Though circulation is down, tabloids remain solid PR pitch targets thanks to a still-sizable legion of readers and a contingent of knowledgeable, cooperative editors.Like them or not, you have to give the supermarket tabloids some credit. From The National Enquirer's scoop on radio host Rush Limbaugh's painkiller addiction to the high-profile hiring of former Us Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller to revamp Star, these oft-derided publications do have a way of staying in the media limelight. But despite continually breaking their share of celebrity-oriented stories, the last few years haven't been that good for the tabloids in general. Both Star and The National Enquirer have seen their respective circulations decline since the height of the O.J. Simpson trial. Retaining pitch prominence Despite lower numbers, these titles' audiences remain large enough to merit attention from PR people, who tend to be split on whether these publications, some of which pay for stories, should be targets for pitches. "I've had nothing but positive experiences working with the tabloids on health pieces," says Bob Brody, SVP for Ogilvy PR. "I've always found the health editors knowledgeable, cooperative, responsible, and intent on getting the facts right. We've landed some strong disease-awareness stories over the years." Brody also had success when he pitched The National Enquirer on a story about the world's loudest snorer, a piece that prominently mentioned his client, a producer of snore-prevention nose drops. But Brody stresses that you must make sure the client is well aware of what you're doing. "Some healthcare clients are thrilled with the attention from these tabs; others get skittish and must be persuaded," he says. "We've had to do some hand-holding and explaining." Stacey Bender, president of the Bender-Hammerling Group, has also successfully pitched the tabloids, including a story of a man who lost 55 pounds on a "French's Mustard diet" and another who ate 300 buffalo wings flavored with Frank's Red Hot Sauce to win a trip to the national eating championships. "They're good targets and are well read, but you do need to educate your clients about what the purpose is so they know that the pitch is going to have a bit of a twist," she says. "If it's a more serious subject matter, such as health or medical, then it's probably not a good idea." Not all PR pros are convinced the tabloids are the way to go. Lauren Swartz, media manager at M. Booth & Associates, says her agency is monitoring Star's up-market shift, but adds, "As of now, we don't believe that our clients' consumers are really going there. We don't target tabloids like Star and The Examiner because we don't think they're credible when it comes to giving advice to people. However, outlets like InTouch, People, and Us Weekly, that's different." Brody says it's too early to say if Star will alter its demographic to the extent you'll be able to pitch different clients there. Not only has Star's format changed, with higher-quality paper and livelier, more upbeat headlines, but Fuller has reportedly been dangling dollars in front of some top writing talent to improve the editorial. Richard Valvo, VP of corporate communications for American Media, which owns both Star and The National Enquirer, says the biggest impact Fuller has had on Star since her arrival this past summer is in its fashion and beauty coverage. "Star now has a serious beauty section and a serious fashion section," he says, adding the magazine's advertisers now include HBO and ABC. Other tabloid avenues Though Star and The National Enquirer tend to be the most prominent supermarket tabloids, there are a host of others, such as National Examiner and Globe. There's also Mira!, the Spanish-language tabloid, although Virginia Sanchez, the PR director for Houston-based Lopez Negrete Communications, points out, "It's very celebrity-focused. Every page is about Hispanic entertainers, so it's not a media target for any of our clients." As far as tools for reaching out to the tabloids, Valvo says the reporters and editors do want to hear from PR professionals, "as long as the pitch is targeted on a national level. Brody adds that you should pitch the tabloids the same as you would any other outlet. "You should create a collaboration with the reporter," he advises. "Go human interest, and if you have celebrities on hand, take full advantage." ----- Pitching...tabloids The tabloids aren't for every company, so, before moving ahead, make sure you carefully alert your client that you are pitching these outlets and explain the potential benefits. Look for the great human-interest angle and try to leverage any celebrities you have at your disposal. Think outside of entertainment, which dominates many of these publications' news pages. The best PR categories for these outlets are health, beauty, fashion, and food.
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