Pity the world’s forests - the paperless office it seems is still a
distant dream. In the PR world the evidence is in the continuing use of
paper-based media directories and distribution of press releases using
post and fax.
’I think paper-based directories will last for at least ten more years,’
says Gary Zabel, managing director of Hollis Directories which publishes
Willings Press Guide.
Colin Taylor, marketing manager at PiMS, agrees: ’I don’t doubt we’ll be
producing paper directories in five years’ time, and I can easily see us
still doing it in ten years, although maybe not in the same quantity as
now and it might be a different range of more specialised, niche
Taylor believes that many people still turn to directories because they
find the familiarity reassuring. Ease and speed of access is another
’It takes ten to 15 seconds to flick through and look up the information
you need. I’ve just been trying to log onto the internet and it’s very
sluggish,’ adds Zabel.
Print directories are also more transportable than a computer. Nick
Elliott, sales manager at Media Information, which publishes the media
guide Editors says: ’Editors sells particularly well because it’s
For example, if you only want the nationals you can just take volume one
in your briefcase.’
Amanda Arciero, sales director at Two-Ten Communications says: ’A lot of
consultancies have our on-line directory Targeter and a print directory
they can take to pitches and flick through for category codes.’
Cost, inevitably, also forms part of the equation. For example, the
2-volume Willings Press Guide costs pounds 189 or an annual subscription
to PiMS UK Media Directory with monthly updates costs pounds 365. By
comparison, the entry level price for a CD-ROM version, says Taylor, is
pounds 1,700 while if you were to subscribe to PiMS’ on-line service
prices start at around pounds 3,000.
Cost tends to go hand-in-hand with the issue of technology. PiMS has
looked at areas such as charities and found that they don’t have the
resources to be able to use technology such as CD-ROM.
A widely perceived problem with print directories has been their ability
to provide up-to-date information. Sending a press release to an editor
who left months ago is a recurring nightmare for many in the
But Taylor claims that print directories need not necessarily be much
more out of date than CD-ROM or even on-line services.
PiMS has a database of 200,000 contacts and a team of 12 media
researchers in the UK and Europe, plus another team of six based in New
York. The company operates a rolling programme of telephone
verification, contacting nationals, leading consumer and big trade and
technical publications at least every eight weeks, and contacting all
titles at least once a year.
Taylor estimates that 10,000 updates a month are made.
Two-Ten also has a 12-strong media research team and contacts nationals
every month, says Arciero, while major trade sectors such as hi-tech and
healthcare are contacted every two months and more specialist trade
titles approximately every six months. Around 7,000 changes a week are
made to the 300,000 contacts on Two-Ten’s media database.
This system of updating may not be perfect and means that information
could be anything from two months’ old for nationals up to a year for
smaller trade titles, but without throwing huge resources at the problem
it seems hard to see how it could be improved. In the future e-mail
updating may provide an answer, but this would put the onus on the media
to supply information about changes.
Therefore, newness of information may not be a sufficient reason for
choosing a CD-ROM or even on-line service rather than a print directory,
especially as some of these are published monthly. The main reason
people opt for CD-ROM or on-line is increased functionality.
An obvious advantage of electronic media databases is the speed and
sophistication of searching. Type in key criteria and within seconds
users can have a tailor-made media list. Packages such as Media
Information’s Mediadisk and Two-Ten’s Targeter also allow users to make
notes about specific media.
Once lists have been compiled it is also easy to print labels or e-mail
them for distribution.
Several companies are now offering media directories on CD-ROM,
including Media Information and PiMS. Hollis Directories is considering
bringing out a CD version next year, providing research proves
However, some in the industry are questioning CD-ROM’s future. ’We view
CD as a half-way house,’ says Arciero. ’We believe that for clients who
need data that is up-to-date it has to be on-line.’
At the moment clients who choose an on-line service because of the
sophistication of media searching and the integrated distribution it
allows are paying a hefty premium. Two-Ten’s Targeter Gold, for example,
which contains information on more than 15,000 titles with over 50,000
contacts in the UK costs pounds 1,925 for an annual subscription plus a
registration and installation fee of pounds 385.
