Ensuring your message reaches the right target can be a real challenge, even for the most seasoned PR professional. For many, the solution is to use a database of media contacts from a company that has a team of researchers dedicated to keeping information up to date.
Waymaker, the UK's leading supplier of media contact and distribution tools, is one of those companies. Waymaker possesses more than 30 years' experience in providing the PR industry with tools for the selection of contacts, the delivery of news releases and the evaluation and analysis of media campaigns. In fact, nearly 90 per cent of the PRWeek Top 150 PR Agencies and nearly 50 per cent of the top 100 FTSE companies are Waymaker clients, while over 79 per cent of the Top 150 use Mediadisk, the company's premier solution.
With a choice of online and desktop versions, Mediadisk delivers more information than any other provider, with around 650,000 named contacts and 150,000 media outlets.
And, as Waymaker's deputy managing director Andy Rothery explains, Mediadisk provides the ultimate resource for PR professionals: 'Our database contains information on all the titles and individuals that really matter', says Rothery. 'But it's much more than just a contact database - the system's comprehensive management reporting tools allow customers to demonstrate the amount of activity that's taking place - an ever increasing need in today's culture of accountability.'
But with so many entries, maintaining an up-to-the-minute global database is far from easy. That's why Waymaker has introduced a rolling programme of verification to ensure its records of contacts, and how those contacts prefer to receive information, are as accurate as possible to allow PR professionals to use the system with confidence.
Rothery is justly proud of his company's record for providing the most comprehensive and accurate data on the market: 'We've invested heavily in making sure we are able to keep abreast of changes within the media landscape as and when they happen,' he says. 'We have a dedicated research operation that regularly approaches all media outlets to ensure the data we hold is correct.'
While Waymaker relies heavily on telephone contact and questionnaires to keep its data accurate, researchers at the company's Buckinghamshire headquarters are also tasked with monitoring the media on an ongoing basis to spot any changes and trends. And, thanks to the nature of Mediadisk, that means customers can benefit from the latest changes just hours after they occur.
However, Rothery is clear that the researching of information for inclusion in Mediadisk has become more strategic in recent years as PROs become more sophisticated in their contact with journalists.
'Not only do we find out who's gone where, but we also examine the preferences of particular publications to find out which delivery methods they like, and what kind of stories: be it case studies, personal interviews or short news items. That way we can ensure PROs are armed with the best possible tools when it comes to selling-in their own ideas,' he says.
Even so, Rothery remains unconvinced whether many PROs are using Mediadisk as effectively as they might. He claims many consultancies and in-house departments are not being lateral enough in the way they identify journalists for their stories, and that means many potential opportunities in vertical sectors are being missed.
Of course, PROs don't just have to use Waymaker's data. The unique nature of Mediadisk also means customers are able to store their own contacts and information within the system. These records remain private to the client and provide the ideal solution for recording contact with journalists and publications to manage existing and future campaigns.
Another challenge facing the PR industry is the growing trend of globalisation.
That means 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 online and broadcast communications, creates a challenge to provide a world picture in order to help PR people hit their global targets
'Certainly the internet means that a lot of PR is automatically internationalised, whether people like it or not, and that means demand for pan-European capabilities is on the rise,' says Rothery. 'Our European research operation is also based in the UK, so we are well placed to provide our customers with the very best global data. In our research department we have people who are fluent in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and many other languages, while we also have partnerships with the leading data providers around the world.'
While a small percentage of bad data may be acceptable for marketers, for PROs looking to reach powerful audiences such as journalists, government officers and analysts, there is no room for error. That's just one of the reasons Waymaker places so much emphasis on making sure its data is the very best available.
Rothery recognises that the most valuable feedback of all comes from the company's customers: 'These are the people who are using our data on a daily basis. If they do discover a contact has changed we encourage them to tell us,' he says. 'We're then committed to researching and updating that particular record within 24 hours.'
He feels that it is important for database providers to place the emphasis on service and adds: 'This might mean that we're not in the cost-cutting arena, unlike some of our competitors, but we believe we have better quality information as a result. Those customers who are switching to us from other suppliers are saying that is definitely the case and it's something we're really proud of.' www.waymaker.co.uk.