By Paula San Agustin and Stefi Markowicz |Aug 13, 2021

Learn insider tips and tricks to help you craft a valuable media list and keep your key contacts in one easy-to-find place.

Let’s really start with the basics.  What is a media list? A media list is a document, typically in a spreadsheet format, that details media contacts: journalists, reporters, producers, freelancers, and other members of an editorial team across mediums such as print, online, and broadcast. The first and most important rule is that media lists should be crafted to be relevant to the contact and meaningful to the client. Don’t just “spray and pray.   More is not better in this effort. 

The process of building a media list should be a selective procedure where you decide which targets are most relevant. Additionally, it should reflect your ability to build your client’s thought leadership, demonstrate expertise in a particular industry, and place a strong focus on generating media coverage in outlets that target your intended audience.

Below, are three tips to consider when building your media list:

  1. Know The Newsroom & Editorial Roles

Pitching the right media contacts is crucial to landing the right coverage, but first you must find relevant contacts in order to create an effective media list. The first step to building your media list is identifying your target audience — are you looking to secure coverage locally or nationally? In print, online or broadcast?

Next, it is important to research relevant media outlets and niche-specific publications. Your research should reveal what topics are covered, the audience size and demographics, the frequency in which they put out new content and more.   Part of this research is actually looking at or reading works by your selected target to ensure you’ve got it right.

if you are pitching a local restaurant opening, you would not be targeting “Capitol Reporters” or national media from a publication such as the New York Times. When compiling media contacts be sure to keep in mind who is a public relations contact and who is not. For example, “Publishers” are typically not  appropriate PR contacts and should not be on a media list.

Finally, add all necessary information such as e-mails, phone numbers and specific beats to your document of choice, such as an excel grid.

  1. It’s All In The Details: Templating, Formatting & Organization 

A media list can look completely different depending on specifics like your client’s industry, location, included contact information and more. While there is no “correct” format, the more detailed your list is, the stronger it will be. We recommend including a column in your excel grid for each of the following: Outlet, First Name, Last Name, Title, E-mail, Phone Number, Beats/Notes, Pitch Notes and Point Person.

Below, you can find a few more helpful hints:

  • Alphabetize your list by the ‘Outlet’ column
  • Utilize tabs on your spreadsheet (e.g.: designate one tab for specific purposes such as: local/national OR print/online/broadcast OR break up by city)
  • Ensure the same font, size and color are used throughout to create a cohesive look
  • When using TV call letters, write the full name in parenthesis, e.g. WPLG-TV (ABC)
  • Color coordinate your list for easy visual reference, for example:
    • Yellow = Pitched
    • Green = Interested
    • Red = Not Interested/Bounce-back email
  1. Best Practices

Not only is finding the right outlet important, but it is also crucial to ensure you have the correct contact. To do this, always take time to carefully vet your contacts and ensure their past coverage reflects interest in your client and/or pitch. Ask yourself some questions such as:

  • Have they written recently? Or are they inactive?
  • Have they written about your client in the past?
  • Do they clearly favor other sources or competitors?

Beyond their past coverage, do not simply stop at their ‘Author Page.’ Look into their social media profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to get to know their likes and dislikes better. Any important findings would make a great addition to the ‘notes’ section on your media list to keep in mind for the future. Finally, do not make the mistake of using the same media list over and over again. Just because you used it previously for the same client or a similar pitch and had success does not mean that you should rely on it again. Instead, use it as a foundation for a new list and take the time to look into each contact and research new outlets.


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