Your Media Contact Database is as Outdated as a Rolodex

May 23, 2017 David Moore


I noticed this advertisement the other day and it made me smile. At one point in time, the best new idea in business automation was the Rolodex. “The last word in filing convenience.”


Ok, well, maybe not the last word. I doubt that you are still using index cards to organize your contacts, but your approach to your media contact database may be just as outdated.


It’s 2017 and a massive, static, purchased list of media contacts is simply not an effective or efficient way to do meaningful media outreach. Here are a few things to consider doing instead.



Look for Better Media Contacts, Not Just More Contacts

The name of the game here is quality over quantity. That applies to both your contact list and the coverage you seek. We’ve written before about how not all mentions are created equal. That goes for contacts as well. Look for people who have a reason to care about your story and have written about related topics in the past. Just because they have a byline in a relevant publication, doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for your brand.


You also want to consider whether coverage from this contact would have any impact. If they write about you, then what? Some contacts may have an audience that is so small or tangential to your message that the effort to reach them could be put to better use.



Assume that Your Contact List is Out of Date, Even if You Just Updated It

People change jobs, roles, and responsibilities all of the time. This is why purchased contact lists are so dubious. In the time it takes you to sign the contract and upload the contacts, much of the information you get will be old news (assuming it was ever correct, to begin with). That means that the responsibility for keeping your data fresh is up to you.


Before you reach out to a contact, check up on them on social media and their publishing outlets to make sure you’ve got the most up to date information and the right contact details.



Make Yourself Useful

Journalists are used to PR folks reaching out to them when they have a story to pitch. One way to make yourself stand out is to provide useful tips and information when you aren’t trying to push for coverage. Perhaps you notice something going on in the industry, or a customer is about to be in the news. These are great things to share without any request related to your brand.


If you become a useful source of information, your media contacts may reach out to you when their contact information or area of interest has changed.



Don’t Spam

Your contact database is probably smaller than you think it is. Why? Because there are two sides to it. There’s the list you have in your spreadsheet or contact database and then there’s the list you can actually reach, which is probably smaller.


Many media contacts are bombarded with emails pitching irrelevant brand propaganda every day. How do they cut out the noise and find the scoop or compelling story that they really want to write about? They block people who spam them with pitches. Don’t be one of those people.


To avoid shrinking your list of potential contacts, only send highly relevant, timely, and easily actionable pitches. Sending press releases to bloggers, for example, is a good way to find yourself on the blacklist.




Spy on Your Competitors

We don’t mean “spy” in any corporate espionage way, but the artifacts of their media strategy are online and free for anyone to use. Who is covering them and from what angle? Which publications are talking about them and is the sentiment positive, neutral, or negative?


In many cases, it makes sense to reach out to these contacts and share your brand’s point of view.



Make it Personal

Like it or not, PR is a relationship business. One really can’t succeed by simply sending mass emails to a list of contacts. There are several ways to develop personal relationships. One is to tailor each communication with specific details about the contact. Mention a story they’ve written lately or refer to a mutual friend. If you have LinkedIn contacts in common, ask for an introduction. The idea is to connect with the contact on a human level and create an emotional connection.


Of course, this is most easily accomplished in person. If you have the opportunity to meet key influencers either by making an appointment or meeting up with them at an event, take it.  If a number of your most important contacts will be at the same place, at the same time, like an industry conference or educational seminar, it is well worth the investment to be there.


If all of this sounds like too big of a hill to climb, we hear you. It is a big job, but it is also one of the most important things that you will do as a PR pro. Fortunately, media monitoring software with sophisticated analytics can help ease some of the burden. You can get automated alerts about what is being written about your brand, industry, and competitors. You can dig into the recent articles by relevant journalists and publications to find the perfect match for the story you are pitching right now.


A good contact list, coupled with highly personalized and relevant outreach is the most effective path to high quality, positive earned media mentions.


Interested in discovering which media contacts you should be reaching out to? Request a personalized dashboard now.


REQUEST A customized Report for your brand!



About the Author

David Moore

Integrated Communications & Digital Marketing Strategist

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