The flurry of activity has provoked a mixed reaction among PR professionals. ‘First I got angry about the Sorry campaign, then I got excited about the new paper, then I was disappointed,’ says Alan Twigg, director of Seventy Seven PR. ‘It looks like a provincial town newspaper.’
Angie Moxham, chief executive of 3 Monkeys Communications, agrees: ‘It looks like a regional paper. It should stand proud as an iconic brand.’
But Kevin Read, MD of Bell Pottinger Business and Brand, is more positive about the new-look Standard: ‘It looks a lot cleaner and fresher.’
New editor Geordie Greig says the relaunch has created ‘an enormous and positive response’. He adds: ‘The relaunch was needed to re-engage interest and to remind London that the paper is the essential voice of the greatest city on earth’.
The ‘Sorry’ advertising campaign, he says, was ‘to show we recognised what some people felt, and to be honest about any shortcomings and promise to do our best to be positive and engaging.’
It is not just the look of the paper that has changed. Greig has been vocal on the Standard’s new, positive approach to news and calls it ‘a celebratory and cheering newspaper’.
Others, including former editor Veronica Wadley, have been less complimentary about this strategy.
London Communications Agency director Luke Blair points out: ‘Any paper that purports to represent London has to have a slight dark shadow to it.’
But Greig insists: ‘There was a perception the Standard was not positive enough about London.’
The impact of all these changes has yet to be seen. The latest ABC figures show the paper’s circulation dropped by 20 per cent in May, the month of the relaunch, and 30 per cent year-on-year.
The paper’s management argue the figures do not yet reflect a new pricing and distribution strategy and say paid-for sales have slightly increased.
Greig is upbeat, insisting: ‘We are a dynamic new company with an agile and clever management that will use every trick to be successful.’
But Moxham warns: ‘It tries to be all things to all people, both the London urban audience and the commuters.’
Twigg agrees: ‘Next to London Lite, which is all bright and breezy, it looks stuffy. But next to the quality nationals, it looks weak and grudging.’
Blair sums up: ‘All credit to them for breathing new life into the grand old dame of London news, but I am not sure they are quite there yet.’
(Source: ABCs May 2009)
A minute with... Geordie Greig, editor, London Evening Standard
How has the paper’s editorial agenda changed?
We have made a pledge to be more politically independent, listen to the concerns and values of London, and to be a cheerleader for London.
What makes an ideal Standard story?
Stories that surprise – breaking news with authoritative reporting, a feature story that has colour, wit and human detail, and commentary that has gravitas and is an unmissable beginning of a conversation for London.
Is the Standard a regional or a national newspaper?
The Standard is the paper of London and essentially London is a separate country. We set the national agenda from the capital. We have regional interests, if you consider London to be a region, but we are a player on the national scene.
How do you respond to claims staff morale is very low following the ‘Sorry’ campaign?
Staff morale could not be higher; there is a newly released enthusiasm and spring in everyone’s step.