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10 Questions to ensure your media contacts database is fit for purpose

A media contacts database is a directory of media contacts. This can include contact information for people working in the media industry including journalists, producers, researchers, editors, and influencers. The database allows communication professionals to search through it and find people they want to contact to pitch a story to.

For companies looking to purchase a media contacts database finding one that is the right fit and meets all of their needs can be difficult. Regardless of whether or not you are using a PR agency to manage your communications, it’s beneficial for all companies to have a media database. There may come a time when you need to reach out to the media yourself, whether it’s to organise an interview, pitch a story, correct a mistake, organise an event or send a product to. A media database is vital in any of these situations.

This article aims to give you a detailed look at what questions you should ask yourself before you get a media database to make sure it’s fit for purpose.

1. How many media contacts do you want?

When choosing the right media contacts database for you and your team, you’ll need to consider the size of the overall database you want. Think about who are the media contacts you want to connect with. Some media databases will offer you media contacts in one specific country whether it is the UK, Ireland or the USA. While others will offer you a worldwide database, consisting of journalists from all over the world - all accessible from your own desktop.

However, having a worldwide media database isn't always necessary. You need to ask yourself, where are the journalists you will be contacting based? If your company does business only in the UK? If yes, then there is no need for you to have a database of US contacts. If your company is likely to have a large growth spurt in the coming months and is looking towards expanding to the US market then having US media contacts would be a worthwhile purchase.

2. Who do you want to contact?

As we well know the way to get your story attention and communicate your story is always changing and the people you need to contact to do this are changing too. Some communications professionals are choosing to stick to the traditional route, contacting journalists and the media to get their message across. While others are choosing to embrace influencers; bloggers, YouTubers and social media stars, to help communicate their story.

When choosing your media database you need to know which category you fall in to and therefore which contacts you will need. Some platforms are better at finding influencers while others are better at finding mainstream journalists. When choosing your media database, you should consider this. If you hope to be targeting influencers in your communications efforts there is no point in paying for a service that doesn't provide their contact details.

3. Is it kept up-to-date?

One of the most important parts of a media database is that the media contacts are as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Outdated media contacts are not useful to anyone. They lead to bounced emails, unanswered pitches, missed opportunities and serve to build bad media relations.

Journalists will quickly become frustrated if they are consistently sending press releases and emails that are not relevant to you. Too many and they may block your emails, meaning your relationship is dead in the water. Through our conversations with communication professionals, we have found out that out of date media contacts are one of the biggest issues they have with their media database.

So, how do you find out if the media database you are looking at keeps their database up to date? First of all, ask the media database provider, “Are your media contacts up to date?”. Assuming they say yes, the next thing is to ask how they do it? A high-quality media database should have a set process for how they keep their media contacts updated, they should have a dedicated research team who work each day to keep the database as accurate as possible. If the provider says they have a few members of their team who reach out to media contacts once a year then you know you have a problem.

4. Does it offer support and training?

Nobody likes a robot support system. That annoying little text box at the bottom right corner of a website is meant to solve all your problems. When you're first starting with a new system, looking for some advice or simply have some questions you need answered you want to talk to a human.

The best media databases offer you personal training and support. They have a dedicated customer support team who are on hand to handle your initial training and who you can contact for ongoing support. You are given a phone number to call with a human being on the other end.

This small detail helps customers feel more secure in their purchase and in the service they are receiving. They know there is a dedicated team of people who care about their issues and who are on hand to deal with their issues, not a series of FAQs or pre-built videos that are meant to solve their problems.

5. What PR problems does it solve?

A media database isn’t something you purchase on a whim. You purchase one because you need it and as someone working in the communications or the PR industry you should have one. Most people begin looking for a media database to fix some of the problems they're currently having with their communications strategy.

So, what are they? As simple as it sounds, make a list of the issues you're currently coming up against. Does your list look similar to this?

  • My media lists are out of date.
  • I don’t have time to update my media lists.
  • My team has multiple media lists floating around the office
  • I’m worried about GDPR.
  • My stories aren’t reaching the people I want.
  • I don’t know if a journalist got my press release.
  • I’m finding it difficult to find news hooks for my stories.

