Electronic publishing has presented a potentially lucrative
opportunity to PR consultancies and contract publishers. Publishing on the
internet and CD-ROM offers a means of bypassing traditional media and
gives entry to areas which have formerly been the domain of direct
marketing and sales promotions agencies.
’A lot of companies rushed to put up boring web sites and then left
That’s where we come in, by providing fresh and interesting third-party
editorial,’ says Craig Waller, managing director of contract publisher
Premier Magazines which recently set up Premier Interactive, specialising
in electronic publishing.
Premier Interactive is currently working with fellow Omnicom company
Agency.Com on a web site for British Airways which will give details of
in-flight entertainment and profile city destinations. There are plans to
encourage greater interactivity by inviting people who have flown with the
airline to write a critique of films thaey have seen and list their
favourite in-flight programmmes.
’With on-line publications you can get people to contribute and
participate in a much more immediate and lively way,’ says Waller.
PR agency Noiseworks is also making the most of its ability to provide
lively content by developing what it calls WebZines. ’The only difference
between these and traditional corporate web sites is content,’ explains
managing director Nick Hayes. ’Our argument is - let’s find a reason for
people to come back to a site, which means you effectively have to turn it
into an interactive magazine.’
Hayes sees huge potential in linking clients to their marketplace through
the web. ’Relationship marketing on the web allows you to understand your
customer and market directly to them.’
The concept of WebZines for relationship marketing has allowed Noiseworks
to offer something extra when it comes to winning business. ’We go into
new business pitches now and make a link between PR and sales. If you can
show that the work you do can increase sales then you can make a good
profit,’ says Hayes.
Noiseworks is currently developing WebZines for Lotus and Hewlett-Packard,
and expects to unveil the Lotus site in the next couple of months.
Content, says Hayes, will include company positioning and product details,
press stories and schematics of ad campaigns as well as information about
exhibitions, seminars and discounts.
PC retailer Gateway 2000 has gone one step further and is already selling
via the web. ’You can choose the components you want to make up your PC
and buy with your credit card,’ says Geri Ellis, business development
director of interactive communications agency Fusion Interactive, a
subsidiary of contract publisher TPD, which produces the site.
TPD sister company Bear Park, a publisher of specialist IT magazines, is
using a web site carrying a synopsis of the content of its magazines to
sell subscriptions. In the first three months 1,000 were sold, which in a
niche market is pretty impressive.
Key to developing relationship marketing on the internet is creating new
techniques to encourage people to visit sites.
Hi-tech agency A Plus, for example, is using an e-mail alert system to
inform journalists when a relevant press release has been posted on its
’In relationship marketing the aim is to generate an ongoing and direct
dialogue with the customer. Say you’ve got 10,000 people you wish to
reach, you can push information to them, encourage them to respond by
e-mail, and then tailor products and services specifically to them,’ says
Andrew Smith, group account director at A Plus.
Getting people to fill in all their details and register at sites can be
difficult, but Smith says that the introduction of a ’digital passport’
will help overcome this barrier. ’You will be able to fill in your details
once and then register automatically with different sites, which will
increase the uptake of people using the web,’ says Smith.
One of the attractions of the internet, often quoted by those interested
in electronic publishing, is its ability to reach a huge audience. ’With
customer loyalty magazines you’re talking to existing members in most
cases. With the web you have a potential recruitment vehicle,’ says
However, with figures suggesting that only two per cent of households in
the UK are connected to the internet, the number of potential recruits is
not, at present, great.
’Consumer use hinges on web TV,’ suggests Smith. Jim Addison, managing
director of contract publisher Specialist Publications, agrees: ’From next
year, when you will be able to get televisions with internet capability,
access to the net for consumers will be easier. But in the immediate
future I don’t believe electronic publishing will totally replace the
It is the business-to-business sector which makes the most effective use
of the internet for relationship marketing. ’The mistake many people make
with the internet is thinking that because you can reach a large audience
you should try to cultivate a large audience. The most effective sites are
those that talk to a few people but tell them exactly what they want to
know,’ says Charles Cohen, managing director of Thought Interactive, a
spin-off from PR agency Band and Brown.
Microsoft is also taking the narrowcasting approach with hundreds of
mini-sites aimed at particular audiences. Fusion Interactive is producing
a bi-monthly on-line newsletter aimed at PC manufacturers. ’Microsoft is
using the magazine as a key relationship marketing tool to improve
relations on a one-to-one basis,’ explains Ellis.
As the internet becomes ever more powerful, many believe that CD-ROM has
had its day. But there are those who think the disc still has its place.
Tim Hazelhurst is chairman of IAS Marketing and Communication which
specialises in relationship marketing for building materials clients such
as Eternit and TAC targeting architects, local authority planners and
’Forty per cent of architects have access to the internet and half use it
for things other than e-mail. Over the last two years CD-ROM penetration
in this sector has increased from 40 per cent to 65 per cent and almost
all use it regularly,’ says Hazelhurst.
