Media Contacts & Database: How to Create A List Of Journalists

Cartoon image of clipboard with checklist and pencil against a pink background. Main image for blog post on creating a media database for maximum PR ROI
Cartoon image of clipboard with checklist and pencil against a pink background. Main image for blog post on creating a media database for maximum PR ROI

Is your public relations team reaching the right media contacts? Having a list of journalists compiled in a media database helps you stay organized and efficient with your media outreach. Read on to improve your PR strategy through tips to creating and maintaining a journalist database.

Are you looking to leverage a media database in the Australian market? Check out our dedicated blog.

Table of Contents

What is a Media Database?

A media database is a repository of media contacts and journalists that PR professionals can use when reaching out for earned media coverage of a product, service, or company announcement. 

Media or PR databases include, at a bare minimum, contact information for each journalist. Ideally, though, each journalist will also be tagged with other information making it easier to sort by industry and improve the relevancy of your public relations outreach.

Looking for media contacts? Check out Meltwater's media database

Filling & Maintaining a Media Database with Lists of Journalists

Discovering relevant press contacts to add to your media database is a painstaking job. You could approach this project in-house, however most public relations agencies will use a service, such as Meltwater, to access a curated list of global journalists and influencers. But that’s just the beginning. It’s still up to you, intrepid PR pro, to build relationships and target relevant industry-specific media contacts for the maximum engagement on your press coverage. 

Here are the 9 top tips to compiling and using a stellar press list of journalists for your media database:

1. Identify Your Target Audience 

Group of diverse people at a table in a coffee shot looking at tablets and phones

To help with pinpointing the right journalists from a PR database, it’s good practice to build a detailed persona of your target 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.

Of course, you’ll be considering basic demographics like age range, gender, location, and job title but these don’t really tell you the whole story. 

Psychographics are just as, if not more, important for getting in front of the most relevant communications cross-section. They can tell you preferred social networks, lifestyle, personality, political views, and the kinds of publications they read & media they consume —  do they prefer reading blogs, newspapers, trade magazines, forums, etc.? Get granular when creating audience personas — all this information will inform your journalist selection! 

Some questions to ask yourself about your target audience:

  • 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, and you know the type of content that interests them, you can start researching meaningful publications and gather your journalist list with this in mind.

2. Identify Relevant Journalists

Row of different journalists taking notes at a press conference

It can be easy to get caught up in reach figures. Logic dictates, reach = eyeballs, so that’s good, right? Wrong. It’s important to go after the right eyeballs, to maximize your PR efforts beyond just an impression.

Knowing exactly which contacts to add to your list of journalists is the first step in organizing and optimizing PR outreach. You need to have good foundations in order to see tangible results. We have listed a few considerations below. 

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 press 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 is time-consuming, however, and there’s lots of room for human error in that you simply can’t read every single publication and are bound to miss some relevant writers. To save time you can use a media monitoring tool like Meltwater to track industry news. Meltwater also provides a press contact / PR distribution solution to help scale your PR outreach efforts. Users can filter journalists by content, department, location and publication. You can also search based on topics they’ve written about recently to eliminate out-of-date contacts.

Meltwater also recently added a Media Contacts tab within our Explore tool for even more seamless way to identify and vet journalists who write on a particular topic. 

What are the different types of journalists?

There are many different types of journalists that you could consider for your press list. Journalists may specialize in one specific kind of reporting or then may cover a wide range - before doing any kind of media outreach from your PR database it will be important to know the journalist's specialty.

Reporter on sports field, covering a live game

Here are 6 different types of journalists your press list could include:

1. Business journalists: covering stories in the business world such as notable IPOs, c-suite hires, mergers, the stock market, and investment advice. They will likely also cover various trends in business such as gender and racial diversity, or company work-from-home policies post-Covid to name a recent example.

2. Investigative journalists: taking a tip or a hunch and probing further to produce heavily researched articles. These journalists often write pieces that form public opinion and will typically write on the same story multiple times as new information comes to light. Examples include: The Boston Globe unearthing years of abuse in the Catholic Church, and the Watergate scandal.

