When I first started work as a trainee reporter on my local weekly newspaper the Solihull News, my editor at the time was quick to tell me that “booze is news”, writes Steve Dann.
In the next breath he was demanding that I pay regular weekly visits to the local pubs on my patch as it was bound to be a great source for the news and gossip we needed to fill the pages of the aforementioned rag.
Within months I was fortunate enough to stumble across an incredulous tale involving a pub regular whose 16 years old daughter had been married in church by the local Cannon, despite not having her parents’ consent at the time. When challenged, the unrelenting vicar pointed out that the wedding bans had been read out in church on three consecutive Sundays and the onus was on the parents to be there to object. They weren’t, so he went ahead with the wedding!
After appearing as the front page lead in my local paper, the story attracted national and international press and broadcast coverage which was accompanied by lofty commentary about the merits of enforcing ecclesiastical law over the law of the land.
Another more light-hearted pub story involving men of the cloth recently made national headlines – the seven priests who were asked to leave the City Arms in Cardiff because a member of staff mistook them for a stag party! The pub manager was quick to put his hands up and offer the priests a complimentary pint to compensate for what was a genuine error and all ended happily with some tremendous positive coverage for the brewery.
It just goes to show that my old editor’s mantra – booze is news – remains as relevant today as it did 40 years ago!
Pubs and the brewing industry should remember that this thirst for news still presents a tremendous opportunity and whilst local newspapers can no longer afford the luxury of sending staff to their local to sniff out stories, they will often gratefully accept news content about charity events, investment and other initiatives. What’s more this content can be usefully shared through social media channels, helping to build dialogue amongst loyal customers.
To prove the point, Fleet Street’s client Ei Publican Partnerships recently briefed the PR team to maximise a new initiative – National Pub Fortnight – which included giving away 15,000 free pints to customers who downloaded a special app. The promotional offer was under-pinned by a national consumer survey with some interesting news angles around the nation’s pub-going habits.
Now the words “free beer” are among the most powerful in the English language, but we still needed to localise the story for regional press and sell it into our contacts on the nationals. The impressive results included positive pieces in the Sun, the Daily Star, Time Out and the Metro as well as widespread regional coverage across more than 40 titles. All told, the campaign delivered an excellent return on the client’s investment in the project – over £185,000 worth of press coverage.
Unsurprisingly, we all raised a glass to that.
Steve Dann is one of the founding directors of Fleet Street Communications