Just as a tree falls in the woods with no one to hear it make a sound, content is only great if there are people to enjoy it and share it. So, before you write the perfect pitch and start your outreach, you must be sure to have a rock-solid media list.

If you have access to a media database like Cision, Vocus or Gorkana, things will be a little easier to organize. No access to a media database? Never fear: you just need to be sure you have a stellar spreadsheet ready to go and put your research hat on—the majority of the following tips will still apply!

How To Create a Media List

Step 1: Define What You're Pitching

Whether it’s an interview with an executive, a new product announcement or a piece of killer content, you need to have a very clear understanding of what it is you’re offering to the media. You can’t build a targeted outreach list without knowing what your outreach will look like.

Step 2: Develop Your Angle

You know what you’re offering—now, think about all the different journalists who will want to share it with their readers. In PR-speak, this is your “angle.” There may be one really obvious audience for you, but there are probably other verticals that would benefit from it as well.

Think of all of the different audiences you may want to reach and create different lists for each topic. This will keep everything targeted and relevant when you go to make outreach.

Be thoughtful about what topics and keywords you select. People who write about the “technology industry” don’t review “consumer electronics,” and “health care” writers don’t necessarily cover “health and medicine.” Adjust and adapt to be sure you’re getting relevant results.

Step 3: Decide on the Timing

Is your pitch only relevant immediately, or will it still apply four to six months from now? Lead time will help you determine which types of outlets you should include. Short lead outlets have a shorter turn around time and include online, daily newspapers, TV and radio. Long lead publications are print magazines, which work anywhere from three to six months in advance.

Again, it’s a good idea to make separate lists for each vertical, as well as both short lead and long lead outlets so that your pitch will be appropriate for everyone based on what they write about, and when.

Step 4: Delve Into Both Outlets and Contacts

If you’re using a database, there are a couple of ways to search. Start with a more general outlet search, and then supplement with a contact search to finish out the list. Remember, you are building your list(s). You can’t do one search and consider it done!

For both, search for the specific topics and keywords related to the vertical for that specific list. An outlet search will give you results without contact names—go to each outlet and look for the most appropriate contact within each. The contact search, also by topic and/or keyword, should give you results for more mass awareness publications, and not just industry or niche publications.

For example, an outlet search for travel magazines will give you results like Condé Nast Traveler. There will be multiple travel writers to choose from and add to the list. Then, a contact search for “travel” will result in journalists who write about travel in other publications that may not have a specific travel focus—like Better Homes and Gardens, Men’s Health and even freelance writers who contribute to more than one outlet.

Step 5: Discern Between Roles

You’ll see a lot of different contact titles during your search. The roles and responsibilities attached with each title can vary significantly across outlets, making it difficult to choose which ones you should include. There are some titles that will likely always be irrelevant—Market Editors, for example, typically only cover fashion. So, unless that’s what you’re offering, you can skip them.

Another title to be mindful of is the Editor-In-Chief. They are more responsible for the business end of an outlet—like selecting content, not creating it. Editorial assistants, however, are usually looking for unique new stories and ideas.

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.

Step 6: Discover Who's Missing

Google is still a great way to find contacts and flesh out your list. As extensive as media databases are, they will never include every single person you may want to reach. Search for the topics and keywords you’ve been using, and include some relevant long tail keywords as well, to see who is already writing about the same, or similar, topics.

You’ll find people that may not be listed in your database at all, or are possibly listed with off-topic outlets or as covering different topics. People freelance and contribute all over the web, so be sure to check out what they actually write about rather than trusting completely in the database results for a more relevant list.

Step 7: De-Dupe

Satisfied with the lists? Go through them a couple of times and make sure you don’t have the same person listed more than once. Sort by names, and then also sort by email addresses. Some outlets will assign a generic email address to everyone, and some people choose to have the general email listed instead.

Look for the general email addresses—like editor@ or newsroom@—and see if you can find a direct email to replace it with. You’re more likely to reach the correct person if you avoid the general inboxes.


Before you start outreach, you should have well-organized and highly targeted lists, divided by short and long lead opportunities. Each list should represent a pitch angle or audience you’re trying to reach, and then all you have to do is wow them with your incredible offer—and happy pitching!

Ashley is a veteran PR pro and joins Relevance to oversee the placement and promotion strategies for clients. She loves to read, dance, watch terrible made-for-TV movies and keep up with the latest consumer technology news and trends.


Ashley is a veteran PR pro and joins digitalrelevance to oversee the placement and promotion strategies for clients. She loves to read, dance, watch terrible made-for-TV movies and keep up with the latest consumer technology news and trends.

Originally published Nov 4, 2013 1:00:00 PM, updated July 03 2019


Public Relations