Why Won’t My Publicist Give Me a List of Media Contacts?

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Remember these?

“We don’t stop following up until we get an answer.” That’s what a publicist hired by an author once told me while I was working in-house. After a shiver ran down my spine, I immediately took note to make sure I never recommended or hired that agency.

The above is one reason publicists don’t give out their media lists. You don’t know how someone is going to treat it — or rather the people on it. Will they call your contacts over and over again, not getting the really obvious hint that no response means no? Will that person email useless press release after useless press release, week after week, hoping the next will result in front page coverage? Will they blurt out — after abusing your media contacts — “I got your info from so-and-so!” and destroy the relationship you spent considerable time cultivating?

Secondly, media lists are proprietary information. If you’ve hired a publicist to build you a media list to give you, that’s one thing. If you’ve hired a publicist to get you media coverage, you’ve hired someone based on their prior work, relationships they already have, and ability to develop other relationships. Giving out media contacts doesn’t do much to solidify a relationship – it undermines it since there are many out there who pitch inappropriately and without doing any research. Plus, it’s just bad business. If a publicist is giving out media lists willy-nilly, where exactly is his or her competitive edge?

Now, some will argue that everyone has the same contacts because of online media databases like Cision, so a media list isn’t something to be protected. Let me tell you, after working in-house at a publisher where outside publicists hired by authors would share their lists with me (never at my prompting), that’s poppycock.  Agencies and independent publicists definitely have a lot of overlap, but do you know how many new contacts I found out about by scanning media lists someone shared with me? Well, I don’t really know either (it was  10+ years), but it was considerable. And it’s not because I didn’t keep up. I read the blogs and newsletters that cover the media’s coming and going. But, there’s always a new freelancer I wasn’t aware of, a producer who keeps his name out of the media databases, etc.

At the end of the day, remember why you hired a publicist. You didn’t hire him to give you lists. You hired him to get you media coverage, provide wise counsel, identify the media opportunities that are actually likely to meet your goals, develop your talking points, and help you tell your story.

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