3. Entertainment journalists: covering entertainment news these journalists write about film, arts, music, dance, and stage productions from many different angles. They could focus on the scholarly side, such reviews or trends, or they might focus on celebrity culture, either in tabloids or for lighter news sites such as BuzzFeed.

4. Photojournalists: photojournalism refers to telling a story through visuals rather than words. Often these journalists cover major events like warzones or natural disasters. They may also work in tandem with reporters to provide accompanying images for news pieces.

5. Sports journalists: like entertainment journalists, these reporters cover sporting events, athletes, teams and coaches, sports medicine, and trends in the sports industry. 

6. Opinion journalists: opinion pieces are written on a particular topic from an opinion-based point of view rather than purporting to be non-biased and strictly based on facts. These pieces offer a specific perspective based on the journalist's area of expertise, background, or other qualifications. Op-eds, essays, and advice columns are two popular forms of opinion journalism. 

3. Review Previous Coverage

Stack of newspapers

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

In addition to the number of hits you received, look at the sentiment of the mentions. This helps you identify the journalists who consistently write favorable articles and flag those authors who may require some extra nurturing. Any good media monitoring tool will be able to provide you with such insight.

Don't forget 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.

Tip: Learn how to conduct a competitor analysis

4. Utilize Social Media Lists

Row of people on social media on their phones

Where you can, try and build media lists on social 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 media. 

Social media can also 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!

5. Nurture Journalists For Your Media Database

Two people shaking hands

Authentic relationships take time to build, but those who play the long game are rewarded with sustainable and fruitful PR partnerships down the line. Media relationships need to grow before they reach their full potential, yet many PR professionals’ skip the nurturing process and dive straight into what they want from the influencer — thereby not realizing these opportunities. 

Instead, you should gradually build up engagement over a long period of time. Start by following the journalist across all social platforms. Like their content, ask questions, and respond to questions posed by their community. Basically, get on their radar before “needing” them.

6. Pitch With Intention 

Woman at conference raising hand with a question

A blanket pitch sent to a broad set of journalists is easily disregarded as spam. Editors and journalists get up to hundreds of pitches per day, so it’s important to stand out and pitch with intention. The key 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 the value of your story. 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.).

For journalists, having a Meltwater profile can be a helpful asset in receiving pitches that are relevant and if you move publications, this information is easily updated as well.

7. Watch Your Market and Competitors

Young woman using a telescope on a pier

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 your company. These types of journalist lists are likely to warm more to your message since they have already shown a strong interest in your sector.

When you pitch, one thing you should always be considering is how to differentiate yourself from your competitors. After all, if they have already talked about a product/sector similar to yours, they’re not going to want to cover the same story again.

8. Refine Your Targeting

Close up of two different colored darts on a table

Keep your press lists short and sweet. It’s more effective to have a handful of very relevant journalists with whom you have good relations than a huge database of contacts you rarely speak to.

Here are some criteria to pay attention to when refining your list of journalists:

  • 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, you can adapt your messages to their way of processing information.

We can’t emphasize this step enough. Journalists are overwhelmed by information, especially information that doesn’t concern them. All it takes is one irrelevant email to become a blocked contact.

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

9. Keep Your List of Journalists Up-to-Date

Empty agenda page with yellow pencil

Creating a media list takes time, as does making sure your PR database stays up-to-date. Journalists will move around, so a regular audit of your media contacts will only serve to 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 your media database:

Take note of bounce backs

If emails start bouncing back from a media 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 for keeping press lists updated. Don’t delete these emails until you mine them for information and update your media database accordingly.

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.

Never stop adding media contacts

As mentioned earlier, look online in the press and on social media for people dominating relevant conversations you want to be a part of 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 a journalist who is very well established.

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 their replacements.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how Meltwater can help you build a robust media database with relevant journalists, creating ROI driving PR outreach, be sure to fill out the form below to schedule a demo!

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