Media relations is a critical component of any successful public relations and communications program. It’s important that you first understand the media landscape for your specific industry in order to build solid relationships with press contacts that result in positive coverage. But don’t put the cart before the horse and start reaching out to your favorite journalists or bloggers right away. You need to evaluate the landscape as a whole; otherwise, you run the risk of leaving someone out and/or annoying someone. That’s where your media list comes in. Before you begin outreach, you must identify, develop and maintain a list of relevant media contacts.

Here’s how you can create the perfect media list:

Understand the different types of media lists

One of the first things you will have to do is create a master media list. You cannot have a media relations program without one, as it is a foundational document for any communications program. That’s not the only media list you’ll need to develop, though. There are others that are dependent upon why you want the media’s attention and what you want to say. Here are the types of media lists you will likely need to develop:

  • Master Media List
  • Reviewers List
  • Tradeshow Media List

The MASTER MEDIA LIST will essentially be your bible because it should include every relevant contact from business to trade and vertical publications. This list will include journalists that cover the beat your company could potentially fall under depending on the services and products your company provides. Think of all the different areas and industries your brand covers, and make sure contacts under those fall into this list. Another tip is to look at who is covering your competitors and make sure to add them to this list. The master media list is a working list that is never finished, and you will continue to update it as your contacts change or you expand into new markets.

Another common list is a REVIEWERS LIST. Consumers typically seek out product reviews before making just about any purchase, so if you have a consumer product, then reviewers are extremely important. It’s also important for B2B brands that have reviewable offerings. Reviews are a great way to essentially validate your product. It is necessary when building a reviewers list that you find a contact that specifically reviews products and solutions. When searching for reviewers you will find that the main difference between an article and a review is that a review will typically critique the product in great detail. Articles will take information from briefings and/or a press release and highlight broad details. A reviewer will have had the opportunity to try out the product and will write about their experience at length. Reviewers will be essential to building out your brand since they will be looking to see if a product actually delivers on the promises it has made.

A third type of media list is a TRADESHOW MEDIA LIST. Trade shows provide great opportunities for in-person briefings with the press who are attending, which is great for relationship-building since people are more likely to remember someone they have met face-to-face. Tradeshow media lists are typically issued by the show organizer. I generally like to start reaching out to contacts 3 – 6 weeks in advanced if possible because you will find that schedules fill up very quickly, especially for shows like CES. This isn’t always possible as some shows don’t release lists until the week before the show. If you have to build your own tradeshow media list, all you’ll have to do is a little research. I recommend a few different approaches:

1.) Refer to the previous year’s list and ask people if they are attending again.

2.) Ask regular contacts in your ongoing dialogue if they will be attending the show.

3.) Monitor articles and social channels to see if people are indicating they will be attending again.

When it comes to creating any sort of media list, the quality and quantity of your coverage is tied directly to the amount of effort that is put in, and the amount of research that is done before you start emailing contacts.

Understand all of the tools at your disposal

The McGrath/Power team uses a variety of tools to find media contacts. I always start with media database platform Cision, which can be a great tool to find the bulk of your contacts although additional research on contacts is required to confirm they do in fact cover your beat. Agility PR Solutions and Meltwater are also great tools to utilize when building out a list.

I find when using Cision, it is best to identify a few terms for your product or market and search for contacts that cover those beats. Cision is most helpful in identifying emails and phones numbers for media contacts, but always double check that the contact information is up-to-date.

In addition to a media database tool, a simple Google search is also helpful to find media contacts. You can use the “news” tab to search your identifying terms to see who’s covering your industry and to search for publications that are relevant.

Social media is also another tool you can use to develop a media list. Searching media contacts on Twitter can give you an idea as to what contacts are talking about, what they comment on, even what they’re doing at the moment. By doing this, you can determine if they may be interested in your company.

The best way to build out a relevant media list, though, is to read. It is imperative that you spend time reading the publications that you wish to appear in to identify the best contact, as well as their specific and unique interests.

The bottom line with finding media contacts is there are multiple ways to search for contacts, but it is essential that you only identify contacts that are relevant to what you are pitching. You don’t want to annoy media contacts with a topic outside their beat and end up with a ruined relationship. It is a best practice to conduct regular industry news searches to identify new contacts since the media landscape is always evolving and remove any older contacts that no longer cover your beat.

Understand what goes into a media list

After identifying the type of media list you need and how to find contacts to add to the list, the next step is structuring. I recommend using Excel or any type of spreadsheet because you can easily sort them by publication, beat, name, etc. When creating the media list be sure to including the following information:

  • Publication/Blog
  • Link to the Publication/Blog
  • Contact’s name
  • Contact’s title
  • Contact’s email
  • Contact’s phone number
  • Beat – subjects the contact covers
  • Location of contact
  • Notes – Do they not like to be called? Have you contacted them before? What is the sentiment toward your brand? This section is for notes that may help you build a stronger relationship with the contact.

Now that you’ve learned which media list you will need, how to find the right contacts and what goes into the media list, you can start your own! Just remember, the key to creating the perfect media list is identifying the right type of list, finding relevant contacts that will be interested in your pitch and, most of all, keeping it up-to-date!