Five media lists every PR person needs

8 Minute Read
By Ciara Byrne

Table of Contents

  1. What is the purpose of a media list?
  2. What are the five media lists that you should have?
  3. How do you build the best media list?
  4. How do you keep a media list updated and GDPR compliant?
  5. Conclusion


What is the purpose of a media list?

A media list is a curation of media contacts used by PR and communications professionals. These lists can be broken down into many different categories which make it easier to distribute a press release to journalists who can help you to reach your target audience. 

When creating a media list it is essential to first consider who your audience is and the general topics that you cover. Are you aiming for national coverage with a major campaign or would your story work better as a regional release? 


What are the five media lists you should have?

Your media lists should be separated into groups to ensure that your press releases are only being sent to journalists who may be interested in covering that particular story. This prevents opt-outs from journalists who may not be interested in one particular release but could cover something in the future. It is important to bear your target audiences in mind when creating media lists. 

For in-house PR teams, your audience could be industry-specific and your lists may be made up of a lot of specialist publications, as well as some regional and national contacts. For a PR agency, lists might focus on a variety of specialist topic lists as well as lists of specific national and regional contacts. The aim of these lists will be to target the audience of current clients, to get the best coverage possible. 

So what lists should you have as part of your PR toolkit?


  • Geography

Consider where your company’s reach is and where a client is based. Though regional media tend to have smaller audiences, creating lists of media contacts for specific regions can be a better way of reaching a target audience and getting more coverage. Regional audiences are generally dedicated to a newspaper or station and creating a list of regional journalists can bring more traction to a story. 

If national reach is your aim, it is worth researching the publication and print time and days for newspapers as well as the deadline for radio and television press releases. Consider who the content of your press release is catered towards and when this audience consumes the most media. From there, it is easy to put together a list of national broadcasters and journalists. If your story is lighthearted and fun, a list of national mid-morning shows might be the right choice. If it is business-focused, business-centred newspapers and drivetime shows would make up the bulk of your list.


  • Subject Matter

What is the key subject matter that your clients or company cover? A great way to get more reach with your story is to create a list based on journalists who generally cover your key topics. Regularly sending press releases to those who may have an interest in covering a story is a great way to build media relations, which may lead to further coverage in the future. 


  • Media Type 

Creating lists by media type can make it easy to alter and personalise your press release for a higher chance of success. Creating lists of radio, newspaper, television or online journalists allows for the same press release to be sent to different media outlets in a targeted manner. 


  • Specific contact types

Some press releases may require lists consisting of specific contact types, like news desks or business desks. These contact types can be useful when it is unclear who the best person to pitch to is and can help to get your press release to the right contact. On MediaHQ, contacts can also be filtered by a number of criteria, including whether they are a staff writer or freelancer, work for national or regional press and by person or desk. These qualifications make it easy to narrow down a search to find specific contacts to add to your list.


  • Specialist 

A specialist list can be made up of a hybrid of contact categories. Specialist lists are commonly used for campaigns or press releases that are aimed to target a certain audience across the board. They can include local and national media contacts who specialise in a particular subject, news and business desks and own contacts who may prove relevant for a particular release. 

How do you build the best media list?

There is not just one way to build a media list but there are ways of curating your media contacts to make your lists more accurate, easier to keep up to date, increase your deliverability and lower your bounce rate. Using a spreadsheet to list and keep track of media contacts and their information is a common process used to build media lists. This comes with its own set of pros and cons. 

While it is easily accessible, easy to share and keeps all of your contacts together, there are many negatives of using this method to build media lists. It takes a lot of time and effort to maintain a media list that has been built on a spreadsheet. The process includes manually checking that each contact is current and up to date on a regular basis which can be time-consuming, especially if the list is made up of many contacts accumulated over years. This also raises some GDPR concerns as outdated contacts can become a violation. In line with this, Bounce rates tend to be higher while the deliverability of press releases can dip. The time and effort that it takes to maintain spreadsheet-based media lists can eat into time that could otherwise be spent writing stories for your brand or clients. 

Using a media contacts database is another way of building media lists. This method consists of searching for contacts on a database, which makes it easy to narrow down a search and find the perfect media contacts for your list. Using a media database to build a media list comes with many benefits. As a database, it is specifically designed with the role of a PR specialist in mind and it caters towards making the process of list building as intuitive and simple as possible. 

There are a few different ways to use a media contacts database to build a media list. A media contacts database will come with a search bar, similar to a search engine, which makes it easy to search for contacts, programmes and organisations. There will also be a filter tab that makes it easy to refine your search. With MediaHQ in particular, you will have access to a topic search, which was created to take the grunt work out of finding the best contacts for your media lists. Contacts on the database have been tagged with over 300 topics, which can be found in the Topic Search section. This means that finding contacts, from big names to niche writers, can be done in the click of a button. Below is a video of how the MediaHQ search tab, topic search and filters work:



The benefit of using a contacts database surpasses just the ease of discovering the right contacts. Users are notified when a contact on any of their lists has been updated, which means that keeping lists up to date and GDPR compliant doesn’t take a second thought. As there is a team of researchers that keep the database updated on a daily basis, bounce rates are kept low while deliverability remains well above the industry average.


How do you keep a media list updated and GDPR compliant?

Creating a great media list is only the first step of getting better coverage of your story. In order to maintain high deliverability and remain GDPR compliant, you must regularly update your media lists. This can be a tricky task to navigate but the right tools can help to ease the grunt work and make it a quick and painless process. 

When keeping media lists on a spreadsheet, it is essential for GDPR purposes to update the list on a regular basis. As the media industry is fast-paced and journalists are always changing jobs and even career paths, it is important to allocate time every week to ensure that your contacts are still in the job and using the email that you have listed for them. This too mitigates the risk of a high bounce rate and will keep your deliverability high enough to achieve your desired outcome and reach your target audience.

When using a media contacts database, the process of keeping your lists updated is a much more simple one. You will be notified when a contact on your list has been updated – as a team of researchers work behind the scenes to keep track of and update contact details for all listed journalists on a daily basis. This guarantees a much higher and more consistent deliverability rate and will ensure that your bounce rate is as low as possible. 


Points to ponder


  • How do you currently find contacts for a specific geographic area?

Are you doing this in the most efficient way that there is?

  • How do you find contacts to add to your lists based on their interest topic?
  • How do you quickly find contacts based on their media type to add to your lists?
  • How do you find specific contact types with ease?
  • Where do you find specialist media contacts?


Designed for PR and communications teams, MediaHQ is the all-in-one media contacts database and press release distribution software with the mission to connect your story with your audience. It was founded by entrepreneur Jack Murray in 2009.

Our cutting edge software is the best, fastest and most accurate way to find the right journalists, build media and pitch lists in seconds, send press releases and get results.

The comprehensive MediaHQ database lists the details of every journalist, and media outlet in the UK and Ireland and is full of time saving features that take the grunt work out of PR. It guarantees up to 97% accuracy on every send.



Ciara Byrne

Digital Content Executive at MediaHQ

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