Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Creating your media contact book

Creating your media contact book

Do you ever read a newspaper, watch TV news or listen to the radio and wonder why they cover stories about what other smaller groups are doing or activities or issues that seem much less interesting than those you are staging or advocating for?

Do you and other members of your group wonder:
  • Why isn't our group getting that type of media coverage?
  • How come they get on the news, our group is much bigger and we don't? or
  • Our story is better than that, why didn't we get a run in the paper?
The answer is probably that the other group has worked hard to establish, nurture and build their contacts in the media.

If your group is asking these questions, maybe it's a hint that you need to have a rethink on media strategy. Firstly, do you have one? If so, why it isn't working?

Good media coverage is vitally important for your community group to attract and retain donors, members, helpers, volunteers, fundraisers and supporters, as well as communicate what you are doing and how you are going about it. Gaining media coverage helps to market your group and keep it in the public eye without spending money advertising your achievements or events.

A key step toward getting good media coverage for your group is to build regular contact with the media. To ensure your efforts with the media are not 'hit-and-miss', an effective, long term strategy is to develop a media contact book.

Why your group should create an effective media contact list

Putting together an effective media contact list can benefit your community group in several ways, including:
  • Knowledge and recognition:
    • Increased publicity increases your group's visibility and recognition of your name, logo and brand. It associates your group with success and good news. It increases your credibility in the public's eyes.
  • Support and influence:
    • The more people who know about your group and find it credible, the greater likelihood that people will be inspired to support, donate, join, volunteer and also advocate on its behalf.
  • It's value for money:
    • Media publicity provides heightened awareness of your group without the expense of advertising, or if you do advertise, it is more effective with the editorial endorsement.
These factors will help your group not only survive, but thrive, in what is always a tough market for fundraising or attracting donations, members or volunteers.

Strong organisations invariably have strong media support and that often starts by compiling an organised and constantly updated media contact list.

The importance of appointing a media officer

The first step towards developing a media list is to assign the role of media or publicity officer to someone within your group.

Your media officer should be someone who likes the media and has a genuine interest in newspapers/television/radio. They should also be comfortable dealing with the media and have the required enthusiasm to effectively sell your group and its message though the media to the community.

Creating your group's media contact list

Building the List

Putting together a media contact list is something that is done over time and is added to and updated every time you deal with a new media organisation.

Some time-saving tips for focussing on your target markets include:
  • Look for the right media outlets for your news.
    • Consider what sort of media coverage you want – local, state or national, or a combination of the three?
    • What medium you wish to use - radio, newspapers, TV?
    • Or magazines? Or niche publications? Or a website?
  • Establish different sections for your contact list.
    • Headings such as daily newspapers/weekly or Sunday newspapers/magazines/newsletters/radio news/radio programs/TV/web sites etc. will make it easier to navigate your contact database.
  • Look beyond the obvious.
    • Think further than the media outlets you watch, listen to or read. Check the phone book, websites and specialist publications such as the Margaret Gee Media Guide. If you are planning on making media a major part of your group, then the Gee's Guide is probably a very good investment as it contains details of thousands of general and specialist publications and media outlets

Who Do You Include?

Everyone in the media you have contact with or think might be interested in a story on your group.  That may include: local newspaper editors, reporters or photographers; contacts in the news department at local or metropolitan radio stations; presenters and producers from talkback programs or magazine style radio shows; or journalists from local TV stations.

Also include magazines that cover your area; special interest newsletters that publish stories about your sector; and any websites that carry news/content related to the work you do or are prepared to carry links to news on your website.
Your group could expand the contact list to cover reporters from current affairs programs; feature or editorial writers; other news department heads; and people with a regular spot on radio who have the opportunity to plug other people.

Information about each of your contacts should be recorded and kept in an ordered and easily accessible way. For example:

NAME: Biff Reynolds
ORGANISATION: Daily Tabloid Newspaper
POSITION/TITLE: sports reporter, political reporter, community affairs reporter.
PHONE: (01) 0549 6632
MOBILE: 0411 1111111
FAX: (01) 0549 6649
DEADLINES: 5pm daily. Prefers copy by 4pm if possible.
OTHER INFORMATION: Interested in stories on sports politics and local area sports competitions. Prefers releases via email.
CONTACT HISTORY: Under this heading you would include any occasions in the past you have contacted him, what it was about and whether your contact generated a story.
If so, include what page and date that story appeared.
12/11/04. Rang re: appearance of Miss World at fete. Ran front page (13/11/04).
10/09/04. Met to brief on evaluation results of heart health project. Ran page 17 with picture of CEO.  

Keeping your list up to date

At media organisations there is often a high staff turnover and regular changes in journalists' roles.  Because of this, the contact you had at a media outlet six months ago may have moved on to another assignment or even to a new job at another media organisation.  So keeping your media contact directory up-to-date is vital, otherwise it will quickly become of no use at all.
  • Try to update your list every four to six months checking that the names and contact details are still the same.
  • As you deal with different journalists, add them to your directory and update your files after each contact.
  • If a contact says "Call back next month" - mark it in your directory and follow through.
  • If a reporter covering your area has moved to another role, don't delete them from your directory, they may still be a good contact in the future and well worth staying in touch with.
  • If you have a good relationship with a particular reporter, maintain it. They can often be a good person to bounce ideas around with even if they're no longer working in your particular area. You never know the journalist you knew as a community affairs reporter may one day be the editor or chief-of-staff!
Now that you have developed your media contact list, it is time to use it. For more information on doing so, refer to the help sheet Using your Media Contact Book available at the Media & Marketing Centre of the Our Community website.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.