Have you ever noticed people treat lists of media contacts like gold? Buying or borrowing a beautifully laid out spreadsheet full of names, phone numbers, email addresses – and even mailing and street addresses – can feel like winning the lottery. And if it has mobile phone numbers – bonus! The same goes for any ready-made list of contacts, be it of business prospects or industry professionals. Some people even spruik these contacts lists – “Come to our event and we’ll give you a media contacts list for free!” as though it’s an irresistibly valuable offer. 

But are they really that good? 

I’ve seen many of those lists and I’ve owned numerous media guides (in fact, I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for media guides in the past) but I have come to realise, time and time again – they have very limited uses. 

Media lists date very quickly because in media, people change jobs constantly. That online editor you met 12 months ago has switched to another publication by now. That radio producer you contacted six months ago has moved to marketing, and that TV news chief-of-staff you spoke to yesterday has since retired. 

Every media guide I have ever owned lists many people who left their organisations years ago. Years ago! And you thought your email to a bunch of contacts you just bought in a guide was going to target all the right people? Unlikely. 

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But don’t despair – there’s a great media contacts list you can use that will reap rewards and do exactly what it should. Where can you buy it? How much is it? Folks, I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s the list you create yourself. 

Before you cast this idea into the “too hard” basket, you might be interested to know that compiling a media contacts list is as easy as using a search engine and creating a spreadsheet. 

After you’ve finished reading this, sit with your search engine open and type the name of the media organisation you would most like to appear in – the one all your potential customers are following. Then type in your business’s subject matter and themes into the website’s search field. What can you see? You see the names of people who wrote articles about those themes and even the dates they wrote them. Look! There are some articles about small business telecommunications experts, written this year. Oh, they’re all by the same journalist. Look! There are interviews with other start-up fashion designers and they all appeared on this site or on this TV series. Are you taking notes yet? This is the best way to start your own list of the correct, most up-to-date media contacts relevant to you. Once you have names, it’s as easy as making a phone call to head office to find out their email addresses and contact details. 

Nothing will ever replace your own knowledge of the people you want to be noticed by. Would you pitch to a prospective client without looking them up first and making sure you had some up-to-date information? If not, then don’t send emails blindly to media or use a list or media guide indiscriminately. You’re wasting your time. And if the email doesn’t bounce back, you might end up wasting someone else’s time too. 

Have you had a bad experience with an out-of-date media contacts list? How do you keep on top of your own media contacts list? 

“ Nothing will ever replace your own knowledge of the people you want to be noticed by. ”
 
Katie McMurray

Katie McMurray is passionate about business publicity and creating authentic public profiles for business owners.

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