Media lists are arguably the most important component of a media outreach strategy. Often the first piece of foundational research conducted for a client, having a strong, targeted list of relevant journalists and reporters to pitch your client to is crucial to making sure the engagement begins on the right foot. Typically, the biggest investment in media list research occurs at the beginning of a client relationship, but if that’s the only time you’re focusing on this essential element, you’re likely missing significant opportunities for coverage. Media lists are never truly complete, they aren’t supposed to be. They should operate as living documents and change along with the media landscape.
The new year often brings new job opportunities or new beats for journalists, which means it might be time to hit the refresh button on your media lists. As public relations professionals, we strive to create meaningful and lasting relationships with reporters, so there’s nothing worse than pitching a journalist for a story on a topic they no longer cover or haven’t covered in quite some time.
The best way to maintain your relationships with journalists is to maintain your media lists. Luckily, there are three easy things you can do right now to make sure your media lists are living up to their potential.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
First things first, what tools are you using to help research media contacts? Are they working for you? There are so many options out there for PR professionals to quickly search for contact information, so whichever tools you’re using, just make sure they’re giving you the most up-to-date information possible. While it’s always a good idea to use resources like Google and Twitter to complement your research, if you find you’re using them more often than your paid digital tools, it might be time to reassess your tools. A simple switch could save you and your clients time and money.
Out with the Old…
If you’re like me, your media lists probably accumulate copious amounts of notes over time. Whether a media contact’s email bounces or you’re asked to check back in a few weeks, these internal notes can pile up and add unnecessary clutter to your media lists. Now is a great time to go through and delete or archive any notes from the last year or previous pitching efforts. It’s also worth deleting those old contacts who you know are no longer at a certain publication or have moved on to different beats. And don’t forget to delete any duplicate contacts that may have accumulated over time. This is also a good time to archive old verticals that are no longer relevant to your client or even combine verticals, if possible. Having a clean and concise list to look at will allow you to quickly identify weak spots where reporters are missing or perhaps outlets where you need to find new contacts.
…In with the New
Now that your old contacts are in good shape and you’re able to find new contacts efficiently, it’s time to add some new voices. As I mentioned above, the new year often serves as a time for people to start new jobs and for journalists to transition into new areas of coverage. A great way to keep up with this is to follow journalists on Twitter, especially if they’re someone you’re pitching regularly. This small act shows that you’re genuinely interested in their work, and it’s a great way to keep up with their areas of coverage. To discover new voices in the industry, I recommend finding and subscribing to various newsletters too. Industry-specific newsletters almost always include recent articles that may be relevant to your clients. Not only is this a great way to discover new contacts, but it gives you an opportunity to let those contacts know you’re familiar with their work ahead of your pitch. Finally, keep an eye on the news cycle. If there’s a major news story out there that is relevant to your client, be sure to look through related coverage regularly as a way to find new reporters.
Media lists are like cars. Without regular maintenance, they stop working. It’s important to establish a regular time to make these updates, not just in the new year. And like cars, the more time and care you put into them, the longer they’ll last!