How to Build a PR Media List That Produces Business Results

Key Takeaways 📈 📊

  • Media Lists are Essential for PR Success: A media list is a curated contact list of journalists and media personnel crucial for executing effective PR campaigns and securing earned media coverage.
  • Personalization is Key to Media Outreach: 90% of journalists prefer receiving personalized pitches, highlighting the importance of a targeted media list.
  • Building Relationships with Journalists is Paramount: 83% of PR professionals believe building relationships with journalists is critical to their job.
  • Research and Maintenance of Media Lists are Time-Intensive: 72% of PR pros say creating and updating media lists is their most time-consuming task.
  • Data-Driven Strategies Enhance Media List Relevance: Using data and analytics to understand audience preferences and media engagement can make media lists more strategic.
  • Regular Updates Ensure Media List Effectiveness: The media industry is dynamic, with frequent changes in journalist beats and media outlets, making regular updates to media lists essential.
  • Strategic Segmentation Leads to Efficient Outreach: Organizing and segmenting a media list by media type, geographic reach, and journalist relevance allows for targeted and personalized PR campaigns.

What is a Media List?

A media list is an organized contact list of journalists, reporters, editors, bloggers, influencers, and other media personnel relevant to a company’s industry, messaging, and target audiences. For public relations professionals, maintaining a targeted, up-to-date media list is crucial for executing effective PR campaigns and securing earned media coverage.

Unlike advertising, which involves paying for placement, PR relies on pitching stories and building relationships with media contacts to gain valuable third-party endorsement and brand, product, or cause exposure. A well-curated media list ensures that PR teams can focus their outreach on the most relevant targets for their campaign goals and priorities.

An impactful media list contains more than just names and outlets. It provides individualized background on writers’ beats, interests, preferred contact methods, and past coverage tendencies. These insights allow PR teams to tailor their pitches, increasing the odds of catching a journalist’s attention and gaining coverage in widely read publications. The media list is a roadmap guiding outreach to accelerate awareness and drive PR measurement.

For example, a consumer tech company launching a new smart home device would prioritize technology trade publications and writers covering IoT and home automation. Pitching the perfect hook aligned with each writer’s focus and style is crucial for standing out. The media list provides the intel to do this effectively.

By enabling targeted, personalized outreach, a detailed media list is the foundation for PR teams to build meaningful media relationships and consistently secure impactful coverage. The media list is the core asset that makes success possible for new product launches, brand repositioning, executive profiling, partnership announcements, and other PR strategies.

key statistics
  1. 72% of PR pros say creating and updating media lists is their most time-consuming task (Muck Rack)
  2. 83% of PR pros believe building relationships with journalists is the most important part of their job. Building targeted media lists is a vital part of that process. (Cision)
  3. 53% of PR pros use social media research and create media lists. (PR News)
  4. 64% of PR professionals say they spend more than two hours researching and pitching to the media. Building and maintaining media lists is a crucial part of this process. (PR Week)
  5. 90% of journalists say that receiving personalized pitches is essential to them. This underscores the importance of building targeted media lists considering individual journalists’ interests and needs. (Agility PR Solutions)

Why is a Media List Important?

Developing strong connections with journalists is essential for successful media relations and securing earned coverage. When public relations professionals take the time to understand reporters’ beats, interests, preferences, and past work, they can nurture productive relationships built on mutual trust and respect. This increases the likelihood that media contacts will engage with pitches and consider developing stories featuring a brand.

PR teams position themselves as reliable sources of insightful information by researching media targets and crafting personalized pitches that demonstrate knowledge of a journalist’s expertise. Reporters are more apt to view informed PR contacts as valuable partners for future stories when they receive relevant, targeted pitches. Over time, these meaningful media relationships can lead to ongoing coverage opportunities and increased brand exposure across multiple stories.

It’s a crowded media landscape, and it’s not only what you know as a PR pro but who you know in the media that matters. This is where a well-researched media list becomes indispensable. A detailed media list guides PR teams to the outlets and journalists most likely to take an interest in a brand’s particular story or news angle based on past coverage, beats, and interests.

Having a roadmap to the right media targets transforms generic pitches into tailored opportunities for engagement. It enables brands to connect with the exact right audiences through reporters who best reach their goal demographics. Building solid media relationships through a systematic, targeted approach is essential for impactful PR success.

