Every public relations professional knows that a useful and reliable media list is like gold in our industry and that a great relationship with a media contact is priceless. However, sometimes top journalists’ email addresses are more closely guarded than the President of the United States.
So if you’re starting from scratch when building a media list for your latest client pitch, where should you begin? Here are several tips I’ve picked up in my media relations experience:
- Do NOT build a massive list all at once. This is one of the biggest PR fouls you can make in media relations. Going through a massive database, selecting the city and the type of publication and deciding that that’s your entire list is a massive mistake. Instead, use these tools as a starting point or for cross-referencing. Get some ideas, gather the names of some relevant publications and journalists and from there, do some deeper research into what you’ve found. For Atlanta-based folks, I’d highly recommend Leff’s Atlanta Media. It has never led me astray.
- Read the news regularly. Simply reading the news and keeping up-to-date on the industries your clients are in will help you figure out who you should be pitching. It will also help you notice trends, which could inspire the idea behind a great pitch.
- Use Google News. It sounds too simple to be effective, but I’ve found that doing some simple searches of news articles that discuss topics related to my pitch has resulted in some wonderful media contacts. Through Google News, you’re able to set the location and the time span, which helps weed out journalists that are outside of your area or that are no longer covering a specific beat.
- Update media lists frequently. Journalists are switching beats and publications constantly. Chances are, if you built a list even just six months ago, some of your contacts are already out of date. Make it a point to do a quick update of your lists every few months to make sure you’re contacting the right people.
- Each publication’s website should be your main source of information. Typically, news sites will provide staff email addresses and phone numbers. This is the most accurate way to get contact info because it is updated regularly. It’s also the easiest way to see what the journalist has been writing about recently. If they’ve made a switch from real estate to government, it’s probably not a good idea to pitch them on your client’s latest development. That make it obvious you haven’t done your research.
- Make sure you’re contacting the right people. Typically, the editor-in-chief of a magazine or anchor of a top news station will not even open PR pitches (if you’re even able to find their email addresses in the first place) because they’re simply too busy and there are plenty of other people to handle that type of thing. Instead, contact the journalist who is talking about your topic frequently because chances are, they’ll find the information much more interesting (if you’ve put together a solid pitch).
The art of building a media list takes a while to master. The first time I ever “built” a media list, it had over 500 contacts that were all pulled from a huge database. Needless to say, that list was scrapped pretty quickly.