Media Contacts Database – 5 Tips on Creating a Powerful Media List for PR

In the PR world, there’s one thing that makes all PR pros shiver—the media contacts database. It affects the whole industry—those who have their database neatly organized struggle to keep it that way, those who work in teams find it hard to manage and update it, and, finally, those who just started building it think it’s near to impossible to engage with journalists for the first time.

After all, what is a PR department without its list of media contacts? And because of the pressure to maintain the biggest and the best media database of all (in the end, we all want our press releases to reach the whole world), there are some temptations waiting for us, ready to push us into the database hell.

1.) Choose the right media database provider

“I have no time; I’ll just buy or find a free media list.”

OK, so imagine this: you just started working with a new client. The plan is to impress, but the industry is completely new to you. You consider buying a media database – but you also know, that it is stepping on thin ice.

Well, that’s true, if you don’t pick the provider (such as Prowly, Muck Rack or Cision) wisely. In order to be sure, that the media contacts list is spotless, updated and relatable you should follow a few important steps. First, make sure that you narrow down your needs. Try to pick a few keywords, that you are mainly interested in. Don’t search for contacts from all around the world – it will be hard to build a relationship with such a huge group of journalists. Start with a local media contact list—maybe start with just one country or a few states that are close to you. You can always extend your journalist database as you grow.

Next, check the contacts. Are they updated? Can you check what those journalists wrote recently? That’s a good starting point. And last but not least, before you send that first press release to try to introduce yourself or even ask what topics are they interested in. In the end, PR is all about the relations, and how else to build it, right?

Pitch Effectively to Over 1 Million Media Contacts

2.) Keep your media list organized

“Dealing with multiple media databases? No worries, I know how to find my contacts!”

The truth is that although you feel like you have control over your creative mess, you might get easily lost in the multitude of files and folders. Keeping your media contacts information in various places makes it hard to manage and even harder to update your list(s)—chances are you will end up having the same contact in a number of files and won’t even know which one is most recent. It’s difficult to manage multiple media contacts databases if you work alone, but if you’re part of a PR department, it gets nearly impossible to manage all those files. Instead, think about getting a CRM for public relations and storing your media contacts in one place—it’s a better, more efficient, and definitely a much safer solution.

Stay organized with segments & filters

3.) Target your pitch to relevant journalists

“Don’t know which journalists might be interested so I’ll send it to all of them”

It’s a common problem—if the journalists you keep in touch with aren’t properly tagged, it might be hard for you to know who to send your newest releases to. And sending them to everyone on your list may be a small sin when done once but can affect your open rate in the long run if done repeatedly. Journalists will start perceiving you as a spammer and won’t even bother to read another email sent from your company’s address. Solution? Tag and group your contacts to reach out to only those who are really interested using a PR CRM.

Marta Ostrowska

Marta Ostrowska – PR Specialist at MakoLab:

“Finally! My media database is done already and I don’t need to deal with it anymore.” There’s nothing further from the truth! We create and update media databases to store all contact information of journalists that we know and who we think will be interested in receiving news on our company and/or the entire industry. There is no need to send every single pitch to everyone who is on our contacts list. For this reason, it’s worth to group your media contacts thematically, for instance, by creating a local media group, business media group, marketing media group, lifestyle media group, but also sort them according to name—it occurs that we might be getting in touch with several people representing one media title but each of these people is interested in a different topic—some reporters cover the financial industry or write about new technologies, while others may focus on new hires. Before we start distributing a fresh press release, we need to develop a list of journalists who will be interested in our topic. It forces us to devote more time to the whole process but releasing our news only to a carefully selected group of contacts is a perfect start to scoring more publications in the media. It also positively influences the quality of the pitches and detailed mailing statistics.

Creating a media contacts database is a never-ending story. One day we need to add new contacts, the next day it turns out that someone has quit their job or changed their phone number. Moreover, some people prefer receiving dedicated articles instead of getting widely distributed press news. All this information is very important and worth updating systematically. After all, only a well-organized media database is the keystone to building a good relationship between PR managers and journalists.

4.) Keep your media contacts database up-to-date

“I got 99 contacts but updated ain’t one”

Some people wrongly think that the bigger their pr contacts database the better. And it doesn’t matter that some of those contacts were added so long ago that half of these people have already retired. The truth is it’s not only hard to work with such a database—it can also affect your spam rate. If you send a lot of emails to non-existent, bouncing contacts, you can lower your spam rating. Your media contacts database should always be organized, categorized, and updated as often as possible—keeping your workplace clean and your mind calm.

5.) Use a media relations CRM

“PR CRMs are expensive, I can keep a database in Excel for free” 

Of course you can, the question is whether you should. If keeping a media database is at the core of your business, then you probably should search for ways of cutting costs someplace else. First of all, it’s hard to manage and update an Excel database. Secondly, if you lose your data, you might end up losing your database as well. Third and the most important issue here is the legal side to this problem. Some countries (including EU states starting from May 2018!*) require their citizens to have a stated proof of consent from every single person that appears in the database. With Excel, it becomes hard to manage all those consents which can lead to financial penalties. PR CRMs, which are often cloud-based solutions, can help not only to store and manage media contacts but also to collect those consents.

Perhaps after reading this article, you might get a headache just thinking about all those issues you may face when dealing with your media contacts database, but remember—it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Finding your method and systematically updating your contacts list will help you get back on track and let you clear your mind so you can stop worrying about media databases and start worrying about something else. Like what are you going to do this weekend or what to have for lunch.

Get relevant media contacts, organize them in an easy-to-use CRM and pitch effectively with personalization and analytics.

*Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council

Having problems with your media contact database? We’ll be happy to help! Reach out to Karolina directly: