Pssssst – wanna buy a used media list? Have you ever noticed people treating lists of media contacts like gold – or should I say, like copper? A beautifully laid out excel full of names, phone numbers, email addresses, even mailing and street addresses. You get really excited if it has mobile numbers too. Have you ever felt like that in front of a media list or media guide? The same goes for any ready-made list – business prospects are the same.

Some people even spruik media lists – come to our event and we’ll give you a list of media contacts for free. It’s like winning the lottery.

Or is it?

I’ve seen some of those lists and I’ve owned many media guides. In fact I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for media guides, but they have very limited uses. I think there’s a much more valuable list you can use – but I’ll come to that in a minute.

If I look at a media list I used for a client just twelve months; even six months ago, it’s already very out of date. The most important information on that list was the name of the person I dealt with. But people in media change jobs constantly. That online editor has changed to another publication. That radio producer has moved to marketing. That TV news chief of staff has retired.

The only list that I would guarantee is the one I just used. But even this terrific list will become out of date and a potential waste of time very quickly if contact is not made and the list constantly updated. During all my 2012 campaigns several people on my list changed jobs mid-campaign. There’s nothing like following up an email you sent, to find someone you’ve dealt with for years has just left the building.

Media guides are the same. Every media guide I have ever owned names many people who left their organisations years ago. Years ago! And you thought you’d send an email to a bunch of names you just bought in a guide or on a list? Please don’t.

But don’t despair – there’s a great list you can use which will reap rewards and do just what it should. Where can you buy it? How much is it? Folks, it’s the list you create yourself. And don’t despair, it’s not difficult.

After you’ve finished reading this, sit with your search engine open and type the name of the media organisation you would most like to appear in. The one all your potential customers are following. Then type in your subject matter and themes. What can you see? You see the names of people who wrote articles about those subjects and even the dates they wrote them. Look! There’s a few articles on small business telecommunications experts written this year. Oh, they’re all by the same person. Look! There are interviews with other start-up fashion designers and they all appeared on this site or on this TV series. Are you taking notes yet? Have you started your own list?

Nothing will ever replace your knowledge of the people you want to be noticed by. Would you pitch to a prospective client without looking them up first and making sure you had some up to date information? If not, then please don’t send emails blindly to media or use a list or media guide indiscriminately. You’re wasting your time. And if the email doesn’t bounce back, you might end up wasting someone else’s time too.