There were blushes all round at No. 10 last week as Cameron’s PR team was exposed for sharing a generic article with regional papers across the UK.
The article was meant to look like a heartfelt, personal piece, highlighting his concerns for each region. Yet in reality the finished article fell far short of this aim.
The Yorkshire Post was quick to expose the prime minister for his insincerity (or the insincerity of his PR team) labelling the article “very formulaic” and the media outreach of his PR team a “sham.”
To add insult to injury, they then spotted a by-line in Plymouth’s local paper, the Herald, opening with, “I love Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.” Eerily similar to the opening to the proposed Yorkshire Post by-line - “I love Yorkshire and the Humber”…
So how can we ensure our engagement with regional media is meaningful for all involved?
London is not the centre of everything: the number one bug bear for regional correspondents is being sent releases or news that is not specific to their region. No matter how senior your spokesperson is, ask yourself: is this really relevant for readers in Newcastle, Liverpool or Leeds?
Treat each paper individually: you wouldn’t share the same by-line with the Telegraph a day after the Times published the same piece. The regional papers are no different.
Have a handle on local events: don’t take it for granted that regional journalists will be interested in what you have to say just because you’ve said it. Why are you getting in touch now, and how is your story relevant to current events in their region?
Think about who you’re really speaking to: a few of the regional titles are owned by the same media group, based in the same offices. So rather than rushing to follow up with every title on a generic media list, really think about who it is you’re speaking to at each paper. The person you spoke to 5 seconds ago does not want to hear the same story twice.
Watch for regional correspondents at the nationals: there was a time where many nationals cut down their regional teams. Yet with regional issues such as devolution, a commitment to building a Northern Powerhouse and Scottish Independence increasingly taking centre stage, it appears some papers are bringing back their regional correspondents. The Guardian, for example, has significantly built out the team writing for its Northern blog. Get out and meet these journalists to find out what they actually want to hear from you.
And if you get it wrong? Here’s the Yorkshire Post’s take on being treated as a class B paper