When interviewed by IIBN, Jack Murray CEO of MediaHQ revealed that MediaHQ is a Media Contacts Database and press release distribution hub. Our software specialises in helping PR teams eliminate grunt work, by enabling them to build media lists in seconds and to manage all of their media relations in one place.

With over 60,000 media contacts listed, MediaHQ has comprehensive details of every journalist, media outlet, and media opportunity in the UK and Ireland.

Our users include PR professionals and teams in organisations like Savills, Apple Green, World Vision, Dublin Airport, Skoda, Prepaid Financial Services, Argos, The Samaritans, and Médecins Sans Frontières and a number of government departments.

In 2019 MediaHQ made a major expansion into the UK market.

Our benefits include:

  • The best research – We have over 60,000 UK and Irish contacts and 12,000 organisations. Our email success rate is over 95%.
  • Lists – Build any media list in seconds and effectively target the right journalists for your story.
  • PinPoint Search: Our powerful search allows you to find the right journalists in seconds, to quickly build media lists and to send your press release or pitch from your own email address.
  • Reports and Analysis: Detailed reports and analysis of all your media pitches and press releases – opens, clicks and comparison graphs.
  • Team Management – Manage all your team’s media outreach in one place.
  • GDPR – MediahQ will manage all of your opt-outs in one place – https://mediahq.com/gdpr/
  • Bouncing Emails – MediaHQ will fix your bounced emails.
  • Schedule and Personalise – Press Releases can be scheduled and personalised.
  • No more double sends: Automatic duplication filter when issuing across multiple lists.
  • Who’s on the move? PR Newsfeed updated daily with all the most recent moves, so you have the utmost confidence that the person you are sending to is in the correct current role.
  • Sharp as a journalist – News Diary – be a sharp as a journalist with all the news markings in your own news diary.

How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?

I started MediaHQ in the autumn of 2006, when I purchased The Irish Media Contacts Directory publication from journalist Mike Burns. Mike, a former RTÉ News and London Editor, started the directory with his late wife Lynette Fegan in 1991.

Some Irish MEPs needed a directory of the Irish media for a European election. With the introduction of local radio in 1989 there was a significant growth in the number of contacts, and there was no simple way to keep track of who was doing what. Mike got a small European grant to get going and a new publication was born. When I took over they had been doing it for 14 years, 2020 is my 14th year at the helm. I guess Mike and I are quits.

Soon after taking over, I had a stark realisation. A printed book wasn’t fit for the purpose of keeping track of the media industry. Think about it. All the sweat, effort and grunt work that is needed to meet a print deadline for a book with about 1,200 contacts in it. The final publication is entirely correct for one moment, on one day a year, and hopelessly out of date for every other day. That’s a lot of time to have a publication more wrong than right. The information was also in the wrong format – if we were to include every one of the 6,000 or so people working in the Irish Media Industry, the book would be the size of a rather large concrete block. In tandem with this, really large organisations were purchasing one copy of the book and photocopying it for colleagues. It was a complete calamity.

Back then I had one member of staff, a new baby, a new business. I knew little or nothing about software. What could I do? Then one day a call came from Ken Robertson – the first ever self-styled “Head of Mischief” at Paddy Power. Ken wanted to order a couple of copies of the directory. We swapped some pleasantries and at the end of the call, Ken delivered the line that set my business life and MediaHQ on a completely different path.

“Would you ever do me a favour? Would you stop publishing the book and make a digital directory instead and we’ll be your first customer.”

As I put down the receiver I paused and stared at the back of my hand as I did so. I knew instantly that it was a moment. Paddy Power is one of the most technology savvy companies around and they wanted an online media contacts database. Back then I didn’t know much about technology but I knew the PR industry and PR inside out.

I reflected on what our mission was. I kept asking myself:  why do people do business with us? Why do people need us? What do we do that people really like? I realised that we weren’t in the publishing business; we were doing something entirely different. We exist to help people to shape and make the news agenda. People used our information to find the right journalist for their story. And what could we not do with a book that Ken Robertson wanted us to do? When people got our latest edition of the printed book, they still had hundreds of hours of grunt work to do – data entry and updating media lists – sifting through hundreds of pages. Imagine if we could create an online product that would solve that problem.

I wrote our mission down:

‘To help our customers to make and shape the news agenda, by taking the grunt work out of PR and allow them to focus on the things that really matter.”

I started planning. I reviewed what currently existed in the market and knew we could do better. I’m a big fan of simplicity and finding the easiest way to do the job. Out of that our four pillars grew:

  • Great research.
  • An amazing user experience.
  • Innovative software – that solves those annoying PR jobs.
  • Caring customer service.

