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 media outreach.

Because pitching the right media contacts is crucial to getting press coverage, I covered everything you need to know about media lists, how to effectively create your own and find relevant media contacts. I’ve also included useful media list-building tools to make the process a lot easier.

Table of contents

  1. What is a media list?
  2. Media list examples
  3. Should you build or buy a media list?
  4. How to build a media list?
    1. Figure out your target audience
    2. Which contact details should you include?
    3. Figure out where you’ll keep your media contacts
    4. Spreadsheet vs PR CRM
  5. Media list building tools—find the right people
  6. Remember about media relations

What is a media list?

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 the details about which additional information should be included.

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

Once you finally have a media list that you’re happy with, the next step is to get in touch with the people you have written down and pitch them your story or press release.

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

Depending on where you keep your media contacts, a media contact list can look completely different. Here are two examples based on a sample contact list from Miami.

Spreadsheet (Google Sheets):

Media list in Google Sheets
Contacts in a Google Sheets media list

PR CRM (Prowly):

Media List in Prowly's PR CRM
Media List in Prowly’s PR CRM

Later on, we’ll discuss the main differences between the two, and which one is a better choice depending on your needs.

Should you buy or build a media contacts list?

Many people try to cut straight to the chase by buying a ready media list. While this does have some merit, it really depends on your scenario.

Let me explain.

In most cases, building a media list is the smarter choice. Why? 

  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 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.
  3. If you’re not using any additional tools, it’s free.

The one downside is, it takes a bit more time  However if you make it to the next part of this post which covers the best practices for building a media contact list, it should be no longer than creating one by yourself.

So unless you need a media list (regardless of its’ accuracy) here and now, we recommend building your own media list.

How to build a media list 

I’m going to show you how to build a media list in a way that’s quick and effective.

First off, decide who your audience is.

Figure out your target audience

By trying to get media 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. 

Try to remember (or re-adjust if needed) what kind of people 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 a good idea?

Which details should you include in your media contacts list?

Basic information such as:

  • 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

will be enough to create a rudimentary media list. 

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

You can supplement your document 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? 
  • Any other tags which may benefit your specific case

Figure out where you’ll keep your media contacts

At this point, you should know who you’re looking for and what kind of information you want to write down. 

It’s time to decide how and where you’ll find these media contacts and where you’ll write them down.

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 really increase your effectiveness and reduce the amount of work you have to put in by using a PR CRM (sometimes called a PRM) like the one in Prowly.

For lack of a better description, you can think of it as a normal media list in Excel, but on steroids.

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

Here are the main advantages:

  • It’s connected to a media database, meaning you can find relevant media contacts (using location or topic filters) in the same place. You can add these contacts in bulk with a simple click, saving you lots of time having to copy & paste them into your sheet.
  • It’s easy to collaborate with your team and leave comments
  • Everything is in one place: sending emails, finding contacts, creating press releases or having a newsroom
  • You can view your media pitch statistics such as open rate, click rate or bounce rate
  • Avoid duplicates that can happen with multiple media lists
  • You can sort and filter your list how you like it, without affecting the way your colleagues them
Get pitch statistics for every contact and group straight from your media list in Prowly

Once everything is ready, it’s time to full in your media contact list with people.

Media list building tools—find the right people for your list

We’re not going to get into full detail on this topic, because we’ve written an entire post on finding journalists.

You can manually find media contacts by using Google and platforms like Twitter and Linkedin and making use of the search functions. You can try ideas like searching for “tech reporter” or “food blogger Toronto”.

Another way is to identify the media outlets you want to target and find the right people working there. You can find outlets by using Google News or SEO tools like SEMRush. 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—esp. blogs & news sites—are linking to them? (SEMRush)
Example of using Google News to search for Prowly

My personal recommendation is to use a media database. In fact, we think it’s such a good idea that we created our own media database to help people like you find the right media contacts.

It saves a ton of time and frustration by essentially giving you a list of journalists, reporters, bloggers & more, AND their contact details. You’re able to filter through a database of a million people by the topic and location you’re interested in.

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

However, when you combine the two methods together—that’s where you get the absolutely 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.

Remember about media relations

A carefully created media 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.