5 steps for building a relevant media list

Communicators know they must research their audience and for PR pros that means digging into the journalists that cover their niche. Here’s how to build a useful media list.

PR pros put so much time into planning, implementing and then writing up the perfect press release. However, it can be a challenge to find the right journalists to talk about your story.

“Spray and pray” pitching lacks personalization and specificity to a given journalist’s beat. The better approach is to segment reporters by coverage area—and update those lists assiduously.

Here are five tips to create your dream journalist contact list:

1. Identify your target audience.

It can be easy to get caught up in reach figures, but where is your target audience? If your intended viewership isn’t where you’re being featured, then your PR efforts may be going to waste.

It’s good practice to build a detailed persona of your target audience. Not only should you consider job title, demographics, preferred social networks, lifestyle and aspirations, but also ask what they read. Do they prefer blogs, newspapers, trade magazines, forums etc.?

Once you know the type of content that interests them, you can select journalists that speak to these demographics.

2. Identify relevant journalists.

Say you are a Whole Foods store. Adding a journalist who talks about organic superfoods is likely to see better ROI than a journalist who talks about the food industry generally.

Journalists move around a lot. Use keyword searches to see what a writer has covered recently to ensure they are still interested in that topic. Check back in at least once a month to confirm that your list is up to date and that your target journalists haven’t moved on.

3. Watch your market and competitors.

Note the publications and journalists that have already talked about subjects related to your company. These types of journalists are likely to warm more to your message since they have already shown a strong interest in our sector.

However, when you pitch to these journalists, make sure to differentiate yourself from your competitors. If they have already talked about a similar product or industry trend, they’re not going to want to cover the same story again.

4. Refine your targeting.

Keep your PR lists short and sweet. It’s more effective to have a handful of very relevant journalists with whom you have good relations than a long list of journalists with whom you rarely speak.

Here are some criteria to pay attention to when refining your list:

  • Is the journalist a generalist or specialist?
  • Are they addressing the general public or are they experts in a specific area?
  • What’s their editorial line: critical, humorous, analytical?
  • Do they mind being contacted via social media?
  • Do they write chronicles, reports, articles, blogs etc.?

By doing your homework, you can adapt your messages to their way of processing information.

Journalists are overwhelmed by information, especially information that doesn’t concern them. All it takes is one irrelevant email to warrant them adding you to their little black book of blocked contacts.

It’s easy to think of media relations as a numbers game, that the more people you pitch to, the higher chances of landing a placement.

This just isn’t the case. Quality is better than quantity, and personalization goes a long way. Even just addressing a journalist by their first name makes a difference.

5. Keep your list updated.

Creating a journalist list takes time, as does making sure the list is current. New opportunities might be presenting themselves, and journalists move around. A frequent list audit will make sure your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

Baptiste Brethenoux is community manager for Rebound CG. A version of this article originally appeared on the Meltwater blog.

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