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Building a Solid Foundation: The Ins and Outs of Media Lists

Author: Alessandra Nagy
October 11, 2017

Solid foundations for media listsOne of the first jobs you’re given when you start your PR journey is to create a “highly vetted and targeted” media list for your clients.

Highly vetted and targeted? What does that even mean?

It’s that one perfect list of reporters whom you need to impress with your story. It’s the list that will decide whether your launch is successful or if it falls flat.

Creating a media list is one of the most important—if not the most important—jobs in PR. But it’s also one of hardest and most time-consuming tasks.

It takes hours of research and sleuthing to find the golden tickets—or what we in PR call “the perfect contacts.” They’re the people who write about every topic in your given field but who haven’t yet written about your client. They’re the ones who got away or the ones who are out of your league and you’re trying to impress. And when you do impress them—you feel like you hit a grand slam.

While it’s often a big undertaking, there are ways to organize your searches, and there are tools to help you weed through the clutter. Below are a few tried and true tips to help you make the perfect media list:

  • Google, google, google. The very first thing to do when starting a media list is to google the topic you’ll be pitching and read through every single one of the stories. After reading each story, then search the reporter who wrote the stories and read through more of their articles. By spending the time to read through their posts, you’ll not only find the right contacts, but you’ll also be able to mention some of their past pieces when you pitch them.
  • Note everything in Excel. Create an Excel grid, and, as you’re going through Google, write down the outlet and the reporter and make notes for yourself to remember how closely they align to your story. Perhaps you can even include a few links to make them easily accessible for pitches.
  • Refer to other lists you’ve made. Perhaps you’re building an ecommerce list and you’ve already created one for another client. Go through each contact to see if they’re relevant, and then build from there. If you start with a solid foundation and add highly researched contacts, you’ll be on your way to a targeted list.
  • Keep a list of who NOT to pitch. Some reporters don’t like to be pitched over the phone, and some don’t want emails. Keep those notes handy, and make sure they’re all noted on each media list you create. There’s nothing worse than getting an email from a reporter asking to be removed after he’s already requested it a few times.
  • Continuously update your files. Be sure to keep a record whenever your get undeliverables or bounce backs—it keeps your lists current and relevant and reduces the research you’ll have to do when either updating your list or starting a new one.

The biggest piece of advice I give to PR newbies is to carve out a few hours in your day, listen to your favorite music, make a plan, and then get started. If you stay organized and know where and who to research, the task will seem a little less daunting. And like everything else in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets.