How to Build an Effective Media List (w/ Tools & Examples)

A media list (also sometimes called a press list or media contact list) is a document with a list of media contacts: journalists, reporters, media influencers, bloggers, and more. They’re used for having a list of relevant people that you can send your press release or story.

PR media lists are usually targeted and include media contacts from a specific location and/or industry. Some are more broad, such as a national media list with contacts from all over the US.

Because pitching the right media contacts is crucial to getting press coverage, I covered everything you need to know about media lists, how to find relevant media contacts, and effectively create your own targeted pr list.

You’ll also find a handful of useful media list building tools to make the process a lot easier (and quicker!).

Table of contents

  1. What is a media list?
  2. Media list examples and template
  3. Should you build or buy a media list?
  4. How to build a media list in 4 steps?
    1. Step 1: Figure out your target audience
    2. Step 2: Decide which contact information you’ll add
    3. Step 3: Choose where you’ll keep your media contacts
    4. Step 4: Find media contacts and add them to your list
  5. Media list building tools
  6. Remember about media relations

What is a media list?

Media contact lists are used for having a collection of relevant people that could be interested in covering and writing about your news story.

Besides the name of the contact, media lists include the media outlet they belong to, their topics of interest, location, contact information, etc. Later in this post, I’ll go into detail on which additional information should be included.

Once you have a media list that you’re happy with, the next step is to pitch the people you have on your list with your story or press release.

Media list examples & template—what does a media list look like?

A media list can look completely differently depending on things like:

  • your industry and location
  • included contact information
  • where you keep your media contacts

Example #1:

Here’s a sample media list of contacts from Miami in Google Sheets.

Editor’s note: Emails and telephone numbers have been hidden for privacy reasons, as these are real media contacts from Prowly’s media database.

Media list template:

Get the above media contact list as a Google Sheets template that you can fill in by yourself. To edit, simply create a copy of the template in Google Sheets.

Example #2:

Below is the same list, seen in a media outreach tool like Prowly. These tools let you find media contacts through a media database and directly create personalized PR lists with a few clicks.

If you’re never used a PR outreach tool before, Prowly offers a free 7-day trial with full search access to its media database, so you can see how it works.

Example #3:

PR CRMs let you easily add more visible contact information like tags, influencer score, last date updated, and more. So the same media list above can quickly turn into the one below:

Should you buy or build a media contacts list?

Many people try to cut straight to the chase by buying a ready media contact list. While this does have some merit, building a media list is usually the better choice.

  1. You’re cherry-picking the most relevant people to your story. Instead of buying a media list, you’re building your media list. This means you’re increasing your chance of success; after all, you’re pitching to people that are waiting to write about a story like yours.
  2. Your list will be up-to-date. Buying a media contact list comes with the risk that the contact information in there can be outdated, or simply just incorrect. It’s even possible that a journalist can change his beat (topic of interest). By doing the research now, the information you find should be—for the most part—correct.

The one downside is, it takes a bit more time. However, if you’re using the tools I’ve included in this post, it should take no longer than buying one (and it’ll still work out to be cheaper).

How to build an effective media list in 4 steps

I’ve broken down the media list building process into four easy-to-follow steps:

  1. Figure out your target audience
  2. Decide which contact information you’ll add
  3. Choose where you’ll keep your media contacts
  4. Find media contacts and add them to your list

Step 1: Figure out your target audience

By trying to get press coverage, you’re ultimately hoping that your story will end up before the eyes of your target audience. Who are they?

It’s a fundamental question but sometimes overlooked. 

What kind of people do you want to read about your story? And more importantly, where would your story have to be, so they found it? Which websites, blogs, news sites, newspapers, etc. are frequently read by your audience?

Figuring this out means knowing which media contacts you’ll want to add to your media contact list.

Step 2: Decide which contact information you’ll add

Your PR list should contain all the essential information you might need in order to contact the people on your list and do it effectively.

Most media lists include the following:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Media outlet/publication/blog name
  • Role (journalist, blogger, etc.)
  • Beats/topics covered (if you can, try to be specific e.g. “natural cosmetics” instead of just “cosmetics” or “beauty/healthcare”
  • Location
  • Email 
  • Twitter or other social media account
  • How they prefer to be contacted

Below is the default information shown when searching for media contacts with Prowly:

Media contact details in Prowly's media database
Contact details in Prowly’s media database

If it makes sense for you, you can also supplement your media contact details with additional information such as:

  • Phone number
  • Languages spoken
  • Recent articles written/covered
  • Interests & birthday (I mention why later in the post)
  • What kind of content they usually write (reports, articles, blogs)
  • What their style of writing is like (analytical, humorous, critical, etc.)
  • Are they writing to the general public or to specialists? 
  • Influence score
  • Any other personal notes which might be helpful
  • Conversation starter (how you’ll grab their attention)

Step 3: Choose where you’ll keep your media contacts

Once you know which media contacts and details you’re after, decide where you plan on keeping your media list before you start your search.

Google Sheets/Excel vs a PR CRM

I’m sure you’re familiar with how a typical spreadsheet works and looks like, so I won’t go into extra detail.

Instead, I want to show you how you can use a PR outreach tool to simplify the process of pitching the media and get better results.

Check contact history, team comments and full details about each contact
Check contact history, team comments and full details about each contact

The main advantage of using a PR outreach tool is that everything you need for pitching the media is one place:

  1. Find relevant contacts with a built-in media database by using location & topic filters or import your own contacts if you have them.
  2. Store them in a smart media list, where you have tags and filters that let you stay organized or select the most responsive contacts
  3. Send personalized and visually attractive media pitches
  4. Follow up effectively by knowing who read your email or viewed your press release
  5. Get reports so you can constantly improve your pitches
  6. You can easily export all your media contacts if you decide to switch back to using Excel/Google Sheets
Media pitch statistics from Prowly: open rate, click rate, and bounce rate

Once everything is ready, it’s time to find people and add them to your list.

Step 4: Find media contacts and add them to your list

Method #1: You can manually find media contacts by using Google and platforms like Twitter and Linkedin by using the built-in search function. You can try ideas like searching for “tech reporter” or “food blogger Toronto”.

Simply type in “[keyword] editor” or “[keyword] journalist”, replacing the keyword with the appropriate terms.

Method #2: Another way to find relevant contacts is to identify the media outlets you want to target and find the right people working there. Using Google News or SEO tools like SEMRush, you can search for your competitors or businesses similar to yours to find out:

  1. in which publications they are getting featured? (Google News)
  2. which sites—especially blogs & news sites—are linking to them? (SEMRush)
Example of using Google News to search for Prowly

It’s a quick way to get an initial list of media outlets that are relevant to your business. You won’t get a list of all the possible outlets, but it’s a good place to start.

Digital PR Agency Publicize recommends entering the outlets that you found into SimilarWeb to expand your results by getting a list of similar publications and blogs.

The upside of this method is that it shows you the outlets and reporters/bloggers that already wrote covered a story similar to yours or about a similar business. This means a greater chance of success since you have proof they’re likely interested in covering something related.

Method #3: Many professionals working in PR and media relations use a media database. Instead of manually searching for media contacts, you gain access to a giant list of journalists, reporters, bloggers & more, and their contact details.

By using industry/topic and locations filters within the database, you’re able to find the people that are more relevant to your story.

View of of available search filters in Prowly's media database
Example of available search filters in Prowly’s media database

My personal recommendation is to combine the three methods together—that’s where you get the best results.

Once you get a list of media contacts you’re potentially interested in (which takes just a short moment with a database) you can do some extra supplementary Googling to find the juicy details that could make or break your media pitch.

Media list building tools

Tools for finding media contacts

  • LinkedIn (Free)
  • Twitter (Free)
  • Prowly (From $210/mo, free 7-day trial)
  • Muck Rack (Estimated to be around $5000/yr)
  • JournoLink
  • Hey Press
  • PressRush
  • Anewstip

Tools for finding media outlets, publications and blogs

  • Google (Free)
  • Google News (Free)
  • SEMRush (From $99/mo)
  • Ahrefs (Free* or from $99/mo)
  • Similarweb

Tools for finding emails of the people you want to pitch

  • Hunter.io
  • Anymailfinder
  • Voilanorbert
  • Prowly
  • Muck Rack
  • Anewstip

Remember about media relations

A carefully created media contact list can be a valuable asset for years to come. With this in mind, it’s important to build relationships with the people in your media lists.

Making a good first impression and treating people on your list like people—not just someone to pitch your story to—is a wise and fruitful investment that will make getting press coverage in the future a lot easier.