PUBLIC RELATIONS: THE MEDIA PRs - Media organisations require good PR representation just as much as others in the public eye. Robert Gray weighs up the pros and cons of the specialists

Media owners and marketing agencies can benefit from planned PR activity on their behalf just as much as other types of company. It is a fallacy to suppose that simply because they are in the media business, PR will take care of itself.

Media owners and marketing agencies can benefit from planned PR

activity on their behalf just as much as other types of company. It is a

fallacy to suppose that simply because they are in the media business,

PR will take care of itself.

Being in the business does not automatically put you at the front of

people’s minds. And even if you do get lots of media calls despite

adopting such a passive approach, this inevitably leads to reactive


The problem with this is that while you may get coverage - maybe even

lots of it - it may not be in connection with the issues of your

choosing. That being the case, it is almost impossible to position

yourself or develop a strong voice.

Martin Loat, the managing director of Propeller Marketing

Communications, which has several media companies as clients, explains:

’It’s not just about replying to calls. It’s working out where you want

to go as a company, then going and getting it. PR is a planned programme

that builds up to a proper schedule.’

In the dog-eat-dog, dog-writes-about-dog world of today’s media,

companies that do not pay attention to PR risk being misrepresented in

media coverage or -arguably more worrying still - may see their

reputations and their value in the marketplace suffer because of a lack

of column inches or dearth of media soundbites. An important audience

may draw the conclusion that a certain company has a low media profile

because it is unworthy of significant coverage.

There’s undoubtedly a lot of interest in media companies. ’We live in an

age where the media, as well as being the purveyor of the message, is a

story in its own right,’ says Ian Monk, the group media director at

MacLaurin Group, which numbers among its clients the national newspaper

publisher, Press Holdings, Emap Elan, Carlton Productions and the Disney


So what sort of skills do PR consultancies need in order to promote

media clients? And do these skills differ markedly from those used to

promote clients in other sectors?

Julia Hobsbawm, the chairwoman and head of strategic consulting at

Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications, thinks agencies working the patch need

to be ’up to speed on the world of media, journalism, politics and


But she says that broadly speaking the management functions remain the

same as with clients in other fields - IT, for example. Selling articles

that have appeared in a magazine to other media is much like

conventional business-to-business PR, she explains.

Adrian Brady, the joint managing director of Eulogy!, says: ’The main

difference is that in many ways it is far more all-encompassing than

other PR activity. The big thing about PR in the media and marketing

world is that people really demand a PR company that understands all the

elements of the marketing mix.’

When a PR agency works for another agency in the marketing field, there

are also certain sensitivities to observe. Not least the needs of the

client agency’s own clients. Often advertising, direct marketing, design

or sales promotion agencies are unable to talk about their best work

because of client confidentiality issues.

This may make securing coverage more difficult. However, there are means

of generating publicity that do not involve talking about client work

per se. For instance, the development of a PR vehicle with which a

marketing agency can be associated. An example of this is the ambient

media report which Propeller developed for its former client, the

outdoor advertising agency, Concord.

Positioning leading agency figures as star industry spokesmen with media

beyond the confines of the marketing press is another way of building

profile. So is creating spoof advertising to exploit media interest in

particularly hot issues.

When agency clients are more than happy to have attention drawn to what

they are doing, PR can be used as a means of amplifying advertising. One

of the most famous instances of this was the media coverage Jackie

Cooper PR achieved for TBWA GGT Simons Palmer’s ’hello boys’ Wonderbra


Brady says that when an agency has created a great campaign, PR

consultants need to couch it in terms that marketing directors and other

relevant client company decision-makers will understand. This may

involve educating the marketplace on terminology and concepts.

The most successful PR agencies in the sector are those with the

determination and clout to persuade their agency clients to commit time

and effort to their own PR.

Loat explains: ’Agencies have a strong client service culture, and

rightly so. By their nature they run around doing what’s right for their

clients and not doing anything for themselves.’

Finally, we come to the internet. The online explosion has created a

host of online media properties, as well as leading to the emergence of

new PR techniques. The internet PR specialist, Gnash Communications, has

a four-strong team devoted to viral PR - communicating straight to

consumers via the internet.

There are agencies - such as Firefly and Gnash - that have successfully

aligned themselves with internet marketing and are appealing to dotcoms

and new-media agencies. But in many respects, internet media properties

do not differ greatly from their offline counterparts.

’New media is just another medium,’ Sarah Braben, the managing director

of Braben Company, says. ’It has defined consumers, target messages and

brand identity.’ And, more often than not, a need to be promoted through




Supported the launch of Wallpaper magazine and promoted Vanity Fair for

five years. Clients include the ad agency, BMP DDB, New Statesman, the

Economist Group and BBC news online. Organised the premiere screening of

the recent BBC costume drama, Wives & Daughters.


Set up in January 1994 by the former Capital Radio marketing director,

Sarah Braben. Portfolio of retained and project-based clients includes

Emap, Kiss 100, Empire magazine, 18 radio stations across the UK, IPC,

Felix Dennis, Channel 4 and Channel 5.


Carries out an annual ’Ads that make the news’ survey. PR consultancy

clients include the Cartoon Network, the media buyer, Motive

Communications (merging with Starcom), Rapture TV, Sky Sites, Granada

Media Interactive and the Telegraph Group.


Marketing agencies specialist whose clients include the trade body, the

Direct Marketing Association, the design and marketing consultancy,

Basten Greenhill Andrews, the ambient media company, Aspen Media, the DM

agency, DP&A, the Zenith Media-owned media strategist, Zed, the PR

consultancy, AUGUST.ONE Communications, the Marketing Store Worldwide

and the below-the-line agency, Tarantula.


New-media specialist with clients including BSkyB, (for which it

has a viral marketing brief) and the internet portal, Excite UK. Also

handles the PR for First Tuesday, the definitive networking initiative

for web entrepreneurs and financiers.


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