Steps to Build a Media List

Building an effective media list is a meticulous, multi-step process for public relations professionals. It involves everything from clarifying campaign goals to analyzing audience demographics and media habits. Every media list development puzzle piece works together to create a guiding document for strategic outreach and securing impactful press coverage.

Table: Actionable Tips to Build a PR Media List

TipDescriptionAdditional Columns
Consider the Types of Media to TargetDetermine priority media types like print, online, broadcast.Outlet Name, Media Type, Audience/Circulation Size, Geographic Scope
Conduct Thorough Research on Relevant OutletsResearch specific outlets and journalists within priority media types using tools and discernment.Outlet Name, Top Writer Names, Link to Writer Bios/Articles
Verify and Update Contact InformationConfirm and collect accurate journalist contact details like email, phone, and social handles.Outlet Name, Writer Name, Email, Phone, Twitter Handle
Track Market and Beat ExpertiseNote journalist’s beats, niche focuses, interests to personalize pitches.Outlet Name, Writer Name, Beats/Interests, Preferred Pitch Angle/Hook
Prioritize Key TargetsDesignate A-list journalists for focused relationship-building.Outlet Name, Writer Name, Priority Level (A-list, B-list)
Document Pitching PreferencesLog preferred contact channel for each writer.Outlet Name, Writer Name, Pitch Preference (Email, Twitter DM, etc)
Identify Past CoverageLink to previous relevant articles to demonstrate awareness.Outlet Name, Writer Name, Links to Related Past Articles
Plan Follow Up CadenceNote frequency/intervals for appropriate follow up.Outlet Name, Writer Name, Follow Up Frequency

While daunting, a systematic approach makes media list assembly achievable. Above all, the media list must align with underlying PR and communications objectives. It should reflect a deep understanding of which media targets best reach your brand’s ideal consumers. With careful planning and research, what seems like an overwhelming task transforms into a roadmap for media relations success.

Set Clear Goals and Define Your Target Audience

Before assembling a media list, public relations teams must clearly understand their underlying campaign goals and target audiences. This informs every other process step and ensures the media list will facilitate relevant, high-impact media outreach.

example pr goals

Increase awareness and trial of a new plant-based protein powder among health-conscious Millennial men in the fitness industry. The goal is to drive sampling and purchase conversion through media coverage in men’s lifestyle, fitness, and nutrition outlets.

Position a fintech startup’s CEO as an expert voice on AI innovation in banking and finance. Secure thought leadership media placements and speaking opportunities by targeting trade journalists, conference producers, and podcasters covering AI, banking, and emerging technology.

Start by detailing the specific objectives and desired outcomes for your PR efforts. Are you looking to raise awareness for a new product launch among tech enthusiasts? Or is the goal to drive the adoption of a service by educating families on its benefits? Having clearly defined goals makes it possible to identify the best media and influencer targets to achieve those goals through earned coverage.

With ideal goals clarified, extensive research into target consumer demographics, interests, media habits, and consumption patterns is necessary. This will reveal which media and messaging channels your audiences pay attention to. A B2B company must connect with industry trade publications, while a consumer brand may focus on lifestyle outlets. Identify where your audiences naturally consume content and engage with brands like yours.

Immersing in your target audiences’ media diets, habits, and interests allows for an informed, data-driven process of identifying high-value media targets across geographic regions. Avoid guesswork by letting audience insights guide your media list to the precise publications and journalists your campaign needs to reach. Outline personas and feed those insights into media list building for optimal alignment between outreach and audience engagement.

With clearly defined goals and audience research as your foundation, you can pursue targeted media list development that drives measurable outreach success. Match goals to audiences, and let their media consumption behaviors guide your media targeting for maximum impact.

Identify Suitable Media Outlets and Contacts

With campaign goals and target audiences clarifying the media list priorities, the next step is identifying and researching the specific media outlets and journalist contacts to target. This process requires using every resource to pinpoint appropriate writers and publications.

Media databases like Cision and Muck Rack are invaluable for discovering industry, beat, and seniority-based media contacts for a niche or category: these databases aggregate journalists’ backgrounds, interests, and past articles based on custom searches. You can filter for geographic region, circulation size, and other variables to identify high-authority fits.

b2b & b2c example

For a consumer packaged goods brand launching a new line of organic snacking products, the research could include leveraging a retail-focused media database like Grocery Dive to discover editors and writers covering the snacks, organic foods, and CPG beat. Attending the Natural Products Expo would provide networking opportunities to connect with emerging health and wellness influencers and content creators.

