Whether it's emails or voicemail messages, reporters and writers move around, and they move around a lot. One minute someone you were briefing at a local newspaper is now in a different part of the country writing lead stories on a large TV network (or vice versa).

How can you keep up with them? This is the fastest pace time anyone has ever seen in the age of misinformation and it's up to you to be on top of your contacts, because when you need them you'll need them fast and you'll need them to be accurate.

There are options to suit everyone but there is no one silver bullet. It does take work to keep on top of contacts but it can be very useful when it comes to emergency situations or a crisis that needs to be managed urgently.

Buy a database

Buying a database may seem like a cost effective way of getting contacts but oftentimes, a one time purchase is more trouble than it's worth. As soon as you download them most will be out of date and you still need to keep them current.

Subscribe to a paid for service

If you've got the money and you find yourself regularly dealing with different journalists from different areas regularly, then this might be the best option. However, we know this doesn't work for many agencies, so let's look at what you need to do to ensure you're keeping on top of the frequent moves in the media industry.

Before building your database you need to consider;

  • Where will it live - on a third party service like a CRM or your agency system?
  • Who will have access? Is it open to everyone, just you or your team? Consider comms continuity when you decide. Read 'why you need to create your own comms continuity plan.
  • Who will be responsible for it? You may decide to have a few people contributing to it but who is ultimately responsible for keeping it clean and up to date?
  • How will you access it if you are unable to get to work or if the internet is down?

Know your audience

It's so important to understand your audience so you can find the right people that are creating content and news for your audience. Make sure you do a basic stakeholder mapping exercise to identify who you are talking to. Once you've got your audiences identified, you can start seeking out the outlets, platforms and publications that speak directly to them.

Read: why you need to do a stakeholder mapping plan.

Let them come to you

If you're already creating great content and interesting news updates that generates interest from the media, be sure to provide an easy way for them to get this information without you having to chase up their contact details. Make sure you have a media sign up form on your site and on your social channels. It's simple enough to create a google or jotform that you can collect information from. Then you know you can send out updates easily and they are getting to people who really want to hear from you.

Utilize your social channels

You need to understand what your media contacts are up to as many positions change frequently. Create twitter lists, be active on LinkedIn and look out for hashtags such as #journorequest as you may find a journalist who needs your help.

Build relationships, not contacts

A media database is just information but it's only worth building and maintaining if you actually put the work into building relationships with the people in your database. Get to know your key contacts and also include influencers and community figureheads. Try to do a quick ring around every 4-6 weeks to keep up to date on what's going on. If someone new comes along, invite them in to meet with you.

Practice good list hygiene

If you get bounce backs on emails, or hear someone has moved on or is on extended leave be sure to update this as soon as possible. When it comes to an emergency, you'll need key contacts and won't have time to chase around after contacts who changed role.

Be sure to have hard copies

Make sure you have a hard copy of all your contacts, preferably laminated, and available wherever you might need them. Keeping them in your phone won't help your team or any other agencies you need to work with. Make sure you also have photos of your contacts wherever possible so you can easily identify them at the scene of an incident or at a media briefing.

Summarize what they do

Names and titles don't help without context. Wherever possible, add links to the work they've done that's directly related to your agency and give an overview on their style of writing or reporting. They may have issues they are passionate about that could help you in the future.

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October 5, 2021

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