An essential component of any media relations’ effort is the creation of a media list. A media list is, as the name suggests, a list of journalists, reporters, editors and bloggers that you want to connect with about your news. There are lots of ways to define this list. I once worked with someone who would not consider media part of a target list but insisted that they were merely a conduit to the real audience. He may have had a point but it seemed like hair-splitting to me. Oh well, now on with the story.
I like to use fishing analogies when I write about different types of ways to promote a business. There are fish you can catch with a net and fish you catch with a line. The fish that come up in the net are every fish. No discrimination about the type of fish in the net, just pull up every fish that is unlucky enough to be under the boat when the net is thrown out. To catch fish on a line requires more skill, specialized equipment, the right kind of bait and knowledge about where and when a particular variety is more likely available. Sending out press releases is much the same. You can broadcast a release to everyone via one of the popular and expensive services and it will get published, no question. But will it be seen and appreciated by an audience that could better appreciate it? Do you need a “line” to the reporters and editors who are specifically interested in your topic? You already know the answer.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Or another way of thinking about this is to define who are your customers or potential customers? Where do they live? How old are they? Are they married or single? Are they college graduates or not? How much money do they make? What magazines do they read or subscribe to? These are a few of the demographics about who your audience/customers are and how to reach them. If you do not know this then you will not be able to build a good list or market to potential customers successfully. Know your customer!
Step 2: What Do You Read Or Listen To Or Watch?
So who are those reporters you want to reach and how do you start to look for them? Well, what do you read and listen to when you are thinking about work or looking for solutions to problems on the job? Many professionals and business owners have their favorite writer, podcaster, and/or commentator. The one who covers your business and the one(s) you pay attention to are also the same people who should show up on your media list. Since you already know who they are, finding them on line will be easier than if you did not. So while researching your own favorites, pay attention to others who show up on your favorite search engine feed. You want to be sure that you have access to all media in your selected categories—print, online, TV and radio—and that your list isn’t exclusive to one area. Be inclusive.
Step 3: Find Others Who Cover The Same Beat
Look on line for others who cover the same “beat” as your favorites. These people may not be your favorite, but they are someone’s favorite or they would not have the jobs or following that they do. Are there more places to look? Absolutely.
Step 4: Investigate Other On Line Resources
There are online services that have absolutely everything there is to know about every media outlet in North America whether, print, on line, radio, TV, or blog. Vocus and Cision are both excellent. They are also expensive and not everyone can afford to subscribe to one of these. Here are some other places to look that do not cost anything but time.
The Internet Public Library
The Internet Public Library includes a list of popular magazines and newspapers organized by their respective subject area or geographic focus. Each individual listing includes a brief description of the outlet’s coverage area, along with a link to their website. Other similar directories include World Newspapers & Magazines (some of these listings are outdated, but it’s still a good starting point), the Yahoo! News and Media directory and Mondo Times.
I was looking for producers of radio talk shows in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago and turned to Linked In for help. You can dive very deep into contact information about the people you need by using Linked In. It has its limitations, but is the best source I have found and did not pay for.
Media On Twitter
I have communicated directly with individual reporters sending messages to them via Twitter. Of course you have to know their names and who they write for to make use of twitter, but never fear, there is a site for that. You can learn more about the MediaOnTwitter wiki from PRSarahEvans.com. While MediaOnTwitter is the most comprehensive list, there’s also a Media People Using Twitter wiki developed by Jeremy Porter and his staff.
Congress.org Media Guide
This is a useful directory of media outlets organized by your geographic area. You can click on an interactive map to find newspapers in different areas of the country. Each listing includes a description of the outlet, along with some contacts for the publication (geared toward those that cover politics, but still useful).
Audit Bureau of Circulations
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) lists its members on its website, including Business Publications, Consumer Magazines and Newspapers.
Regator aggregates the best blog posts on different subjects. While Alltop will show you the best blogs on a subject, Regator shows you the best posts, saving you even more time. It’s useful for finding the most relevant posts on subjects I’m interested in. The best posts are hand-selected by experienced journalists, so you’ll find nothing but great quality here.
TradePub works with business and trade magazine publishers to market free subscriptions to qualified professionals. This is your one-stop-shop for subscribing to a wide-range of free business and trade publications of interest to you. It’s also a great place to find outlets you’ll want to add to your media list.
TVA Productions is a top independent studio that just happens to have an awesome directory of media outlets in many different categories. The directory is well-designed and easy to navigate. The only downside is the directory only lists the name and location of each outlet per category, so you’ll still have to find the outlet’s website to continue your research from there.
Step 5: Manage Expectations
None of these resources will provide anywhere near the volume or accuracy of information found in commercial media databases like Vocus or Cision. It’s true that you get what you pay for when it comes to media research. If you’re managing media relations for several organizations, consider investing in one of these solutions. If you just need to create a media list for your small business or startup, you can do this for free with a moderate amount of effort, using the resources above. I have used Vocus (and still do) and done this using the other tools listed above. Give yourself plenty of time to do it with the free resources and know that the results will not be as complete as they might be.