An editor should only be sent information that might actually interest him. This sounds simple at first, but it is anything but trivial. For one thing, the press distribution lists have to be structured correctly for this purpose. And on the other hand, you need a tool that makes it possible to flexibly compile these press distribution lists and thus, depending on the topic, always enable the most accurate target group compilation possible.

I have compiled a short guide here on what to look out for when setting up press distribution lists and selecting software to manage them.

Never, never ever and under no circumstances use Excel!

When I took over responsibility for corporate communications at the software manufacturer Wilken in 1993, I built my first press distribution list using Microsoft Excel, of course. And because I’m a lazy person, that was exactly a press distribution list back then: For the IT trade press, for the regional daily media, and for anyone else I thought might be interested in my topics. This “watering can model” still worked in 1993, because the addressees were all hand-researched and their number was therefore manageable! Until my employer at the time, Wilken, started addressing different target groups. There were ERP systems for industry or public administration, later the energy industry was added. And accordingly, the number of different press distributors grew rapidly. This made press work really tedious.

CRM does not work for press relations

Step 2 was the switch from Excel to CRM. The problem: editorial offices and media do not fit into one CRM. Editors are neither customers nor suppliers. Also, the complete structure and organization of a CRM system is not at all suitable for the organization of press distributors. In the worst case, you might even disrupt the sales process if you misuse a CRM system for PR.

You can’t do it without PR software

Press distribution lists can only be organized decently with software that is geared to the processes of PR. The software must be able to send personalized e-mails to the respective contacts and also document this communication. This is the only way to track what was exchanged with whom and when. There are a few principles to keep in mind.

Do not create customer-specific distribution lists

Of course, this applies first and foremost to PR agencies. Because they want to serve their customers in the best possible way. So what could be more obvious than creating separate distribution lists for each customer and each customer topic? Especially when a software solution like PressFile makes it so easy. But at some point the rude awakening comes. In my case it came during a vacation replacement. I was supposed to do a mailing for my colleague on the subject of “Mobile energy storage systems for commercial vehicles”. This includes the trade presses for “Renewable Energies,” “Commercial Vehicles,” “Environmental and Climate Protection,” but also titles that deal with energy in a broader sense, up to and including media such as the Handelsblatt or the Frankfurter Allgemeine. Of course, we have all these media saved. However, when I was preparing to send out the press release, I discovered that there were at least half a dozen customized distribution lists stored in PressFile for each topic. And no two were alike! That was the flip side of freedom and simplicity. There were more than 2,000 distributors in total in our PressFile at that time. An absolute wild growth!

Nevertheless: Better one distributor more than one too few!

The lesson I have learned from my now almost 25 years of experience working with press distribution lists is to create generic distribution lists and then differentiate them. Take IT, for example: There are editorial teams that deal with business software, IT infrastructure or special topics such as IT security or document management. Accordingly, distributors must be named accordingly, for example “IT Business Software” or “IT Security”. If you work internationally like Press’n’Relations, you also need a country code, e.g. “IT-D-Security”, so that a clear grouping by country is given. Of course, there are editors who are interested in several of these topics. It must then be possible to assign them to several distributors. And there are topics that are sent to several distribution lists at the same time. For example, the personnel of an IT company, which could additionally be of interest for the regional daily press. The PR solution must then be able to “mix” these distribution lists, ensuring that editors included in multiple press distribution lists receive the mail only once and not many times.

If one proceeds according to this principle, editorial offices can be addressed very specifically at once – or also very broadly, depending on the topic. And: The distribution lists are unique, because not everyone maintains “their customer distribution lists”. Because if a change is made here, colleagues usually don’t get to hear about it, and potential opportunities for publications are lost.

It is well worth putting some brain power into organizing press distributors based on this principle. Because this makes vacation replacements child’s play in terms of distribution technology.