Building a media list can be an overwhelming task in the first instance. There’s no right way to do it, but there are many things you can get wrong. I believe the best place to start is looking at hooks and niches within your story. Who is the audience for this? (Also, great practice in brainstorms, it may be a good idea, but who is going to cover it?).
Once you’ve decided on your campaign idea, and which niches it is relevant to, use this to form the basis of your media list. There are many tools available to put you in touch with journalists, for example, Roxhill, Cision, Gorkana, MuckRack etc.
These will give you contact details for some of the bigger sites that you will need to contact but for more niche sites you’ll need to look for their contact details on-site. Whilst you can usually find contact us pages, extensions such as hunter can help you find the e-mail address too.
When building your media list, whether using spreadsheets, or other tools you may use, make sure you add the date, which client it’s for, the name of the publication, the URL of the relevant story, their name (make sure it’s spelt correctly!), their e-mail address, their twitter, their role, status, and any notes.
Status is just the progress you’ve made, and helps manage relationships, whether it’s a to-do, a contacted, a followed up or a live link. You can put it in there. I’d also advise having a column for any coverage you get so you can reference it in the future. It also means that on the unfortunate occasion that you do get an e-mail response that perhaps isn’t as pleasant as you’d like, you can note why this is. Your media list becomes a management relationship tool.
To be using these effectively, date whenever you first contacted, when you followed up, and the responses you get. For example, if you get an out of office, and still decide to follow up two days later then that may not look great.
You need to target the correct journalist. Twitter can be a goldmine, alongside your other research. Whilst media database tools are relatively accurate (and a lot better than they used to be), they still can sometimes be outdated, even if it’s just by a day. Journalists switch publications, they switch roles and desks, and sometimes freelance journalists can move into more permanent roles.
If you do build a media list prior to a campaign, then your targets can change quickly and it’s important to make sure that before you press send on your outreach e-mail that you’ve got the right person, and you’re personalising your message to them.
Other tips would be to look at other stories the journalist has written, you don’t want to be pitching them the exact same thing that they’ve written recently, if it’s a different angle or hook then sure, but be careful with this approach. Also, think about timings, if the news agenda is covering a big story, then think about whether you should be pitching your story. Part of a media specialist is having excellent judgement.