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How To: Manage Your Media Database

Building a media list shouldn’t evoke stress, though often the result is off target, with inaccurate and outdated information. While some public relations practitioners treat a media database as simply a list of contact information, a smart media database can be more than that. Used properly, it can be a strategic media relations tool that is essential to building the right list for each pitch, product launch, content marketing piece or opportunity.

Maintaining an accurate media database can be a tall order, especially in today’s gig economy.  Journalists are constantly changing jobs, beats and contact information, and each new project might require the addition of new contacts to your database. From the communications department within major corporations to global PR firms, I’ve see different lists saved on individual team member’s desktop – not ideal.

To help create some structure around developing or refining your media database – and getting your team or clients to use it – here are some tips that we’ve learned along the way:

Ongoing maintenance is vital. Basic, but not oft followed. Don’t wait until right before a big pitch or media program to make sure your database is up to date – make it a part of your everyday process. Include regular, periodic reviews by key stakeholders or contact owners, and develop (and follow) a process for promptly making updates to contact information. Your database is only as good as the information inside it.

Subscribing to large media database services should be considered the starting point, not the end. Making your media database a truly strategic tool requires some customization. For example, an automotive client often hosts journalists for dinners during vehicle drive programs, so the database contains information like food allergies and preferences – nuances that wouldn’t be available in an off-the-shelf database.

Designate a point person to “own” your database. You’ve heard the saying “if it is everyone’s responsibility, then it’s no one’s.” Yes, the database technically belongs to everyone on the team, but designating one person to lead the charge helps ensure updates are made and consistency is maintained.

Make it easy to access. This makes all the difference in actually getting your team to use it. You’ll have a tough time getting everyone on board if they can’t easily get the information from the office, home or on the road. If you’re on the hunt for a new media database program or software, consider one that has a highly usable mobile app. #gamechanger

Be consistent. Refining your database into a strategic media relations tool requires consistency through process, updates and the way information is included. Developing a style guide is helpful. For example, you’ll want to make sure publication names are listed the same way for each contact. Not only does it make for more accurate searching within your database, but it also means less cleanup when it’s time to share the list with others.

Keeping an accurate tool that moves beyond just a list requires constant maintenance, and you are truly never “done.” I can tell you from experience – literally hours of updating and correcting lists – that the extra upfront time more than pays you back in the end.

Angela Bianchi is a vice president in Stratacomm’s Detroit office. Once you’ve nailed your media database, don’t forget to check out our tips to cut through the clutter and make your pitch perfect.