PR and Outreach tools: Gorkana vs BuzzStream

PR and Outreach tools: Gorkana vs BuzzStream

18th December 2014

SEOs like their tools. To us PRs, it seems those pesky ‘Google botherers’ have a tool for everything – Searchmetrics, Majestic, Moz, Marin and many, many more. You name it, they have a tool or a life hack for the job.

Seeing as I’m an SEO fan and a bit of a ‘Google botherer’ myself, I’ve signed up for most of the above tools, but the PR community tend not to utilise too many – they see their job as being about storytelling and relationships – and the ones they do adopt tend to be all killer and no filler.

Bas asked me to write about PR outreach tools, and so for this post today I am taking a close look at two: Gorkana and Buzzstream.

My company is an international PR agency and we use both of these for different data, CRM and outreach purposes.  Neither company is a client of ours. In fact, we – sadly – have to pay them to use their services, so this post is completely independent.

The two tools really are light years apart (and both have their merits) so rather than impose my views, I thought I’d ask a friend of mine (take a bow Sam) in digital marketing to ask some questions and I’d do my best to answer them.

Let’s look at Gorkana.  Here’s a fairly useful video that gives you a good feel for how Gorkana’s database works.

What are the payment plans available for Gorkana? Can you pay monthly or does it have to be annually?

Gorkana offers annual, bi-annual or quarterly payment plans. They also have a discount rate for freelancers. The service can be quite pricey compared to typical SEO tools, and trying to get a price out of Gorkana is a bit like trying to knit jelly.  No agency pays the same price, and if I had one criticism of Gorkana it is the lack of transparency on costs. Let’s just say that they run into £thousands and depend upon how many licences you need and the size of your company.

Gorkana don’t publish their prices, this is because –they say – overall prices are totally dependent on requirements and what other Gorkana services you use/plan to use. That to me sounds like their pricing is flexible dependent on your size, scale and if you are good at negotiation.

We spend approximately £4,000 p.a as we subscribe to various global databases and there are individual licenses on top of that. What their licensing means is that if you have two licenses then only two people within your business can log into it at any one time – so someone will need to logout before someone else can login. This can be annoying at times, but the simple solution is to buy more licenses if this is a continuous problem.

All customers are assigned a designated account manager, and Gorkana provides ongoing training & support free of charge, along with invitations to their media briefings where you can meet high profile national journalists.  All of my team really rate this training and find it invaluable.

Other products that work alongside the database are Forward Features (a research tool to identify planned features, often in the b2b or trade media), Media Requests (handy and timely media requests from journalists) and the Activity Tracker (which, for my sins, I never use).

Can you import your own contacts into the Gorkana database?

You can upload contacts, or Gorkana can help to do this for you, say for example, if you are moving over from another media database and have built up a comprehensive set of media lists. However, Gorkana’s data is already pretty spot on so I wouldn’t think this is necessary in most cases.
Remember Gorkana is a database and not just a CRM, so you are buying their research and intelligence which is manually updated daily and not simply scraped from the internet, like with Buzzstream. More often than not we are talking about information such as direct phone numbers, emails, mobile numbers, plus details on their career history, what they have written in the past, and even insight into which football team certain journalists support – for example Robin Britton, head of news at ITV Meridian, is a Manchester United fan apparently (and what good taste you have too sir).

Do you contact journalists from within the Gorkana platforms or do you pull the data out and send emails from your own email system?

Gorkana does have a press release distribution tool, however you can also export the data into other CRMs if you so wish. The distribution service helps personalise emails (using mail merge) and can be customised to look like it was sent from your own work email address. More importantly, replies are sent to your own email address too, making it very easy to handle any follow up activity.

If the answer to the above question is yes – you email from the platform – does the platform integrate with CRM systems like Salesforce or SugarCRM?

No, however the information can be download into Excel and uploaded into other CRM systems. This is not something I need to do as a PR but maybe others might see value in this service.  At time of writing I’ve asked a few experts for their views on this but I can’t get to the bottom of this question at present. Maybe someone will leave a comment once this post goes live?

How long does it take to get the Gorkana platforms set up and working for you?

Once you’ve signed the contract and provided user details, within 24 hours you can be building media lists and contacting journalists to your heart’s content. Gorkana offers telephone customer support and therefore any problems can be tackled very quickly, whereas Buzzstream offers much less support and most problem solving needs to be tackled online.

Can you do a trial of Gorkana before you commit?

Gorkana don’t offer trials, but they are more than happy to do live demos.

Does Gorkana pull in all contact details including social accounts etc?

Yes, but only if the journalist in question has approved providing these details. Gorkana works with journalists and is very much against spam tactics so this approach to social intelligence very much fits in with their ethos.

Can you provide some examples of the journalists details you can obtain and where they work?

All journalist profiles will have details of the publication/website/blog they write for.

Gorkana pride themselves on having the most extensive journalist information in the industry. All details that they provide do have to be approved by the journalists in question, but you will find profiles with full biographies, career histories, interests, interviews, twitter details etc. They even tell you if they prefer phone calls (unlikely!) or emails, etc.

How often does Gorkana get updated?

Gorkana is updated continually on an ongoing basis. They say they have a team of 30 plus people who maintain tight relationships with journalists to ensure the database has the most up to date details.  No database is perfect but in my 15 years in PR I am yet to find a better source of data.

How often does Gorkana run training events and in what locations?

Gorkana run regular training webinars every week. They can also set up bespoke training sessions both over the phone and in person. This is a big plus when you want to train a new member of the team. Their training offering is an important part of our graduate scheme.

You say that the cost goes up the more users you have on Gorkana – does everyone in the team need a separate account or can you share one?

