How to Build the Most Effective Media Contact List for Your PR Agency

Apr 10, 2023

Pitching is all about reaching out to the right editor with the right story at the right time. To make sure you get in touch with the perfect journalist for every pitch, you need to have a thorough media contact list at your disposal! Whether you call it a media contacts list, contact database, or media list is up to you — but you need to put in the time and effort to curate a strategic and effective media contact list to truly set yourself up for success. 

What Is a Media Contact List? 

At its core, a media contact list is a digital address book that’s fully customized to your niche and your agency’s needs. It lists out all of your media contacts (from the media rookies to the long-established vets) who would be interested in stories about one or more of your clients. This is your go-to resource when brainstorming new story angles and writing pitches to send out. 

The contacts in your media list are the key to landing high-impact features in your niche’s top outlets, so you need to include anyone and everyone! Journalists, editors, and freelance reporters are a no-brainer, but you should also include TV producers, bloggers, podcasters, celebrities, and influencers (or their teams). 

Don’t limit yourself to major national publications, either. The most effective media lists include a range of global, national, regional, and local contacts. If it’s relevant to your clients, it should be on your list! 

What’s Included in a Media Contact List? 

While a list of names and emails is technically a media contact list, you’ll need far more than that to truly set your clients up for success! Each contact’s entry should include their name and role, email, mailing address, phone number, and social media pages. You should also include a link to their current publication (or publications if they’re a freelancer), the type of media they typically publish, their beat or niche, and some of their relevant pieces. 

From there, you can customize your media contact list as you please! If you have clients across multiple niches, organizing your media list by niche or beat may work best for you. It’s also a good idea to include additional notes with insights from your history with the contact or reminders on how they prefer to be contacted. 

Always make sure to keep your media list up-to-date. Contact information changes all the time in the media — we’ve all had our pitch emails randomly bounce back to us! Use those emails to stay on top of when journalists switch beats, move to a different outlet, or go on parental leave, for example.

Related: How to Find a Niche That Is Better Suited For You (and More Profitable)

How to Effectively Use Your Media Contact List 

Having a thorough media contact list at your fingertips is an important part of landing killer press, but it doesn’t guarantee anything! You’ve got to use that media list strategically to set yourself up for success. Here are two of my best tips for making the most of your media contact list. 

Keep Your Media Relationships In Mind 

Your media contacts are more than just lines of data and faceless receptacles for your pitches; they’re real people and want to be treated as such! Your media contacts deserve your respect and deserve your best work, always. See them as more than just key players in your niche who can give you a major press placement. 

Editors don’t want to receive generic spray-and-pray pitches. Honestly, those will just land you on their blocked list. They’ll be on high alert once they’ve seen work that’s off the mark and they won’t waste any more of their time reading your pitches. 

Make the effort to build relationships with the key people on your media contact list. Engage with them on social media, share their work, and show them that you’re invested in their content and their lives beyond your clients’ features! Be thoughtful when reaching out to your media contacts, whether that’s on a formal pitch email or through Instagram comments.

Related: 7 PR Mistakes You're Making With Your Pitches to Journalists & Editors

Research, Research, Research! 

When you consult your media contact list before sending out pitches, don’t just pick a random handful of contacts and press send. Do your due diligence to research and thoughtfully choose the contacts who are most likely to be interested in your client. Not every outlet on your media list is right for a particular story, either, so take that into account before sending. 

You already know that journalists are always moving between publications, so double-check that they’re where you think they are before reaching out. A quick search of their social media accounts or LinkedIn will do. Look out for posts announcing a job move or content that’s published by a new outlet. 

Make sure you always personalize your pitches, too! Your pitch emails need to be targeted and strategically positioned for your specific contact to really move the needle for your clients. As you research your contact, keep an eye out for things you can connect over, like major life events or recent pieces of theirs that impacted you. 

2 Ways to Build Your Media Contact List 

You pretty much have two options for creating your media contact list: building it yourself or purchasing a premade one online. They both have their pros and cons, so what you choose is up to you — just be ready to put in the time and effort both take to be effective. Let’s go over everything you need to know before you choose the method that’s right for your agency. 

#1: Create Your Own From Scratch 

The main drawback to building your own media contact list is that it can take a lot of time. You could spend hours collecting the full breadth of contact information for media contacts in your niche, and double or triple that if you work in multiple niches! But when you’re done, your media list will be completely customized to you and your team’s needs. 

You’ll have the exact information you require to send out your pitches, plus all of the additional information you like to keep track of when reaching out to the media. You’ll also know that it’s fully up-to-date and will only require minimal edits as your contacts move between publications. 

If you want to learn how to build a totally customized media contact list that doesn’t take forever, we have amazing how-to’s in The Pitch Lab! We’ll take you through every step of the process of creating your ultimate media list. You’ll also get access to a peer-curated Media Contacts Database that’s chock full of up-to-date contact info and PR pro insights to help you choose the right contact for every pitch. 

#2: Buy a Premade Media Contact List Online 

Your second option is to buy a premade media contact list online, but those can be a pain to navigate. They’re often very expensive, include more contacts than you need, and are littered with errors from being out-of-date. These media lists can save you a lot of time in the long run but will require major editing right off the bat. 

Plus, you’ll likely need to add your media contacts who aren’t already on the premade list, like local journalists or less conventional contacts such as podcasters or micro-influencers. You really have to go in and curate these premade media contact lists as soon as you purchase them for them to be effective. 

If you want to go the traditional route with a done-for-you media list, I highly recommend Prowly. Their media contacts database has tons of filters and advanced search features so you can hone in on the media players who are best for your clients. 

Your media contact list is one of the most important tools in your PR toolkit. Building and maintaining your media list takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. When you approach your media contact list with a clear strategy, you can easily pick out the best contact for your client, write an effective and targeted pitch, and score major press wins!