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How to build and manage your presslist for media relations

PR and Media Relations are a crucial part of marketing strategies, but some of the activities involved are very time-consuming. One of these is building your own media contact list.

Wait, why don’t you just buy a full list of contacts? You can always spray and pray, but usually it doesn’t work that much.

Where do you start from?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to find relevant contacts and manage them in lists.


Define your goals

What’s your main goal when building your list? Getting press is not a goal in itself. What kind of press are you looking for, and why? Who are you talking to? Don’t focus only on journalists, there are many more influencers out there.

Where can I find the right people?

Make a list of all the important media channels your audience gets their news from. Find interesting leads and add them all to your presslist on pr.co. You don’t have one? A spreadsheet will do. The more you find out about these people, the more complete and helpful your list will be.

Start from acquaintances

Your network is a perfect way to start from. You can ask directly for introductions to the people you want to reach. If someone you know recommends something to you, wouldn’t you pay attention? Even Robert Scoble would.

Search on Google

This may look like a no-brainer, but it’s worth your time. Common queries are related to your industry’s keywords or your competitors’ names. Check the first results: who wrote those articles? Write down the journalists’ names to dig deeper later.


Another common query is to use advanced operators, such as “site:”, to check who covers specific areas for a magazine you want to target. So, who covers NFC at Gigaom? Who writes about startups at Forbes? Who does what on TechCrunch?

Remember: it’s always a journalist who covers you, not a whole magazine.

Set up Google Alerts

Set up a Google Alert for the most relevant keywords for your strategy. You will receive emails containing links to the most relevant new results indexed on Google.

Attention: only the most relevant results are included in the alerts, not every single result indexed by Google. Then, you can find the writer’s contact information and add them to your list.

Monitor everything on Mention

At Mention they claim to be Google Alerts on steroids and, well, they are. You can monitor any public source, from blogs to Social Media accounts to news sites. You get real time notifications or daily digests.

Listen and engage on Twitter

How do you engage people on Twitter? How do you find influencers in your niche? You can run some advanced queries with your usual keywords, find some interesting people and follow them. Afterwards, start interactingRead this guide to find more about both topics.

Sometimes reporters tweet out requests for information to find sources for stories they are working on. You can find these in real time and help out. Twitter lists are also helpful to group people by category and follow them more carefully. Keep also in mind that public lists are flattering for the people you add.

Find conversations on LinkedIn

Start from LinkedIn groups: what are the most active groups in your industry? You don’t need to start from the bigger groups. Sometimes it’s better to join a small group with many active participants, than a bigger group where nobody interacts.

Basically, any kind of business lead can be found on LinkedIn. Read this guide to get further hints on this topic.

Try some blog aggregators

Alltop is an aggregator of blogs and magazines on a particular subject. You can use it to keep up with current trends and discover new sources. Use Technorati  to search for blog posts on any subject. They also manage a list of the Top 100 Blogs, so you immediately get what’s popular in your industry.

Help A Reporter Out

HARO is a service that connects journalists with sources. You get 3 emails a day with queries from media outlets worldwide. Whenever you find a topic you’re an expert in, you can reply. Keep track of journalists and bloggers that regularly cover your subject areas.

Go Local

Local media outlets thrive on anything that is local. Contact your hometown magazines and blogs, or even the media outlets within your country of origin. Whenever you find your local angle, you have the perfect way to join a bigger trending topic.

Get the journalists’ beat

You need to include a lot of information from the relevant people you want to reach as well. What are their favourite topics, what’s their writing style? Any relevant information about how they do their job will help when you start engaging them.

Find any email address

Many journalists make it very easy to contact them. They feature their email in their Twitter bio, or maybe in their author widget after their posts. Many times, if you ask them in a tweet you’ll get their email address.

Still, be selective: what sort of people do you want on your list? When do you need your list to be ready? Think about quality, not just quantity - a large list of the wrong people has not much value. A smaller amount of well-targeted contacts can be priceless.

Guessing an email address is also quite easy nowadays. Check this video to find out how.

Keep refining the list

Your list is an ongoing project you need to refresh often. Use networking occasions to enlarge your list, take some time to read and comment the latest articles by your favourite bloggers and journalists - they’re all in your feed reader now.

If you do this on a weekly basis, you’ll also notice when someone gets a new job, or a new magazine launches, or there are news about the editorial staff of your favourite magazine. Every change goes directly to your amazing list of media contacts.

We are part of the BetaList Bundle for early stage startups

Many tools have been created to help early-stage startups go from idea to market/product fit and finally profitability. There are so many tools out there, that it’s very time-consuming to pick the most efficient ones.

Our friends at BetaList launched a bundle of 22 handpicked tools for early stage startups. They feature great tools such as Stripe, Flow, Drip, InVision, and we are also proud to be part of it!

Check it out.


For $47, startups have access to 22 services ranging from prototyping software, educational resources, productivity tools, and more. The PR toolkit, ça va sans dire, is pr.co.

The BetaList Bundle is available for a limited time.

"Startup founders often ask which software I recommend, so I figured why not work out a deal to provide access to all these great services?" Marc Köhlbrugge, founder of BetaList. 

