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Media lists: how to build a media list that gets you media coverage

How do you build media lists that get you great media coverage? Read in our in-depth guide on media lists below.

How to build a media list that gets you coverage

A media list, also called a press list or a contacts list is a document that outlines the names, job titles, email addresses and contact details of journalists, reporters, media organisations and influencers that you want to share your press release or pitch with.

Media Lists are usually targeted to meet the needs of your story they can be based on:

  • Geography - National or regional
  • Interest Topic - Cycling, fashion, football
  • Media Type - Radio, TV, print, online, influencers
  • Specific types of contacts - News desks or business media
  • Specialist - A hybrid of all categories. For example, a specialist environment list could have correspondents, local media, trade journalists, and influencers included

Getting your media lists right is essential for getting the best coverage for your press release or pitch. A great media list can make the difference in the quality and the amount of coverage that you get.  I will cover everything that you need to know about building the right media list every time.You will also be able to find some great PR tools that will make building media lists faster and much more comprehensive than you would be able to on your own.

Want to see how to build a media list with MediaHQ in less than 2 minutes? Check out our video below:

1. What is a Media List?

A media list is a collection of relevant contacts that might be interested in your press release or story pitch.The list should include their name, job title and organisation, as well as their topics of interest. It should include their email address, telephone number and social media accounts - these are very useful for context when you are sending a story.Once you have a list that includes the people that you want then you can pitch them your story.

2. Media List Examples

There are many different tools that you can use to build a media list. These include:

  • Google searches
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Spreadsheets.

At MediaHQ we have built a tool that allows you to simply search through thousands of journalists and build a media list in seconds. One of the things that we’re dedicated to is taking the grunt work out of it. If you go about building a media list the wrong way there can be an awful lot of grunt work.With the Media HQ solution you build your media lists on the MediaHQ platform. Why is this better? Because by keeping the information on the platform you will get the following benefits:

  • It is easy to share the list across your team, and easy for colleagues to collaborate with your list. You can set specific use permissions on each media list.
  • We can keep it up to date for you. So if there is a new piece of research your list gets updated. If you download a list to a spreadsheet you will not get this benefit.
  • Your list is in the cloud and you can access it from anywhere at any time.
  • It is integrated with our detailed Press Release Reports - which shows you how many people who read it and when.

Here’s what one of your media lists looks like. It is a UK national media list. The contacts have been covered for privacy reasons.

3. Should you buy or build a media contacts list?

Should you buy or build a media contacts list? It’s a trick question. You should always build a media contacts list, but you should buy the tools that make this easy for you.The notion of ‘buying a media list’ went out with the dark ages. What you need to do is to have an agile solution that allows you to build any media list that you need quickly and efficiently. At MediaHQ we have built a set of tools that allows you to build any media list in seconds. Let’s have a look at how to best build your list.

4. How to build a media list in four steps:

Step 1 - Define your target audience

The most important question is who do you need to reach with your story. The purpose of sending a press release or a pitch is to get media coverage and for this media coverage to change people's behaviour.You should have a profile of your target audience. You need to know who they are, what are their interests and defining traits and what media do they consume. This will determine which journalists are on your list. Imagine you’re sending a press release out about a new electric bicycle - you may want to target lifestyle, feature or even environmental journalists.Decide on the topic or topic that you want your list to be about.

Step 2 - Search for who to add

There are thousands of journalists. Your job is to find the right ones for your story. When you are building your media list on a media contacts database the goal is to simply search through the database and quickly build the most effective list possible. A media list should strictly adhere to the ‘Goldilocks Principle’  - you don’t want a list that is either too big and unwieldy or too small to make an impact. You want one that is just right.Your audience brief should indicate the key words that you need for your search. These can be based on:

  • A subject or interest topic
  • Geographical area or
  • Media type

This is what the MediaHQ search console looks like:

If you look a little closer you can see the range of options that you have to choose from:

There are over 56,000 journalists, over 10,000 organisations, over 4,000 radio, and television programmes and podcasts, and over 1000 newspaper columns,You can put any search term in the box and you can then filter your results with the following filters:

Once you have put in your search terms then you can see the results very simply. Here is a search for the word environment and enabling the national and editor filters.

This brings up 271 journalists and you can simply add them to a list.We have built a topic search filter that makes it really easy to build a list. This is a way for the expert Media Researchers at MediaHQ to pass on their knowledge to you the user. We have over 320 categories that you can search through and create a media list.In this example, I have selected the design topic which falls under arts and culture. You can see that there are 54 journalists under this topic.When I choose the topic, the search returns these 54 journalists as results and I can add them to a list really simply.

Step 3  - How to name your lists

There are a number of ways to name your lists. The first decision is how to file them. One simple way to file them is by their reach. This filing system looks like this:

  • National lists

Lists targeting national publications.

  • Regional lists

Lists targeting local and regional media - usually filed alphabetically.

  • Specialist lists

These lists are a hybrid of the first two categories and are often for special interest campaigns. They can include national, regional, and trade media, as well as opinion formers and commentators. They are usually filed by subject area examples might include Wind Energy, Foreign Travel, and Food reviewers.Under each of these categories, you should aim to file your lists alphabetically and describe them by exactly what they do. Here are some examples:

  • National News Desks.
  • National Radio Business Desks.
  • National Picture desks.
  • Manchester football correspondents.
  • Scotland business journalists.

It helps if you write a one paragraph note describing your intention for your media list. This is what it would look like.This is a list of business correspondents in Scotland, where a media outlet didn’t have a business correspondent I have included the business desk and failing that, the news desk. This gives a very clear intention of what you are trying to achieve.

5. The Golden Rule- Never forget about media relations

A well built media list will get you more media coverage and will deliver for a long time. It is very important to build relationships with journalists and people in the media.Having a good story and being personable with people on your lists is a good investment and will make getting media coverage easier.

About MediaHQ

Looking to build your own Media Lists? More than just a media contacts database. MediaHQ helps you find journalists, build media lists, send your news and analyse results


More About Jack

Jack is a media innovator with over 20 years’ experience at the most senior level in the Irish communications industry. He has worked in marketing, journalism, and media relations. He is a former political spokesperson and government advisor, as well as an award-winning corporate PR practitioner.

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