Profile: Laurence Moskowitz, Medialink Worldwide - Moskowitz outlines vision for Medialink

Teletrax service marks broadcast revolution for CEO Laurence Moskowitz.

Philadelphia-born Laurence Moskowitz was once named one of America's 'five best undiscovered CEOs'. While the award came from US magazine Individual Investor, which has since gone bust, it is an apt title for a man who - on these shores at least - is one of the PR industry's best kept secrets.

Moskowitz, Medialink Worldwide's chairman and CEO, is one of the early pioneers of broadcast PR, widely credited with having founded the discipline as we know it. Despite the fact that he openly hates the term 'video news release' (which is, he says, one of the industry's 'biggest misnomers', 'in some people's minds it wrongly conjures up the image of a packaged story') he is in part responsible for its inception.

Puffing on a cigarillo in Medialink's West End office, the debonair 51-year-old says he decided some 20 years ago that he needed to 'bring PR into the 21st century'. At the time, broadcast PR was almost unheard of.

'The level of downright ignorance that I found among PR practitioners about broadcast media was astounding,' says Moskowitz, who started his career as a reporter and then editor at United Press International, specialising in broadcast news. 'They didn't know how the networks functioned, or the demographic data, or the sheer magnitude of audiences.'

In 1987, harnessing the potential of the burgeoning US broadcast sector, Medialink was born with just five staff and a mission to 'educate, educate and educate again' about the potential of the sector.

Medialink quickly became a rising star, opening offices in Los Angeles, Washington and then its first overseas office in Covent Garden 11 years ago. The company made history in 1997, becoming the first PR services company to go public. It now boasts offices in ten cities and over 300 staff.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing. Once a Nasdaq 'darling', Medialink stock peaked at £17.78 in 1998, but has not reached such dizzy heights since - the price was hovering around £2 per share as PRWeek went to press.

Aside from the more recent woes of the PR industry, Moskowitz concedes there have been other contributory factors. He says the firm 'hit a wall in the UK', largely due to unforeseen 'cultural' problems associated with various small acquisitions.

A share price slump in 2001 culminated in a takeover offer by PR Newswire's parent United Business Media - a bid that was rejected by the Medialink board and its investors - and speculation that the business was ripe for further offers.

But Moskowitz is no quitter. Former Medialink vice-president of European operations Jim Gold - now MD of The News Xchange - says: 'He has real passion for his job, which is a strength and a weakness, as he sometimes finds it hard to let ideas go and maybe holds on a little longer than required.' Perhaps, for instance, with Medialink's troubled internet news service Newstream.com, which launched as a joint venture with Business Wire at a time when dot.coms were imploding across the business landscape.

Although he says proudly - and with a hint of 'I-told-you-so' - that after all the early criticism, the service is now breaking even.

Moskowitz thinks in images, not just because of a lifetime spent in broadcast news, but also because he learned sign language to communicate with his wife Carole, who is deaf. He says: 'I can now literally feel words in my hands and see phrases in the air.'

He is also known for leading the way in terms of technology. And he has a major trump card up his sleeve with which he hopes to silence any sceptics. Medialink has spent in excess of £2m and three years researching and developing its Teletrax service, which he hopes will again revolutionise the broadcast PR sector - and possibly the film industry to boot. It is the world's first comprehensive video monitoring service, which invisibly and indelibly 'watermarks' footage and can track video broadcasts on hundreds of channels across the globe, presenting immediate measurement and evaluation benefits.

Developed by electronics giant Philips, it is not only the first of its kind in broadcast PR, but, he claims, is also unique to the wider broadcast industry. And clients are beginning to recognise the benefits - Teletrax last month signed up NBC News Channel as a client, to add to Reuters.

Moskowitz evenhints at ongoing talks with film studios in Hollywood.

When asked if competitors have cottoned on to the potential of Teletrax, he says with a mischievous sparkle in his eye: 'There's consternation I can admit - we've taken a few calls.' If Teletrax evolves into the service he promises, there could be more consternation to come.

HIGHLIGHTS

1973: Reporter and editor United Press International

1986: Launches Medialink Worldwide

1992: Opens international HQ in London

2003: Signs key clients to Teletrax Video Monitoring

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