Kate BystrovaKB
Kate Bystrova
May 1, 2024
6 minutes read

3 good reasons why you shouldn't buy a media database

Buying lists of media contacts has become a PR norm. But how effective is it really? And are you violating GDPR by doing it?

Google the words “PR software” and you’ll instantly be bombarded with a plethora of businesses promising you an always up-to-date database of media contacts, jam-packed with relevant journalists across all regions of the world, across all sectors, who are all sat staring wide-eyed at their email just waiting for your pitch. 

It sounds perfect – a solution to all of PR’s problems! There’s only one problem… such a thing does not exist. I repeat,

There is no such thing as an evergreen media database.

With how much people in the media are moving around these days, the task of keeping a mammoth database like this up to date is simply impossible, no matter the number of “researchers” such companies throw at it. Little wonder then that 20–50% of pitches sent to these bought contacts never even make it to their inbox, while those that do garner little engagement from journalists.

If you’ve ever paid for one of these services before, I’m sure you’ll be the first to tell me, yes Jesse, of course these media lists overpromise – but I have deadlines and it’s not like anyone else is suggesting a better solution.

And that, my friend, is where you’d be mistaken. You see, you’ve never met Prezly.

Read on to find out why paying for a media database may not be the best option, or read Cheat Codes For Building A Better Media List to learn how you can make your own contact list that achieves more and more with time.

Reason #1: Just because you have someone’s email doesn’t mean you’ll get their attention

Mid-level journalists get around 150 emails a day. To keep moderately sane, they have strict criteria to help them scan through their mailbox rapidly. What’s the subject line? Who is the email from? Do I know this person? Have I worked with them before?

Can I trust them not to waste my time?

Bought media lists work directly against this principle. In fact, a bought media list becomes less effective each time it’s used.

Every sale means another PR team vying for that journalist’s attention, and the journalist’s inbox count spirals from 150 to 200, 250, 300 – an endless stream of unread emails from people who, more likely than not, didn’t even bother to check whether their story fits with that journalist’s audience. 

More people buying means more pitches, more pitches means less attention can be spent on each email delivered. It’s not like journalists are getting more time in a day. In fact, it’s the contrary: fewer journalists are now responsible for delivering more news. So please, do them a favour and help stop the spamming.

Cision vs Meltwater vs Prezly: Which is best for PR? [2024]
Cision vs Meltwater vs Prezly: Which is best for PR? [2024]

We put all three to the test, so you can see which has the right strengths to fit your needs.

Reason #2: You’re violating the GDPR

To be honest, there’s a lot of confusion around this since there are no precedents to go off. GDPR has a pretty fluffy exception titled “Legitimate Interest” under which all this selling of personal information is being justified. But this is much like lying by omission: even if the rules can technically be bent to excuse it, in your heart you know you have your hand in the cookie jar. 

Make no mistake, whenever you buy a database of media contacts, you are getting someone’s personal information without that person ever giving you their consent. It doesn’t matter if it’s their work email or work phone number, GDPR doesn’t make any distinction; it’s still personal information. 

Ask your vendor about how they got consent from the journalist to process and re-sell their personal information and see what they come up with. Most of them even state in their policies that it’s your job to receive consent first before you can start emailing them. Yes, you read that right – before you can send your pitch, they tell you to ask the journalist for permission to contact them. Can you imagine how that would work? Neither can we.

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Reason #3: It’s not the starting point for a good working relationship

Sending a generic email to someone out of the blue is rarely a good starting point unless you’ve actually researched that person and can come up with a relevant pitch. But when you spend time researching a person and crafting your personalised pitch to fit their niche, contacting him (or finding a way to) isn’t the hard part. 

Writers will often publicly mention on their social media channels how they like to be pitched, even sharing the correct email address where pitches need to land. Next to that, it’s pretty easy to connect with someone on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram – and simply DM your pitch to the journalist.

And if you’re willing to put in the effort to make sure your pitch is a great fit for that journalist, then why are you wasting money on buying a media list in the first place? 

Getting the contact details isn’t the hard part – finding the fit is. (Though we can recommend a few cheat codes 👀 ). It’s tempting to think that buying a list of media contacts is your shortcut to greater coverage, but the truth is that there are no shortcuts. You’re going to end up putting in the hours researching whatever path you choose. Make those hours count and use them to forge relationships that last. Let us help.

How to build a better PR media list (the best tools & template)
How to build a better PR media list (the best tools & template)

An in-depth guide to setting up and managing your PR contacts

Instead, invest your time into building relationships

That’s literally what we designed Prezly to help you do. Our system helps you manage the contacts you’ve already invested time in researching. Our CRM then makes the job of keeping them up to date so, so much easier. 

Get a complete overview of your team’s comms with each contact, figures around their engagement with your content, how often they visit your newsroom, auto-enrichment suggestions on their related social profiles and other data. Find out immediately if an email bounces, or if there are duplicates in your address book. Send campaigns, deliver pitches, track and report on coverage, with branded multimedia centres that will never overload anyone’s inbox. We can help you do all that and more with virtually no input from your tech team.

Your time is valuable; make it count.

Prezly – software for modern PR teams

  • Write & publish brand stories in an online newsroom

  • Send email campaigns, pitches & newsletters

  • Manage all your contact lists in a single CRM, with easy import & export

  • Measure performance to see who's engaging with your stories

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