Regional Focus: Midlands - Birmingham Mail is moving up in the world

The Birmingham Mail is going places - literally. From mid-November, the paper is taking over the top floor of the landmark Fort Dunlop building, the former tyre factory recently redeveloped by Urban Splash and overlooking the M6.

Editor Steve Dyson says: 'We're moving into a modern multimedia newsroom, where we will be more visible to the public.' The new newsroom will be complemented by a smaller city-centre office for journalists on the hoof.

The relocation to join sister titles the Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury also offers owner Bpm Media (Midlands) an opportunity to slash editorial costs. 'There will not be so much duplication between the three titles. We will be sharing copy more carefully according to the nature or timing of each story,' says Dyson.

Time will tell how this collaboration pans out, but Mark Triggs, director of local PR firm Armadillo, who last month attended the relaunch of the Post at the new building, is positive. 'Like most regional titles facing advertising and readership issues, the titles are focusing more on online content and WAP-enabled mobile services to attract a more varied and younger audience,' says Triggs.

In addition, according to Dyson, each title will have 'brand champions' on the newsdesk, while the Mail will maintain its local news and sports focus and commitment to local campaigning. Currently this includes lobbying for a change in the law to prevent access to fast, powerful cars for newly qualified young drivers. The paper is also protesting against the closure of local post offices and running a Save Our Small Businesses campaign in support of local corner shops and grocers.

'We're committed to grassroots campaigns that make a local difference,' says Dyson.

Each day, the paper runs a special editorial section covering different themes, including shopping, travel, careers and family life. In addition, each Friday there is a 24-page entertainment section, with content ranging from nightclub listings to local walks.

Dyson says the best way for PR people to get in touch is to 'offer good stories and get to know the individual journalists'.

Locally based PR people also recommend focusing on community-led stories. Jane Ainsworth, MD of Willoughby PR, says: 'The Mail is a paper for the people and responds best to human-interest stories - jobs, awards, local heroes.'

Rachel Roberts, head of Trimedia's Midlands team, echoes this view: 'In the same issue as extensive features on the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, there were stories featuring a Halesowen fish & chip shop, Our Plaice, which is in the final of the national Fish & Chip Shop of the Year competition.'

QUICK FACTS

Cover price: 40p
Circulation: 70,000 (average)
Readership: Each copy read by an estimated 2.9 people
Frequency: Monday to Saturday (evening)
Head of news: Andy Richards
Multimedia editor (news and features): Anna Jeys
Features editor and food critic: Paul Fulford
Contact: firstname.lastname@birminghammail.net or visit
www.birminghammail.net

SPOTLIGHT ON A STORY POSITIVE SLANT ON THE CITY'S REGENERATION PLANS

Birmingham City Council is investing heavily in the city's infrastructure, with a planned £17bn investment over the next 10 years. Two of the largest projects are the £600m refurbishment of New Street Station and the £100m development of a new city library.

With the focus on the credit crunch and the effect this could have on investment in the UK, Birmingham City Council's press office has been keeping the topic in the news through August and September. The campaigns focused on why investors both in the UK and overseas can have confidence in investing in Britain's second city.

Using Durrants' monitoring and evaluation tools, the press office has analysed the effectiveness of its messaging. Favourability ratings for stories around regeneration hit 60 per cent at the end of the second and third weeks of August, and levelled off to 55 per cent by the end of September.

Durrants found very few positive stories covering planning at the beginning of August, but these built steadily once the team's campaign kicked in, peaking at 40 per cent favourability by early September. The evaluation proved the council maintained a high level of regional coverage with a strong favourability rating during difficult conditions.

 

TOP LOCAL BUSINESSES BARCLAYCARD, CADBURY, JAGUAR, JCB

BARCLAYCARD

Northampton has been home to the UK's first credit card, Barclaycard, since 1966 and employs about 2,500 people. In September, the firm was fined £50,000 by Ofcom for breaching rules on silent calls. Last month, it unveiled an advertising campaign to promote its contactless payments. It is running a competition to win an Aston Martin, to promote its partnership with James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

Contact: 01604 251229 or pressoffice@barclaycard.co.uk

CADBURY

Most recently in the news for the 'drumming gorilla' commercial and becoming a sponsor of London 2012, Cadbury employs 2,000 people at its manufacturing site in Bournville. The Birmingham plant is home to Wispa, recently revived following a campaign by Borkowski that won Campaign of the Year at the 2008 PRWeek Awards.

Contact: 01895 615011 or media@cadbury-plc.com

JAGUAR LAND ROVER

In the media for its sale by Ford to India's Tata Motors earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover has four sites in the Midlands, employing 13,000 people. These include the Whitley Engineering Centre near Coventry; Land Rover HQ in Warwickshire; the Land Rover Solihull plant; and the Castle Bromwich Manufacturing Facility.

