Mastering Media Lists
5 minutes

Mastering Media Lists: A Digital PR’s Guide to Finding the Best Media Contacts

Refining the perfect media list could be the difference between a success and failure of a digital PR campaign. If you and your team have put in hours of work to create the perfect pitch, you want to make sure that all of your hard work won’t fall on deaf ears.

Building strong relationships with journalists starts with the right media list which should be one of the most important steps in your outreach strategy. With this in mind, we’re sharing some of our essential tips to help you identify the right media contacts to set yourself up for pitching success.


Researching for the right media contacts

With a range of digital PR tools at your fingertips it can be tempting to rely solely on online media databases for the groundwork of your media list, but it’s important to make sure that you’re not substituting these tools for thorough research. 

Take the time in the initial stages of your media research to complete manual searches on Google to find journalists who are regularly writing about your chosen topic. You can refine this as much as you like but we find that getting granular with your chosen keywords can help to identify the kinds of people who will really connect with your campaign.

Use keywords in your niche using the Google News feature and be sure to set a recent date range. This is key to make sure you’re sourcing writers who’ve recently covered these topics and will still be interested. 

If you’re working in an international market be sure to use a VPN. Not only will this help you see what kind of stories are being covered in your market, but it will help to expose you to those international publications you might have been completely unaware of.


Explore niche publications

Research time shouldn’t just extend to finding individual contacts at your chosen outlets. Use Google to find smaller, niche publications who cover similar topics or operate within your industry. Try terms such as ‘[topic] news’ or ‘[topic] magazine’. 

This can unearth some hidden gems and expand your reach to equally valuable sites with strong domains and a greater likelihood of landing links.

SimilarWeb is a great digital PR tool that you should have in your arsenal. If you’ve identified a relevant publication, you can use the plugin to give you suggestions for similar sites based on demographics, themes and more.


Competitor research

Regularly conduct competitor research to identify opportunities in a competing domain’s backlink profile. Use tools like the ‘best backlinks tool’ in Ahrefs and sort by link type to perform a backlink gap analysis. If you’re looking for a specific kind of link whether that be follow or no-follow you can narrow this down using such tools. A strategic campaign should consider the kind of links you’re aiming to build based on your objectives. By optimising your media list with this in mind you will increase the likelihood of building the exact kind of links you’re after!

It might be tempting to aim for the major national publications that you’re most familiar with, however the majority of such publications are unlikely to help you secure an elusive follow link. In this case, your time might be better spent finding smaller publications who are more likely to offer these.


What is the benefit of a smaller media list? 

Crafting relationships through your outreach tactics starts with the right media list. We’ve all heard of ‘spray and pray’ – the spammy link building tactic which sees link builders sending out blanket press releases to hundreds of contacts simultaneously. While you might get lucky this way, for the most part sending out the same email to a huge list of press contacts might do more harm than good. 

It’s unlikely that in a list of hundreds of journalists all of these contacts are highly relevant to your campaign which means you run the risk of alienating future contacts who may label you as spammy. 

In fact, recent updates through Gmail suggest that bulk senders may have to authenticate emails, allow for easier unsubscription, and stay under the spam threshold to avoid being blacklisted!

We believe a thoroughly-researched, relevant media list could be as small as just one contact if appropriate! Don’t be afraid to create a small, but perfectly formed database of contacts if you feel they’re highly relevant to your campaign.


Stagger and be strategic

A strategic approach to media lists means that you can start small and stagger your outreach into phases. We’d suggest starting with your priority contacts. If you’ve created a campaign with a specific outlet in mind make sure they’re in this first phase of your list. Or, if you feel a journalist would have a particular interest in your story use this time to personalise your pitch to these select few. Make notes as you create your media list on things you may want to mention here to save you time when you come back to pitch.

If you’re not seeing any success with your current round of outreach it might be time to move onto a second phase of prospecting, identifying additional contacts and expanding your reach. This is also a fantastic time to critically reevaluate how your story is performing. Are open rates low? Do you need to change your angle or even the time that you’re outreaching? Creating a media list designed to be outreached in phases allows you time to be strategic in your outreach as you go. 


Review your list of press contacts with a fine tooth comb

To avoid any embarrassing mishaps, always make sure to thoroughly review your pitching list before going straight to outreach.

Be sure to check for spelling mistakes as you go along. Spelling a journalist’s name wrong in the opening line of your pitch is a sure fire way to end your chances of securing coverage! 

Make sure that you haven’t included any duplicate contacts and that you’ve not included lots of journalists from the same outlet. This is where staggering can come in handy – if your first choice journalist is not interested in the story you can then consider sharing it with other members of their wider team. 


To learn more about our approach to digital PR strategy check out the NORTH blog!