how to build media database

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You may do you darnedest to create newsworthy press releases and to pitch enticing story ideas to reporters. But if you don’t know precisely which journalists to contact, your media relations campaign won’t get far.

That’s where media databases prove their value.

You could purchase a list, but many PR experts question the effectiveness of purchased media lists. Besides being costly, the lists are notoriously inaccurate, filled with outdated information due to constant and heavy turnover of reporters and editors.  If you use a purchased media database, verifying contacts is almost mandatory. Bear in mind that most contacts in the database are not likely to be relevant to your organization or specific media pitch.

It may be less costly and more effective to build your own customized media database with a spreadsheet and some focused research. Creating a media list isn’t hard, though it can consume quite a lot of time. The benefit is that it’s precisely targeted to your specific needs and totally up-to-date. Just follow these steps:

Build Different Lists

First identify your industry niche. Then seek journalists who cover the sector. Clients may yearn for mentions in The Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Besides being difficult to achieve, placements in national newspapers may not produce business results (other than boosting the CEO’s ego) if your customers don’t read the publications.

Trade publications and niche consumer publications frequently offer excellent PR opportunities, especially for B2B firms. Local news outlets also offer another opportunity for enterprising PR pros willing to seek a local angle.

Journalists are no longer the only targets for media relations. Include in your specialized media database contact information of bloggers and other influencers. They may actually outnumber reporters in your niche. Many bloggers and social media influences have accumulated large, loyal followings.

Create separate lists for industry verticals as well as different story angles. Each list should represent a pitch angle or audience you’re trying to reach.

The Search for Names

To find contact information, try entering long-tail industry keywords and names of leading competitors’ into Google or Bing internet searches. Then find the publication names, article writers and their positions. Also search for industry hashtags on Twitter and other social media outlets, and check Twitter or LinkedIn profiles to verify contact information.

PR veterans recommend a subscription media monitoring service to track their industry’s news, as Google Alerts has proven to be unreliable. A media monitoring tool can find publications to add to your database by reporting news about your industry and your competitors. A media monitoring tool that tracks online news, blogs as well as social media provides a complete view of the digital landscape and dispenses with the laborious task of manual searches.

PR pros can find contact information on websites of news outlets, but some sites are more transparent about contact information than others. A review of the site map or advanced operators such as “site:editorial contacts,” can reveal names of editors and reporters you seek.

An essential point: Seek quality, not just quantity. A large list of the wrong people has little value, while a smaller list of well-targeted contacts can produce outstanding PR results.

Determining what the person actually does based on their title can sometimes be tricky. Job duties and titles vary between organizations. Editing and reporting roles often overlap.

“When faced with multiple people at one publication, select only one or two for your list. If everyone covers the same topic, pick the titles that are the most relevant—usually one senior level or above and one editorial assistant or staff writer,” writes PR veteran Ashley Halberstadt for HubSpot.

Lead Times for Publications

In addition to names, titles, publications and readership, record lead times of media outlets, Halberstadt suggests. Magazines and other print publications typically wrap up articles weeks or months in advance. Create separate lists for short lead and long lead outlets in addition to separate lists for each vertical.

Other key information to record includes:

  • Readership
  • Audience size or circulation
  • Domain authority and website traffic, if online

“Securing coverage with a backlink to your website on a site with a high domain authority increases ranking on Google and the quality of traffic heading to your site,” says Lucy Wharton at V Formation.

Review the lists to make sure contacts are not listed more than once. Sort by names, and then also sort by email addresses. Try to replace general email addresses, like editor@ or newsroom@, with a direct email, as they’re more likely to reach someone and not be lost in general inboxes.

Because of high turnover at publications, it’s essential to update the database constantly.

Most PR agencies have access to purchased media databases and are able to spread the cost across multiple clients. Many also maintain their own media databases customized for specific industries and product categories. Instead of creating your own specialized media contact list, you may prefer to hire an agency with a ready-made list in your niche.

Bottom Line: PR people can build their own media databases with a spreadsheet and some earnest research. Collecting contacts who cover your industry produces better results than trying to build a large list.

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