I recommend that every user is set up with their own account (which is free to do). You can set up as many users as you like, however the number of people using the database at the same time is dependent on the number of licenses you have (which is what costs money, I think it is around £600 per additional licence). If you require more than one person to be using the database at the same time you will need to purchase additional licenses.

The cry of “can anyone come out of Gorkana please” is heard regularly in PR agencies across the UK…

How large is the database for Gorkana in the UK?

Gorkana has over 80,000 journalists and nearly 23,000 media outlets on the database. It’s pretty damn comprehensive. Usually the titles which aren’t on there just aren’t worth bothering with, e.g. blag mags which are set up to take advertising fees of unsuspecting victims.  It’s also not that great at providing the contact details of bloggers, especially those which are longer tail.


Now let’s look at Buzzstream…  Here is a handy video to help you familiarise yourself with the tool.

What are the payment plans available for Buzzstream? Can you pay monthly or does it have to be annually?

Unlike Gorkana, Buzzstream has a very clear pricing policy and with the most expensive package starting at $249 per month, it is also much cheaper than Gorkana.

Can you import your own contacts into the Buzzstream database?

You have to build your own outreach lists in Buzzstream using its scraper, or by importing data from elsewhere. The scraper is quite simple to use as far as scrapers to go, but for PRs who have been spoilt by Gorkana’s ready to use data it’s a bit of a faff. More information is available here.

On the plus side, as contacts haven’t had to opt in you can hit up a much broader range of people. On the downside, it is very easy to send people unwanted spam, if you are not very, very careful.

Do you contact journalists from within the Buzzstream platform or do you pull the data out and send emails from your own email system?

Buzzstream has a CRM for outreach which is very similar to Gorkana’s, so you can send personalised messages, but I would never contact a journalist from Buzzstream as long as I have Gorkana running alongside it. For me, Buzzstream is solely for blogger engagement (although I am sure some people use it to reach out to journalists).

There is also no other intelligence in Buzzstream, no phone numbers of any meaningful use, no intel on a journalists career history etc.

If the answer to the above question is yes – you email from the Buzzstream platform – does the platform integrate with CRM systems like Salesforce or SugarCRM?

The answer is currently that I don’t know and I don’t use this integration. I’ve asked for support on this question and I have not had a response but I will update this post as soon as I find out the answer.

How long does it take to get the Buzzstream platforms set up and working for you?

It took us a while – admittedly I delegated the task to a junior member of the team – but it took quite a bit of internet research, and lot of trial and error to make sure it was set up right.

That’s probably because us PRs are lazier and less technical than most SEOs and we are used to having out of the box solutions like Gorkana.

That being said, once it was set up, it was really useful and now forms an important part of our PR outreach.

Can you do a trial of Buzzstream before you commit?

Yes, you can have a free trial so that you know what you are buying before you do so.

Summary: Which is better, Gorkana or Buzzstream?

Here are the key points to note about Gorkana:

  • It is the most expensive tool out of the two (we are talking £4,000 a year easily) but it is the much more powerful and we use it all day as a way to build media lists and manage outreach by helping tailor personal email messages to each (mail merge).
  • If, like us, you have access to the international database to include journalists in the US and Europe then you are looking at £1k or more in addition (at least – the cost also goes up per license, e.g. per person using Gorkana)
  • It is a powerful database, but building a list does take a little bit of care and prior knowledge, otherwise you could end up accidently spamming the wrong journalists because sometimes Gorkana catches people who might only have a minor interest in your subject
  • It has better customer support and account managers to speak to on an ongoing basis whenever there is a problem
  • It runs training events on how to use its software and sessions such as a recent meet up with a BBC news editor here in Manchester
  • It has a great app which you can access when you are out and about so you always have a little black book of phone numbers at your finger tips.
  • The data is also much better. It’s not bought in and is prequalified with phone numbers, email addresses, personal preferences, etc.
  • You can search by location, preferences, experience, sector, job title – pretty much anything – and build your own lists
  • Gorkana offers other services too, like research insights on planned features from journalists and press cuttings services to help you monitor your coverage in on and offline media
  • It can even tell you personal preferences, like how Mernie Gilmore, the women’s editor of the Daily Express is (apparently) a Manchester United fan.

BuzzStream on the other hand:

  • Is a great way to manage outreach to bloggers and has a similar level of functionality as Gorkana
  • Offers a unique way to reach bloggers – something that Gorkana has struggled with as it attempted to stop users from spamming bloggers with press releases
  • Lets you scrape similar websites off the internet and then scrapes their contact details, meaning that email outreach us possible.
  • Can give you really strong list of blogs from the long tail, while Gorkana is better at providing information on the bigger titles and some of the bigger blogs.
  • Will let you contact anyone, while Gorkana only gives you opted in or prequalified data. In fact, Gorkana has disabled the mail merge functionality to stop people spamming bloggers – something that BuzzStream allows (which is both good and bad, depending on your point of view on ethics in outreach)
  • The list management of BuzzStream is a little bit more clunky and the UX in general is a bit of a pain to find your way around at first
  • Offers less support – but you get what you pay for
  • You can acquire phone numbers using BuzzStream but only if they are publically available, whereas Gorkana has data which is typically private due to the way the data is harvested

So in summary, use both tools.

Gorkana is a professional PR database and CRM, whilst BuzzStream is a little less so and relies on you to get the data – but is better for blogger engagement as there is no limit to the number of bloggers you can target or how you can target them.

But if you want national and broadcast media coverage then there is no question that Gorkana is king.


Written By
James Crawford is an award winning B2B and consumer PR practitioner and has worked with at some of the biggest PR agencies in the UK. He focuses on using reputation and ecommerce metrics to track the ROI of PR.
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