Press lists: marketing and PR professionals both love and hate them. I don’t think I have to explain why a media list is so helpful and valuable. As a PR agency, press lists are ‘our gold’ and our relationships with the journalists on these lists priceless.
However, keeping the press lists up to date is often a bit annoying (it definitely disturbs our flow) and above all time-consuming. If your lists aren’t updated properly, there is a fair chance that your press release will result in a couple of email bounces. Or you end up wasting your precious time finding the correct phone number of that journalist that you urgently would like to get in touch with.
If you are looking to kick off your work with media, you are off to an ok start using an existing – and probably a bit outdated – media list that you got from a colleague for example. This might result in a bit of pick up of your first press release. And you potentially end up securing that interview for your VP, who was visiting the Netherlands for a few days. A conversation with that reporter, who luckily (for you) was on that press list and who thankfully didn’t change jobs, emails or other contact details.
You are eager for more: more PR results, better brand awareness and building strong relationships with media. But how do you get more out of your press list? And how do you make sure that your press list keeps improving and you ultimately have a better media list than your competitors?
In this blog, I will take you through the answers in three steps.
Step 1: Buy a press list or build one yourself
If you start your new job – as a PR professional or marketing manager responsible for PR – there is one thing that you surely need: a press list. You have two options: purchasing access to a media database or build the press list yourself.
Do it yourself [recommended]
In 99% of the cases, I recommend building the media list yourself. The basis of this could be the press list that you have used in the past or the list inherited from your predecessor. This press list might be a bit outdated, but it is absolutely a good start as it is based on existing relationships and/or focuses on the right sector and target audience. [jump to step 2 if this you chose to build and manage the press list yourself]
Use a third party media database
Of course, there are companies that can offer you access to their media database. In the 1,5 decade that I have worked in PR, I’ve seen and used a variety of database vendors. Personally, I am not a big fan of International media databases because often the Dutch media or specific industries, like the tech industry in our case, are a low priority for them. Unfortunately for people who are looking for a Dutch media database, the Netherlands is not a tier 1 country for these database providers, and you’ll often see that the Dutch publications and journalists only get updated once a year.
Step 2: Improve your press list with more specific, more personal and up-to-date contact details
Once you have a press list, make sure you continuously improve it, ideally after each PR activity. Check and update the following two things to keep boosting the value of your media list.
#1 Always look for ways to make your list more specific (and shorter in many cases)
Less is definitely more when it comes to press lists. Every company has a core list of publications and journalists that always need to be informed about the updates and whereabouts of your company. Usually, this list consists of trade publications and reporters that focus on your specific market.
Make sure that other outlets and journalists – writing for newspapers, management publications or vertical outlets (such as health care, public sector, finance) – don’t end up on this core list. If you decide to include them on your core list, there is a fair chance that these media target groups will not take you seriously in the future. After all, you have harassed them too many times with irrelevant content by the time you actually have something valuable and interesting for them.
#2 Update your list with direct, personal contact details and communication preferences
When it comes to media lists, I can guarantee you this: media lists that have not been updated for a few months most probably contain inaccurate and outdated information. So, make sure you have a highly accurate list at your disposal to maximise press coverage. Simultaneously you improve the speed and effectiveness of the execution of your PR campaign. To put it simply: the quality of your press list impacts the ROI of your PR efforts.
Bonus tip: find out the communication preferences of each journalist
There is something else to think about when talking about contact details. Do you have a personal email address or mobile number? Always add these to your press list. How you use that personal information is even more important.
How? Combine this with communication preferences. Do you know in which mailbox a reporter would like to receive press releases or invitations? Have you ever asked a reporter if they prefer to be contacted by phone, email or WhatsApp? The preferences – or simply the way journalists and editorial teams streamline and manage the incoming flood of information – can differ per reporter and publication. Respect those.
Step 3: Enrich your media list for effortless, effective PR and build those solid long term relationships
The more you know about your press contacts the better. Having good relationships with key journalists will help you connect with them quicker and easier. And you can make better assessments of the expected results of your PR activities. Most importantly: you are building long term relationships when you keep up with the interests of the journalists that you work with regularly. But how and with what kind of information can you enrich your press list?
A couple of suggestions:
a) know what events and tradeshows reporters go to. This gives clues about the topics they cover, their areas of interest and availability.
b) record each journalist’s interaction with your company. Include details about the spokespeople they interviewed and key topics they covered. Have they ever visited one of your events? If so, make notes about their experience at each event.
c) identify which journalists already know and follow your company and the ones that don’t. The last group is still relatively unfamiliar with the organisation you represent.. As a result, you know what relationships you still need to establish and build and which ones you ‘just’ need to improve and grow. Adjust and plan your upcoming PR efforts based on this distinction. Remember, there is not a single company in the world that has unlimited time and budget for P. So making smart, substantiated choices is a must for everybody.
A good press list does not equal good relationships with the media
I believe that relationships with journalists and editorial teams are at the heart of everything we do in PR. A press list is useful and an effective tool to maintain these connections. You can make a real difference if you use that list to connect the right journalists with the right stories and content. And that requires ‘real’ and personal interactions. Good luck!