I worked for a number of years, quite a while back, in PR and marketing for film & TV.
I remember once, an individual calling a PR agency I was with, and asking the President if she would share her media contacts database. She went rather white, was a bit speechless as I recall, and explained that that contact database was a lifetime of work, and was part of what distinguished her from her competitors.
This is the common view in PR, and so I was most intrigued to come across the Media Volunteer Project.
A novel, why-didn’t-anyone-do-this-before concept, it is a knowledge-sharing database of media contacts for nonprofit agencies.
Though other online media contacts databases exist, they are very expensive, and out of reach for most nonprofits, social innovators and the like.
The Media Volunteer Project asks that all users of the database commit to 12 to 15 minutes of their time sharing or researching – in some way contributing to the online database. In fact, as I couldn’t find a way to view any of the database, it seems that you can only access the database once you have done so. That’s probably a wise move.
There are several options for how an individual can contribute time. They can call a reporter, filling in specific database information and following a supplied call script, research, confirm or correct database information, or locate website information.
The database project was initiated by a group called Green Media Toolshed, which focuses on ‘communications campaigns for the environmental movement’.
They get volunteers updating their media contacts, and in exchange, they give their existing media contacts database to all organizations who can use it.
Most nonprofits and social change communicators are very short on the time required to steadily maintain and build a great database. This offers a great opportunity to be a knowledge-sharing database for all.
Green Media Toolshed is Washington D.C.-based, and the database is at the moment, U.S.-centric in its contacts. It also assumes that all users are American, asking, for example, all people registering to enter a zip code.
Social change organizations are strengthened by building connections outside national boundaries. I think the project ought to think wider – re-work the registration page to encourage international participants. Eventually, it would be great if people could submit new media contact entries and select an option to tag by region or sector. For example, a shared media database offers tremendous possibilities not just for pooling large international sector-specific media (eg. global environmental media), but also for small NGOs in developing countries. This could be facilitated by a similar online application being launched by a group like E-Civicus or Communication Initiative or Communication for Social Change, or the Media Volunteer Project could expand, even seek funding, to take their idea forward, expanding it to encourage information-sharing among global social change communicators.
This could also allow people like me, who are willing to contribute, an option to research or contribute international (rather than U.S. regional) media contacts.
It’s a great idea, and I hope it goes further. I’m curious when it was launched, and will try to track down that info and add it here when I do.