An enterprise cybersecurity company releasing an acquisition could search past tech trade coverage on M&A transactions and filter for journalists at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and TechTarget that routinely cover private equity, VC funding, and cybersecurity deal activity. The company’s in-house PR team may also ask IT security vendors in their network for relevant media referrals.

Social media is another rich source for media list research and outreach. Following relevant hashtags and conversations allows you to identify key voices and find writers who engage with brands on social platforms. Twitter lists, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn provide additional media discovery and relationship-building avenues.

Monitor online conversations and search historical coverage around your industry, brand, and competitors. Pitching the publications and journalists already engaging with your space can yield media list targets keenly attuned to your niche.

Networking within your industry also leads to media referrals. Speaking with colleagues, partners, and PR peers about the writers they pitch can surface hidden gems tailored to your brand. Conferences, events, and trade meetings are prime networking opportunities for sourcing media list suggestions.

With an exhaustive, multi-pronged approach, the research phase results in a robust media list containing an array of relevant targets. Avoid narrow lists reliant on a few go-to outlets. Cast a wide net through extensive research to connect with the full spectrum of media covering your space.

Organize and Segment Your List for Efficiency

With research complete, organizing the media list provides the framework to execute targeted outreach at scale while personalizing messaging for key contacts.

Start by categorizing media outlets based on type, such as newspapers, magazines, websites, newsletters, podcasts, and TV/radio. Further segment by geographic reach, differentiating between national, regional, local, and trade publications. Outlet size often informs pitch prioritization and messaging nuances.

Within each media outlet, organize contacts by relevance to your brand and campaign. Group writers covering your niche for general pitches. Separate columnists receptive to contributed articles. Segment reporters are open to exclusive story leads for special consideration. Flag top-tier priority contacts for focused relationship-building.

Develop contact profiles for each journalist that compile pertinent background on their beats, interests, preferred contact channels, and past coverage tendencies. Note meaningful personal details like alma maters or hometowns to help personalize outreach.

You can develop tiered pitch strategies with the list segmented into manageable groups based on relevance and priority. For example, send new product announcements to your A-list, general interest pitches to your B-list, and contribute content to your C-list. Customized outreach is manageable at scale.

Ongoing list maintenance ensures contacts are not obsolete due to changed beats, new roles, or outdated details. Regular audits confirm your media list remains an accurate asset as your outreach evolves. Weed out irrelevant contacts and continuously discover new targets to keep the list fresh.

Organization and segmentation transform an overwhelming list into a dynamic engine for targeted media relations. The right contacts get the right message at the right time to drive coverage.

Tailor Your Pitches for Each Reporter

An organized media list makes personalized outreach scalable. But the pitches themselves require careful crafting to resonate with each targeted journalist.

Pitch formatting should align with contacts’ preferences based on their profile notes. Send short and scannable pitches to busy reporters. Take a more conversational approach with columnists receptive to dialogue.

Pitch content must also be tailored. Linking your news to specific articles a writer has covered demonstrates knowledge of their beat and interests. Referencing previous conversations or meetings establishes a relationship.

example pitch

Subject: Local Impact of Supply Chain Legislation

Hi Amanda,

I hope you’ve been well! I wanted to pass along a timely story idea given your focus on Georgia’s manufacturing and logistics industries.

With supply chain disruptions an ongoing challenge, new federal regulations are aiming to strengthen critical infrastructure. The bill passed by the Senate would invest $50 million specifically in Georgia ports and transportation.

As someone covering the real-world ripple effects of policy moves, I thought this localized angle could interest you:

  • How Georgia’s logistics networks could benefit
  • Whether experts believe the investment may be enough
  • Any direct impact on Georgia manufacturers or consumers

Would you be open to a quick phone call to discuss further? I can connect you with local industry sources weighing in. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Get creative with unique angles tied to the journalist’s area of focus or audience. A pitch highlighting financial implications catches a business reporter’s eye faster. Localize pitches with geographic tie-ins for regional media.

Subject lines are critical real estate for conveying relevance at a glance. Include key niche terms, numbers, or other specifics that communicate customized value. Align subject lines to the media type, feature-focused for magazines and news-driven for newspapers.

