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How to build a media list

In the PR world, the media is your lifeline and a crucial vehicle in communicating your story to the masses, so it’s vital that you maintain a good relationship with journalists from a variety of publications and broadcast outlets. However, there are simply too many media contacts out there to keep track of them all without a comprehensive list.

Your media list will essentially be your go-to document whenever you need to contact the press, be it for press release distribution, to invite media to a press conference or to pitch a story for a feature article, it is therefore essential to make sure that it is as thorough and up-to-date as possible. Consider the following factors when putting together a media list.

Identify the sector you want to target
There is a plethora of magazine titles in every market, and it’s up to you to short-list which of these your news is relevant to, to ensure that you are reaching your target audience. For example, it is highly unlikely that a women’s lifestyle magazine is going to cover an agricultural story so don’t waste your time and theirs by sending them unrelated news. The same rule applies to daily newspapers and broadcast media, by going through their issues or keeping an eye on their programming schedule you can determine whether your story would fit into the general news, business, sports or lifestyle sections and identify which programmes your client would be best suited to appear in.

Don’t be the needle in the haystack
Most daily newspapers have generic e-mails for their business, news and sports desks. Do not take these for granted and depend on them in the hope that your press releases will get picked up. These addresses, although great as an added security, receive hundreds of press releases and invitations every day making it very easy for your story to get overlooked. Go the extra mile, identify the journalists covering a beat relevant to your industry and make contact with them. This will help to establish you as a point of contact for them too, and they will refer back to you when they are covering a story where they could use a comment from your client.

Don’t leave anyone out
And by that, I mean the online portals, particularly the web editions of daily newspapers. It can be quite easy to assume that if you’re sending a piece through to the business desk of a newspaper, you don’t need to worry too much about the online editor. This is not strictly true. While it is likely that if a story is published in print, it will appear online as well, it doesn’t work the other way round and you might have a greater chance of getting coverage online so make sure you send your release to both. It is also useful to include the contact details of the online editors in your media list as you can make direct contact with them should you need to arrange for an immediate amendment in the event of a misreported detail.

Include all relevant data
In addition to listing the basic information and contact details such as publication, journalist name, job title, telephone number (preferably a mobile number), publication language, programme title and airing time. Make sure you note the frequencies. e-mail address, make sure you note the frequency of the publication. Determining in advance whether the publication is issued daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, and when the programme is aired. This will help you schedule the timeline of your releases accordingly and create well-informed PR action plans for your clients. Where possible, try to make note of when magazines close their pages as this will give you an indication of the availability of journalists. It’s always best to give them their space during deadline week, because there is no way you’re going to get their undivided attention during this time!

Lastly, don’t forget that your media list is a living document that will never be finalised and should therefore be regularly updated. You will undoubtedly come across a host of new press contacts at events, through telephone and e-mail correspondence. If you’re lucky, once you’ve established your client as a key player in their respective industry, journalists will even seek you out themselves. It is important for your media list to stay current and to always reflect these changes; so set aside some time once every couple of months to check in with your regular contacts, and do some maintenance work on your media list.