Discovering relevant contacts to add to your media list 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, you’re not alone, which is why I put together my best practices below!

The Media List Challenge

Truth is, maintaining a media list is a continuous process that never really stops. People move around in companies, they change topic areas and new journalists appear on a daily basis. It’s rare that your current media list has all the relevant journalists because of this. As such, maintaining your list is just as important as the initial step towards creating it.

We all want to ensure that the journalists we’re reaching out to still care about what we have to say and that the media list is representative of the most recent publications and influencers covering our business area. Then there’s the relationship side of things. How do you go from ‘just another company name in an inbox’ to a valued partner? This webinar recording tells all, for those auditory learners!)

1. Finding the most relevant journalists for your company

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. I’ve listed a few considerations below.

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 detailed your answer is, the more relevant (and ultimately more useful) your media list will be.

I’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.

media lists

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.

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.

media list

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.

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.

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!

2. Nurture 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.

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!

Cleaning and Maintaining Media Lists

There is no media list “final draft”, but rather a working draft that you will continue to add journalists to and modify over time. So how do you go about sprucing up your list?

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 list 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 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 etc 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,

Keeping 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!