Contact: 01926 641111 or http://uk.medialandrover.com

JCB

Hitting the headlines last month for winning a Queen's Award for overseas sales, a proposed JCB Academy and plans to axe 379 UK jobs, JCB is famous for its yellow diggers (left). Founded in Rocester in 1945, it employs about 4,500 people across Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Contact: Comms director John Kavanagh at 01889 583602 or john.kavanagh@jcb.com

 

MEDIA SNAPSHOT

 

PRINT MEDIA

Leicester Mercury
Circulation: c.70,000
Editor: Nick Carter
Frequency: Monday to Saturday
Contact: newsdesk@leicestermercury.co.uk

BROADCAST MEDIA

BBC Birmingham
Radio news editor BBC WM: Nina Jones - bbcwm@bbc.co.uk;
newsonline.westmidlands@bbc.co.uk
TV daily news programme: Midlands Today
Contact: Editor - Chas Watkins; Assistant editor - John Bray;
midlands.today@bbc.co.uk
BBC Nottingham
Radio news editor: Aeaneas Rotsos -
bbcem@bbc.co.uk
newsonline.eastmidlands@bbc.co.uk
TV daily news programme East Midlands Today
Contact: East Midlands online news bureau,
newsonline.eastmidlands@bbc.co.uk

CENTRAL NEWS

News editors: Chris Hesketh (East Midlands), Gary Newby (West Midlands)
Contact: centralnewseast@itv.com (East Midlands) or centralnews@itv.com
(West Midlands)
Smooth Radio West Midlands - 105.7fm
News editor: Colin Palmer
Key presenters: Chris Tarrant, Mark Goodier, Andy Pebbles, Fiona Phillips
Listeners: 400,000 (approximately)
Contact: Newsroom 0121 452 3262

ONLINE MEDIA

icBirmingham.co.uk
Covers: News, sport and entertainment
Contact: ross_hawkes@mrn.co.ukthisisnottingham.co.uk
Covers: Local news, sport and entertainment
Contact: 0115 948 2000

 

Seizing the opportunities: Two Midlands-based agencies focus on rising above the challenges of a tougher market

 

HASLIMANN TAYLOR

Both a generalist consumer and B2B PR shop, Birmingham-based Haslimann Taylor's client portfolio includes house builder Taylor Wimpey, tyre manufacturer Goodyear Dunlop, transport operator Arriva, adhesives and sealants manufacturer Bostik and Mitchells & Butlers restaurant chain Harvester.

Although the Huntsworth-owned agency handles regional campaigns for many clients, most of its work is on a UK-wide remit.

Last year was a good year, with fee income rising by 22 per cent to hit £2m. Agency MD Bron Eames says: 'As PR has become a more critical part of the marketing mix, clients have invested more. And while media relations is still important, the advent of more integrated campaigns has opened up opportunities.'

This organic growth was supported by a number of new client wins, including feminine hygiene brand Lil-lets and online travel firm Click Travel. Last July, the agency took on a big project to help Arriva launch its new CrossCountry train franchise. Successful campaigns over the past 18 months include 'Thrill of The Drive' for Dunlop, which invited amateur photographers to submit pictures for a coffee-table photobook sold in aid of the Motorsport Safety Fund. The agency also worked with trade title Professional Builder on 'Sticks Like Sh*t' to promote Bostik's Evo-Stick adhesive. This campaign created coverage by testing the product in extreme environments and won a PRCA Frontline B2B Award in 2007.

Eames says the economic downturn has not yet resulted in any budget-slashing by clients. 'People are feeling uncertain and being cautious. But we've come a long way since the downturn of the early 1990s, when PR was seen as more dispensable,' she says. However, this caution is translating into more project-based work as clients are more reluctant to commit.

Looking to next year, Eames acknowledges client confidence remains an issue. But she adds: 'We want Midlands-based national brands that use a London agency to look at the service we and our local competitors deliver.'

AT A GLANCE

Three best campaigns of 2008: Dunlop Photobook; Papa John's Pizza - fresh dough launch; Bostik's Bring Back the Gripfill Girls

Significant hires over past 12 months: No significant hires, but significant contributions from deputy MD Sarah Kent, director Dan Clifford and six 'cracking' senior account managers

Predicted fee income for 2008: Declined to speculate

Plans for the next 12 months: 'Continue to create standout campaigns for our clients that deliver the best possible return on investment and make PR indispensable'

SEAL COMMUNICATIONS

It is all change for Seal Communications at the moment. Having just moved into its renovated Queen Anne building in Shrewsbury, the firm is moving its Birmingham operation into new city centre offices next to swanky designer shopping and lifestyle location The Mailbox.

Agency chief executive Katie Morris says: 'We are feeling very positive about investing in larger office space for the business, secure in the knowledge that we will grow.'

However, she adds: 'I'd be lying if I said 2008 has not been the same challenge for us that it has been for many other PR firms.'

Indeed, this time last year, the agency suffered a blow when a major client, pub chain Punch Taverns, decided to take its PR in-house. While some of this revenue has been clawed back, Morris estimates that income will drop this calendar year, from £1.5m in 2007 to about £1.25m. The firm maintains a balance between B2B, public sector and FMCG consumer brands. Earlier this year, the agency acquired specialist agency Pure Automotive, bringing in brands including Bentley, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Morris is proud of how the firm's leisure and tourism business has grown. In 2008, it has won new business from Marketing Birmingham, Staffordshire Destination Management Partnership and economic regeneration partnership Transforming Telford. Other major new clients include Honeywell on a B2B remit for its Bardic and Gent brands. The firm has also completed a three-month media relations push for Grand Designs Live at the NEC. Other notable campaigns include a Deaf Awareness Week for The Hearing Company, and the introduction of the Cask Marque independent accreditation scheme to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

The business is also benefiting from an increasing amount of cross-over selling between PR, marcoms and design. 'What would make a great 2008 is to retain the great clients we already have and add a few more high-calibre names to our list,' says Morris.

AT A GLANCE

Three best campaigns of 2008: Ten years of Cask Marque; Grand Designs Live at the NEC; Deaf Awareness Week 2008

Significant hires over the past 12 months: Senior account executive Nuala Ryan. Some have also returned from maternity leave, including PR director Jo Mathers and senior account manager Claire Brown

Predicted fee income for 2008: About £1.25m

Plans for the next 12 months: 'Retaining clients, broadening our interactive offer and a high-profile early spring launch for our new Birmingham home'.

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