PR Training

Why You Need to Build Custom Media Lists

There’s a common strategy that stands out among the great media relations pros I’ve observed. They all do this one thing. And most of the people who are struggling to pitch don’t do it.

One of these standout pros is Michaela Kron, senior PR manager at Duolingo. She joined my Inner Circle program in 2015 to accelerate her PR growth. And recently she gave back by sharing how she’s applied all she’s learned with tremendous success.

One of them — that strategy I mentioned that all great pitching pros implement — is building a custom media list for every new story angle

What? On top of everything else today’s overworked PR pros are taxed with? Maybe — you might be thinking — if I worked somewhere like Duolingo, with all those resources.

But you’d be surprised at what Michaela has to work with. Duolingo is still in startup mode, with only 180 employees, and Michaela does all its social media, while splitting PR duties with the only other member of her team (her boss).

Still, she swears by creating a new list for each pitch. Though each list is 75-100 journalists long, it’s not as much work as it sounds, if you build it into your daily and weekly routine like she does.

Every day, Michaela monitors the news, interacts with journalists on Twitter and keeps in contact with her key media connections via email. After that, she researches the outlets she really wants to get into — one at a time — to identify the right people to correspond with.

This is how Michaela and her boss dominate “share of voice” in the language-learning space, with significant more coverage than competitors with four times Duolingo’s revenue.

If you are overwhelmed by this prospect of building a custom media list for each story, don’t stress yet. Just start with a few simple steps.

  1. Make time to read and react each day so you are familiar with the journalists working in your sphere.
  2. Take note of journalists that pop onto your radar but aren’t a good fit for your current project. Look back through this list as you compile a new media list.
  3. Identify the outlets that mean the most for your organization and then do your homework to find the best person to pitch.

It may seem like a tall order at first, but it gets easier and faster over time. And the results it brings are worth the extra effort.


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

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1 Comment

  • I love this article on the importance of creating custom media lists for each pitch! Creating custom media lists goes a long way and can be extremely beneficial for your organization. The steps provided prove that a custom media list isn’t so intimidating when you compile a list of journalists who you have interacted with or identified those outlets that mean a lot to your organization. Great read! – Justine Groeber, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

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