The media list equips you with the insights to tailor every aspect of your pitch – timing, contact method, content, angles, and subject lines. Personalized outreach transforms the media list from a static asset into an engine for dynamic engagement with an expanding network of media relationships.

Keep Your Media List Updated and Relevant

The media universe is constantly evolving. Outlets launch or fold, journalists switch beats or companies, and new voices emerge while others fade. An outdated media list misses opportunities and wastes resources. Ongoing maintenance keeps your list dynamic.

Schedule regular audits to validate all contact information. Verify journalists are still at the same publication before pitching. Update details like changed beats, titles, departments, or preferred contact methods. Remove departed journalists, but research their replacements.

Stay on top of media landscape shifts. Subscribe to industry newsletters that announce new hires and launches. Follow media on social channels for real-time updates. Set Google Alerts on target publications and writers.

Refresh stagnant media relationships by finding new story angles aligned to developing beats. Pitch an education reporter who now covers family issues on the impact of after-school programs. This shows you respect their evolving interests.

Expand your media net by continually discovering rising outlets, reporters, and influencers. Look beyond the obvious targets to get ahead of the curve. Pitch a new industry blog well before its influence is established. Add columnists when you have informed contributed content to provide. Monitor new podcasts and newsletters ripe for partnerships.

A static list becomes outdated and irrelevant. Consistent research, relationship-building, and updating ensure your media database remains a trusted asset. The media list is a living document that guides outreach today while anticipating tomorrow.

Integrate Data to Create a Media Outlet List

While human discernment remains indispensable, data and analytics empower PR teams to make their media lists far more strategic. Data-driven approaches sharpen list relevance and focus by extracting insights on target audiences and measuring media engagement.

Conduct Audience ResearchLeverage data to understand audience preferences and match to aligned media.Preferred Writers, Trusted Publications, Content Preferences
Analyze Content MetricsMonitor performance to identify high-engagement writers.Writer, Content Topic, Engagement Rate
Measure InfluenceAssess reach and impact to prioritize lists.Journalist, Followers, Engagement Rate, Influence Tier
Map Sharing NetworksIdentify writers in aligned sharing ecosystems.Journalist, Network Affiliations, Amplification Power

Conduct Audience Research to Profile Media

Leveraging tools like surveys, social listening, demographic data, and web analytics provides a detailed understanding of audience interests, values, and preferred media outlets. Build specific persona profiles around consumption habits – which websites do they frequent for news, what publications do they trust, who do they follow on social media, and what topics resonate most?

Match these audience insights directly to writers, columnists, and platforms delivering that content. A food writer beloved by culinary aficionados deserves prime target status for a new artisanal product. Local magazine preference means prioritizing regional over national press. Data derived directly from your core audiences aligns your media list with their information diets.

Analyze Engagement Metrics Around Content Topics

Not all journalists make an equal impact. Smart PR teams leverage data to distinguish writers who drive measurable reactions from those producing forgettable content. Monitoring performance metrics around content topics spotlights prime targets.

Look beyond vanity metrics to engagement indicators that signal audience interest. For written stories, track social shares, inbound links, time on the page, and scroll depth. On visual assets, measure save rates, embeds, and site referrals. Identify writers excelling on these fronts.

Drill down on metrics for topics directly relevant to your brand. A reporter getting low engagement across most content but overperforming specifically on industry-related stories still warrants outreach priority. Consider niche as well as aggregate performance data.

Compare metrics not just across media properties but also individual journalists. Pitch the tech reporters at a major newspaper who consistently drive above-average search traffic, not just the prestigious masthead. Influence starts with the byline.

Set dynamic media list tiers based on up-to-date performance data rather than outdated brand assumptions. Yesterday’s marquee outlet can become today’s shrinking wallflower. Track engagement in real-time to target rising stars.

Performance metrics enable PR teams to identify and invest in media relationships delivering tangible audience value across multiple brand initiatives. Keeping a finger on the content engagement pulse yields media lists tuned for high-impact messaging.

Measure Journalist Reach and Influence to Prioritize Outreach

The media landscape is vast, and no brand can engage every potential contact equally. Data-driven measurement of individual journalists’ reach and influence enables strategically targeting pitches for maximum impact.

