Exclusive! Outside Organisation’s Alan Edwards on why the UK PR business still needs the tabloids

Forget Max Clifford, The Outside Organisation’s Alan Edwards is the doyen of the populist PR world. Edwards began his career in the music business (like Clifford), acting for the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and David Bowie before broadening Outside’s reach to celebrities like Naomi Campbell (he acted for her in the ‘Blood Diamonds’ affair) and then businesses, representing Northen & Shell’s Richard Desmond in his controversial takeover of Channel 5. Others clients include Katie Price and Sony Music.

Edwards (pictured) was dragged into the phone hacking scandal when representing McCartney and, less happily, when Outside hired former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis who departed in a hurry after being arrested last year. But the tabs are still essential to the PR industry, he thinks, because of their ability to set the news agenda.

Here’s how he sees the embattled sector today:

“Despite the decline in sales from their heyday when the Mirror and Express both respectively used to boast a daily circulation of five million, the UK tabloid media is still immensely powerful. Regardless of the obvious challenges from TV rolling news, online and the internet, there’s still a great appetite for a well put together tabloid paper as witnessed by the Sunday Sun with its spectacular three million plus launch two weeks ago (the second issue sold 2.6m, still more than its rivals).

“Tabloids have had to adapt to changing social patterns over the years. For instance, there’s a much stronger female element as evidenced by the various style and fashion supplements which provide new opportunities for PR to promote lifestyle brands. The competition may have been uncomfortable for the tabloids but the outcome has been an improvement in their offerings.

“You can buy a Saturday tabloid with an excess of 100 pages complete with magazines for less than 50p, which is extraordinary value whichever way you look at it and provides lots more opportunities for the PR industry to get stories away. Obviously the speed that news breaks now has lead to an increased focus on comment and columnists of which there are many brilliant ones such as Tony Parsons, Rod Liddle, Richard Littlejohn, Toby Young etc.

“Newspapers tend to have a great influence over the agenda in the rest of the media. You only need to see ‘What The Papers Say’ on Sky to see how significant that is in generating stories during the day. This is largely driven by the public’s insatiable appetite for celebrity stories, the bulk of which emanate from the tabloids. The global impact of Mail Online demonstrates just how powerful the celebrity element is. This alone will keep tabloids more than alive regardless of the form they take.

“The UK tabloids are still an immensely powerful and influential force and vital for any serious PR operation. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”

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