The journalist-friendly approach to media databases

Let’s be honest – most journalists dislike media databases. Some even hate them.

Journalists see them narrowly as one thing: a spamming tool. Unfortunately, based on how they’re most commonly used, it seems like many PR people see them just the same.

But there is one PR platform that journalists don’t hate. In fact, most seem to accept it, if not even appreciate it. They even show up to have drinks on the rooftop of its HQ.

Many of my Inner Circle members have been recommending it to me, with one saying, “It matches your philosophy better than the others.”

So during my trip to NYC last week I stopped by Muck Rack to find out how they’ve been able to thread this needle. Here are the principles I observed them following:

Be useful to journalists, not just PR pros. Their founders ingeniously built the platform first around providing free, always-updated portfolios for journalists. Journalists are like everyone, they google themselves. And when they do, they see their Muck Rack page and realize they don’t need to come up with some DIY way to showcase their work. They understand that their portfolios are also used to inform PR people about how to pitch them, and most welcome this – it means fewer of those wildly irrelevant pitches they get all day.

Actively work to eliminate the spamming of journalists. This is much weirder than you’d think. If you’re trying to sell software to large marketing teams, then “scale” and “automation” are the watchwords. Customers relish the idea that you can accomplish infinite amounts of outreach with limited human effort. That’s why most media databases allow you to pull a long list of journalists and send them all the same email (albeit with a mail-merged first name). And that’s why many journalists do whatever they can to NOT to be in those databases. In contrast, Muck Rack designed their database to make it easier for you to send targeted, personalized messages to journalists at scale. This has an added benefit to you, in that it’s easier to use the tool for customized follow-up emails.

Keep listings current without having to harass journalists about career moves. Maintaining a media database must be arduous, what with all the change and turnover. Muck Rack figured out a way to let journalists update the database themselves – it uses social signals, such as changes to Twitter bios, to inform its listings. When journalists change outlets or beats, they want their sources and readers/viewers to know, so they generally update their social bio pretty quickly. Voila, Muck Rack is automatically updated too.

A great way to get more insights about the philosophy and culture behind the tool is to download their 2019 State of PR report. They surveyed more than 800 PR pros about how they are spending their time, money and attention. It’s a quick scan, all graphics, that gives you a solid picture of how your peers and competitors are doing this job.

And if you’ve used Muck Rack, I’d love for you to share your opinion with me.

This article was originally published on September 26, 2019

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