Knowing whom to address with which topics is essential for press and media work. After all, successful communication is based on knowing “your” editors or even bloggers and influencers and which topics interest them – but above all, which ones do not. This makes these contact data the central asset of a PR agency or press department. Yet many PR professionals refrain from actually “owning” this valuable data. Instead, they rely on database providers that only allow limited “use” of contact data.

Unlimited possibilities?

Tens of thousands of qualified editorial contacts at your fingertips at any time: that sounds tempting at first. Because that suggests simplicity, flexibility and independence. It’s easy to overlook the fine print. However, this states that all this data may only be “used”. And not arbitrarily either: even after an export, only one-time use is permitted. There is quickly little left of independence. There is no mention of control. Because if the contact data is maintained or changed in the background by the lender, you usually don’t even notice.

Restricted use of contact information

It gets even more complicated for bloggers and other influencers: “When sending e-mails via the send function in (…) or the customer’s own e-mail systems, the corresponding consents of the recipients for the sending of press material must be obtained by the customer himself in advance; the e-mail addresses are not included in the data export,” reads the GTC of a well-known address provider. Of course, such GTC provisions are owed to the new GDPR and thus understandable. But what if consent was obtained from a contact, but then for some reason the contact is deleted from the database by the “lender”? Strictly speaking, does this then mean that you are no longer allowed to communicate with the contact, despite their consent, because they were previously included in the database? And how does it look if you have personally contacted the blogger: Does that weigh more heavily than the T&Cs?

Class takes precedence over mass

One should basically ask oneself whether it makes sense at all to hand over control of the contact data to a third party. It is true that communication with members of the press and other multipliers falls within the scope of the “legitimate interest” of the GDPR. In a serious case, the obligation to prove what one has communicated with a particular person and when in the “legitimate interest” remains with the data user. But what if the record was changed or deleted without his knowledge? Also, the mass of available data that one has constant access to is not necessarily an advantage. Because since the GDPR came into force, “class before mass” applies all the more: sending press releases to distribution lists with hundreds or thousands of addressees quickly raises the risk of suspicion of spam. In contrast, the more specifically press distribution lists are geared to very specific content, the better it can be documented that one is acting in “legitimate interest.”

An example: A distribution list with the headline “IT topics” is absolutely nonsensical. This is because the IT trade press and the IT editorial teams in other media have very different areas of expertise. Some are interested in “IT security”, others in “IT system houses and distributors” and still others in “data center topics” or “ERP software”. Of course, there is one or two overarching themes. In this case, however, the PR agency or press department should be able to “mix” two or more distribution lists in order to still maintain the specific interests of the target groups in this way.

Prefer to work with your own contact data

It is not only because of the documentation requirements that it makes sense to work with your own contact data. After all, it’s useful to be able to transparently track what you communicated with whom and when – at the latest when your own department or agency comprises more than one employee. Admittedly: Building up qualified press distribution lists is time-consuming. But for one thing, there are definitely address publishers who sell distributors and not just lend them out. And secondly, a self-maintained database also reflects the actual network of relationships in one’s own network. And you also have “your” data under control. Because changes are not made by some anonymous employee in a call center who has no relationship whatsoever to the editor or medium in question, but only by the company’s own people.