Publicizing your small business: Making a media list and checking it twice

In a previous column, we discussed the construction of a press release. This month, we highlight where the release goes–to your press list (old terminology) or media list (new terminology).

First, figure out how you’re going to store and categorize your list. In days of old, we used the Rolodex, a desktop artifact that was like a circular file with cards. We stapled the business cards of our reporters in it, and flipped through it with a pencil, like a secretary might on “Mad Men.”

Nowadays, there are a million programs available to store the list online. I prefer G-Mail from Google, since I most often reach out to reporters by email. G-Mail lets you store email addresses, titles, phone numbers, and has a section for notes, i.e. arts reporter, The ABC Daily News, etc.

Your database is the most important tool you have for public relations, so update it frequently, and, equally important, back it up so you have access to it when your computer crashes.

To build a media list, divide it into categories: newspaper, magazine, radio, television, bloggers, and miscellaneous. You can begin by going to the media source’s masthead (in the print edition or online edition) and finding reporters who cover the beat where you want to pitch your news. Every media website also has a “contact us” feature, which may give you an indication of where to send your materials. And, if there’s a reporter you know, they can be very helpful in recommending the right person in their organization to contact. If you’re an advertiser, ask your account representative. The same applies for radio, TV, and the good blogs that cover your beat.

You can enhance your list by googling your field under the news section of your search engine. For example, if you run a restaurant, google “restaurants in <your location>” under news. See who locally covers that beat.
If you’re on good terms with similar businesses in your area, you might ask to borrow someone’s media list. Pay it forward if you do, and share yours with someone else.
The best advice on building press lists I’ve found comes from Evan Carmichael’s “Press Release Builder,” which you can find at

It’s possible to purchase media lists. Some sources are better than others, depending upon your needs and your budget. My favorite two are:
PR Newswire, which I use for several clients. You can send out your release via them. I’ve seen press releases show up in print quickly, often in out-of-the-way markets, where newspapers use these releases as an addition to wire stories. 
PR Web is a division of Vocus marketing programs, which also include “Help A Reporter Out,” a site where you offer to be come an expert for a reporter looking for a source. A couple of clients like the Vocus brand. They also package and send releases out.

Some other resources include:
Easy Media List.
NewsLink Directory:
USNPL List of Media Outlets:
Marketwire Distribute.

When you reach out, the most efficient and expedient way to work is via email. Some mailing list programs, for example Mail-Chimp are very popular. You’ll learn who opens your material, who never reads your email, and who deletes it.
Nonetheless, don’t forget to include telephone numbers in your database, in case you have to reach out last minute for breaking news. Twitter handles can be good, too, if you follow reporters and they follow you.

Don’t underestimate the use of the phone to make your pitch. Jeff Potter, editor of The Commons, an independent weekly newspaper in Brattleboro, VT, talks to potential news sources, and says that a phone chat gives him a sense of an organization’s needs as well as helps him explain the newspaper’s needs. “We’re a non-profit and non-conventional newspaper. One of our missions is to build community. I like to know the people who are news sources.”
Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.


  1. Great tips in your article. I have the usual online databases but I am always wondering if I will lose it and then what. Even back ups can be lost, so I am still old fashioned. I have a nice business card holder for everyone I might need to contact. There have been a couple of occasions where the internet and or power was out and could not look at my computer or online database of names. The business card holder came in very handy. Plus I like collecting business cards.

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  7. If you’re an advertiser, ask your account representative. The same applies for radio, TV, and the good blogs that cover your beat.

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