Campaigns: Public Affairs/Media - Total success for Total Politics

Campaign: Launch of Total Politics magazine
Client: Total Politics
PR team: Insight Public Affairs
Timescale: May 2008-ongoing
Budget: Undisclosed, but estimated by PRWeek to be in the region of
£20,000

Iain Dale has made a name for himself as one of the UK's most influential political bloggers. The high-profile commentator saw a gap in the market for a lifestyle-based political magazine and aimed to use his blog's success as a springboard to launch the monthly title, Total Politics.

Objectives

- To organise the PR launch of Total Politics magazine

- To sustain media coverage and establish a credible brand over the following months.

Strategy and plan

Dale's journey from book seller, to blogger, to magazine publisher was one of the main angles developed by the PR team, who sparked journalists' interest by suggesting that a worthy story could be created by asking Dale why he was reverting to traditional print media.

Despite featuring an interview with Gordon Brown in the launch issue, Insight Public Affairs held back from simply sending out a press release on the coup, but waited until a relevant story broke - a poll suggesting Brown should leave office, found on the Labour website - then alerted top political journalists to the story, and offered relevant comments from the Brown interview.

The more quirky angle of editor Sarah Mackinlay having to hide in a broom cupboard after interviewing the PM (to keep her away from a visiting world leader) was used to alert the broadsheets' diary pages to the new magazine, aiming to show that Total Politics was a fun political title.

The PR team targeted regional media and sold in the launch to relevant newspapers and radio stations in the home and university towns of Total Politics' editor and political editor, offering them for interview.

It also contacted regional titles when relevant local MPs or councillors were featured in the magazine.

An interview with Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond in the third issue gave the team juicy comments about Thatcherism that it sold to the online Scotsman.

When the story generated 400 hits on the site it sent a follow-up press release to the nationals, which prompted Salmond to call up BBC Radio Scotland to discuss his comments.

A media campaign aimed at student readers is about to swing into action, targeting student magazines and radio stations.

Measurement and evaluation

The Independent on Sunday, The Observer and Radio 5 Live all ran profile articles on Dale around the launch issue, while The Sunday Times, The Times, Financial Times, News of the World, Daily Mail and The Telegraph have also run stories on the new title.

The Alex Salmond issue saw coverage in titles including The Scotsman, Scottish Sun, Daily Record and Scotsman on Sunday.

BBC Online, the Telegraph blog, the BBC Scotland political correspondent's blog, and IC Scotland are some of the online media to mention Total Politics. Regional coverage includes the Birmingham Mail and Wales' Western Mail.

Results

The magazine is free to MPs but sold on newsstands, where sales targets have been exceeded every month. Issue three generated a 33 per cent increase in sales and a resulting 80 per cent increase in subscriptions.

James Robinson, media editor at The Observer, says: 'We were interested in running a piece because it seemed counter-intuitive for someone like Iain Dale to move into the old world of print, so we ran an interview with him. We also quoted some of the stuff from the Brown interview in the first issue. It was a good story for the media pages.'

Second Opinion

Sarah Locke, chief executive, Braben

I loved the line 'More scoops than Ben and Jerry's' that was attached to Iain Dale, one of the best-regarded political bloggers in the UK. It was no surprise that Iain, having created a cafe and bookstore within Westminster many years ago and then moved to the world of digital publishing, would find another media platform to promote his views. Capitalising on the UK's flourishing free magazine sector, and adding a totally neutral political magazine to it all added to the opportunities to promote Total Politics.

Content exploitation is an obvious way to promote a print based magazine, and this campaign did a solid job of using route. Lining up Gordon Brown for an interview in the first issue was a well-timed and fantastic coup, and Iain's round of TV and radio interviews got people talking about the launch.

The PR activity was limited by budget, but with a bit more cash at their disposal the team could have done a lot more.

Consumer-driven research would have provided a platform of expertise, and a digital media strategy, exploiting Iain's profile as a blogger, would have spread the word further. A launch photo-stunt opportunity could have rounded off the content publicity.

It would be great for a title such as this to go on to fill the gap between Private Eye and the broadsheets, by demonstrating a real passion for politics with a blend of news, comment and humour. In these tough times, a light-hearted political story or two will go down a treat.

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