Building an Effective Media List: Relate, Research, Refresh

By: Nicole Kasak

A critical role for all marketing and media relations professionals is to build targeted media list for each client. Databases such as Cision and BurrellesLuce are ideal when searching for a range of reporters across several geographic regions, especially when you aren’t familiar with the topic or the region; however, as a general rule of thumb, the best list requires more time and energy to develop. Listed below are a few general practices that will help even the most seasoned media relations executives: Relate, Research and Refresh.

1. Relate to your contacts on a personal level and develop relationships. As you know, most journalists are busy, but there is no harm reaching out to someone to ask them how they are doing or how they enjoyed their vacation. Like ALL people, journalists like to know you are thinking about them. Also, after you’ve developed a relationship with a reporter, they are much more likely to help you out or refer you to their appropriate colleague if you ask them to point you in the right direction for a specific topic. This also shows the reporter that you are hand-selecting the appropriate contact for each story rather than sending a “mass pitch.”

2. Research – some of the best lists come from researching a topic through an online search. If you know a reporter is currently writing for a certain beat, it is great to reach out to reach out and reference a specific article. For example: Based on your recent article “xyz,” we thought you’d be interested in an interview with Joe Smith. Research helps ensure your media pitches are reaching the appropriate contact, and that you are not sending a pitch to someone who just wrote on the subject. While you want to send your pitches to a relevant reporter, you never want to send them a pitch if it doesn’t add a new element to his or her existing coverage and story.

3. Refresh – a media list is never complete. It is continuously a work in progress. Not only are newsrooms shrinking, but reporters change beats, outlets and publications all the time. Use database searches, like Cision, to create a large media list for a client, and then call those reporters. Ensure they still cover that topic, ask what they are currently covering and verify they still work for the publication. Not even databases can keep up with the ever-changing media.
While these tips are more labor intensive than simply entering search criteria into an online media database, the results and responses are worthwhile. By thoughtfully selecting the media you contact you: ensure that your emails are read, increase the likelihood that your voicemails are returned and improve the probability for media coverage.