Why you should scrap your media list

New journalists and media outlets spring up every day and your media list could be outdated before your finish typing it up. Here’s how you should find media contacts.

The media list has been the holy grail in the PR business.

It’s a shrine-worthy artifact that PR pros hold dear—and near—but as the industry modernizes, so must the media list.

While a home base for media contacts is smart, it should no longer be the only tool you use. Instead, add a search engine to your contact mining efforts.

Journalist beats are changing quickly as the number of journalists decline. One journalist may juggle five beats at once. Therefore, media lists built in databases are increasingly outdated. Google, however, isn’t.

There are four pieces to the pitch planning pie:

1. Research and relationships (60 percent)

This is the most important pie slice. A drag-and-drop database media list will never earn you the caliber of coverage that research and relationships will. By researching who has covered your topic in the past, a search engine will allow you to spend time getting to know a journalist’s style and help you better tailor your pitch.

If someone writes about smartphones regularly, for example, then you know that your pitch relating to smartphones might resonate. After spending the necessary time to build relationships over the years, you’ll have fostered relationships with journalists you already know will like your pitch.

2. Media list (20 percent)

You shouldn’t abandon the media list wholesale. Though research and relationships deliver the most ROI, a media list has its place in the pie filling, too. When you’re just starting out in PR or learning an entirely new client’s industry, a media list is a helpful place to start learning the landscape.

However, pulling from a media database only gets you so far. Googling who covers a pitch topic and adding it to a database list is where a truly strategic (and relevant) media list comes to life.

3. Editorial Calendar (10 percent)

There’s always value in planning ahead as much as one can in the short-lead world we live in. Prepping editorial calendars for seasonal shopping, gift guides and holidays is basic PR.

However, this craft is ranked third because it’s not as useful as it once was. An article in Adweek sheds light on the editorial calendar via an audit from tech firm, Bospar. The audit surveyed 50 U.S. media outlets, finding that “nearly half of the outlets have stopped publishing ed cals.”

Editorial calendars were created 400 years ago for print newspapers and are losing relevance in our short-lead world of rapid content creation and distribution, information overload and two-minute tweet lifetimes.

4. Luck (10 percent)

As any PR pro can attest, sometimes you get lucky. Whether it’s inbound interest or a few bites off a large company announcement pitch, occasionally the stars align.

The lesson here is that you never really know who might like your news or angle, and sometimes it’s surprising to see what sticks.

How do you find your media contacts, PR Daily readers?

Brooks Wallace is the west coast lead for Hollywood Agency, an integrated PR and communications firm.

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