Building a Press List

So, we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of press releases in our two previous posts. Now that you know how to write a press release, you’ve got to know who to send it to. You could scramble for a bunch of local media contacts in the days before your event or product launch. Or you could have all that information stored nice and neat in a spreadsheet and in the contacts on your email client.

Compiling your first list will require an investment of time and patience upfront, but will payoff when you’ve got to send your press release to multiple outlets quickly, and the right contacts are there at the click of a mouse.

Break out Excel; you’ve got a spreadsheet to make.

Who goes on your press list?

If you’re a small business and organization, I recommend you keep several types of lists. They include:

• Media

— Newspapers (local, regional and state)
— Blogs and aggregators
— Broadcast — TV and radio (Learn who your local TV affiliates are — those who carry network programs such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and FOX — and find out if they have a local newscast.)

• Trade publications

— Industry-specific regional, national or international trade magazines and newsletters

• Chambers and business organizations

— Local, state and regional chambers of commerce
— Local business development associations
— If applicable, other non-profits and anyone else who distributes community news, such as local access cable stations

What to include:

Your spreadsheet should include names, direct phone numbers and extensions as well as email addresses.

Many news outlets have a general email address for you to submit your news to. Others have an online form. These methods are often convenient for both your organization and the media outlet. But it also makes it easier your information to get lost in the daily deluge of information media outlets deal with.

There’s a workaround, but it’ll take some time and effort on your part: Getting specific.

If you’re a business, know who the business editors are at your local news outlets; if you’re a theater or gallery, know who the A&E editor is.

Also, get a list of reporters and their beats. Let’s say your TV station covers the communities of Bedrock, Springfield and South Park. If your business is based in Springfield, you’ll want to make sure your press release gets to the Springfield reporter directly from you, in addition to being sent to the business editor.

If you’re sending to business development associations or chambers of commerce, make sure you keep up-to-date with whoever is in charge of marketing.

Maintenance

Your contact list should be updated once a year. Call the paper, TV station, chamber, etc. directly and make sure your information is current. Fair warning — this project is often time consuming, but is great if you have an intern.

A couple of things to remember:

• When you write, write to capture as broad an audience as possible.

• Don’t ever assume that local media won’t want to run your press release. If you’re a local business, you’re part of the fabric of the community. Well-written press releases about local businesses are more welcome than not.

In other words: When in doubt, send it out.

John Swinconeck