By Joan Stewart
After working as a top publicity expert for almost two decades, I thought I knew all the tricks about how to generate news coverage on a shoestring budget until a few years ago.
That’s when Michelle Tennant Nicholson of Wasabi Publicity, a boutique PR agency in North Carolina, told me about USNPL.com, the best free resource for tracking down contact information for thousands of media outlets in the United States. It’s short for U.S. Newspapers List.
UNSPL lets you search for media contact information for U.S. newspapers, TV and radio stations, by state, city and county. This means it’s usually the best place to start your research. You’ll find the site super-easy to use and well-organized.
Three Main Reasons to Love USNPL
First, it’s free! And who doesn’t like that? If you don’t have the luxury of a book publicist, you’ll most likely be promoting your book, and pitching related story ideas to the media, by yourself. USNPL will save you days of research.
Second, the site gives you a list of college newspapers, by state. Most link to the newspaper’s website where you can find more contact information.
Third, for most media outlets, USNPL offers links to the media’s Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and in some cases their YouTube channels.
I dislike two things about the site, however. Don’t rely on its lists of radio stations, which are often incomplete. Also, USNPL stopped posting to its Facebook page and Twitter feed about a year ago, but still has links to them from the homepage.
In a minute, I’ll give you some ideas on how authors and publishers can use this directory. But first, watch this short video I created to demonstrate how the site is organized.
Tips for Authors and Publishers
Here are the top seven ways you can use USNPL for a book publicity campaign or to promote your expertise.
- Send press releases.
If you can’t afford a paid press release distribution service, the next best option is to submit each release manually at a newspaper’s website. USNPL makes this super easy because it includes links to newspaper websites. Many newspapers have a “how to submit your news” link where you can upload your release.
If it’s a bigger story you’re after, however, remember that a press releases won’t necessarily result in that kind of success. You need a customized email pitch to the media outlet that includes an interesting hook or angle for their audience. The email can link to your press release at your website.
For examples of compelling hooks or angles, see my articles:
Tie into Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall for Timely Book Hooks
Use a Sex Angle to Flirt with the Media for Book Publicity
- Learn which other media outlets are in a specific county so you can get as much publicity as possible for a book signing or author event.
Let’s say you’re doing a book signing at a bookstore in Appleton, Wis., located in Outagamie County. You can call up the list of Wisconsin newspapers, click on Appleton, click on “©” which stands for county, and see a list of other media in Outagamie County. Notice this list includes the campus newspaper at Rasmussen College.
This list is particularly helpful if you’ve written a book about a specific region.
- Find the collegiate press in each state.
Click on “Colleges” in the navigational bar, then click on the state of your choice. You’ll find a list of colleges with links to each school’s Facebook Page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel. Below that, you’ll find a list of college newspapers.
The first list of colleges will come in handy if you wrote a book for college students, staff or faculty and you want to visit campuses in a certain state for speaking engagements. Colleges are always looking for speakers for staff training, freshman orientation week, fraternity and sorority events, faculty events, and lots more. Go to each college’s website for more information on who to contact.
- Follow a media outlet’s Twitter feed before pitching.
When you know what media outlet you want to pitch, click on (T) and it will take you to their Twitter feed. Following their feed means you can see what kinds of stories they’re covering. Media outlets will sometimes use Twitter to ask for specific types of sources they need to interview, especially if they’re on a deadline with a big breaking news story.
But don’t just follow a media outlet’s Twitter feed. Does the book reviewer tweet? What about the lifestyle editor or business editor? Sharing their content, and commenting on it, is a smart way to get on their radar.
- Save time connecting with journalists on LinkedIn.
Many journalists and broadcasters include links to their own LinkedIn profiles. You’ll usually find the main media contact listed on USNPL when you click on (A) which stands for Address. It’s the page that lists the address, phone number and other pertinent information. When you invite them to connect, tell them you found them there.
That page also sometimes includes a link to other staff members. Go there and see which reporter or editor might be your best contact. Follow them on LinkedIn too.
- Tie your book or story idea to the weather.
Let’s say you wrote a book on how to rid homes of water damage and mold after heavy rains and flooding. You can pitch media outlets where flooding is heavy. If you know, for example, that upstate New York has had heavy rains and flash floods this month, you could search for newspapers in the counties where flooding is heaviest.
Click on (W) which stands for weather and you’ll be able to see the weather forecast for that city. If heavy rains are on the way, it would be the perfect time to pitch tips related to your book.
- Use USNPL to help your book publicist.
If you’re lucky enough to work with a publicist, ask her which media outlets you can pitch on your own. Most publicists concentrate only on top-tier media. That means smaller media outlets might not hear about your book or your story pitch. Show her this resource and ask her if she recommends you pitch some of the smaller media. If she does, ask if she’ll help you with your pitch.
Those are my ideas. If you use USNPL in another way, share your tip in the Comment section.