Friday, April 6, 2012

How to Create a Powerful Media List

Building a media list is often tricky. Traditionally PR firms spend a lot of money on yearly subscriptions to online databases that give them access to every media contact in the US and sometimes the world. As a business owner, speaker or author you don't need to have that big of a media list, you just need a strong set of contacts that you can go to when you have a news item, a launch, or an interesting story to tell.
When we consider our publicity budget, we don't often take into account the pricey subscriptions to these services. It's generally not a good idea, or a prudent use of your marketing budget, to sign up for a database such as this. But the problem is that you still need the contacts. There is, however, an alternative that does require some work and planning but will help you build a strong, long-term list.

* Start early: This process, while it will save you money, will take you anywhere from three to six months to pull a good list together. The longer you work this process, the more comprehensive a list you will develop.

* Topics: Be clear on the topics you feel you can cover and if you're unclear on how many areas you can address, spend some time with a professional publicity person who can help you brainstorm some areas. The more areas you can cover, the better and more fruitful your media campaign will be.

* Google Alerts: First and foremost you want to keep track of any news breaking in your market. You also want to keep tabs on other speakers, authors, or businesses that are similar to yours so you can see where they are popping up. This will also alert you to the various media (including online media, i.e. bloggers) who work in your particular area.

* Which media: Not all media is created equal, so be clear on which media you want to go after and what's doable for you. As you start building your list, you might find that your topic is very popular (lucky you) and there are opportunities in both broadcast and print media. Are you ready for prime time? Only you know the answer to this, but if you're just starting out the answer is probably no. Don't go for the big time media just because everyone else is. If you've had media training and you're not a novice then great, but likely you're just starting out. It's rare when a national morning show will feature a "green" guest. By that I mean someone who's never been on media or has no media training. If you're getting your feet wet start locally and build from there.

* Networking: The next phase of this will be networking with your media contacts. And even though I cautioned you not to shoot too high if you're just starting out, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't start networking with them early. By networking I mean connecting with them on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Comment on their posts, their news and be sure to connect with them if the stories they publish are also featured online. As you get to know your target media (and they get to know you) you'll begin to build a relationship with them and, if you're lucky, even become a source for their stories. Most media folk are pretty well connected. If they do broadcast media and you can't find their stories online, check out the station website to see where you might find them in the social media world.

* HARO: Don't forget to sign up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). If you aren't familiar with this I have an article on media leads that will guide you through this process: (
Responding to media leads, even in the early stages of your project, will really help you build your media database and potentially get interviewed.

* Staying in Touch: Once you have a story you are actively pitching, I recommend "touching" each of your media contacts at least once every six months or once a quarter if you have a really hot topic. You can keep contact with them through a quick email telling them you enjoyed their story, or through a pitch idea, but this contact should be direct. A posting on Facebook or response to a Google+ update is just part of your daily/weekly communication but it can't and shouldn't replace direct contact.

* Events: As you go to industry events, always be alert to the media attending so you can network with them. Some events might publish their attending media list, but if they don't you can often spot media by their badge (many press passes have special colors on them so they are easy to spot). Be sure to attend evening functions, which is always a great place to identify new, potential media who may be interested in your pitch.

Building a media list is more than just creating a list, it's about building long-term relationships with media (both online and off) that you can turn to again and again. Once you have this media list, you'll want to keep enhancing it. As your message and media data base grows, these relationships can grow with you. Like any relationships, they'll take time so it's best to start early. Once you implement these action items, they should become part of your daily/weekly/monthly marketing goals. At some point, as you continue networking and connecting with the right media, you'll find that media opportunities become almost second nature. There's no substitute for a mention in a popular blog, magazine, radio or TV show - you just have to be ready when opportunity knocks.

Good luck!

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

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