Media splash for 175 years of Spectator

Client: The Spectator PR Team: Hobsbawm Media + Marketing Communications (HMC) Campaign: The Spectator's 175th Anniversary Issue Timescale: August-September 2003 Budget: undisclosed

To celebrate its 175th anniversary, The Spectator brought out a special anthology issue containing what it considered to be the best journalism it has ever published. A campaign was mounted to promote the issue.


To raise awareness about the 175th anniversary of The Spectator. To increase the sales of the special issue.

Strategy and Plan

HMC sent a copy of the first-ever cover of The Spectator to 50 VIP media contacts, asking them to 'hold the front page' for the 175th Anniversary issue. In all press releases, the anniversary issue was positioned as 'the story of the oldest weekly magazine in existence and the history of journalism'.

The PR team initially focused on gaining coverage of the anniversary across national newspapers. 'Due to the high-profile nature of the print journalism that has featured in The Spectator, we felt the anniversary issue would be best promoted in print,' said HMC chief executive and founder Julia Hobsbawm.

To represent the broad nature of The Spectator, which has traditionally covered the entire political spectrum, HMC ensured that there were different angles on the story for different newspapers.

The Guardian's Simon Hoggart took a spoof, historical look at the anniversary, while The Independent was given exclusive access to an article from the anniversary anthology. Interviews with both the editor, Boris Johnson, and the publisher, Kimberly Fortier, were set up.

A week before publication, HMC sent a copy of the anthology issue to media contacts from national broadsheet newspapers, as well as to television programmes. National newspaper columnists, diarists and photographers were invited to an anniversary party on 24 September at London's Four Seasons Hotel.

Measurement and Evaluation

Every national newspaper gave positive coverage, and there was a piece about the anniversary in the national media every single day of the week up to the publication of the anniversary edition. Stories ran in The Observer, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Evening Standard and Press Gazette.

Interviews were broadcast on BBC One, BBC Two and two BBC radio stations.


The anniversary anthology issue sold more than 20,000 copies, 4,000 copies more than the usual weekly edition sells on the news-stand, and reprints have since been ordered. Sales of The Spectator itself went up by five per cent, 13 per cent and seven per cent respectively in the three weeks after the campaign.

The Guardian media editor Charlie Burgess was impressed with the PR campaign.

'Apart from bribing me with gold they couldn't have done any better,' he said. 'It was a very effective campaign. Sending out the cover of the first ever issue was a good stunt, and I enjoyed the party.'

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