Magazine article Marketing

Pressing PR into Service

Magazine article Marketing

Pressing PR into Service

Article excerpt

Saving time is the aim of the increasingly sophisticated PR support sector. Matt Fearnley looks at some major players

Just a few weeks ago, London and Leeds-based PR group Infopress established a subsidiary, Infopress Communications, to offer a computerised media evaluation service and an IT consultancy service for press offices and communications consultancies.

The media evaluation system, called IMPACT, is carried out by home-based, independent evaluators who communicate with Infopress by electronic mail and disk transfer. Consolidation of the results and trend analyses are carried out on a DEC VAX computer system running Infopress's in-house software and the results are presented graphically.

Meanwhile, Infopress Communications also carries out communications consultancy. Dermot McKeone, the company's managing director, says: "A gulf is beginning to emerge between organisations which can respond rapidly and publicly to changing situations, and those which rely on steam-age technology to communicate."

This move, a seemingly backward vertical move from one of the UK's top PR companies, is indicative of the PR services market at the moment. For while PR, like all marketing and corporate service areas, has suffered, it has encouraged a sophisticated and competitive service industry to support it. This support industry has come of age in the past 18 months or so -- so much so that it is rapidly becoming core PR business.

Innovation is particularly marked within the offerings of the "big three" integrated support companies, The Romeike Group, Two Ten -- the product of a merger last year between The Press Association's Universal News Service and PNA -- and PIMS. This, and improved quality across the board, have ensured continued growth and success for most of the PR service players.

And while in-house and consultancy staff have been shed, there is yet more demand for the support services which are, at their simplest, selling saved time.

Mediadisk Plus, a classy new software service from The Romeike Group's PR Newslink, carries out media searches and pin-pointing via a range of classifications including town, region, journalist or named contact, subject area, media type, title, circulation, or a mixture of all of these and more, in minutes instead of hours.

It lists over 8000 media titles, programmes and stations and over 20,000 named editorial contacts with the facilities to add personalised information and contacts, and keep these personal additions secret if the system is multi-user. Ten permanent researchers update the information every day.

It even interfaces with word processing packages and is online to other PR Newslink services geared to distribution.

Stephen George, PR Newslink's managing director, says, "Increasingly, companies realise they can't achieve improved efficiency from people anymore. Jobs have been cut or, quite simply, everything has been done to encourage better working practice. Now, increased productivity must come from time-saving technology."

George believes PR Newslink has reaped the benefits of being a late entrant in the PR services market: "Nothing stands still and we've been able to put in many details to our system which enhances it greatly in the eyes of our market."

For the not so technical, and according to a recent Mori survey into technophobia, that's up to 47% of UK businesses, PR Newslink also produces the six-volume media directory Editors and PR Planner; there are several international selection and distribution packages, too.

PR Newslink's parent, The Romeike Group, aims to support the PRO's press release "from the cradle to the grave". George explains: "There are four stages of support. The PR Planner products are concerned with media selection, the PR Newslink services concentrate on distribution, the press clipping bureau Romeike and Curtice deals with media monitoring and the fledgling Media Works measures and evaluates coverage. …

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