FOCUS: DIRECTORIES AND DISTRIBUTION - Global targets. In order to provide up-to-date, user-friendly European or global information, directories and distribution companies must offer products which PR practitioners can customise. Mary Cowlett reports

With the growing trend for globalisation in the PR industry, the UK’s directory and distribution specialists are faced with the daunting task of servicing PR clients who increasingly need international know-how and services.

With the growing trend for globalisation in the PR industry, the

UK’s directory and distribution specialists are faced with the daunting

task of servicing PR clients who increasingly need international

know-how and services.

This, coupled with the explosion in on-line and broadcast

communications, creates a challenge to provide a world picture, to help

PR people hit their global targets spot-on.

In the current climate, however, it seems unlikely that truly global

data is what most PROs either want or need. For larger organisations and

PR agencies with international offices and networks, the idea of firing

off blanket news releases around the world from the UK is not a

realistic scenario.

’We are not likely to distribute press releases even across Europe from

here. We rely on the local knowledge and relationships of our offices in

each relevant country,’ says Shandwick UK planning director Kieran


And he is not alone. Sophie Spyropoulos, board director of business

technology at Grant Butler Coomber, says: ’We do undertake pan-European

campaigns from the UK, but directories are only ever used as the basis

from which to research data ourselves and hone contacts.’

However, the agency has found off-the-shelf directory products useful

for targeting new markets. To identify media contacts in the US for two

banking and finance software clients, Spyropoulos used PiMS’ US


’But because we needed to talk to the banking and technical journalists,

we still did lots of research ourselves,’ she adds.

But Alison Radovanovic, web strategy and corporate communications

manager for Media Information, says that her organisation has yet to see

a marked upswing in requests for US facilities.

’Certainly the internet means that a lot of PR is automatically

internationalised whether people like it or not, and we are seeing a lot

more demand for pan-European capabilities coming our way,’ she says.

’But North America tends to be dealt with on the ground, by North


Media Information, which produces the widely-used Mediadisk, PR Planner

and Editors directories, holds the European franchise for US data

provider Bacons. However, the organisation is still concentrating on

strengthening its EU and Scandanavian information and looking to develop

Central and Eastern European and Asia Pacific services for the UK and


Media Information is reluctant to reveal details of its plans just yet

but this expansion is likely to be a combination of partnerships with

similar organisations in some regions and carrying out research from

scratch in others.

PiMS, on the other hand, has a physical US presence, with 12 researchers

based in New York, and local offices in Washington, Chicago and Los


According to marketing executive Kim Sturgess this means that PiMS data

is collected by research professionals who have an in-depth knowledge of

the US market.

This enables the company to provide US data in CD ROM, on-line, internet

and book formats covering newspapers; consumer titles; and trade and

technical publications. For Europe, PiMS tends to focus on key areas

such as the EU and conducts its research from London. But Sturgess says:

’In our research department we have people who are fluent in German,

French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic’.

While many of the traditional directory and distribution services drive

European services from the UK, PR Newswire Europe operates its

international offering through partnerships.

’We have affiliates around the world, which means we cover 20,000 news

organisations across 135 countries,’ says media relations director

Martin Huckett.

However, he is the first to highlight that in order to provide locally

tailored communications, most clued-up organisations and their PROs tend

to use different media strategies in different countries.

For directory producers and users alike, this creates a greater need for

quality information. ’We use Mediadisk Europe, but not in the same way

as Mediadisk UK,’ says Knights. ’It tends to be seen as more of a

general information source with which to draw up initial views in the

early days of a campaign,’ he adds.

Knights feels that there are some helpful international products on the

market, but says: ’Nobody has yet produced anything that is usable here

and in other countries. But if our French colleagues were also using a

particular product, that would be a real selling point.’

This issue of quality is one that will run and run, and Knights is not

alone in his doubts about how realistic it is to expect a single

organisation to provide up-to-date, user-friendly European or

international information.

Julian Henry, director of Henry’s House, says: ’We have found that

records from some international directory providers are only 70 or 80

per cent accurate, so we tend to combine such resources with our own


Henry’s House has even resorted to phoning relatives and friends to pick

up copies of international publications in their area, which are then

translated. This enables the staff to decide for themselves whether a

title’s editorial is relevant to a particular activity, client or


And despite directory and distribution specialists’ best efforts to

produce their European and global data in various media formats, those

who work in international territories on UK clients’ behalf are the most


Stuart Handley, director of EMEA at August.One Communications, says:

’There is always a deficiency with an off-the shelf product. On a

national basis I am uneasy about the quality of such tools; add the

international factor and I have very little confidence.’

The problem is that while a small percentage of bad data may be

acceptable for a large direct mailing exercise to consumers, for PROs

looking to reach powerful audiences such as journalists, government

officers and analysts, there is no room for error.

To help address the problem of accuracy, web-based information provider

The Source, which covers IT and telecoms, displays record update details

for users. ’You can see how up-to-date our information is and if people

aren’t happy about things we encourage them to tell us,’ says MD Daryl


He feels that it is important for database providers to place the

emphasis on service and adds: ’This means we’re quite expensive, but we

believe we have better quality information as a result.’

Last April, The Source hired a raft of multilingual researchers to

expand its FeaturesExec and Sourcewire services - for PROs and

journalists respectively - further into Europe this year.

