PR stories suppressed while MPs' expenses furore rumbles on in the media

Agency bosses have been holding back stories in recent days as the media concentrate their gaze on the MPs' expenses ­debacle.

Burger King: made the news
Burger King: made the news

A number of PR agency heads told PRWeek that it made sense to keep a lid on certain stories in the current media climate.

Threepipe MD Jim Hawker said: ‘We have held non time- sensitive news releases back and are working even harder on those that we can’t.

‘We couldn’t stop our Betfair Eurovision Song Contest from happening last week, but the media were still keen on fun and creative stories that were well targeted.’

Cow PR co-founder Dirk Singer said the expenses story was the latest in a number of big stories that have posed challenges for the industry.

He said: ‘The wider issue is that the news agenda has ­become much tighter over the past year. There’s a constant wave of major story after ­major story. In 2006 to 2007, the news agenda was far more amenable to PR stories than it is now.

‘Since the end of last year there has been a constant drumbeat of recession news and bank bail-outs. The industry has had to work a lot harder to gain coverage for stories. But if you get the right angles, you can make a story work.’

Singer told how the agency had sold in the story of Burger King’s ‘35-day Burger Pilgrimage Trip’ in the midst of all the expenses stories. ‘It got into four nationals,’ he said.

Manchester-based agency Brazen also had to adapt to the expenses story dominating the news agenda.

Co-founder Nina Webb said: ‘The MPs’ expenses story was actually the number one topic highlighted at Brazen’s Monday morning news conference last week. Our news editor warned that all PR coverage would be seriously aff­ected because of the masses of column inches that would be dedicated to the story.

‘But while we issued an agency alert over light-hearted sell-ins for that week, the expenses debacle actually benefited us in that Brazen’s client Vileda achieved national coverage for  five days – because a Supermocio mop, one of its products, was claimed for by one of the MPs whose expenses were ­under the media microscope.

‘Turning the story to our ­advantage, we had some fun by issuing an e-alert about the Vileda mop to all the key media contacts.’

Stories that made it

Cow PR managed to gain coverage in four nationals about the launch of client Burger King’s ‘35-day Burger Pilgrimage Trip’ – a holiday across 16 cities in eight countries to trace the history of the burger.
 
Brazen went into overdrive when it emerged that an MP had claimed for a Supermocio mop – a product from its client Vileda. The team sent an email alert about the mop out to all its media contacts.
 
Frank PR managed to sell in a picture story about Miss Great Britain riding a giant pheasant rodeo in Covent Garden. The stunt marked the launch of fruit spring water drink Drench.

 

9 Number of pages The Daily Telegraph devoted to the expenses story on Monday

£300k Amount The Daily Telegraph is rumoured to have paid for the information on expenses

£2,115 Amount Conservative MP Douglas Hogg claimed for clearing his moat

£380 Amount MP David Heathcoat-Amory claimed for horse manure to put on his garden

£23k Each MP was allowed to claim a maximum of £23,083 in expenses in 2007-08

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