Yelland warns against ignoring tabloids

LONDON - David Yelland, former editor of The Sun and now senior vice-chairman of Weber Shandwick, called for greater understanding of the British tabloids, which he said were more complex and rigorous than most PR people realised.

Speaking in a session called 'Harnessing the Power of the Pen', Yelland argued that the tabloid press were inherently a source of unhappiness. He said PROs should tap into the mindset of their journalists, who rarely looked for a happy story angle.

He advised forming relationships with individual journalists rather than newspapers themselves because journalists often interact and stories were unlikely to be 'truly exclusive'.

'For this reason segmenting newspapers is inconceivably naïve. I can't believe the short-sightedness of clients who refused to talk to Rebekah Wade at The Sun, for example. She would talk to Robert Thomson [editor of The Times] and Rupert Murdoch [owner of News International] several times a week. All coverage is related. All editors talk to one another and they all monitor each others' output constantly.'

Yelland said there was a misconception that tabloids provided less informed comment than TV, a situation he described as 'almost condescending'.

'Clients want to talk to Jeremy Paxman or John Humphrys but refuse to talk to Ian King, The Sun's business editor, which I find astonishing,' he said.

In the same session, Patrick Hennessy, political editor of The Sunday Telegraph, drew parallels with the direction  taken by many broadsheets.

He said they were 'now as obsessed with pictures' as the tabloid press and PROs should prioritise creative photography. This is
because papers such as The Daily Telegraph are chasing a younger, more female demographic.

Hennessy advised identifying campaigns run by broadsheets. He said these were a 'free hit, an open goal' for PR people because editors decreed a certain amount of space for the campaign in each issue.

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