How to create a useful journalist database


One of the things you hear me go on about again and again is the need to start building your own network of journalist connections. It will result in more media opportunities in the long run and is something that no one else can take away from you.

In the beginning, when you’re only managing less than 10 connections, it’s fairly easy to keep track but as this list grows, how are you supposed to remember what everyone does, who they write for and what your last interaction with them was?

This is where a database comes in handy.

Though it may seem arduous to maintain in the beginning - just another bit of admin you don’t have time for - in the long run, it’ll make your media outreach so much easier.

Once the new Scoop platform goes live, you’ll have access to a database template, but in the mean time, I want to share some pointers for getting started with one of your own.

Here are the elements you need to include to make it as useful as possible.

The essential details

I’m not going to go into loads of detail on this as it pretty much goes without saying that your database should include their name, the title they write for and their contact details. If you do nothing else, keeping these in the same place will make your life much easier when you come up with a new pitch and are wondering where to send it.

What they cover and what their interests are

For each journalist, you should include one column for what they cover in relation to your niche (so, for example, are they the health editor of a newspaper?) as well as another column with details of what interests them. This could be either professionally or in their downtime. For example, perhaps they’re the health editor (which covers everything to do with health) but have a special interest in social justice and it’s relation to healthcare access. Perhaps, by doing a bit of research on their social media feeds, you can also see that they’re passionate about wild swimming. Whatever it might be, keeping note of anything you find can be useful when you come to pitch as you’ll be able to tailor it more specifically to them and create a deeper sense of connection. I’d also suggest including a column with a direct link to their work - whether that be their author page at the title they write for or their own professional website portfolio.

Professional social media handles

We’ve talked about this before, but if their instagram account is private, don’t request to follow them. If it’s just pictures of their cats or children and says nothing about their job, don’t follow them. But if they’re showing up on any platform in a professional capacity (their bio is all about their job and they share links to their work or make comment on the news or media in general) it’s useful to copy down the links to their relevant social accounts too. This way, when you know you need to refresh your research on them, it’s easy to find them.

Pitch ideas for them

Set aside a column to jot down any initial ideas you have for pitches that you think would suit them, as and when they occur to you.

Their writing style

It’s worth also making note of the format they typically follow for their pieces. Do they tend to write in the first person and include expert quotes throughout? Do they typically write tips for the reader in their pieces? Do Q+A style interviews? Making note of the format will, again, make pitching to them way easier - because if you see that they only include expert tips, you’re not going to make the mistake of pitching an interview style feature to them.

Your interaction with them

This is a great column to implement and upkeep. Make note of any interaction you’ve had with them and when you last had it. For example, have you sent them a pitch already? On what date? Or did you re-share a piece of their work to your own audience and tag them in the repost? When did you do that?

Keeping track of your relationship with them on your database will mean you don’t have to keep all these interactions filed away in your head - something that works when you’re only keeping track of one or two journalists but becomes difficult when you’ve built up a database of 50.

The aim here is to make your journalist outreach as easy as possible, so even by dedicating just 10 minutes to this per week, you’ll put yourself in a much better position when you come to pitch or want to invite a bunch of journalists to an event.