Disclosure: Marc was also a co-founder of the first incarnation of pr.co.

Send fewer emails, get better results

We don’t believe in mass distribution, we took a stand before. You don’t have to believe our word, of course.

To further investigate this matter, we gathered data from all the presslist campaigns sent through pr.co, since the feature was released in March 2013.

We’re looking for open and click rates. We want to understand if there is a correlation between the amount of emails you send and the rate of people interacting with it.

Why we care about the amount of emails?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

You already know writing news about your company is not enough. You need to spread the word reaching out to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

So, how do you reach out to your audiences? How many people do you usually email? How personal are your emails? 

Here is a breakdown showing how many emails are sent per campaign.


More than half (53%) of all the campaigns sent through pr.co have less than 100 recipients. To be more precise, 21% of all the campaigns has between 2 and 19 recipients. Another 20% has from 20 to 60 recipients.

Campaigns with more than 200 emails sent are way less recurring. Among the ‘big’ campaigns, many have between 600 and 800 recipients. On the other hand, only 17% of all the campaigns has more than 300 sent emails.

What we measured and why

How do you measure your email campaigns? What metrics are you looking at? The most obvious ones are open and click rates. How many of your recipients clicked on the link in your email?

If they don’t click, they won’t accomplish your call to action - and if they don’t open, they won’t click. So opening and clicking are required steps.

Let’s check then how open and click rates change and if there is a correlation with the amount of emails sent per campaign.

See it on Pinterest

Let’s check the exact rates:


A correlation between the 3 metrics

When a campaign is sent to 2-9 people, the average open rate is 51% and the click rate is 28%. Up to 80 emails sent, the open rate is above 30% and the click rate is around 10%. As the amount of emails grows, we can notice a drop in the open and click rates.

According to this data, a negative correlation exists between the amount of emails sent and the open and click rates.

We also saw some very successful campaigns, where open rates were above 30% even with hundreds of emails sent. On the other hand, some campaigns had no clicks - regardless of the amount of emails sent.

I would argue that it’s increasingly difficult to maintain bigger lists of emails, as many things can change and it’s hard to keep everything up-to-date when numbers grow.

How we managed the data

We run a simple database query to extract the presslist campaigns since the release of the feature. The amount of emails sent per campaign is the first information we need. In a single campaign, the emails sent may either be the same for all recipients, or everyone could get a personalized email - or something in between the two options.

The more the recipients, the less likely customization is.

We removed right away 5% of campaigns at the top and at the bottom, for a couple of reasons. First off, campaigns with only one recipient are usually tests. Moreover, we also noticed a few campaigns with a huge amount of emails sent - between 1200 and 12000. The amount of emails here is so different from the majority of the campaigns that we didn’t want the results to be twisted because of those.

Want more?

You can read what we already published about the best day to send press releases and the days press releases get the most views.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

What Product Hunt brought us in one day

We got featured on Producthunt yesterday (YAYYY!) and we collected a lot of great feedback from the community.


We also saw lots of traffic coming from Product Hunt. More on that in the next few days.

About the feedback.

I have the feeling that the commentators were talking about press releases as we all knew them in the past, and not about our toolkit. Nonetheless, some of their points deserve some in-depth analisys.

Let’s check some.

I think the press release is dead. It’s much better to reach out personally with a compelling story to press relationships you’ve built. Why am I wrong? - @eric3000

Relationships are pretty much everything. It’s not like the two things are mutually exclusive, though.

Press releases as we knew them are dead indeed, and their role in media relations is decreasing.

On the other hand, media relations aren’t going to die anytime soon. Businesses are more and more willing to craft stories to engage their audience, and we are empowering them in doing so.

Managing media relations means doing everything to make easy for other people to talk about you. Setting up your pressroom. Preparing your presskit. Reaching out to journalists, bloggers, editors, influencers, and your mom. Checking the results of your campaign, to improve and polish your pitch for the next time. We help people do that.

Press releases as we knew them are gone, but their original purpose is still alive in this game, whether we like it or not.

If your goal is to get press, you need a targeted 1-1 approach with key journalists which may require exclusives to break your story. - @knakao

I do agree personalized approaches are required. Exclusives depend a lot on the situation IMHO.

The real tools that help with PR often do show up on this page. Take Yesware, which will help you see if journalists are actually opening your pitch and clicking the links it contains. This isn’t a positive PR tool because it’s invasive, it’s great because it gives you insight to build a better relationship and waste less of their time. - @MaxTB

Yesware is a great tool if you use Gmail. We have a similar feature, since we track open and click rates on all the emails you send through pr.co and aggregate data in real time reports.

I think the bigger and more likely risk is that innocent companies will sign up, thinking that they are doing the right thing and looking the part, when in fact they are just spamming journalists with more elegant-looking chaff. - @MaxTB

I agree again. There’s no way to skip those time-consuming tasks, unless you hire someone to do so. We always try to help our users invest more and more time and effort in their PR activities, since crafting a pitch, finding a new angle or planning a big launch are never easy to accomplish.

Would like to hear your thoughts on that, comments are open. Twitter works, too.

We got featured on Product Hunt​ today


Please upvote us: here!

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