6 Steps to Creating a List of Journalists That Will Talk About You

laptop coffee mug working on desk
laptop coffee mug working on desk

Ensure you're reaching the right media contacts! Follow these steps to creating and maintaining a list of relevant journalists.

Discovering relevant contacts to add to your media database can be a painstaking job. The struggle is real when it feels like you’re searching for a needle in the haystack. Partner this with the fact that you’re spinning many plates and need to complete a superhuman level of work by end of the day, and it’s easy to see why most PR specialists park this job until last. But the problem with the tasks that always end up last on your never-ending list, is that they rarely get ticked off…

If you’re finding it difficult to build ROI driving media lists and Influencer Marketing, you’re not alone, which is why we have put together our best practices for you, in this blog post.

Here are the 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.?

Some questions to ask yourself about your target audience could include:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they located?
  • What are their interests?
  • What type of media do they consume?
  • What publications do they read?
  • Once your audience has properly been profiled, you can start researching meaningful publications.

Once we know the type of content that interests them, we can make our journalist list with this in mind.

#2 Identify Relevant Journalists

Knowing exactly which contacts to add to your list is the first step in optimising PR outreach. This isn’t overly complicated, but don’t overlook this step. We need to have good strategy foundations in order to see tangible results. We have listed a few considerations below.

2.1 Define your Target Audience

Step one is all about getting to grips with defining your audience – who do you want your story to be read by? The more niche your answer is, the more relevant (and ultimately more useful) your media list will be.

We’d recommend building an audience persona: What age group is your target audience? Are they based regionally or nationally? Are they predominantly male or female? Is there a particular magazine or website they read? Get granular when creating audience personas. For example, what are their political views? Are they city dwellers? The answers will help you achieve a more rounded view of not only what they read, but what they believe – helping you to craft your message.

You can find the information needed for person mapping using Mintel research reports, Googling your target publications demographics and analysing your social media following demographics/ marketing database demographics too. Don’t forget to add a splash of emotional intelligence when researching. Personas are generalisations, so common sense goes a long way when building one! Read Meltwater’s personal mapping blog for more info on how to do this.

2.2 Define your Target Journalist

Get to know writers, not just titles. Being aware of specific journalists that cover the types of content you want to get involved in is essential if you want your media list to be a useful tool.

You can uncover new journalists by staying up to date with news/ trends and jotting down key spokespeople covering the stories. This can become quite a manual process, however, so to save time you can also use tools such as Meltwater’s media monitoring solution to track industry news, as well as Meltwater’s press contact/ PR distribution solution. Users can filter journalists by content, department, location and publication. My favourite feature of the tool has to be the option to search for journalists based on topics they’ve recently written about since this helps eliminate out of date contacts.

2.3 Review Previous Coverage

Keep a record of previous earned media and refer back to see which journalists and media outlets provided the most volume of coverage. Do you see a pattern? Is there a particular story that received more press? Are there journalists/ outlets that frequently cover your stories? If so, these are valuable contacts with whom you should continue to maintain a good working relationship. They’re likely to be quick wins for coverage compared to others who aren’t familiar with your company.

One word of advice, however, is to look at the sentiment of the mentions, as well as how many hits you received. This helps you get to grips with the journalists who consistently write favourable articles and flag authors who may require some extra nurturing. Any good media monitoring tool will be able to provide you with such insight. An additional metric to consider is the reach of the publication. Weigh up if it’s worth spending time engaging or if there’s another publication that’s more valuable.

2.4 Review Previous Competitor Coverage

Your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses can easily become yours, so it’s good practice to put the same amount of effort into reviewing your competitor’s coverage as you do your own. Make a note of the types of publications their name keeps popping up in and add the journalists mentioning them to your own media list.

2.5 Utilise Social Media Lists

Where you can, try and build a media list on social media platforms too. Journalists may prefer communicating via channels like Twitter or Facebook rather than being emailed or phone. This is also an easy way to keep up with the content they’re covering on social. And finally, social media can be used to spot future opportunities. Journalists use hashtags such as #journorequest when they’re looking for support with stories. A social listening tool can be used to send you instant alerts when a journalist tweets something along those lines, so you’re the first to know!

#3 Nurture Your Influencers

Authentic relationships take time to build, but those who play the long game are rewarded with sustainable ones. All relationships need to grow before they reach their full potential. Yet many PR professionals’ burn relationships as they skip the nurturing process and dive straight into what they want from the influencer. Gradually build up engagement over a long period of time. Start by following the journalist across all social platforms, then like their content, ask them a question, and respond to a question asked by their community member. Basically, get on their radar before “needing” them.

A blanket pitch to a broad set of journalists is easily sniffed out as spam. Editors and journalists can get up to hundreds of pitches per day. The key here is to identify the right person at a publication to pitch. Pitching multiple people at the same publication reveals the lack of exclusivity, which immediately diminishes its value. Meltwater can help save you time here by using keyword searches to identify individuals who write about topics relevant to your pitch. Further refinement is possible through a range of filters (geography, media type, role, reach, etc.). Alternatively, most publications have lists of staff writers with contact information and journalist profiles listed.

Remember before you engage, it’s not about you and what you want. It’s not even about the journalist. It’s about the community they’re trying to impress, build and retain – always give their community value!

growing seed

#4 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 journalist lists are likely to warm more to our message since they have already shown a strong interest in our sector.

However, when we do send out your pitch, 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.

#5 Refine Your 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 huge database 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.

We can’t emphasise 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. Personalisation goes a long way. Even just addressing a journalist by their first name makes a great difference!

#6 Keep Your List Up-to-Date

Creating a media list takes time, as does making sure the list is up-to-date. New opportunities may be presenting themselves and journalists move around. A regular audit of your Influencer Database will only help your outreach efforts. 

There is no media list “final draft”, but rather a working draft that you will continue to add journalists to and modify over time. Here are our top tips for cleaning and maintaining media lists:

6.1 Take note of bounce backs

If emails start bouncing back from a contact, it’s likely the person has left. Bounce back emails surprisingly contain a lot of valuable information – who’s on holiday, who’s covering them, who’s left the outlet and, perhaps, who is replacing them. Use them to your advantage. Don’t delete the email until you mine them for information and update your media database accordingly.

6.2 Be aware of no responses

If you’ve tried pitching to a person a number of times and they still haven’t bitten, don’t waste your time badgering them. Move on after several failed attempts.

6.3 Never stop adding contacts

As mentioned earlier, look online in the press and on social for people dominating relevant conversations you want to be apart of, influencers writing about competitors and add them to your list. Developing a relationship with somebody who is just starting out in the field is a lot easier than with an influencer who is very established,

6.4 Keep tabs on media moves

There are lots of publications out there that provide readers with the movers and shakers in the industry, PR Week for one. You can also set up a search using your media monitoring tool to notify you when conversations around people leaving companies take place. That way you can begin building relationships with replacements.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how Meltwater can help you find relevant journalists, create ROI driving media lists and measure the success of your PR outreach, get in touch!