Back in the '90s, there was a Cleveland builder who got busted for building a bunch of new homes that were never attached to their foundations. Turns out it really didn't matter, because the foundations were faulty as well.
According to one expert, "the footings and foundation are to a home what a person's legs and feet are to their body." Steve Bible, director of operations for Medallion Homes, says "The purpose of an engineered foundation is to support the superstructure of the home with consideration given to the existing soil conditions. The walls and roof of a home bear down on the foundation that rests on the soils that differ. With every house that is built, the soil must be studied to determine the engineer's design criteria."
And what does all this have to do with a media list? Everything.
Your media database is the foundation of your publicity and media relations program. It is not something that should ever be taken lightly or for granted. If it is not right, then the rest of your efforts – sending out news releases and calling media – will likely be a waste of time and money.
Unlike the home and building construction industry, there are no standards or regulations to guide database builders. Instead it is left to everyone's discretion as to how they will strategize and construct their lists. And that is just awesome... not.
Some use printed directories, some use electronic directories, some use online database services, some just rely on news distribution services and don't maintain any databases at all. Whichever of these methods are used, it is critically important to realize that this is at best, just the first of many steps that are required. Because unfortunately, none of these methods will allow you to create the database (foundation) capable of supporting the rest of your program.
Printed, electronic and online databases are generally only 75-85% accurate on any given day. Media outlets are missing. Media outlets that have shut down are still listed. Contact names are wrong. Contact information is wrong. And the support you receive from these providers is often useless.
But it is a place to begin the process (more on that in just a moment).
As for news distribution services, don't get me started. These services (no names please) charge a premium to shotgun the marketplace with no assurance that the desired reporter/editor/producer/blogger will ever see the news release. And, of course, you do not own the database, nor will you ever see it, so good luck with your follow up.
Creating a valuable, living, breathing media database is important and hard work. It begins with the creation of a basic list (see above) that must then be honed and maintained over time. Ultimately, whether your list has 20 or 20,000 contacts, you need to be in communication with those contacts – initially to ensure you have the right person and eventually to establish a working relationship in which you understand what to send to whom in what way and at what times to achieve maximum results. Likewise, you need to know how and when (if at all) they wish you to follow up after sending them information.
Believe it or not, communication with the media is branding. How you interact with editors and reporters and producers and bloggers will determine how these critical gatekeepers of information report about (or simply ignore) your organization and products. Putting the right information in front of the right person at the right time is important. Putting the wrong information in front of the wrong person at the wrong time is likewise important.
So, the next time you think about whipping up a media list to send out a news release, think about branding and reputation management. Think about how a sound database can help you and how a bad one can hurt you. And do the right thing.
It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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