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By: Janda Sunna, PR Intern

Any PR professional can attest to the importance of having an outstanding media list. Media lists are the backbone of PR and when well-executed, will lead you to secure continuous placement for your clients. While PR is going to make you look better upfront,  you need to make sure that your website is not being brought down by penguin and more, as this can severely affect your websites score and ranking, which ultimately will then require a lot of changes to get on top.
Technology advancements have changed the journalism landscape—gone are the days of phone pitching. Newspapers across the country have been closing down (RIP Oakland Tribune). Magazines are scaling back staff and cutting publications; Meredith, Condé Nast and Hearst have restructured their portfolios leaving many magazines with a bare-bones staff working across multiple publications. Other attempts to stay relevant include an increased multiple media presence and becoming solely digital. The occupational outlook for journalists is projected to decrease by 9% over the next eight years.
In the 24 hour news cycle, there is constant demand for new story angles and sources to comment on any number of different topics. Luckily, there are a wealth of freelance writers that are happy to build relationships with PR professionals to benefit from their assets. Freelance writers will typically cover a number of different beats and contribute to multiple publications.
When you are structuring your media list there are steps that you can take to ensure that you have the right contacts.

Identify your top tier categories
The best way to determine your top tier categories is to see where your client’s competitors are being talked about. Do a little research, if you notice that they are being discussed in major newspapers, on niche blogs, and only a handful of consumer magazines, add these outlets to your media list. Look for trends in the way that your client and its competitors are being talked about – think about ways to branch out to new targets. Remember that your target audience is the reporter, but keep in mind the end consumer of your client’s product.

Run a database search
Once you have an idea of the top tier categories and outlets for your media list, run a series of searches in a PR database such as Cision or Meltwater. These databases can provide you with additional information about the outlet, links to recent articles by the journalists, and contact information. These searches can easily be exported into spreadsheets and sorted for an easy way to compile the data. Remember that although these searches can be completed quickly, they are just a starting point.

Vet each contact
Now that you have your extensive list of potential contacts, the investigation process begins. Take your time to vet each contact. There is plenty of information online, and you can use social media to get a better understanding of who the person on the other side of the email is. Embrace Twitter to gain a general image of personality and tone, LinkedIn to learn about current occupation, and of course read through a few articles to learn the journalists’ writing style and recent beats they have been covering. Many freelance writers have their own website that showcases their work and interests. Use all of these tools to determine if this contact is right for your media list. Take note when there are additional email addresses available, more is always better.

Double check before you send a pitch
When you build out your media list, keep in mind that it is a work in process. Before you send out any pitches, double check to make sure that you are contacting the writer that makes the most sense for that pitch. People are constantly changing jobs and changing what topics they are covering. If you notice that someone is no longer covering your topic, you can always source more contacts that does make sense for that pitch. You may even want to reach out to them to see who at the outlet would be a good fit to pitch!