If you’re having these types of problems a high-quality media database can help you solve them. When you’re speaking to the media database you’re looking at make sure to have this list to hand. Ask questions based on it and find out straight away if the database can help with the issues you’re having. If they can, then you’re off to a good start.

6. What functions does it offer?

A media database helps you find the most relevant journalists and influencers for your story. The best media databases offer more. They have features that show you more about the contacts you’re reaching out to, what they’re writing about and what they’re talking about on social media. This allows you to tailor your outreach. They offer you the ability to distribute your press releases.

Functions allow you to personalise and send emails to the journalists in your lists. The best ones also have reporting function, which shows you who opened your email and who have left them unread. This makes it easier to follow up with journalists.

Some of the best media databases also offer you services you didn’t even know you needed. An up-to-date media newsfeed that shows you media moves and news in real-time. An in-built content calendar, which lets you know what anniversary dates or stand-out days are coming up, allowing you to create stories and pitches to fit in with the news agenda. Check out how MediaHQ works here.

7. Will it be suitable for the size of my team?

A high-quality media database should work for any sized team. Whether you are a small team looking to punch above your weight, an in-house team trying to get the best results for your business or an agency working to help their clients succeed. Think about what your team needs, the services and tools that will save them time and effort but still be successful.

If you have a large team the database needs to be collaborative, so you don’t end up with multiple media lists. If it’s a smaller team you need the service to take the grunt work out of maintaining databases. You should receive alerts for when you need to update lists, as a smaller team it’s often this kind of work that becomes forgotten.

Make sure to take a look at the testimonials of the media database's current clients. This will give you an idea of similar-sized teams who use the database and if they find it beneficial or not.

8. Will it benefit me in the long term?

A media database isn’t something you buy, only use it once and forget about it. It should be seen as a long term investment. With most databases offering minimum of one-year contracts you need to make sure the media database you choose will contribute to your long term goals.

With a high-quality media database, you no longer have to worry about sitting down and spending time updating your media contacts, they do it for you. You don't have to worry about spending hours building media lists, most good databases have pre-built lists that you can edit and add to in a few simple clicks. You also don’t have to spend time copy and pasting contact information into other sources to send emails or worry personalising each individual email, again your database should do it for you.

Now, think about all the time that saves. In a year, how much time would that save you? The time you can spend focusing on the important work and getting the most for your stories and pitches. A good media database should also help you put together a communications process. One that works for the entire team. It should give you the tools to improve how you work. A regular reminder to check your lists to make sure they are as up-to-date as possible, a reporting system that allows you to follow up with the right journalists, media alerts to keep you up to date with what is going on in your industry.

These changes to your working routine benefit you not just in the first month of using your media database but in the long term.

9. Is it collaborative?

Your media database should work for your whole team. The number of your team members who can access your account with your media database will depend on the package you choose but if you have more than one member of your team using the database it needs to be collaborative. Users within the same company should be able to share media lists.

This prevents several different media lists being used and also means when you update your media list, you update it for your whole team, keeping media lists as up-to-date as possible. All team members should also be able to see who another member of the team has reached out to. This saves team members overlapping on which media contact they have reached out to.

Your media database also needs to be accessible. If a new story breaks on a Saturday at 10 am you need to be able to respond. A high-quality media database will be accessible from anywhere. Wherever you are in the world you should be able to log in to your media database and respond to a story.

10. How much does it cost?

When it comes to purchasing your media database price is, of course, a big factor. Communications teams are often working on a tight budget and you don’t want to spend the majority of it on your media database if it’s not going to be worth it. You need to weigh up your options.

Look at what the database is offering you based on the price. Is it just a media database or is it offering you more features that will save you money elsewhere? If the media database offers a press release distribution service and you’re paying for a separate one, it makes more sense to have it all in one.

Compare it with other services, how does the value of the service compare to others? Also, look at their pricing system. Most databases will cost their features separately, meaning you only pay for what you are going to use. For example, if they are including influencer contacts in your price and you are focused on more traditional PR, don’t pay for them. If they are pricing for six users and realistically only four of you will be using the system let them know.

This will reduce the cost and help you remain on budget.

About MediaHQ

MediaHQ is a world-leading media contacts database and press release distribution tool. The software helps the world’s top PR and communications teams connect their stories with their audience


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