OPINION: News Analysis - Putting the old sparkle back into the glossies. In the constant battle for improved circulation, PR is an important tool for national consumer magazines which are seeking to raise their profiles

In a saturated consumer market, women’s and men’s magazines are increasingly turning to PR to make them leap off the newsagents’ shelves.

In a saturated consumer market, women’s and men’s magazines are

increasingly turning to PR to make them leap off the newsagents’

shelves.



Beatwax, which was recently hired by Emap to promote its teen titles J17

and More! believes that events-led PR is the best way to add value by

buying into the readers’ lifestyle. Last year the agency promoted dance

music title Mixmag in Ibiza by driving a customised ice cream van around

the island.



However, such stunts can prove expensive and magazine PR budgets are

relatively low, so the agency or PRO involved has to also consider a

number of cheaper approaches to raise a title’s profile. One trusted

technique is using the editor of a magazine as spokesperson for a

certain age group or lifestyle. Another, and one of the most popular in

recent times, is to strike exclusive words and picture deals with

national newspapers, whose subsequent coverage acts as a ’taster’ to

drive sales of individual issues.



Almost every week the features or show business sections of newspapers

seem to include a ’world exclusive’ that is in fact taken from a

magazine - from Anthea Turner photographed wearing nothing but a smile

and a python for Tatler to Patsy Kensit revealing details of her and

Liam Gallagher’s lifestyle to GQ.



There is a perception within publishing houses that getting coverage in

the right publication does indeed boost sales. To maximise this approach

a successful PRO needs to negotiate not just copy saying that the full

interview/further pictures can be seen in that week’s or month’s issue

but, equally importantly, ensure that a small reproduction of the

magazine’s front cover is also printed.



But just how far magazine editors will allow PR people to influence the

content of their magazine is unclear as most editors, and even PR people

- not surprisingly - will not admit to the fact.



Ian Monk, group media director at the MacLaurin Group, handles PR for

Elle and Red. He recently struck a deal with the Mirror and the Daily

Mail for secondary rights to Elle magazine’s interview and photographs

of Titanic star Kate Winslet.



Although he has some editorial involvement, he denies that PR people

could ever dictate what a magazine runs. ’No magazine I work for will

put in an article just for the sake of creating PR, however, I do agree

that PR thinking could play a part in deciding the prominence of certain

articles and pictures within a magazine.’



Tania Littlehales, head of PR at the National Magazine Company, agrees

that there is a danger in allowing PR to have too much influence on a

magazine’s editorial.



’The PR team is not a team of journalists, so we don’t have that much

input. Occasionally, because we work very closely with the editorial

team we may have suggestions about what would work PR-wise, but we would

never do the editor’s job for them,’ she says. ’Ultimately as a company

we have to produce something that people want to read.’



However, Anita Strymowicz, head of press at Soho PR and for ten years

the sole publicist at Emap Metro, says that PR needs must influence the

magazine, otherwise there is no need to employ a PRO. She believes that

the desire to get coverage in newspapers has been detrimental to some

magazines as, in trying to serve two lots of editorial demands, they

have become homogenised.



’There is a lot of repetition especially among the teen lifestyle

magazines. While this doesn’t affect the readers, as you are never 15

twice, the media are seeing the same headlines over and over and the

magazines that really stand out do so because of their unique editorial

content,’ she says.



Claudia Connell, former editor of the News of the World’s show business

column The Goss, The Biz, believes a newspaper backlash could be on the

way.



’Towards the end of my time at the News of the World there was a

crackdown as newspapers don’t really want to be pushing other titles all

the time.



The bottom line is that you are plugging a title with perhaps 300,000

readers in a newspaper with five million readers and you find magazines

lifting things directly from newspapers without crediting them,’ she

says.



And a journalist on the UK’s best-selling tabloid believes that the

magazines themselves could soon become victims of their own success in

this area.



’These deals are obviously good for us as we can get coverage on stars

who wouldn’t normally do anything for the tabloids. It is not a very

holy alliance - how do you imagine those stars feel when they see

themselves splashed all over the tabloids when they have given an

interview to one magazine?’ he says.



’How long is it going to be before those stars won’t do interviews

without signing a contract stipulating that the interview cannot be sold

to any tabloid? As newspapers we can do without some stars but the

magazines can’t.’



It seems difficult to imagine that the national press, and its obsession

with all things celebrity, is going to start turning down interviews

that are already prepared for them in return for a mention and picture.

But the technique is undoubtedly becoming overfamiliar and perhaps the

time is right for PROs to start looking at new ways to promote

magazines.



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