But Willcox accepts that the role of directories is changing, not least

in the IT sector. With the crossover of technology into the lifestyle

arena, The Source’s information is becoming increasingly


The company is set to offer US data by the end of the year, and also

plans to expand beyond its niche IT and telecoms speciality.

Directories and distribution companies are also recognising the

importance of relationships with contacts in PR, by providing

information management services. For example, The Source offers a

FeaturesExec Plus facility to create and save database searches by key

words. ’I’ve always said that we don’t sell information, we sell the

means to search for it,’ says Willcox.

Similarly PiMS’ PR Organiser product, which launched last November, is

an interlinked system that enables users to combine their own data with

PiMS, produce and save custom-built lists, schedule and record media

activities and integrate functions such as features calendars.

According to many PR operators, it is these information and relationship

management facilities that turn a directory or distribution service into

a more worthwhile tool. ’We believe that a PR agency should have a

bespoke system that facilitates communications via the web,’ says Robert

Phillips, joint founding partner of Jackie Cooper PR.

His agency has recently invested in an in-house global directory on the

company intranet. Due to officially launch on 1 June, this has been

implemented in partnership with a database company and will be updated

daily by a dedicated database manager.

’It’s got a campaign-specific and general media section, a personal

contacts database which allows you to keep call histories, a client,

staff and accounts database and hyperlinks into outside information

sources such as web services,’ says Phillips. An added bonus is that it

operates as an agency diary, so staff can check other people’s

availability when scheduling meetings or confirm other colleagues’ media


As companies become increasingly technically literate, it seems likely

that international directory and distribution services that are

web-based and flexible for the user will fair the best.

August.One’s Handley believes that the most effective tool for

information distribution is the wire services. ’The wires are more

powerful now than 12 months ago, with even the news aggregation sites

using them, so they are a good way of extending your reach on-line,’ he


While the traditional directory specialists still produce hard copy

formats of their data, they are addressing this need for faster

distribution solutions.

PR Newswire’s Huckett says: ’We are moving to more immediate

communications with flexible products like Media Manager, where you can

import your own lists, merge them, cut them and distribute information

by journalists’ preference.’

In common with the likes of PiMS and Media Information PR Newswire

offers an internet site and web services using push and pull technique.

The directory and distribution companies have been quick to embrace the

possibilities for improving the global, or at least European, usefulness

of their products, as well as new technology. This rapid evolution means

that they are unlikely to become obsolete, even if they lose their

traditional background.

According to Huckett: ’There is no doubt that there are people who ask

’why the hell do I need to use you, when I can build my own database

from my desktop?’, and that means some of the tradition areas of our

business may eventually die out,’ he says. ’But we think that because of

the moves towards global information and the importance of quality data,

we will still be in business in ten years’ time.’

To ensure that this prophesy holds true, PR Newswire is currently

involved in a major exercise to examine changes in international data

protection acts, address on-line communication issues, such as spamming,

and identify a direction for the business over the next five to ten


PiMS’ Sturgess is similarly optimistic, predicting an increased drive to

more bespoke services. ’The nature of directories will probably change

to become more specific to individual requirements,’ she says.

It is apparent that on-line digital communications is having a huge

impact on PROs’ demands for flexible, international data and delivery


With all the buzz around the possibilities of integrating software with

new WAP technology and Short Messaging Services (SMS) there are sure to

be even more exciting directory and distribution solutions on the



New international directory and distribution developments to look out


FeaturesExec -The Source

Last summer, FeaturesExec extended its web-based, hi-tech forward

features service to central western Europe. This now includes 320 German

and Austrian IT publications, 234 French media titles and 23 Swiss

contacts. In March, The Source added southern Europe to its database,

providing 39 Italian and 45 Spanish hi-tech magazines. A directory of

250 UK freelance IT journalists is also now available and currently

being expanded to include Europe.

The Source is planning to offer a US directory within the next 12


Media Manager - PR Newswire Europe

Launched last September, this is an on-line media contacts management

system which places data on the desktop with a round-the-clock update

facility. It contains UK and European data and has information on 69,000

contacts and 28,000 titles across Western Europe and Scandanavia. To

ensure quality delivery, each record indicates a journalist’s preferred

method of receiving information. An internet version of this service

will be available by the end of 2000.

NEWSdesk - PR Newswire Europe

Relaunched last June, this is an internet-based news distribution system

that accesses over 15,000 journalists in 80 countries worldwide. It

covers hi-tech, healthcare, entertainment and transport media

specialists and enables them to filter stories according to their

interests. For PROs this ensures that the right stories hit the right

journalist and provides a means of tracking press releases.

PR Organiser - PiMS

Launched last November, PR Organiser uses SalesLogix software to offer

data that enables users to manage media activities and integrate them

into other business areas. An internet link means that updated PiMS

media data can be imported at the user’s request and the tool also

includes functions like integrated calendars and customer


PRality - Vocus

This totally web-based solution is not new, but it offers a complete

database of editorial contacts in the US. It also enables organisations

to create media lists for distributing news and press enquiries, and has

a forward features and news tracking facility. In addition there is a

Government Relations database with biographies and staff listings for

targeting legislators.

ProfNet - PR Newswire Europe

To be launched across Europe later this year. This is a service

originally set up with academics - and currently available in the US -

which builds an interactive bridge between experts in various sectors

and journalists.

It enables PROs to identify editorial opportunities for top company

executives by responding to the particular interests and queries of

journalists on deadline.

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