Some bad habits are truly hard to break. A great deal of PR agencies still to this day refuse to share media contacts and lists with their customers.
There are two emotions that are very common with companies that hire PR agencies to fulfill their media relations and they present themselves at different times of the agency engagement journey. First there is the dopamine-rush that comes with the relief that professionals are taking charge and bringing their skills and resources to the table to help advance ambitious media outreach goals. Gone are the days that a pick up in TechCrunch or VentureBeat were considered as likely to happen as lightning striking your headquarters… three days in a row.
Sadly enough, a blissful honeymoon period of agencies and their clients working together is often followed by what can fairly be called a trough of disillusionment. A great deal of things can go wrong, and often do go wrong once the initial kick-off is passed. The agency is possibly not as proactive as the client thought and hoped it would be. Or it is not creative enough, acting as a one-trick pony that considers a single valuable tactic that did the job once to be the right tactic in every instance. And where is that agency partner who was present at the sales conversation but has not been around since?
No ownership over media contacts
Another disillusionment often arises when clients realize that although they pay their PR agency a sizable chunk of money each month, the media database the agency has been building and maintaining for them, well… it is not really theirs to have. The PR agency will often simply not want to share media contact information. It might disclose names and outlets, but will cut off the contact information from the information it discloses.
Often the Terms and Conditions of the contract will leave the ownership of the media contacts unmentioned (there are intellectual property rights stipulations in most contracts, but they do not cover media databases) and clients will have to settle with hearing from the agency that client ownership of media contacts is not “common practice in the industry.”
These clients should have checked on this beforehand of course, in the same manner that somebody who decides to no longer buy records but stick with purchasing songs on iTunes should realize he or she does not really end up owning the music, but only buys a license to listen to it. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 2020, and these are questions most companies will not ask themselves, especially if the person who manages the relationship with the agency is new to this.
I consider the practice where agencies do not disclose media contacts information with their clients abhorrent. I am confident enough about the value that my team offers in terms of strategic counsel and tactical execution that I do not worry about my clients cancelling their contracts once they get possession of the media list. Companies simply do not fail to acquire earned media attention because they are unable to get their hands on the email addresses of the journalists that matter to them.
Whatever media lists are generated and kept up to date during the time of serving the client I consider to be acquired in the full legal meaning of the term by my clients through the payments made out to my agency.
Free access to a professional media CRM
The days of having no better tools than excel lists to keep media contacts are long gone. In order to allow my clients to easily access the media lists we keep for them, every client gets a free personal account on Mustr, our third party media relations CRM, that not only serves to distribute press releases and hosts them in a professional multimedia newsroom but is also the place where clients can access their media contacts, compile media lists, export these lists, find, keep up to date, or add notes to individual media contacts, and do anything else that comes with a professional, efficient and GDPR/CAN-SPAM compliant manner of managing media contacts.
Our clients are empowered to control the quality of the work done and to take possession of their media contacts data at will, since the data is actually… theirs. If your agency is one that is reluctant to share the contact information of journalists they reach out to on your behalf with you, there is no better time than now to consider an alternative partner for your PR services needs on the American market.
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