By taking a novel approach to the age old problem of helping PR pros get company news to the right reporters, Muck Rack is changing the news media research process.
Albeit not transactional, Muck Rack — a news media contact database service founded by CEO Gregory Galant — is the first company to take an online marketplace approach to connecting media relations professionals and journalists.
To give you a sense of how important getting email addresses and phone numbers for journalists is to public relations people, PR Enablement Platform Cision, which sold for $2.74B this week, started selling print directories of reporters. They updated the directories annually.
Without accurate news media contact coordinates, public relations can’t get their job done.
News media contact information has always been dynamic, but its changing even faster these days for a number of reasons, but let’s start with this one.
Over the last 10 years, the press corps has been steadily diminishing.
Plus, reporters change their news beat coverage fairly regularly, and all this makes it exceedingly tough for public relations to keep their media lists up to date.
The minute you stick a contact record in a static database, it must be maintained or it will decay.
Linkedin is always current because it’s in our own best interest to keep our record up to date and Muck Rack is approaching the news media contact database business the same way.
They’re catering directly to journalists, much like the newswire services used to, offering them professionally designed, online portfolios of everything they’ve ever written, regardless of where it was published.
Reporter portfolios include all their published news clips with their social media profiles automatically compiled and regularly updated, providing them with access to all their active links and lightning fast search.
Muck Rack does something else really useful that no one else does.
They give public relations access to the reporter’s portfolio and their contact information in one place, without switching from screen to screen.
This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. To understand why, consider the media relations workflow as well as the bigger picture.
The value of PR to clients and companies is usually pegged on their ability to generate news coverage from an ever dwindling press pool.
Under pressure to get noticed and score coverage, it is not uncommon for public relations to cast a wide net when pulling a media list from a directory.
With inaccurate, nonspecific information, it’s easy for public relations to pull overly broad lists of reporters that get used to carpet bomb reporters with press releases they aren’t interested in, which is bad for companies and journalists.
Another problem with conventional news media contact directories is they attempt to reduce a reporter’s area of interest to a single “news beat” field.
In addition the decay/accuracy problem, you can’t boil down a reporter’s body of work to a database entry, particularly in this age of overlap and disruptive innovation.
If you’ve got a press release about a new revenue operations software as a service offering, do you send it to a technology reporter or a business reporter?
There are kinds of different business reporters.
Should that business reporter who likes to write about sales, marketing, customer service, leveraged growth, product led growth or something else?
What if it’s a press release about a vertical solution tailored to a specific industry?
Should it go to a reporter covering that trade?
What if it’s gig economy related? Who should you direct that kind of news to?
Should you build a list of reporter’s who cover the market leader in your sector? What if they’re public and you’re not?
You’ll wind up pulling a list of business reporters who cover the stock market, which your company isn’t listed on, and miss the mark.
You see, without good information, it impossible to target your news accurately. Media relations is seldom cut and dried.
What about columnists like Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Friedman or Maureen Dowd? How could you possibly describe their areas of interest accurately with a single “news beat” field? Yet a getting mention in any of their published works could be a game changer.
Getting news releases to the right reporters is an ongoing challenge, often above the pay grade of the resource tasked with pulling the list.
Since Muck Rack provides access to a reporter’s published work, junior public relations can vet contact records against their portfolio before adding them to a list, a process that used to require searching a news media contact database first, searching a separate news media monitoring service next by each reporter’s name to read their coverage and cutting and pasting the vetted contacts onto a spreadsheet, where the list starts getting old the day it’s created.
While there’s all kinds of technology solutions to help sales reps personalize communications, public relations has been personalizing communications forever, and they’ve been doing it manually.
PR Enablement Platforms all offer email distribution, but not necessarily with the ability to hyper personalize each email as it goes out.
The other media contact database services also give you public relations a way to email merge news releases to reporters, but hyper personalize is a modern feature most are yet to implement, which further aggravates the PR carpet bomb scenario.
This article was written based on a meeting I had with their VP Marketing Mike Schneider (he cut his teeth in digital marketing at MongoDB, on Overview’s Product Led Growth Index) at the 2019 PRSA International Conference in San Diego.
Expect Muck Rack to do to news media contact research what Linkedin did to the rolodex.
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