June 20th, 2006

Have PR companies outsourced their databases?


One thing I've started noticing recently is the number of different PR companies that don't seem to have their own central contacts database. It used to be that they'd have details of every relevant journalist, their address, their areas of interest, and (most importantly) the publications they wrote for. It all used to be up to date, and everyone in the agency had access to the information. It was their silver bullet, the intellectual property that differentiated the agencies and helped them win accounts and get their releases to the desktops of people who mattered.

I expect it was probably something like a FileMaker or an Access application, or even a shared Excel spreadsheet, perhaps an intranet application knocked up in LAMP. Whatever it was, it was nothing flash, but it worked. Now, however, they seem to have started outsourcing things to external companies, none of whom seem to be up to date, or have the full story. I'm now finding that agencies I've talked to for years have no idea of my address, while others, simply because I've written for the FT's technology section, insist on sending me financial press releases. I'm sure their are travel journalists out there who are getting press releases about new mortgage products...

I'm sure it'll all sort itself out in the wash, but I suspect that expensive contact databases have replaced the old in house systems - after all, that's someone else keeping track of things - but there's little or no feedback, no correction cycle - and above all, no attempt by the database companies to actually contact the journalists their tracking and check that they have the right information about them. If someone is paying many thousands of pounds far access to this information, shouldn't it be correct?

After all, if the aim of the game is to get stories out in the press, inaccurate and badly targeted releases are a waste of everyone's time and money.