Tools for public relations professionals are few and far between; we often are left at the mercy of our creative right brain to pull off some of the most comprehensive PR stunts possible. However, we all have one tool – technology – at our fingertips; literally, many of us sit at computers all day. I say “thank you” now to all the left-brainers who thought up the logical and rational availability of the online media database and media monitoring tools.

When I was just dipping my toes into the public relations pool as an undergraduate and intern at Western Washington University, I was introduced to the Bacon’s clipping service and hardbound media contact books. Volumes of them! I looked my advisor in the eye and said “you want me to do what with these books?” as I sat down at my work station and circa 1998 desktop computer to create my first media list. I feel like that experience is the equivalent of the “I walked four miles to and from school barefoot in the snow” tales we hear from our parents, which makes me sound a lot older than I am! But it was pretty bad.

Fortunately, someone wiser and more intuitive than I grasped the concept of the online media database. I’ve had the pleasure of using a variety of these services during my years in the industry – an indication of the growing business landscape and the variety of functions now available with the average database subscription.

Recently at RH Strategic, we shifted from one database to another and selected Meltwater Press, a web-based media-contact database that uses Natural Language Processing technology to connect us PR professionals with journalists. It can be used to find journalists related to an industry topic, create media lists and serve as a mail-merge tool. The PR team within RH is not placing any free advertising for Meltwater, but, in my opinion, they do deserve a shout-out. It’s been a while since I’ve used a service that is updated regularly enough to keep up with journalists moving from publication to publication – nowadays, a common occurrence.

Among several handy functions within Meltwater, its partnership with the Bulldog Reporter to provide real pitching preferences and recent coverage helps increase your chances of getting the journalist’s attention with your e-mail or phone call. I’ve also been very pleased with the ease at which I can update existing media lists with the additions I pull out of Meltwater. From someone who doesn’t do all that well with change, kudos to you, Meltwater, for actually creating a database that seamlessly integrates with my OCD-esque Excel spreadsheet management style.

The investment and necessity of an online media data base for the PR industry will never go away. As we media relations junkies live for the jackpot of finding the perfect media relationship that could lead to our next front page story, it’s great that see so many journalists are making themselves available within these databases. It almost makes it too easy for us to track them down and tell them our stories.

Thanks for the brief and distant memories, Bacon’s hardbound media contact books. You truly made me appreciate the hard work that goes into the back-end research that makes your successor, the online media database, so much better than you.