Not surprisingly, therefore use is limited to larger agencies and
in-house departments. But the market is growing. Arciero reports that
sales of Targeter are growing by around 40 per cent a year, and says
that financial consultancies have been a particular growth sector.
’On-line is quite a specialist animal,’ admits Taylor. ’Only the very
big consultancies doing quite complex media research and people doing
international and pan-European research, are using it. You’re paying for
bang up-to-date data, and a premium service demands a premium
But how much longer will on-line be regarded as a premium service?
’Probably the key issue is the internet, it’s almost inevitable we will
be giving people access to data in future via the net,’ says Taylor.
Two-Ten is planning to trial Targeter on the internet in early
’We haven’t decided how it will work yet in terms of access or
Probably next year, depending on the results of the trial, we’ll look at
putting full functionality on the web,’ says Bill Leask, research and
development director at Two-Ten.
The internet may also be the medium of the future for press release
distribution, but progress has been slow. PiMS’ recently-released
research showed quite conclusively that journalists still prefer to
receive press releases through the post - with the exception of the
nationals where 80 per cent prefer to receive them by fax. ’Even IT
correspondents have a fairly low level of interest in receiving e-mail;
40 to 60 per cent still prefer the post,’ reports Taylor.
Reasons given for not wanting to receive press releases by e-mail
included: it clogs up the system, you need to remember to look for it,
it’s time-consuming, and there are formatting problems.
Nevertheless there are some sectors which are more receptive to
electronic distribution. Last year Two-Ten launched a trade newswire to
the specialist IT publishing groups at VNU, Ziff Davis, Reed, Future,
Microscope and the IT supplements of the nationals. Now the company is
considering launching a similar service for the financial sector. ’Most
analysts have access to all newsfeeds through their trading systems so
reaching them is relatively easy. Now we’ve got to ask if they want it,’
Two-Ten also hopes to have solved the problem of journalists in other
sectors being swamped with e-mailed press releases. It is about to
relaunch its web site with a new feature - newsdesks aimed at particular
industry sectors. The newsdesks will contain core press releases and
more detailed information.
’We will give journalists the opportunity to build their own web
The newsdesks will also provide a way for us to get feedback about what
they want and how they want it,’ says Leask.
If the idea takes off it could provide a useful added way to reach
journalists, without risking aggravating them by sending unsolicited
PERSONAL SERVICES: DISCOVERING WHAT JOURNALISTS WANT
PR News, a newsletter for the PR industry in the US, has been running
its Media Insight page for more than a year now. This looks at when and
how editors at major broadcast stations, newspapers, magazines and wire
services in the US like to receive press releases and story pitches, and
has apparently been warmly received by readers.
Due to the success of the venture, PR News has now produced what it
anticipates will be an annual publication, the Media Insight Guide,
available free to its subscribers, which lists the preferences of
editors at more than 100 media outlets. Information for the guide is
gathered by PR News’ team of reporters, but inevitably with an annual
publication there is the danger that details will be out of date. So
just how much use is the guide?
’The feedback we’ve had from subscribers is that they find it very
useful,’ says Matt Rogers of PR News. ’It’s value depends on the
situation, and everyone’s situation is different. Most people aren’t
going to use it as their sole source of information, it’s more of a
guide to where to go,’ he adds.
Two-Ten is currently working on a product called Optima which will
include similar information to the Media Insight Guide, but aims to be
be more comprehensive and sophisticated.
’The first stage of Optima is to find out how journalists want to
receive information,’ explains Two-Ten research and development
director, Bill Leask.
’The next stage is to ask how they want to receive information on
particular days of the week, bearing in mind that an increasing number
of journalists work in different places on different days of the week.
Stage three will be to find out what sort of information they want - for
example, some analysts and financial journalists want to receive
summaries of financial data on the newswire but may want the full annual
Leask admits: ’It’s a simple concept, but an awful lot of work’. In late
March Two-Ten was trialling the idea with journalists, and hoping to
start bulk research in April.
But just how much information about approaching the media do people in
PR want? ’Any PR operator should know the best time to make a move,’
believes Communique PR managing director, Paul Carroll. ’Having said
that the more information people can provide the better.’ Communique
already uses the facility offered by Mediadisk to add personal contact
’As the media becomes fragmented we need to keep our own bespoke
We’re very keen to get to the stage where we can create e-mail lists for
all our clients and e-mail all our press releases out,’ says
OVERSEAS AID: STEERING INFORMATION TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Getting a press release into the international media obviously presents
more questions than tackling the domestic market. Can you do it
adequately using a UK based service, or is it better to use a service
with specialist local knowledge in the countries you’re targeting?
