'No preferential editorial' for clients of PR firm set up by local newspaper group

The man appointed to re-launch a PR agency within a major local newspaper group has said its clients will not get "preferential treatment" from the titles the group owns.

Sundeep Sehijpal (pictured) has been hired by the MNA Media - formerly known as Midland News Association, and the publisher of the Express & Star and Shropshire Star - as director of Telford-based Star Public Relations.

Sehijpal has worked in PR for more than a decade, most recently at Birmingham integrated agency WAA Chosen. Prior to this, he was a reporter at Worcester News, which is owned by Newsquest.

The group first launched the venture last summer, but it did not work out as planned as both employees left in September. Kate Bodoano returned to her prior role as a director at 7PR, and was joined by Beth Taylor, who had been working under her at Star.

The housing of a PR agency in the same parent company as a news publisher can be problematic. In April last year, the owner of a newswire that owns the PR, content and broadcast agency 72 Point told PRWeek that he had to perform "a careful balancing act" to avoid "tensions" between the two businesses. Journalists on the newswire had been told to consider whether running stories about 72 Point clients was "worth the potential fall-out to the PR side of the business".

Sehijpal told PRWeek: "Having been part of local life for more than 140 years, the group's titles will maintain their editorial independence and continue to only publish stories that are relevant and of interest to their readers. The editors have been clear in their stance throughout the development of Star PR.

"Star PR’s clients will not get preferential treatment from the MNA’s papers, especially as all PR professionals know that editorial coverage is never 100% guaranteed.

"We believe the best way to increase the chances of getting coverage is to work with our clients to develop strong, newsworthy content that newspapers, whether they are local, national or trade press, will want to publish."

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