CAMPAIGNS: Local papers commended in PM tribute - Consumer PR

Client: Newspaper Society PR Team: In-house Campaign: Local Newspaper Week - highlighting the work of the local and regional press Timescale: December 2002 - May 2003 Budget: Existing budget plus £5,000 sponsorship

Publicising the work of local and regional newspapers shouldn't be difficult for papers, one would assume. After all, they have been publicising just about everything for centuries; they have marketing departments, qualified writers, excellent libraries and industry contacts.

However, apart from good - or bad - circulation figures, papers rarely blow their own trumpets or are recognised for the invaluable part they play in local people's lives.

To combat this, their trade body, the Newspaper Society, sets aside one week a year to promote the hundreds of newspapers around the country and the work they do.

That week is Local Newspaper Week, and this year it fell at the start of May and won backing from Tony Blair, Prince Charles and children's TV celebrity Cat Deeley.

Objectives

To publicise the work of the 1,300 daily and weekly, paid-for and free, newspaper titles in the UK. To explain the work local and regional papers do and encourage communities to become involved in their local newspaper by writing columns, entering competitions, visiting newspaper offices or being interviewed for articles.

Strategy and Plan

Because Local Newspaper Week is an annual event, preparations started 12 months earlier. However, Newspaper Society spokes-woman Anna Dunbar said the serious planning began six months before the chosen week, which ran from 5 to 11 May.

The Society took a two-pronged approach - encouragement and involvement.

It sent out press packs to each newspaper containing ideas for community engagement; press releases on subjects such as paper recycling; research into newspaper sales and readership, as well as issues such as freedom of information.

The Society and The Prince's Trust also launched a new category in the Prince's Trust Local Reporting Awards 2003, offering a chance for non-journalists aged 14 to 30 to write about work carried out by young people in their local communities.

The prize for each winner was an interview with TV presenter Cat Deeley.

Winners and runners-up were presented with a certificate by HRH the Prince of Wales at a special ceremony at St James's Palace.

As well as ideas and encouragement, the Society offered NS logos, Prince's Trust logos, Local Newspaper Week straplines and adverts.

To promote the week, the Society secured two major coups. Firstly, the Prime Minister delivered a speech praising the work of local and regional newspapers at a Savoy luncheon. It attracted wide publicity among the national media and highlighted the Society's work within parliamentary circles, which had been one of the main aims.

Secondly, the Prince of Wales gave a written message of support for the Society and the launch of the new reporting award.

Measurement and Evaluation

The Society used media-monitoring agency Durrants to assess the week's impact. It found that nearly 600 local and regional newspapers publicised the event.

Dunbar said: 'Coverage ranged from newspaper to newspaper. It's difficult to evaluate exactly how many people read about it and got involved, but we're very happy with the way the week went.

'I think we offered better support and ideas compared to last year.'

Sky, ITN, BBC and Channel 4 all covered Blair's speech, as did BBC's Radio Five Live.

In terms of national newspaper coverage, The Independent, The Guardian media section, The Daily Telegraph (Kim Fletcher's Gone to Press column) and The Times media section all covered the week-long promotion.

In the trade press, Media Week published a two-page feature on the strength of the regional press, and there was coverage in Press Gazette and Retail Newsagent. X-trax magazine is also due to publish a review next month.

Results

Dunbar said the Society had received positive feedback from its members.

Editor of newspaper industry magazine Press Gazette Ian Reeves said: 'Local Newspaper Week is a great opportunity for papers to remind people of the important part they play in the local community.

'Because The Sun or the Daily Mail sell in such large numbers, people believe they are the biggest sellers where they live. But very often in areas such as East Anglia, the local morning or evening paper will outsell those nationals.

'The Society does a good job of promoting its members during the week, and this year was no different,' he added.

The Muswell Hill Journal carried a double page spread during Local Newspaper Week, canvassing readers, newsagents, local councillors and MPs on what they thought of their paper.

Graeme Patfield, assistant editor at North London Newspapers, said: 'We always take full advantage of Local Newspaper Week, because it gives us an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and share our success with our readers.

'It gives us a chance to highlight how local newspapers are able to provide a vital service - reporting on the things that matter most to our readership, keeping those in power in check, and taking a campaigning stance where it is needed.

'In this multimedia age there is an ever-increasing number of sources for information, and yet regional and local newspapers continue to grow in popularity. This is not a fluke. It's because we are able to provide a unique service that you just cannot get anywhere else.'

Head of content at the South Wales Echo Nick Machinm said: 'Local Newspaper Week really raised our profile and gave our readers a chance to see how things are done at the newspaper.

'People felt involved and appreciated that we were opening ourselves up.'

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