Publisher H Bauer - the group behind Bella, Take-a-Break and TV Quick - has turned to an external PR agency for the first time to handle communications surrounding its legal battle with WHSmith.
The company has hired financial PR agency College Hill - led by chairman Alex Sandberg - for litigation PR and media relations following its decision to take out an injunction against WHSmith over distribution disputes.
H Bauer is asking for damages potentially worth millions of pounds for breach of a five-year agreement on distribution.
Newsagent chain John Menzies is, in turn, being forced to sue Bauer as a result of WHSmith's row over distribution, although it is expected Menzies and Bauer will settle their differences soon.
WHSmith has been widely criticised over its plans to create a national distribution system using exclusive deals with supermarket chains. Some publishers claim this will threaten the future of small independent newsagents.
According to Bauer head of circulation Simon Priston, College Hill will help convey the firm's messages through the media: 'We wanted to ensure that our messages and dispute with WHSmith are adequately covered for media output.
'We do not have a skill set to carry out such a campaign, which is why we needed PR support,' said Priston.
College Hill director Ronald Hepburn will lead the project, reporting to Priston.
'It's a case of briefing the right people and making sure the messages are right and that people are clear on the detail surrounding what has become a complicated subject,' said Hepburn.
WHSmith is currently facing huge losses as other distribution groups, such as emap's Frontline, and publishers, such as Associated Newspapers, threaten to withdraw their contracts.