Get out of Excel hell to manage your media contacts database

It’s hard to believe but the majority of PR professionals still use Excel spreadsheets for their contact database.

We’ll share the structure of the Excel list of several PR agencies, and show you what we learned from it, and how improved our CRM for PR teams.

Update: we also reviewed FileMaker PR contact databases

Media relations databases mostly run on Excel spreadsheets

Spreadsheets. In plural. Typically there are master contact lists on a server. Most of the team members also have their own local versions of these Excel files and once in a while they update the latest version of the master lists.

It’s painful. Contacts oftentimes occur multiple times in different spreadsheets and within tabs on a spreadsheet. Each update has to be done multiple times in different location.

This needs to change.

We desperately need a user friendly and efficient solution for the age old problem of contact databases.
Managing director of a PR agency

Replacing Excel contact lists is the holy grail.
Another managing director, slightly exaggerating

Clearly, it’s a far from ideal way of working that we’re keen on banishing to the 1990’s.

What we learned from reviewing Excel contact lists

A first major update to our contact management system is here. In the past two weeks we visited customers and reviewed how they manage their relations with journalists and influencers. We came back with a bunch of notes and examples of the contact lists. These news insights are now reflected in the first step towards a fully fledged CRM for PR agencies.

Excel hell for contact management
Several customers showed us how they were managing thousands of contacts in Excel. The general structure tends to be very similar.


The basic contact info of people, with the publication they write for.

Sometimes tags are added to specify the interests of the contacts.

Excel hell for contact management

The complete mailing address is saved to be able to easily print stickers for physical mailings.

There’s a comments field that’s hardly used.

Updated contact management

We took this input and took the first steps to improve the contact database:

Contacts can belong to organizations: save which medium your influencer writes for. See who else writes for the organization.

More info up front: one of the main befits of an Excel list is that you can see a lot of info at once. The overview now includes all contact info of influencers.

Profile pictures: contacts that use a gravatar automatically get a picture.

Overview of inluencers

Revamped contact profile: now also see the main statistics about a contacts email behavior.

Manage contact tags from the profile: quickly update the tags of a contact.

Prezly contact profile


PR teams desperately need to get out of Excel hell. Public Relations is about relationschips. The industry needs proper tools to improve these relationships. And that’s not Excel.

Excel is for making calculations, spreadsheets and pivot tables, not for contact management. Click To Tweet

What do you expect from a Public relations CRM? Let us know via Twitter @prezly.

Want to know more about the Prezly PR CRM?

Check customer testimonials and book a 15-minute demo now.