DIY PR tips: 5 tips on building your media contacts list

So the new year is in full swing and your ready to share your new products, services and intitiatives with the media. So how do you go about it. Well to get in touch with the media to place and pitch your story ideas you need a way of contacting journalists. PR agencies and professionals pay thousands of pounds a month to access databases that contain thousands of contact details of journalists across the UK and internationally as it is a key part of service delivery.

Entrepreneurs and SMEs

For entrepreneurs and small business owners who are on a tight budget there is a way around this, and that is to create your own media lists.  Just like in your day to day business you have dealing with suppliers and customers/clients, you need to have a way of keeping note of their contact details, job title etc. You need to do the same for the media you speak and contact.

If you haven’t yet had any contact with journalists or bloggers, here’s are some tips:

  1. Research media that cover your area of work
  2. Look for stories that feature your competitors and add them to your list
  3. Include local and national newspapers that cover your area of work
  4. Don’t forget bloggers – create a separate list for bloggers
  5. Also remember broadcast – so digital radio stations and popular podcasts in your area of work

Use spreadsheets

You should start to collate and build your list in something like an Excel Spreadsheet or similar so you can keep track when you do make contact. You may find that the x reporter is interested in your story but works on the Sunday edition so has suggested you contact another reporter than covers similar stories during the week. This is the start of your list building. It’s common to find one person covers more than one magazine or topic or day of the week. You just need to make note of this on your list and keep a note of when you spoke with them, about what campaign and what the outcome is.

Don’t give up – Keep going

Once you start you can keep building the list, you may find out about a new publication or have been doing more research and found a ton more. As you find them keep adding them on. It’s that simple.

Eventually you’ll be able to group them into categories, broadcast media, print, online and soon enough you’ll have your own database of media contacts. If you’re in a niche market the number of publications maybe small, but that’s fine, work within your means so you don’t overwhelm yourself.


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How to nail a media interview

For entrepreneurs and business owners dealing with the media can feel both daunting and exciting. You’ve put in the hard work and now the media are interested in your story. Or maybe you want to establish yourself as the go-to person in your industry. I always advise clients to be fully prepared for this moment by ensuring they are up to speed with the campaign project or announcement that has generated the interest from the media.

For small business owners who are juggling all aspects of their business, this won’t be an issue as you’ll be super invested and know the announcement/ project inside out. However, for larger organisations where there are lots of moving parts, it may be the case that the most senior person will need a full briefing and media training on the topic. Or another individual in the organisation may be more suitable to give the interview, this happens a lot with larger organisations as it makes sense to put forward the most knowledgeable on the said subject for the interview.

However, for this blog, we’re going to assume you know your project well and can talk about it at length.

Print media interviews:

For interviews that appear in print, so your newspapers, magazines, and online media, you’ll either get journalists that will email you their questions and you can fill them out and return them, or you’ll get a journalist that wants to conduct the interview over the phone or face to face (rare these day as everyone is so busy). I’ve arranged many interviews for clients in this way, particularly my overseas clients.


Broadcast interviews:

For broadcast media so that’s your TV and radio outlets it’s a different story, firstly it may be the case that you are asked to attend their TV or radio studios or the nearest studios to you that they are linked with. Both are time sensitive so you need to be able to communicate your story message in a clear and succinct way. If you get a TV interview be mindful of the clothes you wear and colours and noisy jewelry. Be presentable but most importantly be yourself.

Online interviews:

With everything going digital it won’t surprise you that some interviews are conducted via Skype or zoom, in fact, I recently didn’t an interview with Canadian media out all via Zoom. Again, be aware of how you present yourself and relax.


8 Top tips

  1. Be ready and prepared – do your research on the outlet(s) requesting interviews
  2. Check out the journalist’s style of reporting so you are not caught off guard
  3. Prepare a Press brief and bullet point your key messages for your story (keep them brief) and add in any helpful statistics (one side of A4)
  4. Listen carefully to questions
  5. Remember to give clear answers that include your key messages (more often than not for broadcast they’ll just take a couple of soundbites from your interview)
  6. Stay on message with your brand – remember why you’re doing the interview
  7. If you get any difficult questions you can’t immediately answer it is fine to say ‘can I get back to you on that’ -rather than give out the wrong information
  8. Relax and enjoy it – you wanted to get media coverage – here it is!

Lastly, don’t take it personally

Remember with media interviews you only have control of what you say, so make it count. Don’t be disheartened if you spent 10 minutes talking to a reporter for a TV or radio interview to only hear or see 1 minute of your interview shown. That can happen and as news is very reactive sometimes so your time slot can be chopped to accommodate other news. The main thing is that you got the coverage and managed to get your top key points across.

What would you add to this list? Leave your comments below. If you want more info like this check out my online DIY PR course.