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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.