The specialists based in the UK certainly have comprehensive
Two-Ten’s European Media Directory lists 70,000 contacts in over 27,000
PiMS’ European database contains details of 12,000 newspapers, 5,000
contacts on consumer magazines and 8,000 on trade and technical
publications in 15 countries. Media Information provides PR Planner
Europe, Mediadisk Europe and Bacon’s Media Directories for the US and
Effective distribution is heavily dependent on accurate targeting, and
the UK-based services make much of the ability of their media research
teams to speak several languages between them. The PiMS team speaks 12
European languages and the Two-Ten team speaks 11.
PiMS also has a separate media research team in the US. ’The US media is
huge and needs specialist knowledge. Our US newspaper directory alone
has details of 18,000 daily papers and 30,000 contacts,’ says PiMS
marketing manager Colin Taylor.
Approaches to distribution differ, but Two-Ten claims to offer a unique
advantage. For international distribution it recommends using its
newswire service that feeds into more than 5,000 major media in 135
The company also offers specialist packages for hi-tech and financial
releases. All newswire material is also released simultaneously on
Two-Ten’s web site.
Language differences and the logistical problems of sourcing a reputable
supplier make UK-based distribution services an attractive proposition
for tackling Europe. The huge US market may be a different matter.
’If you’re targeting North America nobody in Europe can compete with the
database and depth of coverage we have,’ claims Don Bates, managing
director of marketing and new media at Media Distribution Services based
in New York. The MDS database has 250,000 contacts at more than 50,000
print and broadcast media.
’We have 25 people working full-time doing updates and we’re the only
company in North America doing daily updates, which is key for our
clients,’ says Bates.
MDS has ten service centres across North America and uses fax and mail
for distribution. ’We’re doing an increasing amount of work for PR
agencies in other countries that want to distribute in North America,’
INTERACTIVE: KEEPING MYLES AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION
UK-PR.Com claims to be the world’s first interactive press release
service. The idea is the brainchild of Myles Communication Group, the PR
agency run by former BBC TV reporter Bruce Myles and ex-Daily Mirror
reporter Pam Myles, which has scooped prizes in the PR Week Awards for
Writing Excellence for the last four years.
The service, found at www.uk-pr.com, is aimed principally at overseas
companies looking to target the UK media. To make it successful Myles
has invested heavily in domain names on the web, including:
uk-public-relations, press-releases, health-pr, financial-pr,
consumer-pr, business-pr, corporate-pr, trade-pr and legal-pr. Any
company that enters a search using these generic names should be
directed to a Myles PR web site.
’We believe impatient people like me will get fed up with the search
engines and just type on their home page what they want to find,’ says
Pam Myles. ’Some of the latest web browsers will automatically add the
http: www and com to the name - so one way or another the majority of
these people will now go straight to a Myles PR site.’ As an extra
safety net, however, Myles is also working hard to get its sites
featured in the main search engines.
Once they have reached the site potential clients will be able to e-mail
the information they wish to be written into a press release, or print
off a standard form and fax back their details. Within 48 hours Myles
promises to send back a press release together with a suggested
The cost of the service has yet to be determined, but Myles insists it
will be cost-effective. ’We’re trying to keep the cost below that of a
traditional service. It’s particularly relevant to people overseas who
want to get into the UK media but don’t have the budget to employ an
international agency,’ says Pam Myles.
As well as producing press releases, Myles will also offer distribution,
using the Mediadisk media database. Distribution, however, will not be
via the internet but using the more traditional method of the fax, and
e-mail where appropriate.
’Newspapers at the moment can’t support e-mail so we’ll use fax to get
to newsdesks. We will use e-mail to get to freelancers who use it,’ says
The service is still in the development stages and initial interest has
come mostly from the US, but Myles is confident of success.
’With four wins for Writing Excellence and a team of top former
journalists we feel there is no-one better equipped to offer worldwide
web users a press release service targeting the UK media,’ says Pam