Media directories and press release services for small companies can be overwhelming

I've been involved in a discussion on Linkedin for the past week regarding finding affordable media directories and most of the discussion has been pitches from sales people at media directors and press release services.  Funny how that works.  Of course, none of the pitches actually answers the question asked.  Funny how that works, too.

Here was the question: OverwhelmedonlyI'm interested to know if anyone can tell me of an inexpensive online media directory vs. Cision and others. I just need it for some circulation figures and a few other items.

The questioner wasn't looking for  how to reach editors or produce content, or send out press releases.  She just wanted to get some circulation figures.  The answer, of course, is at the public library where you can find the information in several directories for free.  You can also sign-up for a free membership to BPA Worldwide and do a search.  I'm actually surprised how many PR and Advertising professionals do not know about either of those resources.  

There are several organizations that offer your own hard copy or paid-for online service for a significant fee.  Of course "significant" is a matter of degree.  if you are a large advertising firm with millions in revenue, you can always buy the information for use in house and pass the cost on to your clients.  If you are a one- or two-person operation, those services tend to eat into your budget and clients notice the extra fee.

Then comes the add-on services, like press release distribution, monitoring, analytics, etc. There is something to be said for having some of that service purchased, but whether you should choose one over the other is harder.  Business Wire and PR Newswire are the biggest and most comprehensive, but most corporate marketing people, and few consultants know how to use most of the service you pay for... and you can end up paying through the nose for most of it if you don't know what you are doing.  The sales reps will help you work your way through it, but only if you ask.

Sor those that don't understand how to use the services, that's where the cut-rate services are attractive because they will still do exactly what you get out of the big guys and are sent to pretty much the same people.  There is very little difference.

That is why I recommend that if you truly want to be professional about reaching journalists, you need to build your own list and maintain it.  The wire services boast of the 10s of thousands of journalists and analysts on their list, but it is likely that unless you are selling beer or boner pills, you don't need to know how to reach every single journalist on your list.  You need to reach less than a dozen.  And building a relationship that gets you the coverage you need will take time.  It can't be automated and you can't buy it in a one-size-fits-all service.