Build a media contact list: Getting Started
If you’re just starting a new company, or project, or simply want to champion a cause; building your media contact list is a crucial element of a public relations strategy that will skyrocket interest in you from a huge new audience
The first thing to do is identify the journalists who are most likely to cover your story and get their contact details. Building a really good list may take to or three days of solid research. But it’s worth it.
Step 1: How to identify what media your audience are consuming
As an expert in your niche you may already know journalists’ names who write for the audience you’ve got in mind, or at least know publications, blogs and broadcast shows that will appeal to them.
For each journalist you contact the key thing to think about is who is their audience, and will that audience be interested in what you have to say?
Taking a random example of someone who had invented a new type of paint some obvious journalists for him to contact would be:
• Interior design bloggers, magazines writers and TV show producers
• The writers of the Home & Garden sections of Sunday broadsheet newspapers
• Local journalists that cover his home town (possibly looking for a ‘local boy made good’ story)
• Science & Technology bloggers and magazine writers; radio show and TV show producers that cover inventors.
But although you can do some good guesswork, when identifying the media outlets your audience are consuming you’re never really going to be 100% accurate; and you could end up wasting a lot of time going after your preconceived ideas for useful media outlets when in reality your audience is elsewhere. Thankfully there’s two free and very useful tools that we’ve identified that you can use to find out what publications (and in fact almost anything else) that your target audience is into. The first is Facebook audience insights.
Free Resource 1: Facebook Audience Insights
Audience Insights is a tool designed to help people who advertise on Facebook to better tailor their ads to their desired audience. But the information it reveals is incredibly useful for anyone trying to promote themselves through the media too. Facebook collects data on everything that every registered user clicks on, talks about or likes – which is quite creepy, but is also why advertisers love it. This tool allows you to access that mass of data easily. Watch this video tutorial or follow the instructions below to see how you can use Facebook Audience Insights as a tool to build your media contacts list.
All you need do is head to Facebook. If you haven’t done so already you need to sign up for an advertising account (which is free). Once you’ve got your account set up, a button will appear on the left hand side of the homepage near the top called ‘ads manager’. If you click on that, you’ll then get another page with a different column on the left hand side, including an option called ‘audience insights’. Give that a click. You’ll get a pop up screen asking you which audience you want to start with. Unless you have a facebook fan page with over 1000 members you’re going to want to hit the top option – ‘everyone on Facebook’.
Now you’ll see a screen where in the option boxes on the left hand side (see screenshot below) you’re going to want to put in as much information as you possibly can about the audience you’re chasing. There’s a very large range of categories including age, precise location, interests, whether they ‘like’ a certain page on facebook, what language they speak, and how much they earn. It goes on and on.
After narrowing your audience down as much as you can, what you’re left with is a snapshot of all the things they have liked, or talked about on facebook. You’ll see how old your audience is, what sex they are, how well educated they are, even what jobs they have. From this you can start to guess the type of media they are going to consume. But the good thing is you don’t have to guess, because facebook can tell you exactly. If you go ahead and click the ‘page likes’ tab at the top othe audience insights page it’s going to give you a list of any common threads of things on facebook or facebook pages that your chosen demographic has ‘liked’ or discussed. Make sure you reveal all possible results by clicking see all (underneath the 10th result).
What you’ll then see is a list of ‘likes’ on facebook that a lot of your chosen demographic have in common. In other words this is a list of your demographic’s favourite stuff. What you’re looking for is anything in categories like ‘News/Media’, ‘TV Channel’, ‘Website’, ‘Magazine’ etc. (see below for two example screenshots). If you get featured in any of the media outlets listed here, you’ve got an excellent chance of reaching your chosen demographic.
From that initial list you can extrapolate out. Armed with the information you’ve discovered, you can search for similar blogs, podcasts and publications on google, have a flick through your TV or radio listings and have a browse at your nearest newsagent or newsstand. You’ll quickly build a list of media outlets (and hopefully a few names of journalists) to contact.
Free Resource 2: YouGov Profiler
The second resource you can try is the yougov profiler . This is another free source of information based on YouGov’s large polling database. It’s a smaller sample than Facebook – but it’s been conducted by professional pollsters – so can be relatively well trusted. Here’s a quick video tutorial on how you can use this to your advantage
When you visit the website you are asked a simple question ‘search for any brand, person or thing’.
In that box you should put the brand name, celebrity’s name or a thing that most appeals to your ideal target audience member or fan. Whatever it is, put the word in the box and hit enter.
The yougov profiler will then reveal a load of useful information on the ‘fans’ of the thing you have typed in, including some info about relevant media they consume. If you try it out with a few of the brand names and hobbies you think your audience might enjoy you should get a list of media outlets to approach that complements the list you built with Facebook.
Step 2: How To Get Journalists’ Contact Details
Once you have the list of publications/broadcasters to target you created, scour their websites, and the publications themselves for any names and contacts you can find. In the case of smaller publications or blogs the contact details are often easily discoverable.
If you can’t find any contact details or contacts call the publication or broadcaster and ask to be put through to a department that covers your niche (in newspapers these are called desks – e.g. ‘the culture desk’). When you get connected don’t pitch your story – just ask for the name and contact details of the journalist who is most likely to cover your area of interest.
If you have names of useful contacts but not their email addresses try inputting the internet address (a.k.a. URL – e.g. www.bbc.co.uk) of their organisation into the website email-format.com. The results will give you the way that your target organisation constructs their employees’ email addresses. For example if you are told that the BBC has an email format of firstname.lastname@example.org and you’re looking for a journalist called joe bloggs, it’s a pretty good chance that his email address will be email@example.com.
Using Social Media to improve and expand your contact search
It’s well worth searching for a journalist that you know will be interested in your subject on www.linkedin.com. If you haven’t got an account it’s free to set up. On the right-hand-side of the journalist’s profile page will be two lists of more profiles. One is called ‘people similar to x’ and the other is called ‘people also viewed…’. Both lists are likely to contain journalists that cover the same topics as the original one you searched for, and you may not have got contact details for already.
a linkedin page marked with areas to find potential contacts
Alternatively people curate lists of journalists who cover a certain niche on twitter (www.twitter.com – again you’ll need a free account to search). Do a google or twitter search for a key journalist’s twitter profile page. Once you’re there you’ll see some statistics on their numbers of tweets and followers. To the right of those is a ‘More’ option. Clicking that will reveal a ‘lists’ option. Hitting that will take you to the lists of people that the journalist has added themselves to, but also (and perhaps more usefully) the lists that other people have added them to. Look for the lists that are most appropriate for you and the chances are it will be filled with names and contact details of useful media professionals.
A twitter page showing the lists the user is featured in, plus the ‘more’ link you need to click to find the lists
Step 3: Creating a mailing list
Once you have your list of media contacts collate them all into a list on your computer and keep notes as to whether, and when you manage to capture each contact’s interest. That way you’ll know which are the journalists who are interested in you (and therefore worth spending time on cultivating a relationship with) and which aren’t. Your list will change and grow with time as the quality of your contacts improve.
You may find it useful to import your list into an online email service like mailchimp or awebber. These websites allow you create attractive looking group emails and give you details on who has opened them. You can format your press releases into these emails and send them to your entire contact list with one click.
However be warned that bulk emails often get caught by email spam filters, so it’s always better to go for individual emails tailored to the media organisation you are trying to reach, at least at first. When you’re more established and have the confidence of your key media contacts sending group emails will be more successful.
Please leave your comments below if you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions on the post