The evolution of the media database

Over the last several years, metrics around media contact databases have gone from an evaluation based solely on volume to one surrounding accuracy. As any PR professional who has been in the industry long enough remembers, printed guides used to be the go-to tools (next to your personal Rolodex).


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Those desktop dust collectors have long since been replaced with web-based applications. After all, a guide that only comes out maybe once or twice a year doesn’t need to focus on day-to-day accuracy. Not so with a live and interactive application.

But that evolution hasn’t immediately changed the way of thinking from bigger is better – not at all.

Getting this idea widely accepted means combating years upon years of marketing focused on bulk contacts, with little value placed on ongoing, human-powered research. But, as mentioned in a previous post about the evolving nature of the press release, mass releases to an untargeted list have far less value than one sent to a curated list of accurate contacts.

So how do you find the solution that best fits your need, when your strategy is also changing and evolving? Here are a few questions you should ask while evaluating for a media database:

1.  How many full-time researchers do you have working on data quality?

A media database with a million-plus global contacts sounds great, but if they’re working with a team of 10 part-time researchers, how much accuracy can they really add? A good formula is between 10,000 and 20,000 records per researcher. So if that database has a million records, they better have at least 50 full-time researchers.

2. What is the research strategy? Automated or manual?

This question can help you determine the tools that team uses to update information. If they’re only using manual tools their speed won’t be the highest, but that human touch should (in theory) increase quality. Only automated? Much faster, but automated tools on their own can make mistakes. Look for a solution that employs both. And if they’ve developed tools internally, even better. It shows a solid dedication to providing the best support for your media database.

3. Can (or will) they perform client-specific projects?

A media research team can sometimes often operate in a bubble – they update or correct information, research outlets, find contacts. And then they repeat. That works great to continually update and grow the database, but a team that can perform special projects for clients is a team that can think agilely, and that’s where the best growth comes from. And if they do these projects without additional cost to you, that’s a huge win.

4. Will they accept direct client inquiries regarding the validity of information?

As with special client projects, a media research team that can be contacted directly by the actual user with your own updates, or questions regarding the accuracy of a contact record, can drastically change the effectiveness of a database in a positive way. And it provides peace of mind to know you’ve got one more point of contact within the organization who has your back.

In short, PR professionals have evolved, the tools they require are evolving along with them, and for media database customers to make their efforts (and costs) the most fruitful, accuracy is the solution.


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Ira Lacroix

Ira Lacroix

With a background in marketing, sales, and communication, Ira worked closely with clients and staff as the Manager, Inside Sales and has now transitioned into building Agility’s channel division as the Manager, Strategic Partnerships. As a father of 3, Ira spends what little ‘free time’ he has wrenching in the garage on his latest project, or closed off in the home office writing.