How to build and maintain a media list: a step-by-step guide + free media list template

Sarah Lee
0 minutes

How to build and maintain a media list: a step-by-step guide + free media list template

Follow a step-by-step guide plus a useful template to learn how to build a bespoke media list for your agency and its clients.

If you've landed on this page then you already know just how important it is to have an accurate and targeted list of media contacts that can be tailored for specific press releases and kept up-to date, ready to use at a moment's notice.

Without a media list you can't get coverage for your clients.  You can't get the results you need every month.  You won't get the visibility or raise awareness for the companies you represent.  

So why do so many PR people (inhouse and agency) spend so much time making excuses for not curating a central media list?

Download your free media list template now

Perhaps its because we love last minute scramble to find that spreadsheet we had a few months ago that sort of worked but is now way out of date and needs combined with the amazing one the intern built but didn't save.

Or building a monster media list from scratch in Cision or Response Source that has a cast of thousands and will take months to filter down to the 20 we really need to target.

And of course there is the sinking feeling you get when your client spots a massive and really, really obvious gap in your list.

Well no more excuses.  The time to bring all your media lists together in one place and maintain them is here.  We'll cover how to build your media list and then how to keep it in tip top condition.

  1. What is a media list?
  2. Free Template
  3. Build or buy a media list
  4. How to build a media list:
  5. Who is your target audience
  6. What contact information do you need
  7. Where will you keep your media contacts
  8. Find your media contacts and add them to your media list
  9. How to build a media list

1.  What is a media list?

A list of the media outlets and named journalists who write about your client's industry or about companies like your clients.  

It will contain the name of the media outlet, the name of the journalist, their beat (or the subjects they write about), email and telephone, detail about the media outlet and why it is relevant to you.

It must be tailored for specific press releases or clients.  You must be able to curate your central media list which contains all your contacts depending on the story you are distributing.  

Tip:  Every press release needs a unique media list.  

2.  Types of media lists and free template

There are  many different types of media lists, free and paid for.  Some cheap and some very expensive.

Save time and download a template for your media list from Google Sheets.

Download your free media list template

Below is the media list in personalised media outreach PingGo.

Build or buy  your media list?

The big data bases like Cision and Vuelio, Roxhill and Gorkana are incredible resources - you'll find the exact contact you need in the most niche corners of the media landscape.  They are comprehensive and will get you the list of your dreams.

But they are expensive and they are difficult to manipulate.  The lists they create are monsters and unless you spend hours and hours filtering and refining they can be a very blunt tool.

They are almost too big to handle and it is too easy to 'send to everyone', scatter gunning your story in the hope that someone will pick it up.

By building your own you are able to cherry pick the perfect journalist on the right news desk.  It means you are laser focused and targeting your press release at the most relevant people for your story.

This increases your chance of success massively. And means you are not wasting your story or damaging relationships with journalists.  Journalists don't like being spammed, they want relevant content they can use.

You are also in complete control of your contacts, you can keep contact details up to date  and if they change the beat they cover.  We all know the frustration of  an email not being recognised or a telephone number missing.

Five steps to building a media list for life

1.   Who do you want to read your story? And what do they read.

This is your first step, this is where you start to build your list of  media contacts.  

2.   What contact information do you need?
3.   How to care for this list and nurture it

This is list is perhaps the most valuable resource in your agency.  Without it you can't do your job - so it is important to look afeter it and give it the love and attention it needs.  

Make sure your whole team has access to the list - so that it is a truly shared resource within the agency.  If everyone is working from a single source of truth, the list is a combination of the knowledge and experience of every member of the team - past and present.

The list should constantly evolve and grow as new contacts are added and others move on.

4. The people behind the names

I think we forget that a media list is actually a group of people.  They are living breathing beings doing a job they love (hopefully) and are good at.  They need to hear from PRs, we are where the majority will get their stories.  But we must respect their time and the pressures they operate under.

It is our job to make sure that we only send relevant stories to them.  It is our job to filter and spend time cleaning the data on our spreadsheet.

If we do that we will save ourselves time in the long run and increase our hit rate and the results we get for our clients.

Time spent on agency 'housekeeping' - on clearing out the contacts who never cover our stories, tidying away the publications  we don't know anything about - is all time well spent.

By de-cluttering our media lists we will be left with the high value titles that will give us the results our clients pay for.

5.  Making friends with those names

Once you have pruned back your media lists - you will see more clearly your history of engagement with each media outlet.  Keep call notes to build the timeline of your engagement with individual journalists and the media outlet as a whole.  With every story you send a publication you increase awareness and build reputation not only of your client but also of your agency.

By noting snippets of information about the journalist - from how they like to receive information, to what team they follow or what music they listen to, you are building a relationship with that journalist.  And that means the next story will be easier to pitch and you will have a deeper understanding of what they are looking for and how to get their attention.

Media lists are like spider plants - they will have many babies

Once you have carefully built your central media list you will now be able to cherry-pick journalists and publications for specific stories.  Every press release will need its own media list.  But any changes made will all be fed back into the central media list.

The only thing to remember about a media list is that must be personalised for every story.  Without making it relevant to each story it will be a blunt instrument, not sharp enough to cut through the noise of the other news, and reach the right desks.

Although it is a digital tool, it is made up of people and you must work to build relationships with each and every person on it.

A media list is not just a database - it is a living, breathing organism and will always grow and change.  Depending on the makeup of your agency, the clients it serves, the stories they have, the people working there, it will shift and evolve.  It is the secret sauce of every agency and it should be protected and kept healthy.

To find out more:

Upload a media list to PingGo.

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