FOCUS INFORMATION SOURCES: Papering over the on-line cracks

PAPER HEAVYWEIGHTS: The accessibility of electronic information hasn’t dented faith in traditional directories CONTACTS: What titles do the experts turn to when they need to know what’s happening in their industries? EUROPEAN CONNECTIONS: The area of pan-European information services is open to development

PAPER HEAVYWEIGHTS: The accessibility of electronic information hasn’t

dented faith in traditional directories

CONTACTS: What titles do the experts turn to when they need to know

what’s happening in their industries?

EUROPEAN CONNECTIONS: The area of pan-European information services is

open to development



In an electronic world of information at the touch of a button, the

public relations industry is still heavily reliant on its trusty hard-

bound directories and this situation doesn’t look likely to change in a

hurry. Danny Rogers hits the paper trail



Are you suffering from information fatigue syndrome? Of course it could

just be a hangover, but some academics believe the human brain is having

trouble coping with all the data being thrown at us daily in this age of

information superhighways.



PR professionals are brokers of information. They are also expected to

be experts in their field, particularly the mediums through which

organisations are judged. This covers a spectrum from print, broadcast

or new electronic media, to politicians, analysts or other opinion

formers.



While expertise comes through experience, one also needs external

sources of information. Few PR people haven’t spent hours leafing

through media listings at some stage of their career.



But as the electronic revolution gathers pace and we demand faster

information, so too the providers switch to electronic means. Can we say

goodbye to the weighty media directory?



Stephen George, managing director of Media Information believes not.

‘Electronic media won’t eclipse paper-based methods. The market now has

a choice and small consultancies will tend to stay with the books,’ he

says. George’s division, part of the Romeike Group, is responsible for

media information and distribution.



He says Media Disk is now the company’s flagship product. Originally

launched in 1980 and modernised in 1991, Media Disk contains the whole

of the UK media on a computerised platform. It is updated daily via the

user’s modem connection.



‘It has big penetration in corporate and media consultancy. We now have

over 500 sites and it is being developed to provide a suite of optional

modules including evaluation, forward planning and e-mail addresses,’

says George. Nevertheless the company continues to offer its PR Planner

and Editors paper-based directories. The former is a loose leaf guide

that has been around for decades, the latter a series of six pocket

volumes covering the whole of the UK media. George admits that they only

really differ in format, with 80 per cent of the data in common. But

both continue to prove popular.



The second giant in media information for the industry - Two-Ten

Communications -also shows little evidence of saving paper.



Although the Press Association-owned company continues to develop its

Targeter PC-based databases, it now has a portfolio of six standard

directories covering UK media, town by town, European news and consumer

media, European trade and technical media. Two-Ten has also acquired the

Briton’s Index which comprises the Financial Institutions and Investment

Research Analysts books.



‘For many of our clients, paper directories are still the most

convenient format,’ says marketing communications manager Flora

Hamilton. ‘When we first launched Targeter in 1990, sales of directories

increased and two years ago we launched a German language version of our

European directory.’



Hamilton says client feedback shows that while on-line databases are

useful for the manipulation of information and media targeting, books

are useful when you need quick information to hand. For example at a

meeting. ‘We have no plans to phase out the directories. Electronic

versions will be complementary rather than replacements,’ she says.



The remaining member of the ‘big three’ is PIMS. Its media directories

cover the UK, European and USA markets as well as Cityfile, which lists

financial journalists and Extel- ranked brokers Colin Taylor, PIMS

marketing manager says: ‘Despite the increasing interest in electronic

information sources, including our CD-ROM and on-line services, it is

clear that hard copy directories remain a popular and valued format. We

continue to invest in the development of these publications so we can

enhance the information they provide to our many subscribers.’



The similarity of product ranges in this highly competitive market is

clear. Each will continue to develop its paper-based services in

parallel with increasingly sophisticated electronic equivalents. Another

development is the move into more sector-specific guides to fight off

competition from niche providers.



One such challenger is Media Spec, whose IT Journalists and Media Guide

has gone from strength to strength. This loose-leaf binder contains

detailed information on 200 IT publications and 250 freelancers. There

are now UK and European versions, each of which includes the database in

disk format.



Sector-specific directories such as this enjoy the luxury of providing

in-depth information on titles or individuals enabling more specific

targeting of PR activity, something in which the advertising industry

has always had an edge.



EMAP-owned BRAD (British Rate and Data) is perhaps the best known of the

media industry guides. BRAD is the most comprehensive source of

commercial media and contains detailed information on publications’

editorial profiles and readerships.



The main directory is researched and updated monthly and covers all UK

media. There is also BRAD Newspapers and smaller versions on the

advertising and direct marketing industries. Since 1991, there has been

an electronic version BRAD base.



Somewhere in between BRAD and the PR media directories is Benn’s Media,

published by Miller Freeman. Benn’s has the most comprehensive listings

of all. Its three volumes cover the UK, Europe and the rest of world and

for this reason it is most commonly found in libraries.



Reed Information Services publishes the smaller Willings Press Guide

along with a series of handbooks on the marketing industries, while

Haymarket’s Contact directory provides a comprehensive listing of PR

consultancies, in-house departments and related service companies.



