Campaign: Regional player hits the national stage - Brand Awareness

Campaign: Profile building of Archant Client: Archant PR team: Propeller Communications Timescale: January-December 2003 Budget: Five figures

Eastern Counties Newspaper Group changed its name to Archant in March 2002 to reflect its new situation as the owner of regional and specialist magazines as well as local newspapers. Yet months later, despite its growth, Archant was still not generally perceived as a major player in the media market by prospective employees or the business community.

The group felt that its potential for expansion was suffering from its lack of prominence and brought in Propeller Communications to raise its profile.

Objectives

To raise awareness about Archant as a regional and specialist community publisher with business and media journalists. To encourage the corporate community to see Archant as a potential partner for media mergers and ventures. To maintain and attract the best employees by demonstrating that Archant is an up-and-coming, responsible employer.

Strategy and Plan

Propeller hired independent research firm Prism to investigate Archant's brand awareness among its key target audience of potential employees and corporate deal partners. The results showed that awareness was extremely low in particular areas, which allowed Propeller to tailor the company's message accordingly.

To personalise the face of the company to possible employees, media trade outlets such as MediaWeek were targeted with stories about Archant's 'Team of the Week' and new senior members.

As a privately owned company, Archant has not tended to attract the financial media. To encourage interest from the business press, national journalists were given exclusive interviews with Archant's new CEO, John Fry. Propeller provided executives with media training to deal more effectively with the press, and used rumours about Archant activities as news hooks throughout the year.

The team also needed to dispose of Archant's image as a provincial, low-profile company, and identified a number of topical corporate issues upon which Archant could take a strong line. Directors were encouraged to write comment pieces on topics such as the Communications Bill, which the PR team then pitched to the press.

However, there was widespread resistance from many London-based journalists to writing about a regional media firm whose publications they had never seen. Propeller mailed Archant titles to 90 journalists every month with a letter from the CEO under the banner 'Product of the Month'.

Propeller also positioned the group as the owner of the Ham&High, a regional newspaper most London-based journalists are familiar with.

News in December that Archant had beaten the Daily Mail Group in its bid to buy the Independent Group's London newspapers gave Propeller a strong news angle, enabling it to push Archant as an emerging giant in the media company market.

Measurement and Evaluation

Approximately 240 articles mentioning Archant were published in the trade and national business press, including MediaWeek, the Financial Times, The Times and The Guardian. Press Gazette ran an article about Archant on its front page and the FT ran a story with a headline describing Archant as 'aiming to become a force to be reckoned with'. An independent assessment calculated that around 97 per cent of the coverage was either neutral or positive.

Radio or TV was not a priority during the first year of the campaign.

However, since December, business development director Ian Davies has been on BBC Radio Four and Propeller is looking to expand coverage in the future.

The agency used press cuttings agency Durrants Media Monitoring and an independent consultant to monitor and evaluate the coverage.

Results

Prism replicated its original brand awareness survey at the end of 2003.

The results showed a rise in spontaneous awareness of Archant among its target audience to 72 per cent. There was also a significant rise in prompted awareness - from 63 per cent to 96 per cent - since the campaign started.

'I thought Propeller's pitch was great, it really caught my interest,' said The Times media editor Raymond Snoddy. 'It put me in touch with the CEO and I got a good article out of it.'

Press Gazette newspapers reporter Dominic Ponsford agreed: 'Propeller was very easy to get hold of and quick to respond. I was impressed by the 'Product of the Month' stunt. It was a good tactic because it is difficult for me to keep tabs on regional publications.'

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