How to make your first contact?
How to create an effective database of media contacts? Should you start with a press release or is it better to choose another format?

Everybody says that it is a must to have a journalist contact base. But how to accumulate it? It is NOT those 500 e-mails that travel through the organisation for years and are not relevant or get into the journalists’ spam boxes.

Step 1

List 5-10 media that fit your target audience, format and task.

Step 2

Learn in what way your issue is already being covered and who is writing about it. Collect links to the most aptly and well written articles. Find contacts of journalists and editors of the columns in printed media,  for example, in social networks or on the media websites. Use your own network among your colleagues.

Step 3

Find common contacts, themes or find the reason to turn to a journalists or an editor. The most difficult part is to write or address an unknown person with a request that is why try to find something that will help you incite a journalist’s interest or offer him/her the format they are looking for: coffee at their editor’s office or meeting at an event he/she is already planning to attend.

Step 4

Think through your pitch for a journalist. Start with the facts: why is it important for the general public? Provide examples, about specific stories or people, global trends.

Step 5

With a good contact with a journalist, learn as much as possible about the internal mechanics of the media. When and where to and in what format is it best to send off your information?

Who is a decision-maker in the editor’s office? Which subjects should be on the agenda and which should be better avoided? How to present them? In turn, try to stay useful and stay in touch with a journalist not only when you have news.

Here are few universally applied advice. 

  • Do not send off your info on a weekend or at night if you are not sure. if this will be convenient and comfortable for a journalist. Learn about the most convenient communication channel with a journalist in question.
  • If you are busy promoting your issue in several media at the same time, think about different focus points for each of them, offering something that is unique.
  • Be honest. If in the process it turns out that your material has some underlying political or commercial interests, your contacts and reputation will be ruined for good. Moreover, provide the sources of your info.

Your message

Your message is a key integral element of any communication. The things that you want to deliver will matter. Especially with media, you have to have a really clear message. For example, if you are providing comments for a TV channel, you will have less than a minute to fit there the most important parts. And even the material for printed or online media will keep the reader’s attention for not more than several minutes. That is exactly why you should prepare 3, maximum 5 sentences that cover the main facts and spur emotions among the audience.

When talking to media it is important to talk about:

  • Pressing issues
  • Clashes and conflicts of 2 different opinions
  • Something unique, unusual and sensational
  • Reliability and accuracy
  • Facts and
  • Human interest

Do you need a press release?

Most often, the answer will be “NO”. The most efficient way to tell your story to a journalist is to contact him/her personally.

When is it a good idea to write a press release? Only if you do have a strong informational occasion/reason, which is important for the whole field or the country.

Remember, your news should be not about you or your project. It should be about an important event for the society.

  • If you are thinking about a column or a ready-made article, journalists want to get the material written in the style of their media. Have a closer look at articles in this media and try to copy their style.
  • Provide them with more material than needed. But not too much. For a journalist it is important to feel some free space and the ability to move within it, to throw away something or to add.
  • Compromise. However good your material is, an editor has the right to amend it in line with his/her vision.


Map the key media that are important for your organisation. Mark over there journalists and editors. Find their contact details. Find and compile publications on similar issues.

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