PR teams can analyze metrics like social followers, website traffic, newsletter subscribers, and circulation size. While raw numbers matter, weigh them against engagement rates to identify writers who capture audience attention. A niche industry blogger with a small but devoted readership may merit higher outreach priority than a higher-profile journalist whose recent work falls flat.

Look beyond vanity metrics to assess qualitative influence. Map networks to identify writers with central, connector roles in your industry’s information flows. Note journalists with a track record of spotlighting emerging trends before mainstream pickup. Their influence as tastemakers may outweigh quantitative measures.

Segment your media list into tiers based on spheres of influence. Reserve exclusive news for A-listers whose coverage drives measurable awareness. Send lower priority updates to writers still building audience clout.

Map Sharing Networks of Influential Media

Earned media success depends on securing initial press coverage and seeing that coverage amplified and shared through aligned networks. Media influence mapping provides data-driven pathways to achieve that goal.

Tools like social network analysis, link tracking, and influencer marketing platforms uncover second and third-degree media connections within topic-specific information-sharing ecosystems. Identify writers embedded within interconnected groups of influencers predisposed to engage with your brand or issues.

For example, a nonprofit promoting sustainable food systems would look for food and environmental journalists near the center of healthy living and sustainability influencer networks. Outreach to properly positioned media can tap into existing cascading pathways for message amplification.

Drill down beyond vanilla “connections” into actual content-sharing habits. Which health writer’s articles get routinely re-shared within green living communities on social channels? Which business columnist’s insights make industry discussion rounds by landing in peer newsletters? Historical sharing patterns indicate future viral potential.

Pitching media contacts already woven into supportive interest-based networks gives your brand’s narrative an accelerated pathway into the hands of receptive audiences. Influence mapping provides the data to identify and activate those high-potential information flows.

Media List Examples

Below is one way to identify the most influential journalists to add to your media list. The data is visualized using three different data points.

  1. The x-axis is the volume of articles they published during the time frame. This could be a total of published articles or articles about a specific topic like fashion, travel, ChatGPT, etc.
  2. The y-axis is the engagement of the articles published (all articles or topical.)
  3. The bubble size represents the size of the journalist’s audience across their personal social media handles.

With this data, you can make smarter decisions about who you add to your media list, how you might prioritize your pitching, and more. Hover over each of the bubbles to see the data. Note: These are not real people. The data isn’t real.

Conclusion: Sustaining Media List Impact Through Ongoing Maintenance

A media list is a living asset that requires diligent upkeep to retain value over time. As beats change, new voices emerge, and old contacts fade, an outdated list leads to ineffective outreach. By building robust processes for continuous evolution, brands can ensure their database adapts along with the media landscape.

Regular list maintenance validates that contact information remains current before pitching. But it also entails monitoring shifts in beat coverage, audience engagement patterns, and platform priorities to refresh target selection. Ongoing research uncovers rising outlets and influencers to complement established names.

Meticulous relationship management notes past conversations and coverage results. These insights inform future pitch prioritization and angles. Brands can reconnect dormant ties by aligning new initiatives with evolving editorial interests.

Auditing reveals when certain journalists become less relevant so efforts can refocus on new opportunities. The list must balance retaining productive relationships while continually discovering ideal new targets.

Responsively evolving a media list allows brands to match outreach to the accelerating news cycle. A static list grows dated, while consistent pruning and enhancement ensure it remains an optimized asset driving meaningful engagement with strategic press partners. Maintaining those invaluable connections sustains brand visibility and trust.


What is a media list in PR?

It’s a curated list of media contacts used to target public relations campaigns effectively.

What should a media list look like?

An organized compilation of media outlets and journalists, categorized for targeted outreach.

Why is a media list important?

It ensures PR messages reach the appropriate audience through relevant media channels.

How long should a media list be?

As comprehensive as necessary to cover all pertinent media contacts for a campaign.

How do you maintain a media list?

Regularly update contact information, monitor media shifts, and refresh stagnant relationships.

What is the first step in creating a media list?

Define clear PR objectives and desired outcomes to guide target identification.

How does audience research affect a media list?

It informs the selection of media targets aligned with consumer behaviors and preferences.

Can social media be used for media list research?

Yes, it’s a rich source for identifying key voices and journalists in relevant conversations.

What’s the benefit of segmenting a media list?

It allows for personalized and efficient communication strategies with different media contacts.

d securing coverage.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.