #5: Leverage Google Alerts

Much like Twitter lists, Google Alerts can give you immediate information on new pieces that make it to the web. Leverage Google Alerts to identify reporters covering similar topics. Set alerts for relevant keywords, competitors, and your company. When your competitors or topic of interest pops up in the news, Google will send an alert to your email with a link to the blog or article.

You’ll likely be inundated with alerts, so it may take time to cull and curate your alerts for your specific needs. Don’t add every single influencer that hits your inbox. Be thoughtful and discerning. If you see a specific name or topic come up often, it’s probably time to pay attention and do some research.

Tip #6: Update your Media List Regularly

Think of your media list as a breathing creature, constantly changing and evolving. News media, and the digital media industry, in particular, has a high turnover rate. Considering recent layoffs at major media companies, including BuzzFeed, Vice Media, Huffington Post, and McClatchy, at the beginning of 2019, the industry sees some consistently high turnover that likely will continue and become characteristic of the media landscape.

Even beyond the high turnover, media contacts are constantly changing roles, shifting to different beats, or moving to new outlets. Keep up to date on industry news so that you know when new outlets launch, switch to online-only or stop publication. Update existing entries with current media contact info, links to relevant articles and pieces, and general notes. Always keep an eye out for new and relevant journalists for building your network. It’s also a good idea to go through your media contact list to remove any duplicate entries.

Tip #7: Be Mindful of Your Pitches

Avoid sending pitches to general inquiry or info emails. It will likely get buried by other emails and likely won’t reach the person it was intended for. Avoid contacting several people at one media outlet as it can be construed as spam. Find the specific contact details of the journalist you want to contact. That should be readily available via an influencer’s Twitter or LinkedIn account, but if you absolutely cannot find their contact info, call the outlet directly and ask the best way to get in touch with the reporter.

Once you have the contact info, make sure you tailor your pitch to the specific recipient. Reporters want to see that you know what they are covering. Sending a random email is on par with sending spam. Tailoring your pitch is a key tip for writing an effective media pitch. It keeps you from seeming like a spam account and ensures that you get an actual response back. A personalized pitch also helps you properly target your topic and angle and ensures that the journalist, reporter, or editor sees value in covering that topic. It ultimately helps all parties involved.

A good pitch is essential, but it’s only one part in finding the right person. Building a media list of relevant media contacts takes some time, patience, and research, but it’s essential to getting great results and superb content from influencers that you can rely on.


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