There are also a number of texts concentrating specifically on the

broadcast media that may provide extra information to that contained in

the aforementioned media guides.



One of the best known is the Blue Book of British Broadcasting published

by Tellex Monitors providing contacts for radio, TV and satellite. The

British Film Institute Film and TV Handbook combines hundreds of

broadcasting and film facts and figures with an extensive directory of

contacts.



A useful addition to these is On Air Studio Strategy, a quarterly

publication which looks at independent production companies and which

programmes they are producing.



Indeed forward planning is increasingly important to PR professionals as

the public relations industry matures and clients demand a more

scientific approach to campaigns.



In the print media, Advance remains the leading source for forthcoming

features. Also on the planning side, Profile Systems produces Foresight,

a comprehensive future events information service.



Profile Systems also produces Fashion Monitor, a general guide on the

fashion sector including new developments and substantial information on

relevant journalists.



An equivalent for those invvolved in corporate affairs is Environmental

Data Services, a magazine that attempts to be first with thenews on

green issues. Another example is NucNET, a fax-based news service that

collates daily developments in the nuclear industry.



The paperless office has been forecast since the 1960s, but the average

PR office probably has as much of it as ever. In the medium term paper

based references are here to stay.



Off the shelf: What the industry recommends



What do PR people keep on their bookshelves? PR Week asked consultants

in different areas of the business.



Chris Woodcock is a director at Countrywide Porter Novelli, specialising

in issues and crisis management. ‘Managing Product Recall is a seminal

text and essential reading for anyone working in crisis management,’ she

says. ‘I also use two other good introductory texts on this area: Crisis

Management, by Michael Regester, which covers classic case studies like

Tylenol and Bopal, and Michael Bland’s Crisis Checklist - useful in

thinking through the various steps.’



Woodcock also cites a US business text called Competing for the Future

by Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad. ‘It examines how an organisation must

keep re-inventing itself and building gateways to the future, an issue

that’s been very popular among FMCG clients recently.’



Angie Moxham, director at LeFevre Communications, is also a fan of US

marketing texts. ‘Clicking, by Faith Popcorn, was published last year

and is about where we’re going as a society. It highlights some

interesting social trends relevant to marketing strategy. We also

frequently refer to management books by Charles Handy,’ she says.



‘At a client level we make a real attempt get under the skin of their

business. In the financial sector the Moneyfacts service is critical in

checking financial statistics and HMSO’s House of Commons Bulletin keeps

our finger on the pulse of political developments,’ says Moxham.



James Sheward, senior account executive at Westminster Strategy, says

he finds the PMS Parliamentary Companion the best basic source of

information on the processes of government.



Sheward also regularly turns to DPR’s Whitehall Companion and HMSO’s

Civil Service Yearbook for information on civil servants.



He adds: ‘Andrew Roth’s Parliamentary Profiles come in several different

volumes and provide a wealth of interesting information on every single

MP. Another useful text is the Almanac of British Politics, by Robert

Waller, which provides information on constituencies rather than members

- geography, the nature of the electorate and voting patterns.’



Continental contacts: A select group



Companies conducting pan-European campaigns have an even more diverse

range of information sources to digest.



For a long time the big producers of media directories - Two-Ten, Benn’s

- have offered European versions. Although initially sketchy these are

gradually becoming more comprehensive.



On-line equivalents are also emerging. The Media Information Group will

be launching a European version of Media Disk by the middle of next

year.



Because it is difficult to keep track of contacts and institutions over

such a huge geographical area, PR executives tend to rely on building

their own databases.



Jane Howard, group managing director of Leedex UK, manages European

campaigns for Kodak and Workgroup Systems.



‘I always find Hollis Europe useful and we have PR Planner Europe as a

standard reference. But once the campaign is up and running we tend to

use tailor-made lists for our clients,’ she says.



‘The closest thing to a pan-European media bible is PR Planner Europe,’

says Jonathan Simnett, managing director of A Plus, ‘but there are few

that are really comprehensive.’



A Plus handles a number of pan-European campaigns through its Euro-Plus

network. Simnett points out that journalists and publications are not

European and that for this reason the best information sources will

reside within local agencies on the continent. ‘The best information

exists within our own network,’ he says.



What about pan-European cuttings services? ‘The UK has the most mature

clippings services and they get worse the further East one goes in

Europe,’ says Simnett. ‘Most of the main UK providers offer a pan-

European service but they tend to be patchy. Press Select provides an

in-depth service on an ad-hoc basis but it can be slow,’ he adds.



Simnett suggests the World Wide Web as an alternative information

source.



Indeed, most major European publications now have their own Web sites

which provide detailed information on the publication, key staff and its

editorial profile. Increasingly this also includes listings of forward

features.



Text 100 European managing director Mark Adams agrees. He believes the

Alpha Vista search engine on the Internet is more effective than any

single database subscription.



European political institutions and individual MEPs are also creating

their own home pages, so a search on the Web may throw up valuable

opinion former information.



European political texts are thin on the ground but Dod’s and Vache’s

are providing an increasing amount of information on European

institutions and politicians as the EC plays an increasing part in our

lives. DPR also produces a European Companion, detailing MEPs, EC

Commissioners and civil servants.



For more information on MEPs, one can contact the European Parliament

Information Office in London.



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