Media Analysis: Hello! - still an exclusive proposition

Despite competition from OK! and a raft of younger titles, Hello! is still regarded as the most prestigious of the weekly celebrity glossies by those promoting celebrities and upmarket brands, says Maja Pawinska.

When Eduardo Sanchez Junco decided to give his Spanish celebrity magazine Hola! a go in the UK, he can't have imagined it would spawn a whole new publishing category. But 17 years after the launch of Hello!, there are now eight celebrity-driven glossy weekly mags vying for the latest official, and not-so-official, shots of the hottest celebs, from A-list to Z-list.

Hello! is no longer the top of the tree: according to ABC figures for July to December 2004, its circulation of 382,391 ranked sixth, after IPC's market-leading Now (619,186), Emap's Heat (552,215) and Closer (504,350), and Richard Desmond's OK! (529,492) and New! (396,079) magazines.

But it is still the daddy of the category with its trademark photo-feature spreads extended by an online presence, www.hellomagazine.com. The decision to maintain its upmarket, celebrity and royalty-friendly editorial policy in the face of the more aggressive stance of the young pretenders to its throne also gave Hello! a very respectable year-on-year rise in circulation of nine per cent. By contrast, its most comparable competitor, OK!, continued to slip, suffering a year-on-year fall in circulation of seven per cent.

Vanguard magazine

Publicist Mark Borkowski says Hello!'s editorial policy and content have gone through major changes over the years as new titles arrived: 'The trouble with being a vanguard magazine is that you will always be mimicked, and Hello! doesn't have the same impact as it did five years ago.'

Nevertheless, he says it remains a popular target for clients: 'Even though budgets have deflated, clients still enjoy doing Hello!. Generally they feel safe because it's fair to deal with.'

Editor Ronnie Whelan says the magazine has always pitched itself at the high end of the quality market: 'We try and do more than just a studio photo shoot, and give our readers a glimpse into the personal world of celebrities.'

She says the magazine has good relationships with PROs: 'It's in all our interests to work together. We mostly deal with celebrities' agents for the celebrity parts of the magazine, but we do talk to PROs for celebrity and lifestyle stories. We try to be approachable because we know some of our best features might come from that first point of contact.'

But Whelan claims PR practitioners who are serious about getting coverage for clients could do more homework before approaching the magazine: 'We get inundated with emails that have nothing to do with Hello! and have obviously been sent to hundreds of editors. PROs should know that we're not going to cover banking or careers advice, for instance.'

Exclusive elements

The magazine is undoubtedly people focused, but as one PRO says: 'If you're clever there are opportunities for getting everything from events and parties to products and hotel chains in there.' Whelan agrees that the team is open to ideas, and says there are opportunities for celebrities, events or products in the magazine, but that there should be an exclusive element.

'When we get invited to celebrity-endorsed product launches by PR people, we might ask for an exclusive interview and photos outside the press launch,' she says. 'And if a luxury holiday destination or hotel approaches us, it's great if they can suggest a celebrity who might like to take a trip and be photographed and interviewed for us there.'

Whelan says Hello! is acutely aware of what its rivals are doing, and works hard to differentiate itself: 'We still stand alone because we do a much broader range of real features, and we're a lot more classy. We have editorial meetings where we discuss whether someone is a Hello! celebrity or not, but we take it on a case-by-case basis.'

Hello! may no longer be the market leader, but its status as the first and most upmarket celebrity weekly still affords it a certain respect: not a single rival editor contacted by PRWeek would comment when asked if their success had had an adverse effect on Hello!'s standing in the field.

Well, even a republican wouldn't insult the Queen to her face.

HELLO!: KEY FACTS FOR PROS

Editor: Ronnie Whelan

Editorial tel: 020 7667 8700

Key contacts: PROs are advised to email with an initial enquiry rather

than phoning. Megan Conway, lifestyle assistant

(megan.conway@hellomagazine.com) for lifestyle, beauty, fashion and

cooking products and stories.

Hayley Shedden, features assistant (hayley.shedden@hellomagazine.com)

for celebrity-based stories.

EDITORIAL SECTIONS

- Diary of the Week - photo coverage of society events

- Inside Story - insight into the daily lives of celebrities

- Cinematters - entertainment news

- Fashion - shopping pages highlighting collections, accessories and new

ranges

- Beauty and Health - latest products and best buys

- Also, travel and cooking sections

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