IAS clients are supplied with CD-ROMs which are quicker for downloading
pictures and graphics. ’The internet is still far too slow for an
architect to be able to pull down colour pictures showing roof slating
techniques, for example,’ says Hazelhurst.
A Plus recently produced a CD-ROM for IBM called Seminar in a Box,
intended to create relationships with dealers and resellers and help them
sell products. The disc contains video and sound clips, which Smith feels
could not be adequately handled by the internet. ’Even with faster modems
I don’t think video and audio are truly viable on the internet at the
moment,’ he says.
Addison is another who can see a role for the CD-ROM in contract
’The penetration of machines is such that if you’re active in the right
sector you could use CD-ROM now,’ he says.
Electronic publishing is a burgeoning market, but whether CD-ROM will have
a significant role to play when the internet becomes a truly consumer
medium remains to be seen.
CASE STUDY: DISSEMINATING DISASSEMBLY INFORMATION
Six international construction groups are currently bidding to carry out
the disposal of Shell’s Brent Spar oil platform. Over the next three
months the bids will be analysed and discussed by a range of interested
parties including environmental groups, government departments, the media
and academia before Shell makes its proposal to the Department of Trade
and Industry in the autumn on the best way forward.
’Our biggest challenge is to explain to a wide, non-technical audience the
complexities and engineering issues that need to be resolved,’ says Eric
Faulds, decommissioning manager for Shell Exploration and Production.
Shell began using CD-ROMs more than a year ago to store the many public
reports it produces. Late last year it decided to explore the technology
further by producing a CD-ROM giving the background and general
information on Brent Spar. The disc won a Certificate of Merit in the UK
Communicators in Business Awards earlier this year.
For the next stage of the Brent Spar project - analysis of the disposal
bids - Faulds had no hesitation in turning to CD-ROM again. ’The CD’s
interactivity and its detailed animation and video sequences make it much
easier to understand and follow than the written word.’
The Brent Spar project also has its own web site containing information,
reports and press releases, but this was not considered as an alternative
to CD-ROM for detailed information and explanation about the disposal
bids. ’The internet was a non-starter. It’s not useful for running sound
and pictures. You can’t get people to download that volume of data, it
would take days,’ says Faulds.
The six contractors were asked to supply information about their
Multimedia production company Image Blueprint of Aberdeen, working with
software company Traquair Software, then turned this into a three-minute
computer simulation in 3D plus more detailed information in the form of a
2D animation and a company profile for the CD-ROM. ’It was important all
bids were treated equally. We didn’t want it to turn into a competition
between bidders as to who could produce the best graphics,’ says
One thousand copies of the CD-ROM have been produced so far and the disc
will be used at a series of dialogue seminars being run around Europe.
Environmentalists, consumer groups, trade unions, government
representatives, academics and journalists are some of the other
While CD-ROM has been chosen as the most suitable medium for the job, a
video containing a synopsis of the CD-ROM has also been produced. ’Not
everyone has a CD-ROM drive,’ explains Faulds. ’I suspect CD-ROM is a
medium for the future and will become better as more and more people get
CD-ROM disc drives.’
CASE STUDY: HOOKING UP TO ANNUAL REPORTS
Several companies have put extracts of their annual report on the
internet, but Reuters claims to have been the first company in the UK to
publish its complete annual report on the web on the same day the printed
version was received by shareholders.
’The annual report is the principal document that presents Reuters to the
world, and the internet enables us to reach a much wider audience.
An electronic annual report also has advantages because it can be updated
and made more live,’ explains Peter Gregson, manager of corporate
publications at Reuters.
Corporate Graphics International, a specialist in corporate identity and
annual reports, began work on the web version of the annual report
simultaneously with the printed version in September. ’The theme for the
annual report this year was embracing the internet and there are net
analogies throughout the report. The printed version is like a manual for
the on-line version showing internet users where to click for additional
information,’ says CGI’s client services director Jo Sumner.
Reuters annual report went on-line on Monday 24 March and by Friday 28
March (Good Friday) it had registered 396 hits. ’For an annual report we’d
measure this as successful,’ comments Sumner.
Gregson is convinced of the value of putting annual reports on-line.
’It adds to our general reach to a broad spectrum of people. Our home page
would be incomplete if we didn’t have an annual report on it.’
The annual report will stay on-line for a year, and Reuters’ half-year
figures will be added when they come out in July. There are more ambitious
plans for next year’s on-line annual report. ’Hopefully we will make it
more live and interactive. We’re exploring the idea of regularly updating
Reuters’ share price and other graphs,’ says Gregson.
Sumner adds that planning is in the early stages, but suggests that CGI
will be looking at adding press releases, analyst comment and an e-mail
facility to answer visitors’ questions.