A comprehensive database of contacts for journalists, editors, and producers is every person's dream for media relations and PR. But if you do not use them strategically in knowing who to contact how and when, you will do damage.

Why media databases are not for everyone

A comprehensive database of contacts for journalists, editors, and producers is every person's dream for media relations and PR. But if you do not use them strategically in knowing who to contact how and when, you will do damage.
A collection of media contacts is hugely valuable. But you better put them in the right hands.


So you have access to a media database, what now? With a great contact list comes great responsibility.


It seems like every organisation’s dream to start a media campaign with access to a comprehensive database of contacts for journalists, editors, and producers, but the reality is, it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand you have a way to connect with the people who can put your brand in the spotlight; on the other, one wrong move and you could ruin a media relationship even before it starts. How can you use a media database wisely?


Knowledge is power

Identifying which journalist and which media outlet to contact requires a deep knowledge of the media. It’s not just about who is likely to provide coverage, but how they like to be contacted.

Initially it’s about understanding the relevance of your organisation to the outlet and vice versa. Which media outlet is relevant and targets your ideal clients? Which outlets will find what you do interesting for their audience? Which section of their publication, site or program would your pitch be relevant to, and which media contact is responsible for that?

Then you need to understand how media organisations work and therefore who the best contact is within an outlet, as well as how they like to be contacted. For example, should you contact an editor or a reporter? How does each journalist prefer to be contacted and what interests them? Which media outlets prefer receiving pitches for advice articles rather than profiles? Who is likely to want an interview versus a media release or a case study? Which media contacts require a certain number of high-quality images along with a pitch?

Knowing what not to do is also important – sometimes this even means knowing when not to contact a journalist. For instance, when are they on deadline? Also consider that some media outlets refuse to cover certain industries. Others don’t take calls but will receive emails, or will accept pitches but not media releases.


Standing out for the right reasons

It is also a delicate balancing act to craft correspondence that is relevant and interesting for the recipient, and that stands out, without wasting their time.

Most journalists, editors and producers receive hundreds of emails a day, so why would yours get a response over the other 99+? Without a good answer to that question, it is luck of the draw for you to email them. A follow-up email may tip an irrelevant piece of correspondence into ‘annoying’ territory, in which case the recipient is likely to ignore anything else you send them, even if future pitches are highly relevant.

If you waste their time once or twice, how likely are they to listen to you again if they don’t need to? Not likely. Yet many people treat journalists like this by sending them irrelevant pitches or story ideas that are not newsworthy, interesting, or usable.

So, while anyone with a database can contact people in the media, without deep and specific knowledge, the wrong kind of correspondence may actually jeopardise a fruitful relationship. If you want your initial impression to be a good use of your time and theirs – after all, that is not only fair but benefits you in the long run – then it must be done well. It takes a skilled PR professional to know what to do. After all, it’s part of their role to cultivate media relationships and keep up to date on what’s happening within outlets.


Attaining media coverage through PR is not just about having great contacts in the media. If you want a response, want to foster long-term relationships, and want to secure media coverage that drives the right messages home, it takes skill and effort, not just a name, number and email address.

Phoebe Netto, founder of Pure Public Relations

Phoebe Netto is the founder of Pure Public Relations, a PR firm that focuses on outcomes, not output – it’s pure and simple. For over ten years, Pure Public Relations has been bringing big business experience to SMEs and not-for-profits. purepublicrelations.com.au

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