Media Analysis: Scots media benefit from local PR

With The Scotsman announcing its new editor last week, Mark Johnson assesses Scotland's national newspapers and finds the increasingly vibrant market lends itself to locally tuned PR approaches.

Scotland has one of the highest concentrations of newspapers per head of population in the world, making for a vibrant media market - and an attractive but challenging environment for PROs.

Edinburgh's The Scotsman - which last week got a new editor, John McGurk - and Glasgow's The Herald are two leading newspapers in urban centres.

But The Courier (Dundee), the Press & Journal (Aberdeen) and tabloid Daily Record are also high-circulation newspapers.

In addition, there is a raft of evening newspapers, major Sunday newspapers and Scottish editions of the national Daily Express, Daily Mirror and The Sun, to name a few.

Scots media 'a different beast'

Important as these newspapers and their readers are, PROs based in Scotland agree that PR campaigns aimed at Scots must be launched from Scotland.

'We've found that in the same way as you wouldn't pretend to know your way around the German media if you were based in London, you won't know the Scottish media from being based in London either. It's a different beast,' says Grayling Scotland MD John Macgill.

This was part of reason why London-based PR firm Consolidated Communications opened an Edinburgh office in March, says director Will Holt.

He says the agency can now better target the Scottish IT, financial services and oil sectors, as well as better serve national clients on the ground in Scotland. 'The local newspapers are extremely highly read in Scotland.

The geography is so huge that readers want to read about issues close to their heart,' he adds.

Apart from Scottish slants on national stories, which commentators regard as a strength of the Scottish editions of the UK nationals, a Scottish sensibility drives the tone of the press, says Scottish Power group media relations manager Colin McSeveny, a former Reuters and Glasgow Herald journalist.

He argues that the Scottish tabloids are not as sensationalist as their English counterparts. 'The old Presbyterianism still holds back the Scottish press,' he says.

Macgill describes the market as 'the Scottish village', and argues that it is impossible to keep abreast of Scottish issues from outside.

THE SCOTSMAN

Circulation: 70,435 (ABC-audited, 3 October 2004)

Editor: John McGurk

What is The Scotsman's editorial agenda?

The Scotsman attempts to be a very distinctive Scottish newspaper; comprehensive about Scotland while giving a Scottish view of the world with authority.

How has it changed in recent years?

Our agenda has always been the same. We're independent - we don't back any political cause.

Our cause is to put Scotland first, and that is the same as it was ten years ago.

How is it generally different from the London papers?

We're national, but when we want to be, we can be regional in the same sense as the English regionals are. If we ply the same kind of national and international news agenda as The Times or The Daily Telegraph, there is not much point in buying us.

But our distinction is highly important to us.

We need the right mix to give our readers a wider view, so we invest in political, financial and City coverage.

What interaction do you and your correspondents have with PROs?

We're happy to hear from any PRO who has a story. But, like any paper, we find most of the PR info we receive is irrelevant. Newspapers are interested in one thing: revelation. In most cases, PR information is not very revelatory.

It is hard to remember the last time we got a front page from a PRO.

DAILY RECORD

Circulation: 489,519 (ABC-audited, 3 October 2004)

Assistant editor/political editor: Paul Sinclair

What is the Daily Record's editorial agenda?

We're the top-selling tabloid in Scotland. Like any other tabloid we aim to inform and entertain. We come with Labour values but without following strictly the Labour line.

How has it changed in recent years?

Devolution has been, without doubt, the biggest issue for us. The focus on Westminster has diluted greatly. We've had the growing-up experience as the new parliament has settled in.

How is it generally different from the London papers?

Rather than being a London newspaper, with a few tartan bits and a kilt here and there, we have a full view of the world and Scottish news we regard as national news. With devolution, we also have a very different agenda to the London papers.

What interaction do you and your staff have with PROs?

We have a lot of interaction. It usually falls into two categories: people trying to sell you a press release, and those who understand the agenda and what makes a newspaper work and who are prepared for a lot of give and take. That means if they have some bad news about a client, they know it's best to get it all out in one go. And it is always those who are honest who build a better relationship with the paper.

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