PR puts 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 our story. ‘Spray & Pray’ pitching is often ineffective, partly due to the lack of personalization of the pitch, but also because we’re pitching one angle to a mass of different kinds of journalists.

Instead we need to create a list of journalists, ideally divided into different beats, and ensure we’re regularly updating it.

Here are 6 tips to create your dream journalist contact list.

# 1 Identify relevant media types

It can be easy to get caught up in reach figures. But is that where your target audience is? If your target audience 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 our target audience. Not only should we be considering job title, demographics, preferred social networks, lifestyle, aspirations and more. But also what do they read? Do they prefer reading blogs, newspapers, trade magazines, forums etc.? Once we know the type of content that interests them, we can make our journalist list with this in mind.

# 2 Identify relevant journalists

For optimum success, select media according to what the journalist specializes in. For example, say we’re a whole foods store, adding a journalist who talks about organic superfoods is likely to see higher ROI than a journalist who talks about the food industry generically.

Meltwater’s influencer contact database allows clients to search journalists by beats, location, publication, but more importantly content they’ve previously written about, so we can be sure that our company will still be of interest to them.

Journalists move around a lot! The benefit of searching by keyword is that you can see what they’ve written about recently, indicating they are still interested in that topic. It’s worth using this method at least once a month, to ensure your list of journalists is up-to-date and that your target journalists haven’t moved on.

Meltwater's tool provides a list of journalists

# 3 Watch your market and competitors

Keep a close eye on the market and competitors on a regular basis, noting the publications and journalists that have already talked about subjects related to our company. These types of journalists are likely to warm more to our message since they have already shown a strong interest in our sector.

However, when we do pitch to these journalists, we should differentiate ourselves from our competitors. After all, if they have already talked about a product/sector similar to ours, they’re not going to want to cover the same story again.

# 4 Refine targeting

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

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 being aware of the above, we can adapt our messages to their way of processing information.

finding a list of journalists

# 5 Refine targeting (again!!)

We can’t emphasize this step enough. Journalists are overwhelmed by information, especially information that doesn’t concern them. All it takes is for us to send one irrelevant email to warrant them adding us to their little black book of blocked contacts.

It’s easy to think that the more people we pitch to, the higher chances of a PR hit landing. This isn’t the case. Quality is better than quantity. Personalization goes a long way. Even just addressing a journalist by their first name makes a difference!

# 6 Keep your list up to date

Creating a journalist list takes time, as does making sure the list is up-to-date. New opportunities may be presenting themselves and journalists move around. A list audit every now and then can’t hurt the ROI of journalist outreach.

A version of this article originally appeared on our UK blog.