Once, media information services simply provided thick directories of contacts or extensive mailing lists. Now thanks to the growth of technology, directories are evolving into vast electronic databases and press releases into ’blast’ e-mails and online press kits.
Once, media information services simply provided thick directories
of contacts or extensive mailing lists. Now thanks to the growth of
technology, directories are evolving into vast electronic databases and
press releases into ’blast’ e-mails and online press kits.
But do PR pros really need these services? If you’ve been working in the
same sector for some time, the answer is probably no. By now, you should
have close relationships with the key journalists on your beat, so you
can fax or phone them with a story. Even Don Bates, managing
director/marketing and new media at Media Distribution Services, admits
that the average mail-out is less than 300 releases.
However, there’s no doubt that media information services can help you
polish your mailing list and hone your media plan. It’s unlikely that
any one agency has as many media contacts on its books as the average
information vendor. MDS, for example, has a database of 200,000. These
are updated daily by 25 full-time staff making 7 to 8,000 phone calls a
month. Burrelle’s provides directories and CD-ROMs and generates mailing
lists from a database of more than 300,000 contacts.
These services can also take the headache out of a mailer. MDS charges
around a dollar per page to print and fax press releases to a set list
of journalists. They’re happy to provide advice, too. Bates says: ’Say
you’re promoting a drug that helps physically disabled people. You’re
going to want to target the national news outlets and the trade
But you should also identify web sites dealing with this area and gain
access to newsletters and discussion platforms. And how about mailing
the hospitals themselves?’
Even so, many PR agencies don’t feel any one vendor fulfills all their
needs. Many of them use more than one service and incorporate their own
privately generated information into the databases provided.
Golin/Harris bought database software from MediaMap, through which it
received information from Bacon’s Online, and then combined its own
information into the program.
Senior media manager Jennifer Baker-Asiddao describes it as ’the
backbone of our media relations,’ with more than 26,000 contacts. ’We
run lists and keep it updated. It doesn’t replace personal Rolodexes,
but it can.’
In order to get the best quality as well as the best possible price, G/H
centralizes its vendors - most people within the agency use the chosen
companies. But not all agencies work that way. At Edelman, Michael
Schiferl, VP of media services, says vendors are chosen based on
clients’ requests or the preference of individual offices or divisions.
Here, too, Edelman’s proprietary databases are merged with those
purchased from its vendors.
Ketchum turns to information services during crunch times. But in
general, says VP Tom Jones, ’nothing works better than getting to know a
journalist one-on-one. If you spend your time building databases, you
take the relationships out of PR.’
Still, the vendors are obviously meeting a demand. Companies such as
Burrelle’s not only help PR execs identify the best audiences, but also
provide clip services of clients’ competitors for purposes of
’commercial intelligence,’ explains EVP Michael Israel.
Public Access of Boston, sells Press Flash, a weekly e-mail newsletter
filled with information such as upcoming editorial deadlines.
Believing that it must offer clients something more in its hard copy
directories, Public Access provides detailed studies of subjects such as
Y2K and non-disclosure for online media. Rochelle Nemrow, the service’s
VP and founder says, ’This information isn’t as time- sensitive, but
more contextual, which electronic delivery isn’t as good for.’
Probably the newest trend in information services, though, is the move
toward electronic delivery of information. Don Bates of MDS says that
currently, journalists prefer to receive press releases via traditional
mail or fax. But Bates believes they are happy to be e-mailed by pros
who know them and are providing relevant information. ’We now have the
ability to send out blast e-mails - electronic press releases - and we
expect them to be used more and more,’ he says. Electronic press kits
are also likely to emerge in the near future.
Electronic directories are also becoming more popular. ’We can do more
planning and management of information with electronic media,’ says
Michael Buxbaum, director of business development at Bacon’s Information
Even so, he says pros still use traditional directories. ’We thought
five years ago that everything would be electronic, that it would
cannibalize our books.’ But sales of Bacon’s hard copy directories are
up. ’Part of it is ease of use. You use directories for quick look-ups
like a phone book.’
DOs AND DON’Ts
1. Feel free to use more than one service. Don’t feel tied down by one
supplier if it is not meeting your needs.
2. Continue to develop relationships with journalists. Close links with
media contacts beat anonymous press releases every time.
3. Work closely with the service if you are using it for a mailer. Make
sure your mailing list is as small and targeted as possible.
4. Do your own homework wherever possible. Read around your subject and
identify media that you may need to contact.
1. Feel you have to rely on media information services. Experience and
even gut instinct still have their place.
2. Assume that information services will catch everything. They are a
tool, not a crutch.
3. Hand your own mailing list to a service without taking advice. These
people are aware of a wide range of media and can point out useful
4. Get blinded by science. Surveys indicate that journalists still
prefer to receive releases via traditional mail and fax, rather than