It took a year to build the first product. I focused on fixing all those pain points I had as a political press officer. If I could fix those I knew I’d have a great product.

Give a brief account of your educational background. 

I went to secondary school in Garbally College in Ballinasloe in Co Galway. It is a great school and I was so fortunate it was our local school. I played rugby and loved my time there. At the University of Limerick  I studied a Business Degree specialising in Marketing and Agribusiness. I worked for a year before going to the DIT now TUD to study a postgraduate diploma in journalism. I knew on the first day of my postgraduate course that I was in the right place and working in the media was the place for me.

Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?

I grew up in a family business in the West of Ireland. In 1886 my Great Grandfather John Murray emigrated to New York aged 29 years to support his family. Surprisingly, he came back 10 years later with a business idea he got in the USA – a general store. He set up in the main street of Ballinasloe. That business still exists in Ballinasloe today and is run by my brother Kevin.

Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?

For the last 140 years we’ve always run businesses. It’s a great legacy and I’m really proud of it.  In truth, I don’t know what else I would do. It’s great fun being in business.

Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?

I’ve worked in the media industry since leaving college in 1998. I realised pretty quickly that it was an industry that really excited me and I was keen to build a media business. I love how it’s always changing.

What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business? 

When I left university, I worked as a journalist for 6 months. The one day I got a call out of the blue from my college course director. He’d received a call from the Deputy Government Press Secretary looking for him to recommend a press officer. We spoke about politics all the time and he recommended me. I went from working in a farming magazine to being the Party Press Officer for the Progressive Democrats, the then junior coalition partners. It was an amazing learning experience.

After that I worked in the Irish government as an advisor to the junior Finance Minister and then I set up my own corporate Public Relations Consultancy. From family business through marketing, journalist, politics and corporate PR – they all helped me to start my own business.

How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)

Initially, I was self-funded and subsequently funded through a bank loan.

Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose? 

In the first year we were figuring out what we needed to do. I had bought one business – a publishing business and I changed it into a SAAS (Software as a Service) business. Most of that first year was spent figuring that out, so I was happy with the method of funding.

For our UK expansion we were backed by Enterprise Ireland and we received some bank funding. The process of working with Enterprise Ireland is great. They have such great people and give detailed help in the process which ensures you examine all the right issues in advance of market entry.

 

What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?

When we started in 2006, it was in the days before the credit crunch, so it was reasonably easy to get bank funding.

Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?

Building the first MediaHQ platform was challenging. We had to hit pause for a year and continue to pay the bills while the first software was being built. This was a difficult time for the company. Cash was tight and we were pushing hard to build our first product. At one point I had to put in more of my own money

What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?

When I worked in public relations one of my clients had a great motto: “Persistence beats resistance.” I’ve borrowed that. I am also very creative and love change. As a business we’ve changed every three years on our journey. It keeps MediaHQ sharp and relevant.

To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?

In business, I think it is essential to lead and not to follow. You have to listen closely to what people want and deliver it. We started out publishing books, but it wasn’t fit for the purpose of keeping people up to date with the media. Nobody was going to tell us exactly what to do, but you have to listen to their pain points and find a solution that exceeds their expectations. At MediaHQ, we are very good at innovation and customer service. I think fostering creativity is important too.

What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?

A strong professional network is everything. The more people you know the easier the challenges of the world become.

My late dad Joe taught me this. He loved people and prided himself in knowing many people. The tag line on our business was ‘Deal with Joe, the man you know.” LinkedIn is a great tool for storing and visualising your network, but it’s just a tool. Your network is about the energy that you put into it yourself. One of the things that I love about the IIBN is its ethos. The members are genuinely interested in other people and how they can help them. It’s not about selling, it’s about building a relationship. That lasts far longer.

Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?

The essence of entrepreneurship is still the same. It’s timeless. It’s about identifying a need and exciting that need. It doesn’t matter if it’s a trader selling wool blankets in the 1650s or someone selling software today – the essence of it is the same. If you have a great product that people need and love then you’ve got a business.

Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?

My sole focus now is on growing MediaHQ in the UK and Ireland, with an eye to expansion into more markets at the end of next year. I’m committed to business and I think I’ll always be working on a new project. Once you’re bitten by the bug, it’s hard to stop.

If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?

Before you get too far down the road, make sure the world wants your idea. Do your research, but always trust your gut. Bootstrap until you’re confident that you have the right fit, then scale.