Your Media Contacts Database: How to Keep It Organized Without Going Crazy – 5 Mistakes to Avoid

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 media contacts database? And because of the pressure to maintain the biggest and the best 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.


“I have no time; I’ll just buy a database.”

Well, that’s a MISTAKE… Buying contacts may seem like a great idea, but I can assure you—it’s not. You’ll end up having tons of contacts on the list that you know absolutely nothing about. Perhaps they are interested in covering your industry but do you even know what are they passionate about or what makes them so angry that they will delete an email right away? When you gradually build a media contacts database, you create relationships with your journalists—and that’s definitely more valuable than having 200 new addresses in your file. Additionally, you need to remember that there’s no one out there that understands your business better than… you. Sit down, put some time and effort building your own file and start writing down names and addresses—in the end, it will be well worth it.


“Dealing with multiple 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 and storing your contacts in one place—it’s a better, more efficient, and definitely a much safer solution.


“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.

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.


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

Some people wrongly think that the bigger their 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.


“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 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. CRMs, which are often cloud-based solutions, can help not only to store and manage 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 databases and start worrying about something else. Like what are you going to do this weekend or what to have for lunch.

Keep your media contacts database organized. Sign up for free & try out Prowly PR Software.

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

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

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