How Jack Murray’s MediaHQ is shaping the future of media

Podcast Ep 194: MediaHQ CEO Jack Murray on his journey from political advisor to a tech entrepreneur embarking on a global expansion of his business.

Despite a pedigree in business going back to the 19th century, MediaHQ CEO Jack Murray’s initial passion for a career led him into marketing and eventually operating as a press secretary for the Progressive Democrats during its time in Government.

Today he is the CEO of MediaHQ, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business that provides media contact solutions and press release distribution for businesses that range from PR firms to tech companies and more.

“Change is constant. One of my mantras is that if change is what you do and not what happens to you, you’ll be okay”

Backed by Enterprise Ireland and gearing up for an international expansion into the North American market and Europe, Murray is also an author. His first book – “The Magic Slice – How to Master the Art of Storytelling for Business” is an Amazon bestseller.

On The ThinkBusiness Podcast, Murray talks about how he acquired MediaHQ and restarted the business as a start-up bringing it through the hoops of bootstrapping to the point where it is poised for global growth.

Writing the story of the past, present and future


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His penchant for storytelling owes much of its inspiration to growing up in a family business in Ballinasloe “It had such a formative effect on me that it has really influenced my business career. My family, the Murrays, were like lots of people’s back stories – they were small farmers in south Roscommon. In the 1880s there was an over zealous and the family fell on hard times. My great grandfather went to America. There is all sorts of family folklore that he got involved in moonshining and bootlegging.”

Murray’s great grandfather returned from New York to Roscommon with the idea of establishing a general store on the main street of Ballinasloe. “And the business still exists today. My father Joe took it over in the 1970s and it is now run by my brother Kevin and my mother Noreen. My formative experience in business was in that environment and it was a journey of almost 150 years.”

The social engagement with farmers and various merchants, the engagement with community, all informed Murray’s outlook on going into business.

But before he returned to the world of business he took a circuitous route that involved working in the marketing department of DuBarry Shoes in Ballinasloe. It was while studying for a post grad in journalism aa call from the Progressive Democrats to his college lecturer David Quinn changed his life.

“They were looking for a press officer and they asked my lecturer could they recommend anyone. It was a real sliding doors moment. I had been talking to this lecturer a lot about politics and two days later I was in Government buildings in Dublin where I had an interview with Mary Harney. That was my first big break. I had been working in a farming magazine to suddenly dealing with political editors in a really short period of time.”

Murray said he was “kind of like a Swiss Army Knife in the press office” solving problems. After five years he left the political world to start his own PR consultancy.

His widened professional circle brought him into contact with Mike Burns MBA, a former RTE London correspondent and a renowned broadcast journalist.

“In the 1990s Mike began publishing the Irish Media Contacts Directory and it was sort of a bible for anyone who worked in PR. I was its best customer. So when he turned 70 in 2006 I approached him and he sold me the business. All of a sudden I was publishing Ireland’s largest media contacts directory.”

Murray realised that for the directory business to really succeed, it needed to be brought into the digital age. “A throwaway remark by Ken Robertson, the self-styled head of mischief at Paddy Power, about would I ever start publishing that book, led me to asking him if I created a digital product would he be my first customer? That led me on this journey of innovation that’s gone from us dealing with printers and binders to today where if you listen to a news bulletin in Ireland, 65% of the stories that you here came in through a communications team that used MediaHQ.

“Our target customer was the public relations teams and PR agencies who need to reach journalists to help get the word out and get people to interact with their stories as they send them out.”

The decision to stop publishing a physical book and instead embrace technology, in particular, the cloud, was pivotal in the direction Murray was taking MediaHQ.

“It goes beyond distributing a press release, we have analytics that tell PR firms how their story is doing. We are now an Enterprise Ireland-backed company. We got huge support from Bank of Ireland on the journey as well. Our technology has reached significant scale in Ireland so we are now in international markets. Our journey overseas began by building a database for the UK and now we have built technology that allows us to add databases for other countries very quickly. It’s a research model that has appropriate human intervention. We have skilled media researchers who work with technology, can find journalists and index topics to build big databases at scale for different territories.

“Our mission is to help connect your story with your audience.”

In effect, what MediaHQ does is it gives PR professionals super powers. Ally this with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like ChatGPT, you get the sense that Murray is orchestrating the future of media. “It democratises communication because people who don’t have that innate writing skill can now respect the journalist and give them and give them a really sharp news line or something that’s really interesting.”

The narrative that AI will steal jobs or threaten journalism doesn’t really wash with Murray. “Change is constant. One of my mantras is that if change is what you do and not what happens to you, you’ll be okay.”

Media professionals will need to adapt. “There will always be an audience whether it’s on TikTok or The Irish Times or Financial Times or YouTube. Things will shift and move. You see the move to Substack and newsletters. So there will be innovation. The core of traditional media will contract. But there will be other opportunities too. I took a thing that was a dead donkey 15 years ago and I transformed it into a vibrant, growing international SaaS business. As CEO my job will also change utterly and completely.

“People need to be willing to adapt and embrace change. Going back to my own family’s business, they’re definitely not doing today what they were doing in 1886. My dad always used to say ‘you have to adapt with the times and you have to change the offering’. And that’s the point of going on the mission, bringing the audience with you and continuing the conversation.”

  • Bank of Ireland is welcoming new customers every day – funding investments, working capital and expansions across multiple sectors. To learn more, click here

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.