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Five steps for building a better media contact list

How media research works and why it will improve the quality of your media coverage.

What is a media list and why do you need it?

A media list contains contact details for journalists, editors, bloggers, and other media professionals at your target media outlets. It’s an essential tool for PR professionals who want to achieve coverage for their company’s stories. Often, they are stored as a spreadsheet. Media lists should be updated frequently as journalists frequently move to a new beat or a new media organization.

How to build a media list that works for your PR campaigns

Step 1: Define your target media

If you work for a fashion designer, your target media is likely to be fashion, beauty, and lifestyle publications, both online and in print. On the other hand, if you work in financial services, you’ll mostly be targeting business pages of broadsheet newspapers.

Make a list of the publications you would like to feature in and find out who the most relevant editors and journalists are covering your beat. It’s important to know who the readership is of a given publication. For most journalists, their main concern is whether your story is of interest to their readers. Journalists can get frustrated if you target them with completely irrelevant pitches, so make sure you’re targeting the right people.

Step 2: Decide how much information you need

How much detail does your organization need to build relationships with the right journalists? The very basics include the journalist’s name, contact details, and media outlet. Larger organizations with a wide national or global reach may want to add depth and segmentation with fields like language, country, sector. Some companies may also want to include a website, social handles, notes and tags.

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

Your PR database should be a live document - not one buried away on a server and only opened when you want to send out a pitch. It’s a good idea to host it somewhere the whole team can easily access and update it, whether that’s in a dedicated piece of software (more on that below) or using a simple tool like Google Sheets.

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

A good PR pro keeps track of who the most influential journalists and editors in their sector are. You should update your list to include journalists you meet at industry events, those who write about your competitors, and those who are active on social media – especially Twitter. Set aside some time for traditional media monitoring and social media monitoring each month and add any new journalists of interest. 

Step 5: Make sure it's compliant with GDPR or other privacy laws

Ensure the details you add to your media list are the journalist’s work contact details and not personal ones. Data and privacy are important considerations in storing contact lists. Think about why you need the information, what kind of contact you will have with them and, if you’re building newsletter-style distribution lists, make sure people know what they’re signing up for and that they can opt-out.

How to build and use a PR database

There are many software tools – including PressPage – that can help you manage your media database and help you keep track of your contact with specific journalists. Contact Management Systems can store all the contact details mentioned above along with information like the last time you contacted the journalist, and whether they replied. This is especially useful for larger organizations with large PR databases - if you make contact with dozens of journalists around the world each week, you won’t remember all those details automatically.


Email distribution lists are also useful when you’re issuing a press release or pitch and want to achieve high levels of coverage. Software like PressPage can help you create and send beautiful, personalized emails to many journalists at once. This avoids duplication of work. However, it’s important that your company is never seen as spam. While you can email lots of journalists at once – which saves lots of time and is a super-efficient way to work – it’s crucial that the list is targeted and relevant. 

Most PR software comes with a certain number of journalists’ contact details already in the system. For example, PressPage has more than 900,000 journalists listed in our database with up-to-date contact details. That saves you time when you want to pitch because you don’t need to personally hunt down their information - all you have to do is create a carefully targeted list from the list we already have available.

Final thoughts

A solid media database will allow you to build relationships with the journalists in your sector quickly and efficiently. Investing time into keeping your lists up to date will pay off when you become a respected and trusted source of industry news for the journalists you want to work with. When journalists know they can count on you to keep them up-to-date with timely, interesting stories, they will start coming to you for comments when news breaks in your sector.

Do you want to know more about how to reach the right journalists? Read our Ultimate Guide to PR Distribution.

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