Four Key Steps to Building a Media List

The early days of working with a new client are often spent laying a foundation that will help them achieve their communications goals. It’s often not the most glamorous time – but it can be one of the most important, as you build their program from the ground up.

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time creating and refining custom media lists for two new clients. As such, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the different ways PR professionals go about gathering the information we need to build the best media list for our clients.

Before I discuss the variety of tools and resources we use to build a media list, let me say this – a media list is never done. It is a living document – constantly evolving and updated. Or, at least it should be. Publications and reporters change and it’s our job to stay on top of those changes. We must regularly research, review and update the media lists we build for every one of our clients.

With that said, here is a sampling of tactics I normally draw upon when building a solid media list.

  1. Look at the competition. One of the easiest things to do is look at where a client’s competition is getting covered. Most companies these days have a “newsroom” on their website and will proudly display and list out who has covered them recently. If the publication/reporter covered the competition, I normally add them to my client’s list. (Side note: This is also a good way to vet authored article opportunities. If a competitor’s byline is atop the article then they wrote it, indicating that the publication accepts contributed content.)
  2. Rely on Google.  Google has a wealth of information and should always be the second step in the list building process. I type in the keywords that matter to my client and search through both the “web” and “news” pages to see what kind of news is being written about my client’s industry. And if keywords aren’t returning the desired results, I rethink them.
  3. Visit news outlet websites directly. Most of the clients I work with know what publications are relevant to their industry and where they would like to be featured. Spending some time on the website searching for key terms and phrases helps turn up articles and relevant reporters that can be added to the list. Some outlets even make it easy and provide a list of their editorial contacts and beats.
  4. Enlist the help of a software program. Be it Cision, Vocus (soon to be VoCision?) Meltwater or Tech News (formerly IT Database), these databases exist to provide reporter and outlet information – including often difficult to find email addresses.  They also include a variety of search functions to identify publications or reporters based on their geographic location, outlet topic, reporter beat, type of publication, etc. — the list goes on. One caveat, though: these databases are often not as up-to-date as they might claim to be. In such instances, I always try to go back to point three to double-check.